Fulton DA: Alleged spa shooter driven by racial, gender bias

Robert Aaron Long charged with killing four spa workers

The suspect accused of fatally shooting four women in two different Atlanta spas made his first appearance Monday in a Fulton County courtroom.

Robert Aaron Long’s appearance was just that, as his formal arraignment was delayed until Sept. 28. Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis revealed she has filed sentencing enhancements against Long using Georgia’s new hate crimes law.

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“One was a bias of gender, against women, and the other on the basis of race,” Willis said Monday. The four victims in Fulton were Asian women.

Georgia’s law offers sentencing guidelines for anyone convicted of targeting a victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.

Caption
08/30/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Friends and family members of the Atlanta Spa Shootings victims listen as Robert Aaron Long appeared in front of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta, Monday, August 30, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

08/30/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Friends and family members of the Atlanta Spa Shootings victims listen as Robert Aaron Long appeared in front of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta, Monday, August 30, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Caption
08/30/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Friends and family members of the Atlanta Spa Shootings victims listen as Robert Aaron Long appeared in front of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta, Monday, August 30, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Willis also disclosed that Long’s defense team reached out in hopes of making a deal. She said she will continue to pursue a death sentence for Long.

“The decisions I made were with the complete support of the families,” she said.

Last month, Long, 21, pleaded guilty in Cherokee County to killing four people at a spa he frequented. He was sentenced to four life sentences plus 35 years without the possibility of parole.

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Cherokee District Attorney Shannon Wallace said she was unable to prove racial bias motivated Long. Two of the four woman Long admitted to killing at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth were Asian women.

Wallace said investigators interviewed three people of Asian descent who had known Long well. All three indicated they had never known Long to be racist. Had the case gone to trial, Wallace said she would have argued that he targeted women. Two of the five people shot at Young’s Asian Massage were men. One died, one survived.

Long told the judge in the Cherokee case that he initially planned to kill himself because of the shame he felt over what he called his obsessive addiction to pornography.

“It never felt like I had a lot of control over those urges and it became obsessive to the point it occupied a lot of thought space,” said Long, adding that his addiction to porn “hurt a lot of relationships in my life and I still found myself going back to it.”

Caption
08/30/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a press conference in the District Attorney’s office at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta, Monday, August 30, 2021. The presser took place following Robert Aaron Long appearing in front of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville. Attorney Fani Willis revealed she has filed sentencing enhancements against Long using Georgia’s new hate crimes law. “One was a bias of gender, against women, and the other on the basis of race,” Willis said. All four victims in Fulton were Asian women. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

08/30/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a press conference in the District Attorney’s office at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta, Monday, August 30, 2021. The presser took place following Robert Aaron Long appearing in front of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville. Attorney Fani Willis revealed she has filed sentencing enhancements against Long using Georgia’s new hate crimes law. “One was a bias of gender, against women, and the other on the basis of race,” Willis said. All four victims in Fulton were Asian women. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Caption
08/30/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a press conference in the District Attorney’s office at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta, Monday, August 30, 2021. The presser took place following Robert Aaron Long appearing in front of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville. Attorney Fani Willis revealed she has filed sentencing enhancements against Long using Georgia’s new hate crimes law. “One was a bias of gender, against women, and the other on the basis of race,” Willis said. All four victims in Fulton were Asian women. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Sex addiction is not listed as an official diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a key reference for doctors, researchers and medical insurers. As a legal defense, it would be virtually unprecedented, trial attorneys say.

As he sat in his car March 16 outside Young’s, Long said he began thinking about killing the people inside.

“I wanted to stop the places and basically punish the people that I could,” Long told Cherokee Superior Court Judge Ellen McElyea.

After the shootings at Young’s, authorities say Long drove to Piedmont Road, where he’s accused of shooting Yong Ae Yue, 63; Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; and Hyun Jung Grant, 51 at two spas.

Long was captured later that night about 150 miles south of Atlanta. He told investigators he was headed to Florida, which he considered to be a hub for the porn industry.

Police found the 9mm handgun used in the shootings in his car. He’s now being held in Fulton jail.

Long’s court-appointed attorneys requested Monday’s extension, saying they have yet to receive any discovery evidence.

Willis said Monday marks the beginning of what will be “a very long journey.”

“Sometimes, seeking justice is not swift,” she said. Willis has previously estimated a trial will take at least two years.

THE STORY SO FAR

Robert Aaron Long was arrested on March 16, the same night authorities say he shot and killed eight people, including six Asian women, at three metro Atlanta spas. He was charged with four counts of murder in both Fulton and Cherokee counties. In July he pleaded guilty to all four counts in Cherokee and was sentenced to four life sentences plus 35 years without the possibility of parole. Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis says she will seek the death penalty against Long, who also faces sentencing enhancements under Georgia’s new hate crimes law. Willis says Long was motivated in part by race and gender bias.

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