Atlanta Shootings Live Updates: Suspect Had Visited Targeted Spas Before, Police Say | #tinder | #pof | #match | #sextrafficking


Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The man charged with killing eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors on Tuesday evening had been a customer of at least two of the spas, the police said.

Deputy Chief Charles Hampton of the Atlanta Police Department said in a news conference on Thursday that the suspect had patronized both of the massage businesses that were attacked in the city, where the police say he shot and killed four women of Asian descent.

The authorities have said he drove to those businesses after fatally shooting four people at a spa in the suburbs, including two women of Asian descent. The police there said they did not know whether the suspect was a customer at that location.

As the killings brought a wave of outrage and attention to violence against Asian-American people, Atlanta police officials emphasized that they were continuing to investigate all possible motives for the killings.

“Nothing is off the table for our investigation,” Chief Hampton said when asked whether the police had ruled out classifying the attack as a hate crime.

On NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, said that “while the motive remains still under investigation at the moment, it does not appear that the motive was racially motivated. But I really would defer to the state and local investigation on that for now.”

Atlanta police officials also sought to distance themselves from the investigation in Cherokee County, where the first four victims were killed. A sheriff’s deputy there who discussed the assailant’s self-described addiction to sex, as well as his claim that he was not motivated by race, later came under fire for saying the suspect had carried out the killings after “a really bad day.”

“While the cases are linked by the same perpetrator,” said Sgt. John Chafee, a spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department, “our investigations are independent of one another, and there are different dynamics to each.”

The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault and is being held at the Cherokee County jail. His lawyer said Mr. Long had waived an arraignment that had been scheduled for Thursday.

Mr. Long, who is white, said he had targeted the spas because he wanted to remove a “temptation,” the authorities have said. A former roommate of his at a halfway house said Mr. Long had tried to stop acting on his sexual desires as recently as 2020 but had continued going to massage parlors for sex.

The four victims at the suburban spa, two of whom were white, have been identified, but Chief Hampton said he could not yet release the names of the women killed at the two spas in the city because the police have not been able to reach the “proper next of kin.” He said the police were working with the South Korean consulate to do so.

The police have identified the victims of the attack on Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44.

Mr. Long was arrested about 150 miles south of Atlanta after his parents saw a surveillance image and called the police to say they believed that their son was the wanted man. The police said Mr. Long told them he had been on his way to Florida when he was caught, where he planned to commit similar violence against a business tied to the pornography industry.

Hours before the shootings, he bought a gun from Big Woods Goods, a gun shop in suburban Atlanta, according to a lawyer for the store.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The killings of eight people at three massage businesses in Georgia have focused attention on an industry that has long been a target of law enforcement scrutiny.

Although many massage parlors are just that — places to get a massage — experts say there are more than 9,000 such businesses in the United States that are fronts for prostitution, and that many of the women working there are being exploited.

Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, stressed that the Atlanta Police Department had not had any calls to the two spas in her city where the shootings occurred on Tuesday.

“We are not about to get into victim-blaming, victim-shaming here,” she said. “And as far as we know in Atlanta, these are legally operating businesses that have not been on our radar, not on the radar of A.P.D.”

The owners of the three businesses where the shootings occurred could not be reached for comment. The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, told the police that he suffered from sexual addiction and viewed the spas as a temptation. The Atlanta police said on Thursday that Mr. Long had been a customer of the two spas that were targeted in the city.

In 2020, Street Grace, a faith-based anti-trafficking organization, used a popular website used by those who frequent such spas to identify 165 illicit massage businesses in Georgia, more than three quarters of which were in the greater Atlanta area. The organization set up cameras outside the shops and reviewed the comments on the review website, RubMaps, to estimate that the illicit massage industry in Georgia has more than 1,000 customers a day and an estimated annual gross revenue of more than $42 million.

Yvonne Chen, an advocate for sex trafficking victims who works with Asian women who work at massage businesses, said not all of them are willing to provide sex to their clients, but those who refuse are often attacked by their customers.

“I don’t think there’s enough discussion of the violence that comes from the buyers,” she said.

Customers often go on membership-only review websites where they describe in detail what sexual services employees at a given spa are willing to provide. The two spas targeted in the attacks in Atlanta, Aromatherapy and Gold Spa, have dozens of comments on RubMaps.

Law enforcement agencies across the country frequently conduct raids and occasionally shut businesses down, but nimble spa owners frequently set up shop elsewhere, according to law enforcement officials and anti-trafficking advocates. The spa owners generally run as a loose network, with women often spending only a few months at one spa before moving to another state to work at another, they said. Owners often hold on to employees’ passports and require them to pay rent as live-in workers.

The Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking organization, estimates that the industry generates at least $2.5 billion a year in revenues.

Many of the women who work at the salons are lured there with promises of good jobs or travel visas to the United States, and only find out later that the job involves offering sex for tips. They are often so indebted financially by the time they arrive, that they see no way out, Ms. Chen said.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

ATLANTA — A year ago, Thanh Bui lived in Minneapolis when George Floyd was killed by police officers there. He saw the way the killing so deeply affected his girlfriend, who is Black, and many of his friends.

He was angry then, he said, but now he really understands how they felt, after a gunman targeted massage businesses in and around Atlanta, killing eight people, including six women of Asian descent.

“Right now, I’m fighting to find some peace,” Mr. Bui, who is Vietnamese, said in Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, after he brought small bouquets of flowers to two of the spas in a strip of storefronts.

Mr. Bui, 25, was not alone in being drawn to the scene of the violence. Some stopped to pray. Some came to protest. Some just came, pulled by a mix of curiosity, anger, anguish and disbelief. There were messages handwritten in marker on ripped pieces of cardboard — “Rest In Peace, beautiful angels” — and supermarket roses that still had a reduced-price sticker on the cellophane.

The displays might have been modest, yet that did not diminish the hurt and confusion they were meant to convey. Many of the people who trickled through expressed a particular pain that the attacks had happened in Atlanta. The city envisions itself as a haven for diverse communities; there is a sense that it thrives because of the culture, food, ideas and ambitions that have been imported here from around the South, the country and the world.

“God bless diversity,” one poster said.

“Black and Asian solidarity,” said another.

Most of the people at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa on Thursday did not know the women killed there. But they knew the climate. They knew the antipathy that existed toward Asian-Americans — a sentiment that they considered inextricable from the attacks, no matter what the police said of the suspect’s motivations.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Meg Ermer, 19, stopped by with her sister on a trip from Chattanooga, Tenn. She had heard taunts against Asian-Americans in high school — about eating dogs or spreading the coronavirus. “People think it’s just jokes,” she said.

But those jokes, she believed, had given root to something more sinister, and she wanted to see the evidence for herself. “I think people’s attitudes need to change for their actions to change,” she said.

Woojin Kang and Min Woo Nam, graduate students of theology at Emory University in Atlanta, held signs outside one of the spas for hours. Passers-by honked and waved their fists out of car windows in solidarity. “This is more than a crime scene,” Mr. Kang, 27, said. “We need to stand on these grounds.”

They hoped that the violence might cause others to understand what the Asian-American community has had to confront. “We all need to lament together,” Mr. Kang said, “to scream out together.”

“Look,” he said, with disappointment, gesturing to a parking lot outside of the spa where he and Mr. Nam had, for a long stretch, been the only ones there with posters. But a few minutes later, a few dozen people marched up the street, chanting, “Justice! Now!”

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House Addresses Anti-Asian Discrimination at Hearing

House Democrats on Thursday held the first congressional hearing on anti-Asian discrimination in three decades, in an effort to confront the spike in violence targeting the Asian community since the start of the pandemic.

“His targets were no accident. And what we know is that this day was coming. And because of crimes like this, I, as chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, or CAPAC, urged the committee to undertake this hearing because the Asian-American community has reached a crisis point that cannot be ignored. Well, what started out last January’s dirty looks and verbal assaults has escalated to physical attacks and violence against innocent Asian-Americans, and these attacks have increasingly become more deadly.” “Comments like these only build upon the legacy of racism, anti-Asian sentiment and insensitivity that seeks to divide our nation. So, yes, I was deeply shaken by the angry currents in our nation. A heated discourse at the highest levels of our government cannot be viewed in isolation from the ensuing violence in our communities.” “We shouldn’t be worried about having a committee of members of Congress policing our rhetoric because some evildoers go engage in some evil activity as occurred in Atlanta, Ga. Because when we start policing free speech, we’re doing the very thing that we’re condemning when we condemn what the Chinese Communist Party does to their country.” “We cannot turn a blind eye to people living in fear. I want to go back to something that Mr. Roy said earlier. Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don’t have to do it by putting a bull’s eye on the back of Asian-Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids. This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community, and to find solutions. And we will not let you take our voice away from us.”

