ATLANTA (AP) — A white gunman accused of killing eight people, most of them of women of Asian descent, at three Atlanta-area massage parlors was charged with murder Wednesday in an attack that sent terror through the Asian American community that’s increasingly been targeted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Robert Aaron Long, 21, told police the attack was not racially motivated, claiming to have a “sex addiction” and apparently he lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation. Six of the victims were identified as Asian and seven were women.

The shootings appear to be at the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia,” Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen said, the first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia House and a frequent advocate for women and communities of color.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that regardless of the shooter’s motivation, “it is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop.”

The attack was the sixth mass killing this year in the U.S., and the deadliest since the August 2019 Dayton killing that took the lives of nine people, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.

It was not clear if Long ever went to the parlors where the shootings occurred. One official said he had, while another indicated he may have only visited businesses like them. Authorities also said he was planning to go to Florida in a plot to attack “some type of porn industry.”

 “He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Jay Baker told reporters.

When asked by a reporter whether the businesses were a place where somebody could have sexual encounters, Bottoms did not answer, saying she did not want “to get into victim blaming, victim shaming here.”

Sheriff Frank Reynolds said it was too early to tell if the attack was racially motivated — “but the indicators right now are it may not be.” Authorities in Cherokee County say Long was charged Wednesday with four counts of murder and one count of assault.


ORIGINAL VERSION AP RELEASE: ATLANTA (AP) — Authorities say a 21-year-old man has been captured hours after eight people were killed in shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker said Robert Aaron Long of Woodstock, Georgia, was taken into custody in Crisp County on Tuesday night. Crisp County is about 150 miles south of Atlanta. Four people were killed at a massage parlor in Acworth. Shortly after, three people were killed at a spa in northeast Atlanta, while a fourth person was killed at another spa across the street. The killings came amid a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States.

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