Prosecutor calls Georgia spa shootings hate crimes, will seek death penalty

A Georgia prosecutor on Tuesday said the suspect in the shooting deaths of eight people at Atlanta-area spas had targeted some of his victims because they were Asian, and that she would seek the death penalty against him, according to court documents.

The 22-year-old suspect, Robert Aaron Long, was formally indicted on murder charges for the deaths of four women in Fulton County, Georgia, as well as aggravated assault and domestic terrorism charges. He is accused of killing eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, in a shooting spree on March 16 at three day spas.

Long has also been charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in Cherokee County, about 40 miles (64 km) north of the state capital.

In a court filing, Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis said Long had targeted four women in Atlanta because of their race, national origin and gender. In a separate filing, she said she would seek the death penalty against Long.

A lawyer for Long could not be immediately reached. Long told investigators in March that a sex addiction drove him to commit the killings and indicated he frequented spas in the area.

While authorities initially declined to name racial animosity as Long’s motive, the massacre immediately sent shock waves through the Asian American community already rattled by a rise in hate crimes directed at them since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The bloodshed began with four people killed and another wounded at Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County. Two Asian women were among the dead there, along with a white woman and a white man.

In Atlanta, police officers responding to a robbery report an hour later arrived at the Gold Spa beauty salon to find three women shot dead. The officers were then called to a separate spa across the street where another woman was found fatally shot. All four women killed in Atlanta were Asian. (Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Leslie Adler, Dan Grebler and David Gregorio)

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