Atlanta massage parlor shootings: Biden briefed on deadly attack as details emerge

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President Biden has been briefed on the Atlanta-area massage parlor attacks that left eight people dead, as details emerge about the devastating shooting and the suspect.

At least six people of Asian American descent were among the dead. Police have not said whether race played a factor in the shootings.

“The president has been briefed overnight about the horrific shootings in Atlanta,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday morning. “White House officials have been in touch with the mayor’s office and will remain in touch with the FBI.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has also been briefed on the matter and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has said it will assist in the investigation if needed. 

Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old from Woodstock, Georgia, was arrested just hours after the shootings in Crisp County, about 150 miles south of Atlanta, according to officials.

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jay Baker told reporters that investigators still don’t know Long’s relationship with any of the victims or the motive.

“We don’t know if this is a random act,” he said.

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    City of Atlanta police officers are seen outside of Gold Spa after deadly shootings at a massage parlor and two day spas in the Atlanta area, in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 16, 2021. (REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry)

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    City of Atlanta Police Officer Davis works at the scene outside of Gold Spa after deadly shootings at a massage parlor and two day spas in the Atlanta area, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. March 16, 2021. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry(REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry)

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    A body is taken away from Gold Spa massage parlor after a shooting, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, authorities said. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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    A police officer watches as a body is taken from the Gold Spa massage parlor after a shooting, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, authorities said.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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    CORRECTS DATELINE TO ACWORTH INSTEAD OF WOODSTOCK – Authorities investigate a fatal shooting at a massage parlor, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Acworth, Ga. Officials say 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Georgia, has been captured hours after multiple people were killed in shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

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    CORRECTS DATELINE TO ACWORTH INSTEAD OF WOODSTOCK – Authorities investigate a fatal shooting at a massage parlor, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Acworth, Ga. Officials say 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Georgia, has been captured hours after multiple people were killed in shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

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    An officer stands outside Gold Spa after a shooting, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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    Officials stand in front of a massage parlor after a shooting, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The attacks began Tuesday evening when five people were shot at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor in Acworth, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, Baker said. Two people died at the scene and three were taken to a hospital where two died, he said.

WSB-TV reported another person, a man, was wounded in the shooting but is expected to survive.

“He was coming out of the store beside the massage parlor and the other store beside it and he was outside,” Adriana Mejia, a niece of the surviving victim, told WSB.

About an hour later, police responding to a call about a robbery found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. While there, officers learned of a call reporting shots fired at another spa across the street, Aromatherapy Spa, and found a woman who appeared to have been shot dead.

“It appears that they may be Asian,” Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said.

Surveillance video recorded a man pulling up to the Acworth business about 10 minutes before the attack there, authorities said, and the same car was spotted outside the Atlanta businesses. A manhunt was launched, and Long was ultimately captured. 

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    Mar 16, 2021; Canton, Georgia, USA; This photo provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office shows Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Ga., a suspect in the killing of eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Hours after the killings, the 21-year-old man was captured in southwest Georgia. (Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Handout photo-USA TODAY NETWORK)

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    Mar 16, 2021; Canton, Georgia, USA; This photo provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office shows Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Ga., a suspect in the killing of eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Hours after the killings, the 21-year-old man was captured in southwest Georgia. (Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Handout photo-USA TODAY NETWORK)

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    Mar 16, 2021; Canton, Georgia, USA; This photo provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office shows Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Ga., a suspect in the killing of eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Hours after the killings, the 21-year-old man was captured in southwest Georgia.(Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Handout photo-USA TODAY NETWORK)

Video evidence “suggests it is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s, who is in custody,” Atlanta police said in a statement. Authorities haven’t specified charges.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that its diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed with police that four of the victims who died were women of Korean descent. The ministry said its Consulate General in Atlanta is trying to confirm the nationality of the women.

GEORGIA MASSAGE PARLORS TURN INTO WAR ZONES AS POLICE UNRAVEL DEADLY SHOOTING SCENES 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in South Korea meeting with Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, mentioned the killings during an opening statement.

“We are horrified by this violence which has no place in America or anywhere,” he said, noting that four of the women were believed to be of Korean descent.

FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said the agency was assisting Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities in the investigation.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted Tuesday that his family “is praying for the victims of these horrific acts of violence. We deeply appreciate the quick apprehension of a suspect” by the Georgia Department of Public Safety, which oversees the state patrol, “in coordination with local and federal law enforcement.”

Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock said in a video posted on Facebook that his deputies and state troopers were notified Tuesday night that a murder suspect out of north Georgia was headed toward their county. Deputies and troopers set up along the interstate and “made contact with the suspect,” he said.

A state trooper performed a PIT, or pursuit intervention technique, maneuver, “which caused the vehicle to spin out of control,” Hancock said. Long was then taken into custody and was being held in the Crisp County jail for Cherokee County authorities who were expected to arrive soon to continue their investigation.

Mary Morgan, who reportedly lives in a home that neighbors Long’s family residence, told The Washington Post the Longs “come across as a good Christian family.”

“They used to go to church on a regular basis, and I’ve never seen anything bad out of them,” the 88-year-old reportedly said.

Authorities are expected to share more details during a press conference on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, police departments in other parts of the nation, including the NYPD in New York City, say they are bolstering forces in Asian communities “out of an abundance of caution.” Seattle city officials have also said they are taking “additional steps” to protect Asian American residents.

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta released a statement shortly after the news of the attacks saying it was “shaken by the violence in our city that has left 8 people dead, including members of the Asian American community,” according to 11 Alive reporter Chenue Her.

Stop AAPI Hate, a group focused on combatting hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, called the series of shootings “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 also noted in its tweets that it is unclear so far whether the attacks were racially motivated.

Fox News’ David Spunt and Brie Stimson contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press. 

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