WASHINGTON.- La policía federal se sumó este miércoles a la investigación de tres tiroteos en salas de masajes en Atlanta (Georgia, EEUU) perpetradas presuntamente por un joven que se encuentra detenido y que dejaron ocho muertos, incluidas seis mujeres asiáticas, y que se teme hayan podido tener motivaciones racistas.
Los agentes de la Oficina Federal de Investigaciones (FBI) empezaron su labor en el Condado Crisp donde el sospechoso de al menos uno de los incidentes, identificado como Robert Aaron Long, fue detenido anoche después de una persecución policial.
Un portavoz del FBI dijo al diario The Atlanta Journal Constitution, que los agentes federales colaboran con la policía local por la posibilidad de que los tres ataques hayan tenido una motivación «racial».
Las autoridades no han divulgado información oficial sobre la identidad de las víctimas, los presuntos motivos de los ataques u otros detalles.
Long fue capturado anoche unos 240 kilómetros al sur de Atlanta cuando un policía de la patrulla de caminos le forzó a detener el vehículo en el que huía.
El hombre fue detenido sin incidentes y acusado de homicidio por el ataque en el salón de masajes Young’s Asian Parlor, en el Condado Cherokee, que dejó cuatro personas muertas y una herida.
En otros dos ataques ocurridos en menos de una hora y en establecimientos similares en el nordeste de Atlanta murieron otras cuatro personas.
El portavoz policial Jay Baker dijo que Long parece ser el mismo sospechoso en los tres ataques, según lo que muestran las imágenes de las cámaras de vigilancia.
El martes la senadora demócrata en Georgia, Michelle Au, ella misma de ascendencia china, había advertido a sus colegas sobre el incremento alarmante de ataques contra asiático-estadounidenses en el estado y otras partes del país.
Según Au, ha habido un 150 % de incremento en los crímenes contra asiáticos y asiático-estadounidenses entre 2019 y 2020, una tendencia que portavoces de la comunidad atribuyen a la retórica anti China del ex presidente Donald Trump.
Trump ha insistido en llamar al coronavirus causante de la covid-19 «el virus de China».
El grupo Stop AAPI Hate, que se formó para contrarrestar la discriminación contra los asiático-estadounidenses durante la pandemia, calificó los tiroteos del martes como «una tragedia indescriptible» para una comunidad «golpeada por altos niveles de ataques racistas». EFE
Atlanta Shooting Suspect Told Police He Targeted Massage Parlors Because of Sex Addiction
Robert Aaron Long, 21 years old, is charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault
ATLANTA—Robert Aaron Long, the suspect in the killing of eight people at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area, told investigators that he targeted the businesses because he blamed them “for providing an outlet for his addiction to sex,” law-enforcement officials said.
Mr. Long, who is in custody, took responsibility for the shootings and said he acted alone, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Capt. Jay Baker said. “He said it was not racially motivated.”
Six of the victims were women of Asian descent, officials said. At least four were of Korean descent, South Korea’s foreign ministry said Wednesday.
Mr. Long, 21 years old, is charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, officials said. He is being held in Cherokee County without bond. He waived his right to an attorney, officials said.
The shootings happened Tuesday evening at three separate spas—the first in Acworth, Ga., north of Atlanta, and the others across the street from each other in the city.
“We believe he frequented these places in the past and may have been lashing out,” Sheriff Frank Reynolds said.
At about 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sheriff Reynolds said deputies responded to reports of a shooting at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor in Acworth. At the business, he said deputies found multiple people shot. Law enforcement reported four people died in that shooting.
The sheriff’s office shared on social media some surveillance-video images from the scene, and Mr. Long’s family immediately called in, Mr. Reynolds said, noting the family has continued to cooperate with investigators.
In Atlanta about an hour after the Acworth shootings, police responded to a report of a robbery at the Gold Spa in the city’s northeast, Atlanta interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant said. Police found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds. While there, police said they were alerted to gunshots across the street at another spa, Aromatherapy. Officers said they found a woman there who had been fatally shot.
The Cherokee Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday released the names of the victims in the Acworth shooting. Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Yan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44, were killed in the shooting. Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, was injured. Names of the other victims haven’t been released.
The phone number associated with Young’s Asian Massage Parlor was disconnected. There was no answer at Gold Spa, and a message left at Aromatherapy wasn’t returned.
At least two people called 911 to report the Atlanta shootings, according to released audio tapes of the calls. One woman said she was calling from inside Gold Spa to report a robbery involving a white man with a gun. “I’m hiding right now,” she said. “Please come, OK?”
A second woman called to report a shooting at Aromatherapy across the street. She said a man with a gun had shot a woman at the front door and she was unresponsive. “Everybody’s scared and everybody’s hiding,” she said.
With the help of the state highway patrol, Sheriff Reynolds said officers were able to track Mr. Long as he drove south on I-75. Mr. Long was captured in Crisp County, 150 miles southeast of Atlanta, he said.
Officials said they found a 9-millimeter gun in Mr. Long’s car and are running forensic tests to determine whether it was used in the shootings. It was the only weapon they said they found.
Mr. Long bought a gun earlier Tuesday at Big Woods Goods, a hunting and shooting store in Canton, Ga., according to Matt Kilgo, an attorney representing the store. Mr. Kilgo said the store is cooperating with investigators and there was no indication that there was anything inappropriate about the purchase.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Mr. Long was en route to Florida, and she thanked law-enforcement officers for their quick work arresting him. “This could’ve been significantly worse,” she said. “It is very likely there would’ve been more victims.”
When asked whether Mr. Long had been involved in sexual activity at the massage parlors in Atlanta, Ms. Bottoms said she wouldn’t get into “victim blaming or victim shaming.” There have been no significant complaints about either of the Atlanta businesses, she said.
The ethnicity of many of the victims had prompted concern that the shootings could be a hate crime against Asian-Americans. After the shooting, law-enforcement officers in New York, Seattle and Atlanta said they were closely monitoring Asian-American communities as a precaution. Reports of hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans have increased in some U.S. cities since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, which first emerged in China.
State Sen. Michelle Au, who represents a suburban Atlanta district, said the killings were heinous, regardless of their motivation. But she said the escalation of violence against Asian-Americans nationwide was terrifying to a community that had already been “living in fear this past year.” “We are scared for our families, we are scared for our friends,” Ms. Au said in a statement.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that President Biden had been briefed, and White House officials are in touch with the Atlanta mayor’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has also been briefed on the shootings, a Justice Department official said.
Mr. Long and his family are active members of Crabapple Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Ga. Church leader Jerry Dockery released a statement saying church members were heartbroken.
“We grieve for the victims and their families, and will continue to pray for them,” the statement said. “Moreover, we are distraught for the Long family and pray for them as well.”
Many in Atlanta’s Korean-American community, a large part of metro Atlanta’s growing Asian population, worried at first that the shootings may have been hate crimes against Asians, said Michael Park, 42, who works in commercial insurance in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth and is a member of the area chapter of Korean American Coalition, a civic organization.
“That’s where people went to first, that it was racially motivated,” he said, adding that many people are still suspicious that race may have played a role, despite officials stating the suspect told them his primary motivation was anger about his sex addiction.
“People are still on edge, but it’s not as severe,” Mr. Park said.
By Valerie Bauerlein and Cameron McWhirter