By IVAN PEREIRA, MATT FOSTER and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(ATLANTA) — The man suspected of killing eight people in three separate shootings at spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday has allegedly admitted to the killings and blamed his “addiction to sex” as the motive, authorities said.
The suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Georgia, was taken into custody Tuesday night following a police pursuit, authorities said.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said, “Long confessed to the shootings in Cherokee County and Atlanta.”
“Long told investigators that he blames the massage parlors for providing an outlet for his addiction to sex,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement on Wednesday.
He may have “frequented these places in the past,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said.
“Long told investigators the crimes were not racially motivated,” the sheriff’s office added.
The first shooting was reported at about 5 p.m. at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia. There deputies found two people shot dead and three others injured, according to a spokesman from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. The three injured were taken to a hospital, where two 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.
Several victims in the Acworth shooting were Asian. The Acworth victims were identified by authorities as: Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Yan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, was shot and injured in the Acworth shooting and was the sole survivor, authorities said.
Rita Barron, owner of Gabby’s Boutique, which is next door to 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,"” Barron said.
Long’s phone was tracked to find his location, authorities said. His 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. A 9mm gun was recovered at the traffic stop, authorities said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the suspect was allegedly trying to flee to Florida. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said, “there was some type of porn industry in that state” and Long allegedly “wanted to do some similar act in that location.”
Prior to Long’s arrest, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office had shared photos of the suspect leaving Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth.
In Cherokee County, Long is charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, the sheriff’s office said.
Authorities said it appeared the suspect was acting alone.
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.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in Seoul, South Korea, said, “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.”
“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,” he said. “We will stand up for the rights of our fellow Americans, Korean Americans, to be safe and to be treated with dignity.”
Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday, “Our prayers are extended to the families of those who have been killed.”
“We’re not yet clear about the motive,” Harris said. “But I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people, but knowing the increasing level of hate crime against our Asian American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate.”
Georgia Sen. Reverend Raphael Warnock tweeted Tuesday night, “Once again we see that hate is deadly. Praying for the families of the victims and for peace for the community.”
Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff said in a statement Wednesday, “I’m heartbroken for the victims of last night’s horrific shootings in Georgia, and for the victims’ families.”
“While the motive for last night’s terrible violence remains under investigation, I express my love and support for and stand in solidarity with the Asian-American community, which has endured a shocking increase in violence and harassment over the last year,” Ossoff said.
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