House Democrats on Thursday held the first congressional hearing on anti-Asian discrimination in three decades, in an effort to confront the spike in violence targeting the Asian community since the start of the pandemic.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Greg Nash

Asian-American congresswomen warned the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that the nation had reached a “crisis point” amid a spike in discrimination and violence targeting the Asian community, in the first congressional hearing on the issue held in more than three decades.

The hearing, which was scheduled weeks ago, came on the heels of a mass shooting in Atlanta in which a white gunman killed eight people at spas, six of whom were of Asian descent. As lawmakers pledged to confront the rising tide of violence, they turned to six female lawmakers of Asian descent, both Democrats and Republicans.

In often deeply personal testimony, the lawmakers described the fear and trauma rippling through the Asian-American community, and argued that the uptick in attacks on Asian-Americans was a direct result of the rise of anti-China rhetoric stoked during the coronavirus pandemic. In one particularly heated moment, a Democratic congresswoman tearfully confronted a Republican on the panel, saying members of his party had used language she said put “a bull’s-eye” on Asian-Americans.

At another emotional point, Representative Doris Matsui, Democrat of California, who was born in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans, described how hearing politicians including former President Donald J. Trump use xenophobic phrases to describe the coronavirus brought back memories of the discrimination her parents faced from the federal government decades ago.

Back then, Ms. Matsui said, “many leaders advanced the myth that the Japanese community was inherently the enemy. Americans across the country believed it, acceded to institutionalized racism, and acted on it.”

“Last year,” she continued, “as I heard, at the highest levels of government, people use racist slurs, like ‘China virus,’ to spread xenophobia and cast blame on innocent communities, it was all too familiar.”

The hearing briefly turned tense after Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, made a lengthy condemnation of the Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus and asserted that objections to what he categorized as nothing more than hawkish rhetoric about China amounted to “policing” of free speech.

“There’s old sayings in Texas about, you know, ‘find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree.’ You know, we take justice very seriously, and we ought to do that — round up all the bad guys,” Mr. Roy said, in comments that drew outrage on Twitter. “My concern about this hearing is it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric.”

Representative Grace Meng, Democrat of New York, took exception to the remark.

“Your president, and your party, and your colleagues, can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don’t have to do it by putting a bull’s-eye on the back of Asian-Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids,” she said, growing visibly emotional.

“This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community, to find solutions,” she added, “and we will not let you take our voice away from us.”

Later, Mr. Roy issued a statement responding to the backlash over his comments, which appeared to refer to lynching, saying he stood by the idea that “we need more justice and less thought policing.”

“No apologies,” he added.

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Robert Aaron Long, the man charged with killing eight people in a rampage at Atlanta-area massage parlors, spent several months being treated for what he described as a sex addiction and regularly went to massage parlors for sex, one of his former roommates at a halfway house said.

Tyler Bayless, the former roommate, said in an interview that he lived with Mr. Long at the house in the Atlanta suburb of Roswell for about five months beginning in August 2019. Nearly once a month, Mr. Long, who was then 20, would admit to Mr. Bayless and others in the apartment that he had again relapsed by visiting a massage parlor to have sex with an employee, Mr. Bayless said.

He said Mr. Long’s admissions were always paired with discussions about his Christian faith and his relationship with God and his parents.

“It tore him up inside,” Mr. Bayless said.

Mr. Bayless, 35, said he did not want to diminish the pain that Asian-American people were feeling in the wake of the attack and was only describing his recollections of Mr. Long to give people more clarity about what he described as the “religious mania” of Mr. Long.

Mr. Long was a member of the Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Ga., where a pastor described him as one of the most committed members. A post on the church’s now-deleted Facebook page indicated that he was baptized as an adult in 2018.

During the manhunt on Tuesday evening, his parents recognized him in a surveillance image released by the police and called the authorities, leading to his capture, the police said. The authorities said he had been heading to Florida to commit similar violence at a business tied to the “porn industry.”

