A man in Georgia recalled the terrifying moments shots rang out at an Atlanta-area massage parlor during his Tuesday night spa treatment, telling a reporter he ran out called 911 to report the bloodshed.
“I said you all need to come, people are dead,” Marcus Lyon told USA Today about the 911 call he made shortly after an unknown gunman opened fire at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia, killing four.
Lyon, a 31-year-old delivery person, was getting his first-ever massage when he heard the sound of a gunshot. The woman who was rubbing his neck stopped and open the door of the small treatment room, only to be shot herself, according to the report.
“She had maybe two rubs on my neck before I heard the gunshot,” Lyon said, according to the report. “She opened up the door and I heard another ‘pow’ sound.”
The shots continued until the front door’s bell jingled and the parlor went quiet. The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, had allegedly moved on to his next targets.
“The whole time I was on the floor, I thought I was going to die,” Lyon continued. He added: “I’m just thankful I’m alive.”
At Young’s, Long, 21, is accused of killing 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun, 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels, 44-year-old Daoyou Feng and 49-year-old Xiaojie Tan, who owned the business.
Yaun and her husband came to the spa on a date, her mother, Margaret Rushing, told WAGA-TV. Yaun leaves behind a 13-year-old son and 8-month-old daughter.
Her half-sister, Dana Toole, said Yaun’s husband locked himself in a room and wasn’t injured.
“He’s taking it hard,” Toole said. “He was there. He heard the gunshots and everything. You can’t escape that when you’re in a room and gunshots are flying — what do you do?”
After opening fire at Young’s, Long allegedly moved on to Gold Spa, which is roughly 30 miles away in Atlanta.
Police there received a call about a robbery and arrived to find three women shot to death. Another woman was fatally shot at the Aromatherapy Spa across the street.
The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday that the other four victims are 74-year-old Soon C. Park, 51-year-old Hyun J. Grant, 69-year-old Suncha Kim and 63-year-old Yong A. Yue.
Grant’s son, Randy Park, identified his mother by her maiden name, Hyun Jung Kim.
Long was arrested hours after Tuesday’s attack by Crisp County deputies and state troopers. He refused to stop on a highway and officers bumped the back of his car, causing him to crash, Sheriff Billy Hancock said.
Police said he took “responsibility” for the string of attacks and he claimed it was not racially motivated. During a Wednesday news conference, Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesperson, Capt. Jay Baker, said Long purportedly has “what he considers a sex addiction” and allegedly sees massage parlors as “a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.”
The 21-year-old was allegedly on his way to Florida at the time of his arrest and indicated he was potentially going “to carry out additional shootings,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Wednesday.
Long was charged with eight counts of murder.
Lawyer J. Daran Burns issued a statement saying he had been appointed to represent Long. He offered condolences to the victims’ families and said he was working on Long’s behalf “to investigate the facts and circumstances” surrounding the slayings.
Long waived his right to an initial hearing in Cherokee County Magistrate Court on his lawyer’s advice, the statement said.
Police said Thursday that “nothing is off the table” in the investigation of the deadly shootings, and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said it was investigating whether the killings were hate crimes.
Six of the eight people killed were of Asian American descent. Officials have stressed that the investigation is ongoing, and authorities have not yet made an official determination as to the motive of the attacks – including whether they were racially motivated – at this time.
Long’s statements that the attacks were not racially motivated spurred outrage and widespread skepticism in the Asian American community, which has increasingly been targeted for violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, who is the executive director of the Atlanta-based Asian American Advocacy Fund, told NPR that she was “quite disappointed to hear the narrative that is being pushed by law enforcement, especially through the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, that this … was not racially motivated.”
“I think the narrative that I heard yesterday is maybe [the victims] were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she continued. “But we know that people that work in the massage parlor industry or other beauty industries are often working highly vulnerable or low-wage jobs, especially during this ongoing pandemic. And we know that a lot of the impacts around structural violence, white supremacy and misogyny is especially impacting them.”
Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland, a Washington Democrat who is Korean-American, spoke on the House floor to condemn the shooting on Wednesday, saying: “Racially motivated violence should be called out for exactly what it is — and we must stop making excuses or rebranding it as economic anxiety or sexual addiction.”
She later tweeted a video of her address.