The shootings that killed eight people on March 16, 2021, were roughly 30 miles apart at three spas in Cherokee and Fulton counties. The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, was later captured about 150 miles south of Atlanta.
Here’s what happened, according to investigators, attorneys and Long:
2 p.m.: Long purchased a gun and ammunition for $460 from Big Woods Goods in Holly Springs. Long’s plan, he later told investigators, was to commit suicide. After buying the gun, Long drove to a liquor store and purchased bourbon.
From there, he drove to Youngs Asian Massage Parlor near Acworth in a dark-colored Hyundai SUV. Outside the business, Long sat in his SUV an hour drinking the bourbon before he went inside. After paying for and receiving a service, Long went to the restroom.
4:54 p.m.: As Long left the restroom, he pulled out his gun and began shooting. He later told investigators he had already planned to kill people. “I don’t recall thinking much after I pulled the trigger first,” Long later said. “My mind felt like it was blank.”
When he was done, he had killed four people and critically injured a fifth. Surveillance cameras then captured Long leaving the business, located near the intersection of Bells Ferry Road and Ga. 92.
5:47 p.m.: About 30 miles away, Atlanta officers were called to a report of a robbery at the Gold Spa, located at 1916 Piedmont Road. Inside, officers found three women dead from gunshot wounds. While investigating that incident, officers were told shots were fired across the street at the Aromatherapy Spa. There, investigators found another woman shot to death.
At a news conference within two hours of the shootings, police Chief Rodney Bryant said Atlanta officers were working with Cherokee investigators to determine if the incidents were related.
8 p.m.: Cherokee Sheriff Frank Reynolds alerted law enforcement in central Georgia that the suspect was believed to be traveling south on I-75. About 150 miles south of Atlanta, the 2007 black Hyundai Tucson was spotted by Crisp County sheriff’s deputies and the Georgia State Patrol. Troopers performed a PIT maneuver to stop the SUV. Long was arrested and booked into the Crisp County Detention Center and later returned to Cherokee County. Officials said Long’s parents provided information to help locate him soon after the shootings.
March 17: The victims of the shootings were identified. Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49, Daoyou Feng, 44, Delaina Yaun, 33, and Paul Michels, 54, died after being shot at Youngs Asian Massage. A fifth person, Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, was injured. Yong Ae Yue, 63, Soon Chung Park, 74, Suncha Kim, 69, and Hyun Jung Grant, 51, were killed at two spas along Piedmont Road.
May 11: Eight weeks later, district attorneys in both Cherokee and Fulton counties announced Long had been indicted. Fulton prosecutors also said they plan to seek the death penalty and pursue hate crime charges, according to court filings.
Long was indicted on four counts of murder in the March 16 shootings, along with aggravated assault, domestic terrorism and possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony, the Fulton indictment states. In Cherokee, Long was also indicted on four counts of murder, criminal attempt to commit murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and criminal damage to property in the first degree.
July 27: Long pleaded guilty to four of the murders in a deal formalized in a Cherokee County courtroom. The agreement spared him a death sentence, though that possibility remains in Fulton County. Long was handed four consecutive life sentences, plus 35 years, without the possibility of parole.
Sept. 28: In Fulton County, Long pleaded not guilty to four murder charges, setting the stage for a lengthy trial. He appeared briefly in court to formally enter his plea on charges that also include aggravated assault and domestic terrorism. BJay Pak, an attorney representing two of the victims’ families, was among those who filed into the courtroom. He said the facts surrounding the deadly shootings in Cherokee County and Atlanta are slightly different, and that the families he represents are pushing for the death penalty, even if the case takes years or decades to resolve.
― AJC data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this article.