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President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Atlanta on Friday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Asian-American in the role, will meet with Asian-American leaders in Atlanta on Friday afternoon after a shooting rampage at Asian massage parlors left eight people dead this week.
While investigators continue to assess whether the shootings were racially motivated, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are expected to discuss the nationwide increase of attacks on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders during the coronavirus pandemic. Six of the people killed in the Atlanta shootings were women of Asian descent.
Investigators in Cherokee County, where one spa was targeted, have said that the gunman told them he had a “sexual addiction” and had carried out the attacks as a way to eliminate temptation.
The president and vice president canceled a political event that had previously been scheduled for Friday night in Georgia, the White House announced.
“During their trip to Atlanta,” White House officials said, “they will instead meet with Asian-American leaders to discuss the ongoing attacks and threats against the community.”
An itinerary for Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris says they will meet with Asian-American leaders at Emory University after visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This week, Ms. Harris, whose mother was born in India, condemned the bloodshed and expressed her solidarity with the Asian-American community.
“This speaks to a larger issue, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it,” Ms. Harris said, adding that the motive in the shooting was still unclear.
“I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” she added.
As a tribute to the shooting victims, Mr. Biden on Thursday ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff through sunset on Monday. The police have identified the victims of the attack on Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
Police officials said on Thursday that they would not release the name of the four people killed at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta until they had properly notified the victims’ family members, and that they were working with South Korean consular officials to do so.
Police Say Atlanta Shooting Suspect Frequented 2 Spas He Targeted
The Atlanta Police said on Thursday that Robert Aaron Long, charged with killing eight people at Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent, had been a customer of at least two of the three businesses.
“We are not done. In most cases of homicides, we don’t have a quick apprehension, there’s usually a lengthy investigation, especially when there’s involving multiple victims. And so, again, we’re still working very diligently to ascertain all the facts so we can have a successful prosecution because that’s what’s most important now. So I was hoping that we would be able to release the names of the victims, but we are not able to do that at this time. And the reason is we need to make sure that we have a true verification of their identities, and that we make the proper next of kin notification.” Reporter: “The investigation into a possible hate crime. Is that still on the table?” “Our investigation is looking at everything. So nothing is off the table for our investigation.” Reporter: “Any indication the suspect visited those spas?” “Now, early in our investigation, it appears that he may have frequented those locations, yes. I can’t say that he specifically targeted those individuals. But you know, what I will say is that he did frequent, as the question keeps coming up, that he did frequent those two locations within Atlanta.”
The Atlanta Police said on Thursday that Robert Aaron Long, charged with killing eight people at Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent, had been a customer of at least two of the three businesses.CreditCredit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Months before Robert Aaron Long was charged with carrying out a bloody rampage at three massage parlors that horrified the nation and stoked a furious outcry over anti-Asian violence, the 21-year-old suspect who had grown up in a conservative Baptist church appeared fixated on guilt and lust.
As investigators on Thursday pieced together whether and how racism and sexism might have motivated Tuesday’s attacks, people who knew Mr. Long offered new details about a dangerous collision of sexual loathing and what a former roommate described as “religious mania” that marked his life in the years before the shooting spree.
Mr. Long, whose church strictly prohibited sex outside of marriage, was distraught by his failed attempts to curb his sexual urges, said Tyler Bayless, a former roommate who lived with Mr. Long at a halfway house near Atlanta for about five months beginning in August 2019.
Nearly once a month, Mr. Long would admit he had again relapsed by visiting a massage parlor for sex, Mr. Bayless said, and he once asked Mr. Bayless to take his computer away from him.
In early 2020, Mr. Long moved from the halfway house for more intensive treatment at HopeQuest, a Christian addiction center, and the two men fell out of touch, Mr. Bayless said.
“I think he just felt like he could not be trusted out there alone,” Mr. Bayless added, referring to Mr. Long’s inability to stop visiting the spas.
The Atlanta police said on Thursday that Mr. Long had been a customer at two spas in the city that were targeted in the attacks that killed eight people over all, including six women of Asian descent. They did not specify whether he had sought anything more than a massage.
A vigil in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on Wednesday remembered the victims of the Atlanta shootings, who included six women of Asian descent.Credit…Shuran Huang for The New York Times
Xiaojie Tan, the hardworking owner of Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Ga., made her patrons feel at home and treated her friends like family, one longtime customer said on Thursday. Two days ahead of her 50th birthday, Ms. Tan was among eight people killed at three spas in the Atlanta area.
One of her employees, Daoyou Feng, was also among those left dead on Tuesday. The suspected gunman, Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.
Greg Hynson, the longtime customer of Ms. Tan, described her as “just the sweetest, kindest, most giving person.” He last saw her last weekend, he said, when stopping by her spa to say hello.
