The suspect in a series of shootings Tuesday that left eight people dead, six of them Asian women, at Atlanta area Asian spas indicated to authorities he had issues with “sex addiction,” according to investigators. They also say 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long told them he wanted to eliminate the temptation.
“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker told reporters.
Officials also say Long may have been on his way to Florida to commit more shootings.
A law enforcement official told CNN that Long’s family had recently kicked him out of the house because of his sexual addiction. He reportedly spent hours on end watching pornography.
CNN also reported that Long had purchased the weapon he used.
Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said it was too early to classify the shootings as hate crimes.
President Joe Biden said he was withholding judgement about the motivations behind the shooting until there is more information.
"I am making no connection at this moment of the motivation of the killer. I am waiting for an answer from — as the investigation proceeds — from the FBI and from the Justice Department," he said before hosting a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Ireland. "I'll have more to say when the investigation is completed."
Asian spas in the United States often offer sexual gratification for money, but police won’t say if the spas involved in the shootings offered sex.
The other two people who died in Tuesday’s shootings were white. A ninth person was hospitalized in stable condition.
Authorities have identified four victims as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth, Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta, Xiaojie Yan, 49, of Kennesaw and Daoyou Feng, 44, whose address is unknown.
Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, was injured.
The other victims' names have not been released.
Long, has been charged with eight counts of murder and is being held in the Cherokee Country Adult Detention Center.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement, "A crime against any community is a crime against us all.”
"I commend law enforcement for their quick work in arresting a suspect in the tragic shootings," she said. "I have remained in close contact with the White House and APD as they work with federal, state and local partners to investigate the suspect, who is responsible for this senseless violence in our city."
Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted, “These horrific crimes have no place in Georgia.” Kemp also said he and the state’s first lady “are heartbroken and disgusted by the heinous shootings that took place last night.” He said they will continue to pray for the families and loved ones of the victims.
In a statement Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden would be briefed over the phone by Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray “on the horrific shootings last night in Atlanta.”
In a televised speech last week, President Biden denounced violence targeting Asian Americans. In January, he signed measures to address incidents that have involved Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
Vice President Kamala Harris said the shootings speak “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." Harris is of South Asian descent.
Former U.S. president Barack Obama Wednesday tweeted, “Yesterday's shootings are another tragic reminder that we have far more work to do to put in place commonsense gun safety laws and root out the pervasive patterns of hatred and violence in our society.” He also said, “Although the shooter’s motive is not yet clear, the identity of the victims underscores an alarming rise in anti-Asian violence that must end.”
The first attack took place at a massage parlor in the town of Acworth, about 50 kilometers north of Atlanta. Authorities there said a shooter killed two Asian women, a white woman and a white man, and wounded another man.
About an hour later, police in Atlanta found three Asian women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at a beauty spa. They then found another Asian woman dead of a gunshot at a spa a short distance away.
Police said surveillance video showed the suspect’s vehicle at all three locations, and that they were very confident the same shooter was responsible for all the attacks.
After a highway pursuit, police stopped a vehicle about 240 kilometers south of Atlanta and arrested Long.
The shootings come amid a rising number of attacks against people of Asian descent in the United States.
“I want to start by saying something directly to the families of the shooting victims in Atlanta last night,” first lady Jill Biden said Wednesday. “My heart is with you. And I hope that all Americans will join me in praying for everyone touched by this senseless tragedy.”