DETAILS are still emerging regarding the killing of eight people – many of them women of Asian descent – at separate spas yesterday, but The Daily Beast has ascertained that the alleged gunman, Robert Aaron Long, above, was a devout Christian who attended Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia.
After Long, 21, of Woodstock, was arrested, his youth pastor at the church confirmed he was the suspect and said elders would be releasing a statement.
The church’s website has gone into privacy mode, and its presence on Facebook erased.
The tagline on an Instagram account that appeared to belong to Long said:
Pizza, guns, drums, music, family, and God. This pretty much sums up my life. It’s a pretty good life.
The account was closed today.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a student who graduated from Sequoyah High with Long in 2017 told The Daily Beast:
He was very innocent seeming and wouldn’t even cuss. He was sorta nerdy and didn’t seem violent from what I remember. He was a hunter and his father was a youth minister or pastor. He was big into religion.
Long was caught on video at the crime scenes and later captured on a highway two hours south of Atlanta following a police chase, authorities said.
Police stressed that it was still much too early to announce a motive, but the horrific attacks come amid a wave of targeted violence against the Asian-American community.
The rampage began at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth in Cherokee County, where two people were killed, one other person succumbed to their injuries en route to a nearby hospital, and one died while in treatment, according to the sheriff’s office.
The victims were two Asian women, a white woman, and a white man, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A Hispanic man was also injured in the shooting and was rushed to a hospital for medical treatment, a spokesman for the sheriff said.
About an hour later and 30 miles away, two spas on the same Atlanta street – Gold Spa and one in Aroma Therapy Spa – were targeted by gunfire, and four Asian women were killed.
Officers had just arrived at one of the spas to find the victims when they were summoned to the second.
Atlanta Police Chief Rodney N Bryant told reporters:
While at [the first location] we received another call across the street of shots fired, and responded to find another individual shot at that location.
Bryant declined to say whether police believe the shootings were to a hate crime, saying, “We can’t make that determination just yet.”
President Joe Biden recently condemned the surge in crimes of hate, which have included a brazen, deadly assault on an 84-year-old from Thailand who was killed on a morning stroll in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), in offering condolences to the families of the victims of the Atlanta shootings on Tuesday night, noted in a tweet that:
Many of the victims are Asian. These murders occurred at a time when anti-Asian violence has been spiking. All officials should do their part to condemn violence and not inflame further discrimination.
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus said it was “horrified” by news of the shooting “at a time when we’re already seeing a spike in anti-Asian violence.”
In testimony to the Georgia State Senate the day before the shootings, Michelle Au, a Democratic state senator representing Johns Creek, GA, said:
In the last year, 32 incidents of hate crimes towards our Asian-American and Pacific Islander community here in Atlanta have been reported … Recognize that we need help, we need protection, and we need people in power to stand up for us against hate.
Long’s family did not respond to calls for comment.
Update (18.3.2021): Religion Despatches today carries a piece entitled “Don’t Discount Evangelicalism as a Factor in Racist Murder of Asian Spa Workers in Georgia.” It says:
Conservative Christian men are prone to believe that they have pornography or sex ‘addictions’, even when they do not. Before he was apprehended by police, Robert Aaron Long was reportedly on his way to target the porn industry in Florida for violence similar to what he perpetrated in Georgia.
ABC News reports:
The man suspected of killing eight people in three separate shootings at spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday has allegedly admitted to the killings and blamed his ‘addiction to sex’ as the motive, authorities said.