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March 17, 2021

Eight people were killed and one person was injured in three separate shooting incidents at different massage parlors in the Atlanta metropolitan area on Tuesday evening in which six of the victims were identified as Asians, raising fears that the attack was racially motivated as people of Asian descent face a rising wave of hate crimes across the country.

 Police arrested one suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, who they believe is responsible for all three attacks which took place about 30 miles away from each other.

The Atlanta Police Department said that available video evidence suggests “it is extremely likely” that the same person was responsible for all three shootings.

Four people were killed in the first shooting at Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County northwest of Atlanta, around 5 pm local time. 

Around 45 minutes later, the second shooting took place at Gold Spa in the northeast part of Atlanta where three women were killed.

The third shooting took place across the street from the second incident at Aromatherapy Spa where one woman was found dead.

The suspect was captured later on Tuesday night while he was driving about 150 miles south of Atlanta by a Georgia State Patrol trooper, following which he was taken into custody and charged with murder.

While police in Atlanta have not established a motive behind the shooting, the choice of location and the identity of the victims have given rise to fears that the killings may be racially motivated. The New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit announced on Twitter that it was monitoring the shootings in Atlanta and “deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution.”

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) reacted to the incident, tweeting: “My heart is broken tonight after the tragic violence in Atlanta that took eight lives. Once again we see that hate is deadly. Praying for the families of the victims and for peace for the community.” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also tweeted his condolences to the families of the victims and thanked the Georgia Department of Public Safety for the “quick apprehension of a suspect… in coordination with local and federal law enforcement.”

Asian-Americans have faced a growing wave of hate crime since the start of the pandemic last year. Stop AAPI Hate, a non-profit group, which monitors hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) condemed Tuesday’s attack calling them an “unspeakable tragedy – for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the AAPI community — which has been reeling from high levels of racial discrimination.” The group noted that while while a motive behind the shooting have not yet been established there is “a great deal of fear and pain in the Asian American community that must be addressed.” In his first prime time address to the nation on Friday, President Joe Biden also condemed the rise in “vicious” hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic, saying they are “attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated.” The president then added, “It's wrong, it's un-American and it must stop"3,795. That’s the total number of hate incidents that have been reported by people of Asian descent in the U.S. a report released by Stop AAPI Hate on Tuesday found. A disproportionate number of those incidents seem to be targeted at women who made 69% of the reports.

Source: Forbes
Image Source: Getty Images