Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, was indicted on murder and domestic terrorism charges this Tuesday for the Atlanta-area spa shootings. Prosecutors also claimed that they are planning to seek the death penalty and increased hate crime charges, according to court records.
A Fulton County grand jury indicted Long in the killings of Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Sun Cha Kim, 69; and Yong Ae Yue, 63, at two spas in Atlanta in March. Another grand jury in Cherokee County has yet to decide on charges against Long for the shooting at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, 35 miles north of Atlanta.
The Fulton County indictment showed that Long is facing four counts of murder, four counts of felony murder, one count of domestic terrorism, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and five counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
According to a notice of intent from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, “the hate crime charges would be based on alleged crimes committed against the victims due to their actual or perceived race, national origin, sex, and gender.”
Willis also submitted a notice to seek the death penalty over the four victims deaths in Atlanta. This also marks the first time Georgia’s hate crime statute will be used.
In a press conference, however, Willis also acknowledged how she previously opposed the death penalty during her campaign for district attorney: “Last year, I told the voters of Fulton County that I could not imagine a circumstance where I would seek it, and at that time I did not. Unfortunately, a case has arisen in the first few months of my term that I believe warrants the ultimate penalty, and we shall seek it.”
Willis also claimed she made her decision after reviewing the suspects statements to the police, visiting the crime scenes herself, and speaking with the victims’ families.
Long shot and killed the four women in Atlanta on March 16 after traveling from Acworth, where he had killed four others at another spa: Xiaojie Tan, 49, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Daoyou Feng, 44, and Paul Andre Michels, 54.
Six of the eight victims were Asian women, and the shootings occurred amid a major surge of anti-Asian hate crimes across the country brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, however, hate crimes against Asian people have long been an issue in this country.
Police claim that Long initially told investigators race was not a motive in the shootings, however, officials claimed they were still investigating. The specific businesses that were targeted were explicitly marketed as Asian or international spas advertising majority women and Asian employees, and the fact that Long traveled such a great length to continue out his horrific crimes is why Willis and prosecutors are seeking the ultimate form of punishment.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.