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Some officials call for hate crime charges in the Atlanta-area spa shootings that left 8 dead

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“It seemed like a hate crime,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in an interview with Anderson Cooper 360. “This was addressed to Asian spas. Six of the women who died were Asian, so it’s hard to see it as anything less than that.”

Robert Aaron Long, 21, is being held in connection with the shootings in Cherokee County, Georgia, and the other two in Atlanta.

Long was responsible for the shooting in Cherokee County, where he faces four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, according to the county sheriff’s office. He has also been charged with four counts of murder, the Atlanta police department said.

The suspect told police he believed he had a sex addiction and saw the spas as “a temptation … that he wanted to eliminate,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s Captain Jay Baker said.

But Atlanta police chief Rodney Bryant said it’s still too early to know a reason, and Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace said the investigation is ongoing and will be filed. the appropriate charges.

When asked if Long could face hate crime charges, Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said everything is still under investigation and will allow the evidence to lead them to a logical conclusion.

Although FBI Director Christopher Wray said the attacks do not appear to have racial motives, defense groups have argued it is too early to make that determination. And the shootings must have no racial grounds to constitute a hate crime in Georgia.

If Long were targeted at women for hating them or atoning for their own problems, it could be a hate crime.

Activists demonstrate outside Gold Spa, the scene of one of the shootings, on March 18, 2021.

Communities and the nation face fear and pain

Flowers have covered businesses that were the scene of devastating violence, but as hatred has plagued Asians and Asian Americans, the emotional weight has been felt across the country.

Anti-Asian hate crimes have more than doubled during the pandemic, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
Violence has grown in the middle racist rhetoric during the coronavirus pandemic – some popularized by former President Donald Trump. Many Asian Americans have been the target of vitriol over the “China virus” or the “kung flu,” even those who have never been to Asia.
& Rdquo;  No one was listening.  & # 39;  Asian businessmen react to Atlanta shootings

“Such cruel and unconscious acts of violence were cut in the center of our country and the values ​​on which it was founded,” former Transport Secretary Elaine Chao said on Thursday. “While we await the findings of a thorough investigation, critical work to combat the disturbing rise of hatred against the AAPI community must be intensified with the immediacy that this latest tragedy commands.”

On Thursday, during a vigil at Young’s Asian spa space, Sheriff Reynolds told reporters that he came to the candlelight vigil to let the American Asian community know that “we have them in our hearts and hearts. our prayers and we are sorry for the loss of lives. ”

A vigil was also held outside the Gold Spa in Atlanta.

President Joe Biden ordered flags to be hoisted at half-staff on Thursday to honor the victims. Biden also plans to visit Atlanta on Friday to meet with Mayor Bottoms, as well as Asian American and Pacific Island leaders, according to Georgia State Representative Bee Nguyen.

Among the issues they will address is concern that the shootings be “taken seriously” and taken seriously as a hate crime against Asians and not dismissed as a suspect who has a “bad day,” Nguyen said.

The U.S. embassy in Seoul also lowered flags to honor the victims of the shooting. Rob Rapson, interim officer, said on Twitter.

“Our heart goes out to the loved ones of those we have lost and our nation weeps with you,” he said.

People march through a neighborhood in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on March 18, 2021, to protest anti-Asian violence.

What we know about the victims

Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw; and Daoyou Feng, 44, were fatally shot at Youngs Asian Massage in Cherokee County.

Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, was also shot at the spa but survived.

A trip to the spa that ended in death.  These are some of the victims of the shootings in the Atlanta area

Three more victims were found dead at the Gold Massage Spa in Atlanta and another victim was found dead on Aroma Therapy Spa Street.

The names of these four victims have not yet been released by authorities.

Three of the victims were 52, 75 and 64 years old, according to the years of birth listed in an Atlanta police incident report.

“We need to make sure we have a true verification of their identities and that we do the proper notification of the closest relatives,” Charles Hampton Jr., Atlanta police deputy chief, said Wednesday.

Activists leave flowers during a demonstration against violence against women and Asians on March 18, 2021 in Atlanta.

How the attacks unfolded

Shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, deputies were called to Youngs Asian Massage, located between the cities of Georgia, Woodstock and Acworth, following reports of a shooting, Sheriff’s officials said. Cherokee County.

That shooting left four people dead and one person injured, Captain Baker said.

This is what we know about the spa shootings in Atlanta that caused eight deaths

About an hour later and 30 miles away, Atlanta police responded to the Gold Massage Spa on Piedmont Road in Atlanta. Police said they found three people dead.

While there, police received another shooting call on Aroma Therapy Spa Street, where they found a dead person, Bryant said.

Investigators found a surveillance video of a suspect near the Cherokee County scene and posted pictures on social media.

Long’s family saw the pictures, contacted authorities and helped identify him, Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Wednesday.

“(Family members) are very distressed and were very helpful in this apprehension,” Reynolds said.

Holly Yan, Amir Vera, Gisela Crespo, Amanda Watts, Stephen Collinson, Audrey Ash, Casey Tolan, Nicquel Ellis, Nicole Chavez, Artemis Moshtaghian, Raja Razek, Jamiel Lynch and Kevin Liptak of CNN have contributed to this report.

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