Prosecutor plans to seek death penalty for Atlanta spa shootings

Man behind murders of eight people, including six Asian women, indicted for murder

FILE-In this Tuesday, March 16, 2021, file photo, officials stand in front of a massage parlor after a shooting, in Atlanta. Robert Aaron Long, 22, accused of killing eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, in shootings at three Atlanta-area massage businesses was indicted Tuesday, May 11, 2021, on murder charges, and a prosecutor filed notice that she'll also seek hate crime charges and the death penalty. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

A man accused of killing eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, in shootings at three Atlanta massage businesses was indicted on Tuesday on murder charges.

And Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis also filed notice that she intends to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty against Robert Aaron Long, 22, who is white.

A Fulton County grand jury indicted Mr Long in the March 16 slayings of Suncha Kim, 69, Soon Chung Park, 74, Hyun Jung Grant, 51, and Yong Ae Yue, 63.

The indictment only covers the four killings that happened at two spas in Atlanta and not the attack in Cherokee County.

In that attack, Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49, Daoyou Feng, 44, Delaina Yaun, 33, and Paul Michels, 54, were killed.

The hate crime charges are based on actual or perceived race, national origin, sex and gender, online records show.

After a person is convicted of an underlying crime, a jury must determine whether it is a hate crime, which carries an additional penalty.

The indictment charges Mr Long with four counts of murder, four counts of felony murder, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and one count of domestic terrorism, online records show.

It will be up to a separate grand jury in Cherokee County to decide on charges in the shooting at a spa near suburban Woodstock, in which four were killed and one person was wounded.

Police said Mr Long shot and killed four people, three of them women and two of Asian descent, at Youngs Asian Massage near Woodstock just before 5pm on March 16.

He also shot and wounded a fifth person.

He then drove about 50 kilometres south to Atlanta, where he shot and killed three women at Gold Spa before going across the street to Aromatherapy Spa and shooting dead another woman, police said.

All of the Atlanta victims were women of Asian descent.

After the shootings at the two Atlanta spas, Mr Long returned to his car and headed south on the interstate, police said.

His parents called authorities to help after recognising their son in still images from security video that the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office posted on social media.

They provided mobile phone information that allowed authorities to track their son to rural Crisp County, about 225km south of Atlanta.

State troopers and sheriff’s deputies saw his SUV on Interstate 75 and one of them forced Mr Long to stop by bumping his vehicle. He then surrendered to authorities.

In an initial interview with investigators, Mr Long claimed to have a “sex addiction” and authorities said he apparently lashed out at businesses he viewed as a temptation.

But those statements spurred outrage and widespread scepticism given the locations, and that six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent.