Elders at church where Atlanta shooting suspect attended offer prayers for victims

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Elders at the North Fulton church where Robert Aaron Long worshipped said they are “grieved” to hear about the shootings at three spas in metro Atlanta Tuesday that led to the deaths of eight people, most of whom were Asian women.

“We are grieved to hear the tragic news about the multiple deaths in the Atlanta area,” read a statement from Crabapple First Baptist Church to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. “We are heartbroken for all involved. We grieve for the victims and their families, and we continue to pray for them. Moreover, we are distraught for the Long family and continue to pray for them as well.”

Long, 21, was captured in South Georgia on Tuesday night, apparently on his way to Florida, where officials fear he may have been planning more attacks.

He has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. Others are calling for hate crime charges to be added.

Long admitted to law enforcement that he was the shooter.

Victoria Huynh, senior vice president of the Center for Pan Asian Community Services in DeKalb County, said the shooting spree sent chills throughout the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in metro Atlanta, particularly in the wake of other attacks on Asian Americans across the nation.

She said her phone lines blew up with calls from community leaders and partners “wanting to make sure we are not silent about this.

”People, she said, want to make sure conversations are centered around the AAPI community. “How do we stop this? How do we work together to center the conversation around the community and the victims,” she said.

Others in the faith and civil rights community offered prayers and support.

Pastor Byeong Cheol Han of Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Chamblee, said he wants to see a full investigation into the shootings.

“I’m not sure yet this is a hate crime, but all circumstances tell us it might be,” he said. “We are very sad about the tragic shootings, especially as Asian Americans we have been concerned for many days about hate crimes. This is not someone who had a bad day and expressed his anger.”

He issued a call for community leaders and politicians to do something to prevent hate crimes.

“We’re starting a new journey with a new president. It’s time for us to reconcile and not blame someone. We need to confront and face the truth about what is happening in this country.”

Episcopal Bishop Robert C. Wright issued a statement that said while details are unfolding, “Still we pray for those who have lost loved ones in this violence. We pray for those who are afraid. And we pray for those who are disfigured by hate.” Wright leads the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.

“The Georgia Muslim community mourns the senseless deaths of our Asian-American sisters and brothers,” Abdullah Jaber, executive director of CAIR-Georgia, said in a statement. “Although we still need to learn more about how and why these attacks happened, hate and animosity against communities of color, particularly targeting women and the elderly is not new. CAIR-Georgia will extend any help and support needed in this moment and continue to stand against hate and bigotry in all its ugly forms.”