8 people, including 4 ethnic Koreans, killed in Atlanta spa shootings

Posted on : 2021-03-18 16:03 KST Modified on : 2021-03-18 16:03 KST
The shootings may have targeted people of Asian descent
Crime scene tape surrounds Gold Spa after deadly shootings at a massage parlor and two day spas Tuesday in the Atlanta area, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Reuters/Yonhap News)
Crime scene tape surrounds Gold Spa after deadly shootings at a massage parlor and two day spas Tuesday in the Atlanta area, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Reuters/Yonhap News)

Eight people were shot to death at three massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia, in a series of shootings on Tuesday. Four of these victims were women of Korean descent, raising fear that the shootings were hate crimes against Asians, which have skyrocketed since the spread of COVID-19 last year.

The first shooting took place at 5 pm at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Cherokee County in northwest Atlanta. Five people were shot, with two dead at the scene and three taken to hospital, where two more died. The owner of the establishment is believed to be ethnically Chinese.

The second and third shootings occurred at two massage parlors run by ethnic Koreans in Atlanta, approximately 48 kilometers (30 miles) away. Atlanta has one of the highest Korean populations in the US. At 5:47 pm, police responded to a report about a violent incident at Gold Massage Spa, where they discovered three women dead.

Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said police were still on the scene when they received word about another shooting at Aroma Therapy Spa on the other side of the road. Another woman was found dead inside this establishment.

Atlanta K, a Korean-language outlet in Atlanta, quoted an official from the local spa industry as saying, “According to the testimony of staff who survived, the [four] victims [at Gold Massage Spa and Aroma Therapy Spa] were all Korean women.”

The Korean victims identified so far include a woman in her 70s surnamed Park and another woman in her 50s also surnamed Park, both employees of Gold Massage Spa. The Hankyoreh learned from Atlanta K correspondent Lee Sang-yeon that both women lived and boarded at the establishment.

An official from the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “After checking with local police, the Consulate General of Korea in Atlanta has confirmed that all four victims were ethnic Koreans.” The official added that efforts were currently underway to ascertain whether the women were Korean citizens.

Police arrested Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white male, at 8:30 pm in Crisp County, located 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Atlanta. After conducting video analysis, police have put forward evidence including the fact that Long’s vehicle was in the area during the shootings and believe that he is responsible for all three incidents.

While the motive behind the killings has not been revealed, it appears likely they were hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent. Six of the eight victims were Asian women, while the others were a white woman and man. The Korea Times Atlanta reported that directly after the shooting, an employee of Gold Massage Spa contacted a nearby Korean establishment and said the perpetrator had yelled he was going to “kill all Asians” before opening fire.

Stop AAPI Hate, which receives reports of hate crimes against Asians and Pacific Islanders, released a report the same day stating there were 3,795 reported hate incidents targeting Asian Americans recorded between March 19 last year and February this year.

On March 9, an 83-year-old Korean woman was assaulted in New York without provocation. Some have pointed out that former President Donald Trump’s branding of COVID-19 as the “China virus” has exacerbated the atmosphere of hostility against Asians during the pandemic. Directly after the incident, the New York City Police Department announced on Twitter that additional officers would be dispatched to areas of New York with large Asian populations. Police in Seattle, Washington, also announced stronger patrols in Asian American communities.

By Hwang Joon-bum, Washington correspondent

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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