By IVAN PEREIRA and MATT FOSTER, ABC News
(ACWORTH, Ga.) — At least eight people were killed in three separate shootings at spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday, according to law enforcement officials. Police said late Tuesday they had a suspect in custody and believe he carried out all three attacks.
While responding to Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia, at about 5 p.m. deputies found two people dead and three others injured, according to a spokesman from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. The three injured were taken to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, where two later died, said Capt. Jay Baker, director of communications from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
About 47 minutes after that incident, Atlanta police responded to a 911 call of a robbery in progress at Gold Spa on Piedmont Road and found three women dead from gunshot wounds, a spokesman told ABC News in a statement.
While on the scene, the officers were advised of shots fired at a spa across the street, identified as Aromatherapy Spa. When they went to investigate, police found a woman inside dead from a gunshot wound, Sgt. John Chafee of the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement.
All four deaths in the Atlanta shooting were identified as women and “it appears that they may be Asian,” police said at a press conference. Two victims in the Acworth shooting were Asian women, while a white woman and white man were also victims, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said. A Hispanic man remains in the hospital from that shooting as well.
Rita Barron, owner of Gabby s Boutique next door to Young’s Asian Massage Parlor, the location of the first shooting, told ABC News that she first heard one loud pop between the businesses’ shared wall and became concerned.
“I have two customers in my store and I heard what sounded like a pop and I thought oh my god something is wrong but I don’t know what was it,” Barron said.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia, was identified as the suspect in the Acworth shooting and was taken into custody in Crisp County, Georgia, following a police pursuit, authorities said.
Initially police said they were unsure whether the three shootings were connected, but Atlanta police said late Tuesday it was “extremely likely” Long carried out all three attacks, based on surveillance video.
Long’s vehicle was spotted at about 8 p.m. in Crisp County, which is about three hours south of Atlanta, and deputies performed a PIT maneuver to spin out the car, the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office said. Long was arrested without incident.
“Many have asked whether these shootings are related to Cherokee County’s shootings. At the moment, it is too early to confirm that, but we have spoken with Cherokee County officials and we are looking into that possibility,” Atlanta police said in a statement.
Prior to Long’s arrest, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office had shared photos of the suspect leaving Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth.
While no motivation has been established, anti-Asian hate crimes and harassment have been on the rise over the last couple of months, according to crime data.
Stop AAPI Hate released a statement about the shootings, saying, “The reported shootings of multiple Asian American women today in Atlanta is an unspeakable tragedy — for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the Asian American community, which has been reeling from high levels of racist attacks over the course of the past year. Few details about these shootings have been released, including whether or not they were motivated by hate.”
“Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence,” the statement continued. “Concrete action must be taken now. Anything else is unacceptable. As further details of this tragedy unfold, our hearts go out to the loved ones of the victims and to the Asian American community in Atlanta.”
The FBI said in a statement to ABC News that it is now assisting with the investigation.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his South Korean counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chung Eui-yong, in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday and spoke about the shootings in the Atlanta area that killed eight people on Tuesday, including four women of Korean descent.
“I want to mention the attacks that happened just a few hours ago in Atlanta, in which several women were killed, including, we believe, four women of Korean descent. We are horrified by this violence which has no place in America or anywhere,” said Blinken. “And I want to mention our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who died, to anyone in the Korean community who is shaken and deeply disturbed by this incident … We will stand up for the rights of our fellow Americans, Korean Americans, to be safe and to be treated with dignity.”
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