A series of shootings at Atlanta-area massage parlors left eight dead Tuesday night, and after an extended manhunt, police have arrested a 21-year-old man who is believed to have confessed to the crimes.
“The attacks began around 5 p.m. when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor in a strip mall near a rural area in Acworth, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said. Two people died at the scene and three were transported to a hospital where two of them also died,” according to The Associated Press.
The shooting spree continued across the suburbs surrounding Atlanta.
“Around 5:50 p.m., police in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, responding to a call of a robbery in progress, found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa. While they were at that scene, they learned of a call reporting shots fired at another spa across the street, Aromatherapy Spa, and found a woman who appeared to have been shot dead inside the business,” the AP continued.
Police were able to identify the suspect’s vehicle through security footage taken of the parking lot in front of the first targeted massage parlor. Law enforcement spotted the 2007 black Hyundai Tucson around 8:30 pm, gave chance, and performed a PIT maneuver — a controlled crash meant to push the suspect’s vehicle into a controlled spin. The suspect was then taken into custody “without incident.”
Although a motive was not immediately apparent, media, including The New York Times, began to speculate that the suspect’s decision to target the massage parlors, staffed largely by Asian females, was indicative of an anti-Asian hate crime and connected the shooting spree to recent attacks on elderly individuals of Asian descent in places like San Francisco, California, and New York City (though even the most high-profile of those attacks do not appear to have been motivated specifically by racial animus).
The suspect, however, spoke directly to police shortly after capture and took “full responsibility” for the attacks, per Fox News. Authorities said in a news conference that, based on his confession, they believe the shootings were “not racially motivated” and that “[the shooter] instead allegedly opened fire because he saw the locations as ‘an outlet for him’ to succumb to purported sex-addiction temptations.”
“According to police, [the shooter] claimed his attacks were not racially motivated, but rather sees the massage parlor locations as allowing him to feed ‘a temptation’ that he was trying ‘to eliminate,’ police said,” per Fox. The shooter also intended to carry out further attacks, and had planned to drive from Atlanta to an unknown location in Florida. He reportedly “made indicators that he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction, and may have frequented some of these places in the past,” the police noted.
Officials did stress, however, that the investigation is “ongoing” and that no motive can be completely ruled out.
Sex worker support organizations noted “that workers at Asian massage parlors and spas are frequent targets of violence from both customers and police. People speculating about possible motives for this horrific crime probably shouldn’t overlook that fact in the rush to portray the shootings as stemming from anti-Asian racism tied to COVID-19,” according to Reason Magazine.