Ms. Tan, whose friends called her Emily, was originally from China and had a daughter she was tremendously proud of, he said. Mr. Hynson, a former competitive weight lifter, had regular appointments for massages to ease his upper neck trauma, and he and Ms. Tan had been friends for years.
“It just doesn’t seem real that she’s not around,” he said. When he heard about the shooting, he rushed to the scene and was horrified to see police lights flashing from a block away. “I was in a state of shock,” he said.
Xiaojie TanCredit…Kennesaw Police Department, via Facebook
Ms. Feng, 44, had just started working at the spa in the past few months, Mr. Hynson said.
“They welcomed you,” he said. “If you were a friend of Emily’s, you were a friend of theirs.”
Ms. Tan and Ms. Feng were among four victims killed inside Young’s Asian Massage. The others were Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; and Paul Andre Michels, 54, whose brother said he lived in Tucker. Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, was injured in the attack and remained in critical condition on Thursday, family members said.
Officials with the Atlanta Police Department said on Thursday that they would not release the names of the four victims who were killed in the other two massage businesses until their family members had been notified, and that they were working with South Korean consular officials to do so.
Although the gunman was apparently targeting employees of the massage parlors, the victims also included customers.
Here’s what we know so far about the other victims.
A patron in the line of fire
Delaina Ashley Yaun was looking forward to a date with her husband on Tuesday afternoon. The couple chose a relaxing massage at Young’s Asian Massage in a modest shopping center outside of Atlanta — a spa she had never visited before, according to relatives.
She and her husband arrived shortly before the shooting began. She was killed, but her husband survived, locked in a nearby room as gunshots rang out, according to Dane Toole, Ms. Yaun’s half sister.
“He’s not OK,” Ms. Toole said about her sister’s husband. “He’s taking it hard.”
Ms. Yaun, one of four siblings who grew up in the area, had worked as a server at a Waffle House restaurant. She raised a 13-year-old son as a single mother and had an 8-month-old daughter, family members said.
Delaina Ashley Yaun, left, with her sister, Dana Toole.Credit…via Dana Toole
“It was just all about family,” Ms. Toole said. “Whatever we’d do, we’d do it together. It doesn’t seem real. I expect to see her walking through the door any minute. It just hasn’t quite sunk in yet.”
DeLayne Davis, a relative, called Ms. Yaun “a good, godly woman.”
Ms. Davis stood with family and friends outside Ms. Yaun’s home in Acworth on Wednesday afternoon, wiping tears from her eyes.
“She was the rock for this family,” Ms. Davis said. “If any family needed anything, they went to her. She doted on her kids.”
A U.S. Army veteran
Paul Andre Michels, who was among those killed at Young’s Asian Massage, was one of nine siblings, his brother John Michels said.
“We did almost everything together,” said Mr. Michels, 52.
Paul Andre MichelsCredit…Kennesaw Police Department, via Facebook
His brother, he said, was a businessman and a veteran of the U.S. Army infantry, where he served in the late 1980s. Paul Michels had been married for more than 20 years and was a Catholic as well as a strong political conservative, his brother said. He grew up in southwest Detroit and moved to Georgia about 25 years ago for work.
“My brother was a very hard-working, loving man,” Mr. Michels said.
A survivor: ‘I’ve been shot!’
Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, the man injured in the Acworth attack, was making his way to a money exchange business next door to Young’s Asian Massage when shots rang out, his wife, Flor Gonzalez, said. Moments later, he desperately reached for his cellphone.
“I’ve been shot!” Mr. Hernandez-Ortiz told his wife, she later recalled. “Please come.”
Ms. Gonzalez, 27, said she rushed to the hospital on Tuesday and was unable to see her 30-year-old husband until after midnight. Doctors told her that he had been wounded in his forehead, throat, lungs and stomach. He underwent surgery on Tuesday night.
“Doctors told me he had been very lucky, but that he was still very grave,” she said. “He was lucky that the bullet didn’t penetrate his brain.”
Elcias Hernandez-OrtizCredit…via Flor Gonzalez
Ms. Gonzalez said she reminded her husband that next week the couple had been planning to celebrate their daughter’s 10th birthday, as a form of encouragement.
“I pleaded with him to keep fighting and that he has a family,” she said. “He loves his daughter a lot. He’s always been a dedicated father, very loving.”
Mr. Hernandez-Ortiz, who goes by Alex, moved to Georgia from Guatemala more than 10 years ago, his wife said, and worked as a mechanic. They had been married just as long.
“Many others died,” she said holding back tears, “and my heart breaks for them. Whoever did this is not human.”
“This is more than a crime scene,” Woojin Kang said outside Gold Spa in Atlanta.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
ATLANTA — A year ago, Thanh Bui lived in Minneapolis when George Floyd was killed by police officers there. He saw the way the killing so deeply affected his girlfriend, who is Black, and many of his friends.
