The suspect in the fatal shooting of eight people at day spas in and around Atlanta on Tuesday indicated he had issues with sexual addiction and the shootings may have not been motivated by racial hatred, law enforcement officials said on Wednesday.
Officials said that suspect Robert Aaron Long, 21, appeared to have frequented the spas where the violence occurred or similar ones, and that he had been headed to Florida afterward, perhaps to carry out further shootings.
Six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent. While preliminary investigations appeared to suggest the suspect was not motivated by racial hatred, officials said it was still too early to know with certainty.
The shootings were latest instance of gun violence involving numerous deaths in the United States. The bloodshed began about 5 p.m. on Tuesday when four people were killed and another was wounded in a shooting at Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County, about 40 miles (64 km) north of Atlanta, Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department said.
Two women of Asian descent were among the dead there, along with a white woman and a white man, Baker said, adding that the surviving victim was a Hispanic man.
In Atlanta, Georgia’s state capital, police officers responding to a call of a “robbery in progress” shortly before 6 p.m. arrived at the Gold Spa beauty salon and found three women shot dead, Police Chief Rodney Bryant told reporters.
While investigating the initial report, the officers were called to a separate aromatherapy spa across the street where another woman was found dead from a gunshot wound, Bryant said. All four women killed in Atlanta were of Asian descent.
“The suspect did take responsibility for the shooting,” Baker told a news conference. “It’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Baker said, referring to the suspect’s sexual addiction issues.
Long, of Woodstock in Cherokee County, was taken into custody in Crisp County, about 150 miles (240 km) south of Atlanta. A photo of Long, who is white, was released by authorities.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said, “This was a tragic day with many victims. But thankfully the suspect was quickly apprehended.”
Gun control is a divisive issue in the United States, which enshrines the right to bear arms in the Constitution. The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved a pair of gun control bills as Democrats seized upon a shifting political landscape that they said improved chances for enacting new laws after years of failed attempts.