Six Asian women were among eight people shot and killed at three massage parlors in US city of Atlanta, Tuesday, with a white man in custody on suspicion of staging all three attacks, police said.
The shootings came with many Asian-Americans already on edge following a recent spike in hate crimes against the community, and triggered immediate fears that Asian-run businesses may have been deliberately targeted.
Four of the victims were killed at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, a suburb of Georgia state capital Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County sheriff’s office told the paper the victims were two Asian women, a white woman, and a white man, while a Hispanic man was wounded.
Adriana Mejia, niece of one of the victims, said the family was “devastated” after her uncle was shot and that they were praying for his recovery.
“We never know when we’re at the wrong place at the wrong time because this was so all of a sudden,” she said.
Police separately confirmed that four women had been killed in attacks on two other spas in the northeast of the city.
Describing the scene in northeast Atlanta, the city police department said: “Upon arrival, officers located three females deceased inside the location from apparent gunshot wounds.”
While on the scene, officers were advised of shots fired across the street, where they found a fourth female victim.
Police told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that all four were Asian women.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported the country’s foreign ministry had confirmed that four of the victims were of Korean descent.
Authorities have identified Robert Aaron Long as a suspect in all three shootings.
Based on the pattern of surveillance video from the shooting scenes, Atlanta police spokesman Sergeant John Chafee told AFP: “It is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s, who is in custody.”
“We are working closely with them to confirm with certainty our cases are related,” he added.
Long was taken into custody after a “brief pursuit” about 150 miles (240 kilometers) from Atlanta, according to a statement by the Georgia Department of Safety on Facebook.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was assisting in the investigation, a spokesman told AFP.