He was angry then, he said, but now he really understands how they felt, after a gunman targeted massage parlors in and around Atlanta, killing eight people, including six women of Asian descent.
“Right now, I’m fighting to find some peace,” Mr. Bui, who is Vietnamese, said in Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, after he brought small bouquets of flowers to two of the spas in a strip of storefronts.
Mr. Bui, 25, was not alone in being drawn to the scene of the violence. Some stopped to pray. Some came to protest. Some just came, pulled by a mix of curiosity, anger, anguish and disbelief. There were messages handwritten in marker on ripped pieces of cardboard — “Rest In Peace, beautiful angels” — and supermarket roses that still had a reduced-price sticker on the cellophane.
The displays might have been modest, yet that did not diminish the hurt and confusion they were meant to convey. Many of the people who trickled through expressed a particular pain that the attacks had happened in Atlanta. The city envisions itself as a haven for diverse communities; there is a sense that it thrives because of the culture, food, ideas and ambitions that have been imported here from around the South, the country and the world.
“God bless diversity,” one poster said.
“Black and Asian solidarity,” said another.
Most of the people at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa on Thursday did not know the women killed there. But they knew the climate. They knew the antipathy that existed toward Asian-Americans — a sentiment that they considered inextricable from the attacks, no matter what the police said of the suspect’s motivations.
Mr. Kang, left, and Minwoo Nam held signs outside Gold Spa.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Meg Ermer, 19, stopped by with her sister on a trip from Chattanooga, Tenn. She had heard taunts against Asian-Americans in high school — about eating dogs or spreading the coronavirus. “People think it’s just jokes,” she said.
But those jokes, she believed, had given root to something more sinister, and she wanted to see the evidence for herself. “I think people’s attitudes need to change for their actions to change,” she said.
Woojin Kang and Min Woo Nam, graduate students of theology at Emory University in Atlanta, held signs outside one of the spas for hours. Passers-by honked and waved their fists out of car windows in solidarity. “This is more than a crime scene,” Mr. Kang, 27, said. “We need to stand on these grounds.”
They hoped that the violence might cause others to understand what the Asian-American community has had to confront. “We all need to lament together,” Mr. Kang said, “to scream out together.”
“Look,” he said, with disappointment, gesturing to a parking lot outside of the spa where he and Mr. Nam had, for a long stretch, been the only ones there with posters. But a few minutes later, a few dozen people marched up the street, chanting, “Justice! Now!”
Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s office, right, speaking to the news media on Wednesday.Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times
A sheriff’s deputy will no longer serve as his agency’s spokesman for the investigation into the Atlanta-area spa shootings after he drew criticism for saying that the suspect in the attacks had “a really bad day” before the shootings, and for anti-Asian Facebook posts that he made last year.
The deputy, Capt. Jay Baker, was no longer speaking on behalf of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office on the shooting, according to a spokeswoman for the county. The spokeswoman, Erika Neldner, said in a text message on Thursday that she would be taking over the communications duties in the case.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Captain Baker discussed the frame of mind of the man charged with eight counts of murder in Tuesday’s shootings. He said that the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., had understood the gravity of his actions when he was interviewed by investigators.
“He was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope,” Captain Baker said. “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”
The comments were widely panned on social media, with critics characterizing them as callous and pointing to Facebook posts from March 30 and April 2 of last year by Captain Baker, in which he promoted sales of an anti-Asian T-shirt. The shirts, echoing the rhetoric of President Donald J. Trump, referred to the coronavirus as an “imported virus from Chy-na.”
“Place your order while they last,” Captain Baker wrote at the time in one of the posts. He did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday.
State Senator Michelle Au of Georgia said that Captain Baker’s remarks about the suspect illustrated how law enforcement treated crimes against certain groups differently, and that his Facebook posts were an example of casual, open racism toward Asian-Americans.
“It’s not treated the way that other forms of racism are,” she said in an email. “It’s more accepted, it’s more palatable, it’s more tolerable for large swaths of the population.”
On Thursday, the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, a nonprofit group, demanded that Captain Baker be removed from his job. “These racist social media posts that have now been shared have been on his page for almost a year,” the group wrote on Facebook, “and it took a mass shooting to bring them to light.”
In a statement on Thursday, the Cherokee County sheriff, Frank Reynolds, defended Captain Baker, saying that he did not intend to disrespect any of the victims or express “empathy or sympathy” for the suspect.
“Captain Baker had a difficult task before him, and this was one of the hardest in his 28 years in law enforcement,” Sheriff Reynolds said. He added, “On behalf of the dedicated women and men of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, we regret any heartache Captain Baker’s words may have caused.”
Source by www.nytimes.com