Atlanta shootings: Asian women among eight killed at three spas

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image copyrightEPA
image captionPolice outside a spa on Piedmont Road in Atlanta

Eight people, many of them women of Asian descent, have been killed in shootings at spas in the US state of Georgia.

Police say the shootings took place at a massage parlour in Acworth, a suburb north of Atlanta, and two spas in the city itself.

South Korea later confirmed that four of the victims were of Korean descent.

Officials say a 21-year-old man was arrested and is suspected of involvement in all of the attacks.

No motive has yet been established, but there are fears the crimes may have deliberately targeted people of Asian descent.

Hate crimes against Asian-Americans spiked in recent months, fuelled by rhetoric that blames them for the spread of Covid-19.

In an address last week, President Joe Biden condemned "vicious hate crimes against Asian-Americans who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated."

What do we know about the shootings?

The first happened at about 17:00 (21:00 GMT) on Tuesday at Young's Asian Massage in Acworth, Cherokee County.

Two people died at the scene and three were taken to hospital, where two more died, sheriff's office spokesman Capt Jay Baker said. He later confirmed the victims were two Asian women, a white woman and a white man, and said a Hispanic man had been wounded.

Less than an hour later, police were called to a "robbery in progress" at Gold Spa in north-east Atlanta.

"Upon arrival, officers located three females deceased inside the location from apparent gunshot wounds," police said.

While there, officers were called to a spa across the street, called Aromatherapy Spa, where they found another woman shot dead.

Police quoted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said all four Atlanta victims were Asian women.

Investigators who had studied CCTV footage then released images of a suspect near one of the spas. Police said that, after a manhunt, Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Georgia, was arrested in Crisp County, about 150 miles (240km) south of Atlanta.

image copyrightReuters
image captionRobert Aaron Long was taken into custody

Capt Baker said investigators were "very confident" that the same suspect was the gunman in all three shootings.

The identities of the victims have not yet been made public. Authorities in South Korea said they were working to confirm the nationalities of the four women of Korean descent.

What has the reaction been?

Authorities say it is too early in the investigation to know if the victims were targeted because of their race or ethnicity.

The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks attacks on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, said it was not clear "whether or not the shootings were related or motivated by hate. But right now there is a great deal of fear and pain in the Asian-American community that must be addressed".

It called the shootings "an unspeakable tragedy" for both the victims' families and the Asian-American community, which has "been reeling from high levels of racist attacks".

"A motive is still not clear, but a crime against any community is a crime against us all," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that she had been in communication with the White House.

Ben Crump, a leading civil rights lawyer, also took to Twitter, saying: "Today's tragic killings in #Atlanta reaffirm the need for us to step up and protect ALL of America's marginalised minorities from racism."

image copyrightEPA
image captionTwo of the spas were across the road from each other in Atlanta

Atlanta police said they were increasing patrols around businesses similar to those attacked.

The New York Police Department's counter-terrorism branch said that while there was no known connection to New York city, it would "be deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution".

The police department in Seattle also said it would increase patrols and outreach to support its Asian-American community.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp praised law enforcement officials for their response to the shootings, and said: "Our entire family is praying for the victims of these horrific acts of violence."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the shootings ahead of a meeting with his South Korean counterpart on Wednesday. "We are horrified by this violence which has no place in America or anywhere," he said.

"We will stand up for the right of our fellow Americans, Korean Americans, to be safe, to be treated with dignity."

The White House said Mr Biden had been briefed on the "horrific" shootings.

Asian-Americans in the US

  • In 2018, Asians made up 28% of the US foreign-born population
  • The figure represents a large increase from the 4% recorded in 1960
  • Starting in 2010, more Asian than Hispanics immigrants have arrived in the US each year
  • They represent the fastest growing racial or ethnic segment of the US electorate, with more than 11m people eligible to vote in the last presidential election
  • As of 2015, nearly 5m Chinese, 4m Indians and 1.9m Vietnamese, 1.8m Korean and 1.4m Japanese - as well as millions more who descend from more than 20 Asian countries - were living in the US

Data compiled by the Pew Research Center

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