Mr. Bayless said Mr. Long told him he had tried repeatedly to stop himself from acting on his sexual urges: he used a flip phone so that he could not access pornography, his computer blocked pornographic websites and he had once even asked Mr. Bayless to take his computer from him.

Still, he did not stop visiting the spas. Mr. Long had told his roommates that his parents knew about his addiction and also suggested that he had lost a girlfriend because he did not stop visiting the massage parlors.

Once, after Mr. Long had relapsed in the fall of 2019, Mr. Bayless recalled that Mr. Long had called him into his room and asked him to take a knife from him, saying that he was worried he would hurt himself.

“I’ll never forget him looking at me and saying, ‘I’m falling out of God’s grace,’” Mr. Bayless said.

He said that Mr. Long had told the roommates, all of whom struggled with a form of addiction, that he had gone to spas run by people of Asian descent, and that other roommates in the halfway house asked him several times if that was intentional. He said he had chosen the businesses not because of the employees’ race, but because he thought the spas were safer than paying for sex elsewhere.

While at the halfway house, Mr. Long held a job in which he did some kind of work outdoors, Mr. Bayless said.

The two fell out of touch in early 2020, Mr. Bayless said, when Mr. Long moved from the halfway house for more intensive treatment at HopeQuest, a Christian addiction center.

“I think he just felt like he could not be trusted out there alone,” Mr. Bayless said.

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

A sheriff’s deputy will no longer serve as his agency’s spokesman for the investigation into the Atlanta-area spa shootings after he drew criticism for saying that the suspect in the attacks had “a really bad day” before the shootings, and for anti-Asian Facebook posts that he made last year.

The deputy, Capt. Jay Baker, was no longer speaking on behalf of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office on the shooting, according to a spokeswoman for the county. The spokeswoman, Erika Neldner, said in a text message on Thursday that she would be taking over the communications duties in the case.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Captain Baker discussed the frame of mind of the man charged with eight counts of murder in Tuesday’s shootings. He said that the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., had understood the gravity of his actions when he was interviewed by investigators.

“He was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope,” Captain Baker said. “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”

The comments were widely panned on social media, with critics characterizing them as callous and pointing to Facebook posts from March 30 and April 2 of last year by Captain Baker, in which he promoted sales of an anti-Asian T-shirt. The shirts, echoing the rhetoric of President Donald J. Trump, referred to the coronavirus as an “imported virus from Chy-na.”

“Place your order while they last,” Captain Baker wrote at the time in one of the posts. He did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday.

State Senator Michelle Au of Georgia said that Captain Baker’s remarks about the suspect illustrated how law enforcement treated crimes against certain groups differently, and that his Facebook posts were an example of casual, open racism toward Asian-Americans.

“It’s not treated the way that other forms of racism are,” she said in an email. “It’s more accepted, it’s more palatable, it’s more tolerable for large swaths of the population.”

On Thursday, the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, a nonprofit group, demanded that Captain Baker be removed from his job. “These racist social media posts that have now been shared have been on his page for almost a year,” the group wrote on Facebook, “and it took a mass shooting to bring them to light.”

In a statement on Thursday, the Cherokee County sheriff, Frank Reynolds, defended Captain Baker, saying that he did not intend to disrespect any of the victims or express “empathy or sympathy” for the suspect.

“Captain Baker had a difficult task before him, and this was one of the hardest in his 28 years in law enforcement,” Sheriff Reynolds said. He added, “On behalf of the dedicated women and men of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, we regret any heartache Captain Baker’s words may have caused.”

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet in Atlanta on Friday with community leaders and state lawmakers from the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, and cancel a planned political event, the White House announced on Thursday.

“Given the tragedy in Georgia on Tuesday night, President Biden and Vice President Harris will postpone the evening political event in Georgia for a future date,” officials announced in a news release. “During their trip to Atlanta, they will instead meet with Asian-American leaders to discuss the ongoing attacks and threats against the community, meet with other local leaders, and also visit the Centers for Disease Control to receive an update from the team of health and medical experts helping lead the fight against the pandemic.”

Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris had been scheduled to visit the city as part of a promotional tour for the $1.9 trillion economic relief package that Mr. Biden signed into law last week. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported details of the meeting with community leaders.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden ordered that flags outside the White House, other public buildings, military posts and naval stations in the District of Columbia and throughout the country and its territories be flown at half-staff to honor the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings.

The proclamation, which will run through sunset on Monday, also includes “all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations,” he said.

Mr. Biden said on Wednesday that “the question of motivation is still to be determined” in the Georgia shootings, while renewing his concerns over a recent surge in violence against Asian-Americans.

“Whatever the motivation here,” he said, “I know Asian-Americans are very concerned. Because as you know I have been speaking about the brutality against Asian-Americans for the last couple months, and I think it’s very, very troubling. But I am making no connection at this moment to the motivation of the killer. I’m waiting for an answer from — as the investigation proceeds — from the F.B.I. and from the Justice Department. And I’ll have more to say when the investigation is completed.”

In his first prime-time speech as president last week, marking a year of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Biden denounced “vicious hate crimes against Asian-Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated.”

“At this very moment, so many of them — our fellow Americans — they’re on the front lines of this pandemic, trying to save lives, and still they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” he said. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”

Ms. Harris, the first woman and the first Asian-American to hold the office, expressed condolences for the families of the victims on Wednesday.

“This speaks to a larger issue, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it,” Ms. Harris said, adding that the motive in the shooting was still unclear.

“I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” she added.

Credit…Andrew Seng for The New York Times

The shootings in Atlanta, in which six women of Asian descent were killed, come amid a tortured public conversation over how to confront a rise in reports of violence against Asian-Americans, who have felt increasingly vulnerable with each new attack.

Many incidents have either not led to arrests or have not been charged as hate crimes, making it difficult to capture with reliable data the extent to which Asian-Americans are being targeted.

Investigators said it was too early to determine a motive in the Atlanta attacks. After a suspect, Robert Aaron Long, was arrested, he denied harboring a racial bias and told officials that he carried out the shootings as a form of vengeance for his “sexual addiction.”

The Atlanta shootings and other recent attacks have exposed difficult questions involved in proving a racist motive. Did the assaults just happen to involve Asian victims? Or did the attackers purposely single out Asians in an unspoken way that can never be presented as evidence in court?

Many Asian-Americans have been left wondering how much cultural stereotypes that cast them — especially women — as weak or submissive targets played a role.

Listen to ‘The Daily’: A Murderous Rampage in Georgia

A shooting at three spas in the Atlanta area has left six Asian women dead. It has been seen as the latest in the rising hate crimes against Asian-Americans, but proving this rise has been difficult.

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Listen to ‘The Daily’: A Murderous Rampage in Georgia

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Asthaa Chaturvedi, Austin Mitchell, Neena Pathak and Luke Vander Ploeg; edited by M.J. Davis Lin and Paige Cowett; and engineered by Marion Lozano.

A shooting at three spas in the Atlanta area has left six Asian women dead. It has been seen as the latest in the rising hate crimes against Asian-Americans, but proving this rise has been difficult.

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

Today, a murderous rampage at three spas in the Atlanta area has killed eight people, six of them Asian women. That has stirred fear and outrage among Asian-Americans who see it as the latest burst of racist violence against them, even as the shooter himself offered a more complicated motive.

I spoke with my colleague, Nicole Hong, about why it’s proving so difficult to classify the growing violence against Asian-Americans as hate crimes under the law and whether the U.S. legal system has caught up to the reality of this moment.

It’s Thursday, March 18.

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Nicole, what were you thinking when you learned about these murders in and around Atlanta at these massage parlors?

nicole hong

So, as the shooting unfolded, I was heartbroken and devastated when I learned that many of the victims were Asian women. I was just glued to the news with this sense of dread. I’m an Asian-American woman, I’m also a law enforcement reporter. So I knew that this situation was going to get very complicated. And I could immediately feel the fear and the uncertainty coming from texts I was getting from family members, from friends.

Every Asian-American I’ve talked to has just been feeling under such attack the past few months, and this is just the latest thing to heighten people’s anxiety right now about even doing the most basic thing, like walking outside. The attack raised all sorts of difficult questions that I was looking into myself as a reporter. I was looking at attacks against Asian-Americans in New York City to explore this question of, what is a hate crime, what legally qualifies as an anti-Asian hate crime, and why have they been so hard to prove for prosecutors.

michael barbaro

And where did that reporting start for you?

nicole hong

It really started for me when I heard about this stabbing in Manhattan’s Chinatown last month. There was a Chinese man who was walking home one evening, and then he was suddenly stabbed in the back, just out of nowhere, unprovoked. And it turned out that the perpetrator was a young man from Yemen. And immediately, this attack prompted all sorts of outrage in the Asian-American community. The police said that after the stabbing, the perpetrator told the police, I didn’t like the way that he looked at me. So Asian-Americans took that to mean that race was somehow a part of this.

michael barbaro

So in many people’s minds, this immediately starts to look kind of like a classic unprovoked hate crime against an Asian-American.

nicole hong

Exactly. And we did a lot of reporting looking into that. I spoke to the perpetrator’s brother and his mother. They talked about him having a history of mental health issues. He had actually been charged before with assaulting his brother, his father. He had prior assaults. So it just really complicates the question of motive.

michael barbaro

And so what ends up happening in this case?

nicole hong

So ultimately he is charged with a very, very serious felony. He’s charged with attempted murder, but it is not charged as a hate crime. And so that decision by prosecutors prompted protests among Asian-American leaders in the city who are saying that they feel totally overlooked by law enforcement, that they feel like this decision just epitomizes the way law enforcement handles hate crimes when the victims are Asian. This triggered this very interesting conversation of, what does it take to actually charge something as a hate crime against an Asian? What qualifies as anti-Asian bias under the law? So that’s what I’ve been trying to unpack in my reporting.

michael barbaro

And in this case, what were the answers? Why didn’t this count, according to prosecutors, as a hate crime? Why didn’t they try to prosecute it in those terms?

nicole hong

So according to prosecutors, they believe that the perpetrator never actually even saw the victim’s face before stabbing him because he ran up behind to stab him. Even though he told police, I didn’t like the way he looked at me.

michael barbaro

Right.

nicole hong

Prosecutors say they have no evidence that he knew he was Asian. Also, just in my interviews with his family members, they said that he had never talked about hatred towards Asians. He didn’t say anything that any witness overheard during the attack that seemed to be some sort of slur. So I think from the prosecutor’s point of view, they’re saying, we just don’t have enough to go off of here to call this an anti-Asian hate crime.

michael barbaro

So what did you make of that conclusion as a law enforcement reporter?

nicole hong

I mean, I totally understand the need to have evidence that stands up to the burden of proof that can be presented before a jury at trial. I’ve covered law enforcement for a long time, so I’m fully cognizant of what they’re struggling with here. And it made me wonder how many other attacks like this have been out there? Because when you see incidents like this, including, for instance, the Atlanta shooting, the first thought that comes into your mind is, was this about race or was this not about race? And maybe it was about race, but maybe you can never prove it.

[music]

So I was trying to kind of get at this gray space that Asian-Americans fall into of just the verbal and physical harassment that they’ve experienced during the pandemic. How many of those have actually been accounted for as hate crimes under the law? And if not, why has it been so difficult to do that?

michael barbaro

And what do you start to find?

nicole hong

So in New York City we saw a very sharp increase in the number of anti-Asian hate crimes that were reported to the police. So in 2019, there were 3, and the following year, 2020, there were 28.

michael barbaro

Wow.

nicole hong

So that’s a huge jump.

michael barbaro

Right. And these are explicitly seen and reported as anti-Asian hate crimes.

nicole hong

That’s right. And to the extent that people were arrested in those incidents, they were charged as hate crimes. And some of them were extremely blatant. For instance, if somebody punches an Asian person in the face and then says, China virus, that’s a hate crime. We saw some of those incidents that got prosecuted. Or in another attack that happened in Manhattan last year, there was an Asian woman who was crossing the street, and somebody pulled out a chunk of her hair and said, you’re the reason why the coronavirus is here. So that was another incident that got charged as a hate crime. But there is a whole universe of other types of assaults and attacks that have been reported that fall into this gray area. And typically it’s gray because the person did not say anything during the attack. Even the past few weeks, we’ve heard about Asian-Americans who got punched in the face unprovoked on the subway or getting verbally harassed in a subway car where there’s other people around but they’re the only Asian person there. So that is where it gets really, really tricky of how much did race play a factor here.

michael barbaro

And what do you make of that? Why do you think that you found all of these crimes, attacks, that feel on the surface racially motivated against Asian-Americans but are not being seen that way by law enforcement and not being called or charged as hate crimes?

