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Atlanta shootings: Gunman charged with murder for Cherokee County killings

"[The gunman] made indicators that he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction," one investigator said Wednesday.

Flowers left by well-wishers sit at the entrance to Young's Asian Massage spa in Acworth, Ga., where Robert Aaron Long, was charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault for shooting and killing eight people at the spa and two others in the Atlanat area. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE
Flowers left by well-wishers sit at the entrance to Young's Asian Massage spa in Acworth, Ga., where Robert Aaron Long, was charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault for shooting and killing eight people at the spa and two others in the Atlanat area. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE

March 17 (UPI) -- The man accused of shooting eight people dead at three massage parlors in Atlanta was charged with murder on Wednesday.

Police captured Georgia resident Robert Aaron Long after a manhunt on Tuesday night after the attacks at the massage parlors, which occurred within a short period of time and within close proximity. Eight people were killed and a few others were injured in the shootings.

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He was charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault for the shootings at Young's Asian Massage in Cherokee County, Cherokee County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jay Baker told The Hill.

Officials in Atlanta did not immediately announce charges against Long for the shootings in the other two parlors in the city.

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Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds told reporters Wednesday that Long, 21, went on the shooting spree only hours after he obtained his 9mm handgun. He also said Long, who was arrested in Crisp County 150 miles south of Atlanta, has confessed to the attacks and said they were not racially motivated but admitted a sex addiction.

"During his interview, he gave no indicators that this was racially motivated," Reynolds said in a report by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "We asked him that specifically and the answer was no."

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Sex addiction played a role in the shootings, authorities added, because Long often frequented massage parlors and wanted to eradicate a behavioral habit he was trying to break.

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"Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did," Cherokee County Capt. Jay Baker said in the AJC report.

"He made indicators that he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction, and may have frequented some of these places in the past. We still have a lot of things to process."

Long is scheduled to be arraigned on murder charges Thursday. It wasn't immediately known whether the handgun used in the crimes was obtained legally.

Investigators say Robert Aaron Long has confessed to the shootings at all three massage parlors, which killed eight people. Photo by Crisp County Sheriff's Office/EPA-EFE

The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office identified four of the victims Wednesday who were shot at the parlor in Acworth, Ga. -- Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Xiaojie Yan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Paul Andre Michels, 54. Another person who was injured in the shooting there was listed in stable condition.

Six of the eight victims were of Asian descent and seven were women, details that spurred speculation that the attacks may be related to a wave of violence against Asian Americans in the United States over the past year related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Former President Donald Trump often refers to the coronavirus as the "China virus," and has even called it "Kung Flu," simply because it was first observed in Wuhan, China.

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President Joe Biden has been in contact Wednesday with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray about the attacks. The bureau is involved in the investigation, as it may represent a hate crime.

"The question of motivation is still to be determined, but whatever the motivation here I know that Asian Americans are very concerned, because as you know I've been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans for the last couple of months and I think it is very troubling," Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.

"I'm making no connection at this moment to the motivation of the killer, and waiting for an answer as the investigation proceeds from the FBI and from the Justice Department. I'll have more to say when [that's done]."

"It is tragic. Our country, the president and I and all of us, we grieve for those lost," Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters. "This speaks to a larger issue, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it.

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"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."

At a ministerial security conference in South Korea on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the shootings and said that such attacks have no place in the United States or any other nation.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told reporters Wednesday that investigators believe Long may have been on his way to Florida to carry out more attacks when he was captured.

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