World

8 people killed, including at least 4 women, in shootings at Atlanta-area massage parlours

A 21-year-old man has been arrested in southwest Georgia, hours after eight people were killed in shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlours. Four of the victims who died were women of Korean descent, according to the South Korea Foreign Ministry.

4 of the victims who died were women of Korean descent, says South Korea Foreign Ministry

Law enforcement officials confer outside a massage parlour following a shooting on Tuesday in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlours in the city and one in the suburbs have left eight people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said Tuesday. (Brynn Anderson/The Associated Press)

A series of shootings over nearly an hour at three Atlanta-area massage parlours Tuesday evening left eight people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said.

The attacks began around 5 p.m., when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor near Woodstock, about 50 kilometres north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff's spokesperson Capt. Jay Baker said. Two people died at the scene and three were transported to a hospital where two of them also died, Baker said.

About an hour later, police responding to a call about a robbery found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa near Atlanta's Buckhead area, where tattoo parlours and strip clubs are just blocks away from mansions and skyscrapers in one of the last ungentrified holdouts in that part of the city.

Officers then learned of a call reporting shots fired at another spa across the street, Aromatherapy Spa, and found a woman who appeared to have been shot dead inside the business.

Many victims were Asian

"It appears that they may be Asian," Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said in statement Wednesday that its diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed from police that four of the victims who died were women of Korean descent.

Crime scene tape is seen outside Aromatherapy Spa after shootings at a massage parlour and two day spas in the Atlanta area. (Chris Aluka Berry/Reuters)

The ministry said the office of its Consulate General in Atlanta is trying to confirm the nationality of the women. 

The killings came amid a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States.

"Our entire family is praying for the victims of these horrific acts of violence," Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday evening on Twitter.

Suspect taken into custody

A man suspected in the Cherokee County shooting was captured by surveillance video pulling up to the business around 4:50 p.m. Tuesday, minutes before the attack, authorities said.

Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Ga., was arrested following the three shootings. (Cherokee County Sheriff's Office/The Associated Press)

Baker said the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, was taken into custody in Crisp County, about 240 kilometres south of Atlanta.

Baker said they believe the man is also the suspect in the Atlanta shootings.

Police said video footage showed the suspect's vehicle in the area of the Atlanta spas about the time of those attacks as well.

That, as well as other video evidence, "suggests it is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County's, who is in custody," Atlanta police said in a statement.

Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities were working to confirm the cases are related.

FBI assisting in investigation

FBI spokesperson Kevin Rowson said the agency was assisting Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities in the investigation.

Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock said in a video posted on Facebook that his deputies and state troopers were notified around 8 p.m. that a murder suspect out of north Georgia was headed toward their county.

Deputies and troopers set up along the interstate and "made contact with the suspect," who was driving a 2007 black Hyundai Tucson, around 8:30 p.m., he said.

Officers responding to a call about a robbery in progress at one spa around 5:50 p.m. found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds. (Brynn Anderson/The Associated Press)

A state trooper performed a PIT, or pursuit intervention technique, manoeuvre, "which caused the vehicle to spin out of control," Hancock said.

The suspect was then taken into custody "without incident" and was being held in the Crisp County jail for Cherokee County authorities, who were expected to arrive soon to continue their investigation.

Due to the shootings, Atlanta police said they dispatched officers to check similar businesses nearby and increased patrols in the area.

With files from Reuters

now