Since the coronavirus has begun its spread across the United States and the world, there has been a recurrence of heinous acts toward the Asian community. On March 16, there were several mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia occurring at three different spas: Young’s Asian Spa, Gold Spa, and Aromatherapy Spa.
The shootings resulted in the death of eight individuals: Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, was receiving a couples massage with her husband who was in a separate room when the shooting began; Xiaojie Tan, 49, was the owner of Young’s Asian Spa where the shooting took place; Daoyou Feng, 44, had only been working at Young’s Asian Spa for a few months before the incident; Paul Andre Michels, 54, was doing maintenance work at Young’s Asian Spa when the shooting took place; Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, was the only survivor, shot three times and placed in the intensive care unit after the shooting, He was heading to a shop next to Young’s Asian Spa; Hyun Jung Grant, 51, worked at Gold Spa where she was killed; Soon Chung Park, 74, would make food for the employees at Gold Spa; Suncha Kim, 69, was an employee of Gold Spa; and Young Ae Yue, 63, worked at the Aromatherapy Spa.
In several interviews friends and family shared memories and reflected on the lives of the people that died as a result of the Atlanta shootings. Out of the eight victims, six were women of Asian descent. The incident has not been ruled a hate crime but is described as such by the public and some lawmakers feel there is a need to call it so.
Georgia just recently passed hate crime legislation in June 2020 and here are three states that are still working towards passing legislation: Arkansas, South Carolina, and Wyoming. The news of the Atlanta shootings helped signify the urgency in passing such bills. The case of the shooting will help test the strength of the new bills implemented in Atlanta. Despite the gender and race of the victims there are other factors that are being taken into consideration on whether or not to classify the shootings as a hate crime or something else altogether.
Two of the spas had been previously investigated for prostitution with 10 people being arrested on related charges prior to 2013. The suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, claimed that his sex addiction is what drove him to commit the crimes. An investigation from Atlanta authorities show that he frequented the spas.
Prior to the shootings, Long was known to carry a Bible and be very active within his church. After graduating from high school, those who knew him said his life took a turn: he dropped out of college after one year and described himself as straying from his religion. His relationship with his girlfriend failed after she found out that he frequented massage businesses and he began to believe that he was addicted to sex. Many of his close bonds began to sever, even the one he had with his parents. The night before the shootings, they kicked him out of their house. Those who knew him, however, never described him as holding racist sentiments. A student that attended Sequoyah High School in Canton, Georgia with Long recalled a time that Long spoke up when other students used racial slurs towards a school security guard. The classmate said in an interview with WGCL-TV, “That made him angry, and he said, ‘That’s dumb,’ like pretty much like, “Why are they being racists?”
In January 2019, Long had left home and refused to return, causing his parents to call for a missing persons report. Considering that he was not suffering from mental illness, did not take any medication, and there was no probable cause to believe he was suicidal, the deputy decided that the only thing that could be done was to issue an alert for an “overdue motorist”.
In August he returned but not to his parents’ home. Long lived at Maverick Recovery, a 12-step transitional-housing facility in Roswell, Georgia, seeking help for his sex addiction. During his six-month stay he was known to frequent massage parlors. His roommate at the facility, Tyler Bayless, said that Long was conflicted by his religion and his obsession with sex. He saw his sex addiction as a barrier keeping him from furthering his religious journey. Bayless said Long limited his internet usage and owned a flip phone to prevent himself from giving into his pornography addiction. Long would tell Bayless that he had sex with workers at the massage parlors. The other residents at the facility would ask Long why he didn’t just pay a prostitute and if his choice of massage parlors was an Asian infatuation. His response would be that he felt the massage parlors were safe and him going there had nothing to do with the race of the workers.
Wanting spiritual guidance for his addiction, Long transferred to HopeQuest Ministry Group, an inpatient addiction facility which specializes in sex and pornography addictions. This facility was only one mile from where the first shooting at Young’s Asian Massage took place.
On Tuesday, March 16 at 6:51 p.m. Robert Long, the father of the shooter, called the police to inform them that the suspect they were looking for could be his son. Shortly after this, several other calls came in recognizing Robert Aaron Long as the shooter.