After eight people—six of them Asian women—were fatally shot at three Atlanta area massage parlors, the NYPD has announced it would deploy officers to New York City’s Asian communities “out of an abundance of caution.”
Asian communities across the country have been reeling over a pronounced increase in anti-Asian discrimination and attacks since the start of the pandemic.
The police department’s counterterrorism unit Tweeted a statement, adding that there is no known nexus to NYC:
The series of shootings began on Tuesday afternoon, just before 5 p.m. in Acworth, about 35 miles north of Atlanta, when a gunman entered the Young’s Asian Massage spa, where he shot five people. Two people died at the scene, two died at a hospital, and a fifth person sustained non-life-threatening injuries. The fatally shot victims were two Asian women, a white woman, and a white man; the injured victim was a Hispanic man who had reportedly left a neighboring store.
About 45 minutes later, police in Atlanta responded to a call about a robbery at the Gold Massage Spa, where they found three women fatally shot inside. The Atlanta Police say while they were at the Gold Spa, the officers heard gunshots from across the street, where one woman was killed at the Aromatherapy Spa. The four killed in Atlanta were all Asian women.
After an hours-long manhunt, suspect Robert Aaron Long, 21, was apprehended at 8:30 p.m., 150 miles south of Atlanta. Crisp County law enforcement used a tactic called a PIT maneuver to force the vehicle to stop.
JUST IN: Robert Aaron Long, 21 , is booked into jail accused of murdering 8 people in shooting spree targeting Asian massage parlors across metro Atlanta. pic.twitter.com/xrU5JCNCMx
— Michael Seiden (@SeidenWSBTV) March 17, 2021
Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, where Young’s Asian Massage spa is located, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “It does appear that it’s the same suspect,” while Atlanta police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee said that video evidence suggested ““it is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s.”
Baker also said, “Right now, we don’t know the relationship of the suspect to the victims are,” and added, “This is pretty unusual. In Cherokee County, I think we had one homicide in 2020.”
The FBI is now aiding in the investigation.
In February, Representative Grace Meng of Queens reintroduced legislation to denounce anti-Asian hatred related to the pandemic. “In light of the recent dramatic increase of anti-Asian hate incidents across our country, we all must coalesce and renew our efforts to condemn all manifestations of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and anti-Asian sentiment and scapegoating, which is why I have reintroduced my resolution in the new Congress,” Meng said in a statement at the time. When she originally introduced the legislation, Meng got voicemails proving why such legislation is needed:
Last week my resolution condemning anti-Asian sentiment passed the House.
After that, I got many racist voicemails saying the very things we collectively condemned.
— Grace Meng (@RepGraceMeng) September 25, 2020
She discussed her legislation and recent incidents in New York City—like how an Asian woman was pushing her baby in a stroller when a stranger came up to her and screamed “Chinese virus” and spat at them repeatedly—on Tuesday, before the the Atlanta area shootings. Meng hopes the legislation will open up data sharing between “local law enforcement and the local communities” and federal agencies.
“We really want to use this as a community education effort. We want the Department of Justice to work with local community groups, you know, publish information in multiple languages – you know, anything from, it’s not OK to use these racial slurs, to, here’s how to report incidents like this. So the goal on all ends, both ends, is really more education and accessible resources for our community,” she said.
My heart breaks for those we lost in these senseless shootings. And this is all the more painful because AAPIs have spent the last year telling you that our communities were in danger. We cannot move forward — we cannot heal — until our country reckons with & stops AAPI hate.
— Grace Meng (@Grace4NY) March 17, 2021