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The Georgia man who confessed to killing eight people in a string of shootings at Asian massage parlors told police he has sex-addiction issues and wanted to “eliminate” the “temptation,” authorities said Wednesday.
“Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker said—comments that drew swift condemnation because they seemed to downplay Tuesday night’s carnage.
Hours after that press conference, Baker faced new outrage with the discovery of social media posts in which he promoted T-shirts with the racist logo “COVID-19 imported virus from CHY-NA.”
Investigators have said they don’t know yet whether the attacks on three massage parlors in the metro Atlanta area—which came in the midst of a wave of anti-Asian violence—can be classified as a hate crime.
But they said the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, denied the rampage was racially motivated.
The 21-year-old—who appeared to highlight a love of guns and God on his Instagram account—was caught on video Tuesday night at the spas where six Asian women and two other victims were ambushed and gunned down, police said.
He was eventually nabbed on a highway two hours south of Atlanta after a police chase, and he has been charged with murder and attempted murder.
Long admitted he was on his way to a pornography-related venue in Florida, authorities said, adding that it was “very likely there would have been more victims.”
Police said Long—who has a hunting license—purchased the weapon used in the rampage just prior to the shootings.
Long allegedly told them he “had some issues, including sexual addiction” that may have contributed to the spree.
“It may be the targets of opportunity... we believe he frequented these places in the past and may have been lashing out,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said.
Cherokee County Capt. Jay Baker added that Long “did take responsibility for the shootings,” indicating to police that he was “pretty fed up” and “at the end of his rope” at the time of the rampage.
Long told police he blamed the massage establishments for his addiction.
“It’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Baker added.
Long “pretty much grew up” in the Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, a fellow member who left the church in 2015 told The Daily Beast.
“It was your typical evangelical Baptist church but they do push the narrative hard that if you watch porn, if you’re doing sexual things, you’re going to hell,” the ex-member said. “They really do drive that home.”
The bloodbath began at the Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County, where Long quickly killed two people, police said. A third person at the parlor succumbed to their injuries en route to a nearby hospital and a fourth died while in treatment. One person was also wounded at the parlor.
The victims killed there have been identified as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Paul Andre Michels, 54. Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, was also shot and injured at Young’s but is expected to survive.
About an hour later, three people were found dead at the Gold Massage Spa in Atlanta. Another person was fatally shot at the Aroma Therapy Spa, located across the street. The names of those victims have not yet been released.
The Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Atlanta confirmed to The Daily Beast that four of eight victims are of Korean descent. “Although the citizenship of the individuals has not been determined at this time, we are working closely with the authorities involved,” a consulate spokesperson said.
Reynolds said Wednesday that Long was apprehended after police were “contacted by members of the family indicating that may be their son” after the initial shooting.
“They were very distraught and they were very helpful in this apprehension,” he said.
With the family’s assistance, police were able to track his phone and anticipate his movements before Georgia State Police in Crisp County eventually stopped Long with a PIT maneuver, or a pursuit intervention technique, in which police force another car to plow sideways and stop.
After his arrest, Long was interviewed by the Cherokee County police, the Atlanta police, and the FBI at Cherokee County adult detention center. There, they said, he revealed his sex-addiction issues and revealed he bought the gun just hours earlier.
Long is the son of a youth pastor and is heavily involved in the church, a student who graduated from Sequoyah High with Long in 2017 told The Daily Beast. “He... wouldn’t even cuss,” the woman said. “He was big into religion.”
In his high school yearbook, Long was pictured leading a school church group called FCA. “I really feel like God is wanting me to be a leader in the church so I felt like this would be a really good opportunity to exercise some of those principles… and also just reach out to our campus with the gospel,” he said in an accompanying caption.
The tagline on an Instagram account that appeared to belong to Long read: “Pizza, guns, drums, music, family, and God. This pretty much sums up my life. It’s a pretty good life.”
The White House was briefed on the shootings overnight, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken referenced them in comments on a trip to South Korea—where officials said four of the victims were of Korean descent.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that “a crime against any community is a crime against us all.”
“We know that many of the victims, the majority of the victims, were Asian. We also know that this is an issue that’s happening across the country. It is unacceptable, it is hateful, and it has to stop,” Bottoms said.
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