Investigations of Atlanta Spa Shootings Continue

Outside of Young’s Asian Massage, bouquets of flowers rest alongside multiple signs – one of which reads ‘#StopAsianHate’ in large block letters. The solemn sight follows the tragedy on March 16, when eight victims died due to shootings at three separate spas in Atlanta, Georgia. One suspect, according to CNN, holds responsibility for all three shootings. Thoughts and prayers across the nation honor the lives tragically lost: Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.

Memorial outside of Young’s Asian Massage | Photo courtesy of Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The suspect, Robert Long, claims that his motive centered around an alleged sex addiction. Long visited at least two of the spas for massages, and thereby viewed them as a ‘temptation,’ according to The New York Times. In a calamitious attempt to resolve his sex addiction, Long opened fire upon the spas. Authorities, however, claim that further investigations must take place in order to completely determine Long’s motive. 

On the contrary, voices across the nation have linked the shootings to a  recent rise in Asian-American hate crimes. The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism published a report evaluating anti-Asian hate crimes in America’s 16 largest cities. According to the report, these crimes rose by 149% in 2020. As a result, many groups believe that racial motivations influenced Long’s actions. Shortly after the shooting occurred, rallies across the nation emerged in support of the Asian-American community and to denounce hate crimes. 

Additionally, according to ABC News, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker faced backlash after making controversial statements in regards to the event. 

Baker’s alleged Facebook post – each shirt says, “Covid 19: Imported virus from Chy-na” | Photo courtesy of ABC 10

“[Long] was pretty much fed up and had been, kind of, at the end of his rope,” Baker said at a press conference on March 17. “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”

Baker’s statements were quickly interpreted as insensitive. He also faces allegations of posting racist, anti-Asian images on a now-deleted Facebook account. Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds, on the other hand, apologized on behalf of Baker’s remarks and stated that the captain possesses ‘personal ties’ with the Asian community. 

In addition, the Cherokee County police encountered frustrated accusations from one victim’s husband, Mario Gonzalez – who was a survivor of the shooting himself. Gonzalez claims that police treated him poorly after the incident occurred, allegedly placing him in handcuffs and detaining him for hours after the attack. According to The Associated Press, if this accusation holds true, it indicates that police held Gonzalez after authorities caught Long. Additionally, Gonzalez believes that the police took too long to inform him of his wife’s passing, since she had died as a result of the shooting. 

Mario Gonzalez pictured with his wife, Delaina Ashley Yaun | Photo courtesy of The New Yorker

“Only when they finally confirmed I was her husband, did they tell me that she was dead,” he said. He described his wife as “the most important thing I have in my life.”

Although racial controversies prevail around Tuesday’s shooting, officials are yet to find evidence supporting a federal hate crime charge. Despite this, Long may face hate crime charges under Georgia law. “Sex” is regarded as a category for hate crime in Georgia; therefore, Long’s potential charges depend upon whether he explicitly targeted his victims with hatred – however, it is unclear whether a race-related hate crime receives a longer sentence compared to a sex-related hate crime. The future of his case, nonetheless, relies upon any new evidence brought to light as investigations progress. 

Written by Prisha Puntambekar

Senior Prisha Puntambekar is Editor-in-Chief of the MCSun and has been part of journalism since her freshman year. Outside of journalism, she is busy blasting Tyler, the Creator or Taylor Swift on her record player.

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