Prosecutors Are Seeking Hate Crime Charges And The Death Penalty Against The Atlanta Spa Shooting Suspect
The suspect, a 21-year-old white man, was also indicted by a grand jury on murder and domestic terrorism charges.
A 21-year-old man was indicted Tuesday on murder and domestic terrorism charges in the Atlanta-area spa shootings, with prosecutors planning to seek the death penalty and enhanced hate crime charges, court records show.
A Fulton County grand jury indicted Robert Aaron Long, a white man, in the killings of Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Sun Cha Kim, 69; and Yong Ae Yue, 63, at two spas in Atlanta in March. A separate grand jury in Cherokee County has yet to decide on charges against the suspect in the shooting at Young's Asian Massage in Acworth, which is about 35 miles north of Atlanta, the Associated Press reported.
According to a copy of the Fulton County indictment provided to BuzzFeed News, Long faces four counts of murder, four counts of felony murder, one count of domestic terrorism, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and five counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
The hate crime charges would be based on alleged crimes committed against the victims due to their "actual or perceived race, national origin, sex, and gender," according to a notice of intent from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
It is the first time Georgia's hate crime statute, which was passed in 2020, will be used, Willis said.
Willis also submitted a notice to seek the death penalty over the four victims' deaths in Atlanta.
In a press conference Tuesday, Willis acknowledged that she had opposed the death penalty during her campaign for district attorney.
"Last year, I told the voters of Fulton County that I could not imagine a circumstance where I would seek it, and at that time I did not," she said. "Unfortunately, a case has arisen in the first few months of my term that I believe warrants the ultimate penalty, and we shall seek it."
Willis said she made her decision after reviewing the suspect's statements to police, personally visiting the crime scenes, and speaking with the victims' families.
Long allegedly shot and killed the four women in Atlanta on March 16 after traveling from Acworth, where he had killed four others at another spa: Xiaojie Tan, 49, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Daoyou Feng, 44, and Paul Andre Michels, 54.
Six of the eight victims were Asian women. The shootings, which happened amid a surge in anti-Asian attacks across the country, set off a wave of anguish and fear in Asian communities in Georgia and beyond.
Police initially said the suspect told investigators that race was not a motive in the shooting, though officials cautioned at the time that they were still investigating. The businesses that were targeted, however, were explicitly marketed as Asian or international spas advertising majority women and Asian employees.