Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed during three shootings at massage spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday.
Law enforcement arrested a suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long of Woodstock, Georgia, several hours after releasing photos from surveillance footage near the businesses. There is so far no known motive for the shooting.
“The suspect was arrested without incident and transported to the Crisp County Detention Center,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement on Facebook.
The rampage began just before 5 p.m. at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, about 40 miles north of Atlanta. Two people were shot and killed inside the business, and two others died after being taken to a hospital. One other person was injured in the attack. Two of those killed were Asian women.
About an hour later, police officers responded to a call of a “robbery in progress” at Gold Spa in Atlanta. When they arrived, they found three women had been fatally shot. The officers were then called to Aromatherapy Spa across the street, where a fourth woman was found dead. The four victims were Asian.
South Korea’s foreign ministry told NBC News that four of the women who died Tuesday were of Korean descent, but their nationalities have yet to be verified.
“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,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Wednesday morning. “We are horrified by this violence, which has no place in America or anywhere.”
Officials believe that one shooter was involved in all three incidents.
“It does appear that it’s the same suspect,” Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Surveillance video shows the shooter pulling up to Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth at about 4:50 p.m., according to The Associated Press.
Interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant told the AJC that it was about 5:45 p.m. when the four people were found dead at the two businesses on Atlanta’s Piedmont Avenue.
The names of the victims have not yet been released. The AJC notes that homicides are relatively uncommon in Cherokee County, where the first shooting occurred, and that the sheriff’s office had investigated just one in 2020 and one in 2019.
The Atlanta field office of the FBI was assisting police in their investigation, Reuters reported.
President Joe Biden was briefed overnight about the shootings, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday. “White House officials have been in touch with the Mayor’s office and will remain in touch with the FBI,” she said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms commended law enforcement for their “quick work” in arresting Long.
“A motive is still not clear, but a crime against any community is a crime against us all,” Bottoms said in a statement Wednesday. “My prayers are with the families and friends of the victims whose lives were cut short by these shootings.”
In just over a year, there have been an estimated 3,795 reports of racist incidents, including harassment and attacks, against Asian American and Pacific Islander people as the COVID-19 pandemic reached across the U.S., leading some to inflame hatred toward Asians based solely on the virus’s origin in China.
A collective of AAPI advocacy organizations and scholars known as Stop AAPI Hate compiled the data, which includes at least 503 incidents between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 this year.
The group said later Tuesday that, although there were still no concrete details about the attack, the country has seen a “documented pattern of recent attacks against our community.”
“This latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure,” Stop AAPI Hate said in a statement. “Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now. Anything else is unacceptable.”
Liza Hearon contributed to this article.