Prosecutor seeks hate crime charges, death penalty in Atlanta spa shootings

Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images

(ATLANTA) -- A Georgia district attorney will seek the death penalty and hate crimes charges against Atlanta spa shooting suspect Robert Aaron Long.

Long is accused of killing eight people, including six Asian women, in a spree targeting three Atlanta-area spas on March 16.

Long was indicted Tuesday on murder and other charges stemming from the shootings.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed notice that she intends to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty against Long.

"Last year, I told the voters of Fulton County that I could not imagine a circumstance where I would seek [the death penalty]," Willis said during a press briefing Tuesday evening. "Unfortunately, a case has arisen in the first few months of my term that I believe warrants the ultimate penalty, and we shall seek it."

Long was indicted in Fulton County for the deaths of Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63 -- four of the eight deaths in the attacks at two Atlanta-area spas.

The filing notice of intent states that Long intentionally selected his targets because of their "actual of perceived race, national origin, sex and gender."

Willis said this marks the first time Georgia's new hate crimes law will be used in Fulton County, and possibly the state, and "sends a message that everyone in this community is valued."

In total, Long was indicted on 19 counts: four counts of murder, four counts of felony murder, five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, five counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and one count of domestic terrorism, according to the indictment.

A separate grand jury in Cherokee County will decide on charges for the shooting at a spa near suburban Woodstock that claimed the lives of Xiaojie "Emily" Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54.

"The charges in this indictment were determined based on a comprehensive investigation of Robert Aaron Long and the mass shooting that occurred at Young's Asian Massage in Woodstock," Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace said in a statement. "Today we have taken another step forward in seeking justice for the victims of this crime and for their family members."

Officials did not share a motive for the attack. Long told investigators that he blamed the businesses he targeted for providing an outlet for his addiction to sex, the Cherokee County Sheriff's office said at the time.

The first shooting was reported at about 5 p.m. at Young's Asian Massage near Woodstock, Georgia. That shooting resulted in four people dead -- two Asian and two white individuals -- and one person injured, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said at the time.

About 47 minutes after that incident, Atlanta police responded to a 911 call of a robbery in progress at Gold Spa on Piedmont Road, about 30 miles away from the first shooting site. There they found three women dead from gunshot wounds, a spokesman told ABC News in a statement at the time.

While on the scene, the officers were advised of shots fired at Aromatherapy Spa across the street. When they went to investigate, police found a woman inside dead from a gunshot wound, Atlanta police said.

Long's phone was tracked to find his location, authorities said. Police spotted his car in Crisp County around 8 p.m., about three hours south of Atlanta, and he was arrested. A 9 mm gun was recovered at the traffic stop, authorities said.

Willis will host a press conference on the charges at 5:45 p.m. local time.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 3:35PM by Marlene Lenthang, ABC News Permalink