Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed Tuesday after a gunman opened fire at three massage spas in northern Georgia.
Law enforcement officials apprehended Robert Aaron Long, 21, hours after the shootings and confessed later that night to carrying out the attacks, police said.
During a news conference Wednesday, law enforcement officials said it was “too early” to determine whether the shootings were racially motivated. Long told investigators he had issues with “sexual addiction” and that he targeted the spas to “take out that temptation,” authorities said.
The killings shook Asian American communities across the country amid a surge in racist incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islander people. Asian women were 2.3 times more likely to report being targeted in an incident of anti-Asian racism over the past year, according to a report from Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that has been documenting these incidents.
Cherokee County officials have released the identifies of the five people shot ― four of whom were killed ― at Young’s Asian Massage, the first spa where Long allegedly opened fire Tuesday. Atlanta officials have not yet publicly identified the victims of the subsequent shootings at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa.
Here’s what we know about the victims so far:
Xiaojie “Emily” Tan
Tan, 49, was fatally shot at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta. Public records indicate she owned the spa along with another business, Wang’s Feet & Body Massage, which was located about seven miles away.
Tan was a licensed massage therapist and previously held cosmetology licenses specializing in nails and face treatments, according to public records.
Greg Hynson, a friend and customer, described Tan as a hardworking small business owner. He said her friends called her Emily and that she had an adult daughter who recently graduated from the University of Georgia.
“She was the sweetest person you’d ever meet,” Hynson told USA Today. “My heart was in my throat the second I heard of it. It still doesn’t seem real.”
Delaina Ashley Yaun
Yaun, 33, was at Young’s Asian Massage on a date with her husband when she was shot dead. The couple lived together in Acworth and had been married for less than a year. He survived by locking himself in a room during the shooting.
“He’s not OK,” Dane Toole, Yaun’s half sister, told The New York Times. “He’s taking it hard.”
Yaun, who worked as a server at a local Waffle House restaurant, was the mother of a 14-year-old son and an 8-month-old daughter.
“Losing her will permanently affect this family and home,” Yuan’s friend Rose Luce told The Guardian. “I’ve never seen such love in a family the way I see the love Delaina had for hers.”
“Every day she would come home from work and hug her mother and kiss her baby girl with a giant smile on her face,” Luce added. “She adored that beautiful baby girl with every part of her heart.”
Paul Andre Michels
Michels, 54, was fatally shot at Young’s Asian Massage. He was a U.S. Army veteran and had been married for more than two decades, his family members told The Daily Beast.
He owned an electric company and was thinking of getting into the massage business, his younger brother, John Michels, said. Paul Michels was a gun owner, staunch Republican and a baptized Catholic.
“Although this is a tragedy, I forgive that man and so will Jesus Christ,” John Michels said of his brother’s alleged killer. “I cannot hate him for it. I pray for his repentance.”
Feng, 44, was fatally shot at Young’s Asian Massage. Police have not yet said where she lived. She recently began working at the spa, Hynson, Tan’s friend, told USA Today.
Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz
Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, was on his way to a money exchange business next to Young’s Asian Massage when he was shot in the parking lot. He survived but remained in critical condition as of Thursday, according to the Times.
His wife, Flor Gonzalez, said he underwent surgery Tuesday night after being wounded in his forehead, throat, lungs and stomach. She told the Times that she reminded Hernandez-Ortiz about their daughter’s upcoming 10th birthday celebration as a form of encouragement.
“I pleaded with him to keep fighting and that he has a family,” she said. “He loves his daughter a lot. He’s always been a dedicated father, very loving.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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