nicole hong

So from a legal point of view with these attacks, the question is always, could this have happened to anybody? Was this Asian person just in the wrong place at the wrong time or was there some kind of unconscious bias or racism that’s unspoken that motivated this attack but can never be proven in court because you can never have concrete evidence of that? And as I was talking to experts, what I learned is that proving anti-Asian hate crimes is especially difficult. I mean, it’s difficult against many different groups but especially against Asian-Americans.

michael barbaro

Why?

nicole hong

Because there are not widely recognized symbols of hate that people immediately associate with Asian-Americans, for instance, the way a noose or a swastika can. When we see that, everybody recognizes that for what it is. They know the history, and there’s an immediate public outrage with these things. I think it ties into the history of Asian-Americans in this country. It’s a lot less clear cut in that sense, and that makes the search for motive in a lot of these attacks particularly confusing.

michael barbaro

Well, to that point, how unique a situation is this? On some level, aren’t all hate crimes inevitably hard to prove? My sense is that not all hate crimes or racially motivated crimes against Black people, for example, involve a symbol as powerful and obvious as a noose or attacks on Jews involve something as obvious and potent as a swastika. So is that situation unique to Asian-Americans?

nicole hong

You’re right. It’s definitely not unique. Many other groups have protested things that were not designated as hate crimes. I think in these situations, the bar for evidence is always very high and can be very frustrating for entire communities. But something different is happening during this pandemic, particularly to Asian-Americans. I think the rhetoric, for instance, from President Trump around calling this the Kung Flu and the China virus, we see this now being parroted on the street level in many of these attacks. And I think it’s bringing into really sharp focus specifically what is happening to Asian-Americans, that this pandemic has now become racialized in a way that we haven’t really seen before. And as a result, it’s drawing all this attention to attacks on Asian-Americans, and people are using language that we have not really seen in recent history.

[music]
michael barbaro

So what you’re finding in your reporting seems to be a legal system in the U.S. that has not caught up to the reality of the past year for Asian-Americans.

nicole hong

Yes. And it hasn’t just been the past year. There’s been a long history of violence and discrimination against Asian-Americans that hasn’t fully fit into the legal framework that’s been set up in this country.

[music]
michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

[music]

So Nicole, I wonder if you can put the events of the last year, the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment and violence, into a broader historical perspective?

nicole hong

Yeah. So in a sense, this is not new. We’ve seen over and over again in U.S. history Asian-Americans being scapegoated and blamed during times of national crisis or economic uncertainty. And it really starts in the mid to late 1800s when Chinese laborers started moving to California, to the West Coast. One of the first major incidents of anti-Asian violence was in the 1870s. There was an awful riot in Chinatown in Los Angeles where several Chinese people were killed and lynched. That led to the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned Chinese immigration to the U.S. We saw this again around World War II.

archived recording

Soon after the enemy strike on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese living along the West Coast were quickly moved inland, away from critical defense areas.

nicole hong

And the internment of Japanese-Americans.

archived recording

And 100,000 men, women, and children, two-thirds of the evacuees are American citizens by right of birth. We are setting a standard for the rest of the world in the treatment of people who may have loyalties to an enemy nation.

nicole hong

Them being painted as a national security threat.

archived recording

We are protecting ourselves without violating the principles of Christian decency. We won’t change this [INAUDIBLE].

michael barbaro

Right. And these are government sponsored acts of discrimination against Asian-Americans— the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese internment camps. It is the U.S. government blessing discrimination, and not that many decades ago.

nicole hong

Exactly. We also saw a major moment in the 1980s.

archived recording

The crime was the beating death of an American of Chinese heritage in Detroit with the killing of Vincent Chin, who was a Chinese-American man who lived in Detroit.

archived recording (lily chin)

I wanted justice for my son. I must tell everybody know how they killed my son.

nicole hong

He was beaten to death by two white men who thought he was Japanese.

archived recording

Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz got $3,000 fines and three years probation, even though they admitted clubbing Chin to death with a baseball bat in this McDonald’s parking lot after—

nicole hong

This was a huge galvanizing and unifying moment for Asian-Americans because they realized that even though a Chinese person and a Japanese person might feel like they have nothing in common, they are being lumped together in the eyes of the attacker.

