Spa shooting suspect’s parents turned him in

031721 Acworth: After dropping off flowers Jesus Estrella stands in support of the Asian & Hispanic community outside Young’s Asian Massage where four people were killed on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Acworth. At least eight people were found dead at three different spas in the Atlanta area Tuesday by suspected killer Robert Aaron Long.     “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
Caption
031721 Acworth: After dropping off flowers Jesus Estrella stands in support of the Asian & Hispanic community outside Young’s Asian Massage where four people were killed on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Acworth. At least eight people were found dead at three different spas in the Atlanta area Tuesday by suspected killer Robert Aaron Long. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

After the first shooting Tuesday afternoon, at a Cherokee County spa, officials released surveillance footage. They soon got a call from a couple. They recognized their son.

While Cherokee County deputies were meeting with Robert Aaron Long’s parents, Atlanta police were responding to a call at Gold’s Spa on Piedmont Road. They arrived to find three bodies at Gold’s and another across the street, at Aromatherapy Spa.

Hours later, Long, 21, would be apprehended in South Georgia. He now faces multiple murder charges and an aggravated assault charge.

“I send condolences and prayers to the family and friends of the innocent victims,” said Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore. “You go to work one day and someone comes in and creates a mass shooting event and your gone and your family member is gone.”

Atlanta police said they were able to use video footage to identify Long’s car parked outside both locations at the time of the shootings. Meanwhile, his parents informed deputies that a tracking device could lead authorities to his Hyundai Tucson.

Long told police Tuesday he was overwhelmed by what he described as a sexual addiction at odds with his religious beliefs, authorities said.

Victims of the Cherokee County shooting were Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw; and Daoyou Feng, 44, of an unknown address. A fifth victim, Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, was in stable condition Wednesday.

Atlanta authorities were still working to notify next of kin on Wednesday, and had not released identities of the victims killed in the spa shootings there.

Though authorities say Long, who is white, denied race was a motive, the question will be asked in the investigation underway by federal, state and local officials.

Gov. Brian Kemp said he wasn’t yet sure if the shooting would fall under Georgia’s hate crime law.

“Early indications look like that could be the case,” Kemp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m willing to ... let the GBI, FBI and others get into the facts before we start weighing in.”

Rosalind S. Chou, a Georgia State University sociology professor, said it would be an oversimplification to say the shootings weren’t hate crimes just because the suspect said race hadn’t motivated him.

“The entire Asian (spa) industry is sexualized in a particularly racialized way,” said Chou, who authored the book “Asian American Sexual Politics: The Construction of Race, Gender, and Sexuality.”

Chou said she was horrified to think of a possible narrative emerging of a man, trying to stamp out his own sexual desires, choosing to kill women – mostly Asian – who he saw as too tempting.

“Their mere existence,” Chou said, “triggered this gunman to go on a rampage.”

‘A pretty good life’

Long, a 2017 graduate of Sequoyah High School who lived near Milton, had no previous criminal record.

He and his parents were active members at Crabapple First Baptist Church, and social media posts, since deleted, show religion played a large role in Long’s life. He was on the youth ministry team at the church and, in 2017, visited Costa Rica on a mission trip. In a statement, church elders said they grieved for all involved; they declined interview requests.

Long had other interests. “Pizza, guns, drums, music, family, and God,” read a tagline from an Instagram account believed to be Long’s.

“This pretty much sums up my life,” Long explained. ”It’s a pretty good life.”

But in 2018, he spoke of unspecified troubles in a video posted on the church’s Facebook page. He said he was helped by the Biblical story of the prodigal son.

“The son goes off and squanders all that he has and lives completely for himself and then, when he finds he’s wanting to eat pig food, he realized there’s something wrong and he goes back to his father and his father runs back to him and embraces him,” he says on the video. “And by the grace of God I was able to draw the connection there and realize this is a story between what happened with me and God.”

Susan Shaw, a professor of gender studies at Oregon State University, said she was struck by Long’s comments about eliminating temptations. Shaw, who was raised in a Southern Baptist Church in Rome, said his words echo a “purity culture” popular within that denomination.

“If a man is tempted, it’s a woman’s fault,” she said. “There’s a tremendous amount of guilt and shame that comes with that belief set. The purity culture expects people to reject their sexuality.”

The arrest

The Georgia State Patrol and Crisp County Sheriff Bill Hancock, contacted by Cherokee Sheriff Frank Reynolds, were waiting for Long by the time he crossed the county line. After a short chase, troopers performed a PIT maneuver, in which they force a fleeing car to turn sideways abruptly, causing the driver to lose control and stop. Long was arrested without further incident.

In his possession, police found the 9mm believed to have been used in the shootings. Long had purchased it hours earlier at Big Woods Goods in Holly Springs, the store confirmed, declining to comment. Georgia doesn’t have a waiting period for buying guns.

Long told investigators he was headed to Florida, which he considered to be a hub for the porn industry, authorities said.

“I ran away living completely for myself,” Long said in the 2018 video, referring to the time before he was baptized, “and He still wants me, and so that’s when I was saved.”

Staff writers Wilborn P. Nobles III and Chris Joyner contributed to this report.