A Georgia man who shot dead eight people at three spas in Atlanta has indicated he had sexual addiction issues and may have not been motivated by racial hatred, authorities say.
The 21-year-old suspect, Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault for the killings, which have intensified fears among Asian Americans.
That’s because six of the eight people who were killed in the latest mass shooting in the United States were Asian women.
Officials said Long, who was being held in Cherokee County, indicated he may have frequented the spas where the violence occurred.
Although authorities could not immediately confirm whether he visited any of them.
Long was heading to Florida when he was apprehended, perhaps to carry out further shootings, authorities said.
“The suspect did take responsibility for the shooting,” Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department told a news conference.
“These locations, he sees them as an outlet for him, something that he shouldn’t be doing,” Mr Baker said.
“It’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.”
A 9mm firearm was found in Long’s car, Mr Baker said.
Long lived in Woodstock, Georgia, and attended Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, an Atlanta suburb.
A mug shot of Long released by authorities showed a white man with a long and scraggly brown beard.
It was not clear if the suspect visited spas for sex.
US authorities were trying to determine whether the attacks were inspired by an anti-immigrant or anti-Asian motivation or some personal grievance.
President Joe Biden said he was briefed by the US attorney-general and FBI director on the shootings.
“The question of motivation is still to be determined,” Mr Biden told reporters at the White House. “But whatever the motivation here I know that Asian-Americans are very concerned.”
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism this month said hate crimes against Asian-Americans in 16 major US cities rose by 149 per cent from 2019 to 2020, a period when overall hate crimes dropped seven per cent.
Advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate has said the rise appeared to result from Asians and Asian-Americans being blamed for the pandemic, which originated in China. Former president Donald Trump called the coronavirus the “China virus” and even the “kung flu”.
The bloodshed began about 5pm on Tuesday (local time) when four people were killed and another was wounded at Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County, Mr Baker said.
Two women of Asian descent were among the dead there, along with a white woman and a white man, Mr Baker said.
The surviving victim was a Hispanic man.
In Atlanta, police officers responding to a call of a “robbery in progress” shortly before 6pm arrived at the Gold Spa beauty salon and found three women shot dead.
While investigating the initial report, the officers were called to a separate spa across the street where another woman was found dead from a gunshot wound. All four women killed in Atlanta were of Asian descent.
Long was seen in southern Georgia, far from the crime scenes, after police in Cherokee County issued a bulletin. He was arrested without incident after a highway pursuit.
Long’s quick apprehension was aided by his family’s co-operation with law enforcement and by footage of the suspect from security cameras, police said.