Eight people, most of them Asian women, were killed Tuesday in shootings at three massage parlors in Georgia, in the United States. Police reported that a man was detained on suspicion of orchestrating the attacks.
Whether the shootings have a racist motive is unknown, but they occur as many Asian-Americans are in tension following a surge in hate crimes against their community and raise fears that Asian-run businesses may be targeted.
Four of the victims died at Young’s Asian Massage parlor near Acworth, an Atlanta suburb, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office told the newspaper that the victims were two Asian women and a white woman and man, while a Hispanic man was injured. For its part, the Atlanta police department confirmed that four Asian-looking women were found dead in two other nearby massage parlors in northeast Atlanta.
Based on video from surveillance cameras, authorities identified Robert Aaron Long as a suspect in all the attacks. “It is highly likely that our suspect is the same as the one from Cherokee County, who is in custody,” Atlanta police spokesman John Chafee told Afpel. Long was taken into custody after a “brief manhunt” about 150 miles from Atlanta, according to a statement from the Georgia Department of Security posted on Facebook.
Describing the scene in the incident in northeast Atlanta, the police spokesman said that “upon arrival, officers found three women shot dead inside.” While there, the police officers were alerted to gunshots also heard on the other side of the street where they found the fourth victim. The FBI is assisting in the investigation, a spokesman told Afp.
The shootings occurred after reporting an increase in attacks against Asian Americans, especially the elderly, attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the disease was branded a “Chinese virus” by former President Donald Trump, among others. The NYPD’s counterterrorism department said it was “monitoring the shooting attacks on Asian Americans in Georgia.” And he noted that he deployed agents to the city’s large Asian communities as a precaution.
Although racial motivation can be difficult to determine, a study from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at CSU San Bernardino found that reported hate crimes against Asians have nearly tripled, from 49 to 122 cases, in the United States. last year, in 16 major American cities, including New York and Los Angeles. This, despite the fact that the global rate of hate crimes fell by 7%. About 500,000 Asian residents live in Georgia, just over 4% of its population, according to the Asian American Advocacy Fund.
The Democratic Party in Georgia called Tuesday’s shootings “horrible.” “As details continue to emerge, we can say that this attack sadly continues with an unacceptable pattern of violence against Asian Americans, which has exploded during this pandemic,” said Congresswoman Nikema Williams, the party’s state leader. “Today’s tragic deaths in Atlanta reaffirm the need to act and protect all marginalized minorities in America from racism,” tweeted attorney Ben Crump, known for representing black victims of police brutality.
In a speech on Thursday, President Joe Biden condemned the “perverse hate crimes against Asian Americans who have been attacked, harassed, accused and scapegoated.” “That is wrong. He is not American. And it must stop, ”he said.
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