Robert Aaron Long, the suspect in the shootings that killed eight people in three Asian spas in Atlanta, has been charged with murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for hate crimes against the sex and race of the victims.
Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis filed a notice with the Fulton Supreme Court Tuesday that she plans to increase the death penalty and increase the hate crime charges against Long in the first test of a hate crime law, released last year by the Georgian Legislature was passed.
Willis will hold a press conference later Tuesday.
The new law provides for stricter penalties for crimes in which victims were attacked on grounds of race, gender and sexual orientation, among other things. Seven of the victims killed in the spa shootings were women and six of the victims were women of Asian descent.
Some officials had raised concerns early on that ethnicity had come into play in the shootings, particularly amid a spike in anti-Asian violence nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic.
Long, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia, is suspected of opening fire at the spas in the afternoon and early evening of March 16, first in a store about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, followed by two others in spas in the Northeast of Atlanta.
Long indicted on 19 Fulton County cases
According to a source familiar with the criminal investigation, Long was charged in Fulton County on a total of 19 counts: four charges of malicious murder, four charges of murder, one domestic terrorism charge, five charges of aggravated assault and five charges of possession of a gun during the Committing a crime according to the indictment.
Peter Skandalakis, director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, said the increased penalty for hate crimes for murder in the state was either a maximum of life imprisonment with 30-year probation, life without parole, or the death penalty.
Skandalakis said he was unaware of the law that was applied last year. The job of his agency is to support prosecutors.
It will be up to a separate Cherokee County grand jury to rule on charges on behalf of others killed in the Acworth, Georgia shootings that killed four people and wounded one person.
Cherokee County authorities previously said Long told investigators that the shootings were not racially motivated and told them he was “sexually dependent”.
Long’s appointed attorney could not be reached immediately for comment.
Long was arrested on the night of the shootings about 150 miles south of Atlanta from a traffic obstruction on Interstate 75, authorities said.
The suspect told MPs that he had sex addiction and “problems with porn”.
After his arrest, Long told investigators he believed he had a sex addiction and “a problem with porn” and claimed the spas were “a temptation … that he wanted to eliminate,” said Jay Baker, Sheriff of Cherokee County Time.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, he was initially charged in Cherokee County with four homicides and one serious assault. According to city police, he was exposed to four murders in Atlanta.
Sheriff Frank Reynolds of Cherokee County, where the Acworth shootings took place, told reporters Long, “He has some problems – possibly sexual addiction – and may have visited some of these places in the past.”
A law enforcement source told CNN shortly after the shootings that the suspect was recently thrown out of the house by his family for his sexual addiction.
Eight dead remain in the rampage
Just before 5 p.m. on March 16, MPs were called to Young’s Asian massage between the towns of Woodstock and Acworth, Georgia after reports of a shootout, Cherokee County sheriff officials said.
Four people were killed in the shootout – two Asians and two whites – and one person was injured, Baker said. Two of the victims were pronounced dead on the scene, while the other two died in a hospital.
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, from Acworth were killed; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, from Kennesaw; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
The injured survivor was Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth.
About an hour later and 30 miles away, Atlanta police responded to a robbery at the Gold Massage Spa on Piedmont Road in Atlanta. The police said they found three dead.
There, police received another shot that was fired at the Aroma Therapy Spa across the street that found one person dead, Bryant said.
The victims were identified as Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong Ae Yue, 63, according to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Investigators found a surveillance video of a suspect near the Cherokee County scene and posted images on social media.
Long’s family saw the pictures, contacted the authorities, and helped identify him. He is being detained in Fulton County without any bonds.
Georgia’s new hate crime law was signed by Governor Brian Kemp in 2020 after public outrage over the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
Georgia was one of four countries without a hate crime law.