michael barbaro

So this is the long history that many Asian-Americans have in their head as the pandemic begins as these incidents of violence grow over the past year or so and as we have this horrible attack unfold two nights ago in Georgia.

nicole hong

Yeah, exactly. This is the backdrop of what’s going on in the pandemic. This is the history, the decades of violence that have led up to what we’re experiencing today.

michael barbaro

So let’s talk about how the news of that attack unfolded and the response to it, because it felt like the question of motivation was absolutely instantaneous. Even The Times in reporting on this shooting on Tuesday night raised the possibility that this was motivated by anti-Asian sentiment.

nicole hong

Yeah.

archived recording

Hey, guys. It’s been a little while. But I’m sure you know what I’m here to talk about today.

nicole hong

I immediately saw lots of Asian-Americans on Twitter.

archived recording

Today I feel grief and rage. It is a hate crime. When you kill eight Asian women, it’s a hate crime.

nicole hong

On social media.

archived recording

Innocent immigrants working minimum wage just lost their lives because their skin color is beige.

nicole hong

Sort of jumping to the conclusion that this was racially motivated, urging media outlets to call this a hate crime.

archived recording

This is terrorism, and this is a hate crime. Stop killing us.

nicole hong

I think the first few hours were just very confusing as people were trying to get the facts and figure out what exactly was motivating this.

archived recording

I’m angry, I’m tired, I’m heartbroken. Stop Asian hate.

nicole hong

And I think what added to the fear was we were also seeing police departments around the country announcing that they were going to add patrols to other cities, other neighborhoods with large Asian-American communities.

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But with these kinds of incidents, it’s so difficult early on to know whether something was motivated by race. But again, that’s of very little comfort to Asian-Americans. And all it does is increase the fear, the anxiety for Asian-Americans when they see something like this.

michael barbaro

And as law enforcement begins investigating this case, what do they end up finding when it comes to this question of motivation?

nicole hong

So the investigation is still developing, but—

archived recording

Thank you, Madam Mayor.

nicole hong

—they said at a press conference on Wednesday that—

archived recording

I know that many— we’ve received a number of calls about, is this a hate crime? We are still early in this investigation, so we cannot make that determination at this moment.

nicole hong

So far, it does not seem like this attack was racially motivated.

archived recording

Yeah, let me go in a little bit detail. So the suspect did take responsibility for the shootings.

nicole hong

They interviewed the suspect who was arrested.

archived recording

He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction.

nicole hong

And he told them that he had a, quote, “sexual addiction.”

archived recording

And sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.

nicole hong

It appears that he may have been a customer at some of these businesses. So the whole situation is still developing its early stages, but I think all it’s done is just so more confusion and frustration for Asian-Americans.

michael barbaro

What do you mean?

nicole hong

I think this gets to the heart of, is it racial or is it not when it comes to Asian-Americans? Like, do we believe that the race of these women had nothing to do with why he targeted them? It’s just too soon to know right now, and that’s not the answer that many Asian-Americans want to hear.

michael barbaro

What is the answer in your reporting that you have found Asian-Americans want to hear?

nicole hong

My sense is that a lot of Asian-American leaders, at least in New York, are looking for some sort of validation from the government, from the legal system that they’re paranoia is not crazy, that they’re not being oversensitive, that they’re justified in feeling scared to go outside.

michael barbaro

So designating a crime like this as officially racially motivated, that is a form of validation that is essential for people who have experienced what they have experienced over the past year, you’re saying. But what if at the end of the day police just don’t feel that’s the appropriate label for this? We’ve been talking to you this whole time about not just the legal complexity of knowing that a hate crime has occurred, but in some cases we just may not know if a hate crime has occurred.

nicole hong

Yeah. That’s the tricky part. And we may come out from the end of this with no signs that this was racially motivated. And that’s how we’ve seen a lot of these different incidents play out. But again, all you’re left with there is the fear and the anxiety for Asian-Americans because that doesn’t align with their day-to-day lived experience.

michael barbaro

Which is that, over time, there indisputably is an increase in racially motivated violence.

nicole hong

Yeah. I think my sense from talking to many Asian-Americans over the past several weeks is that they do feel targeted, that when they’re verbally harassed on the subway, they feel like there’s something racial going on there, even if they might not be able to articulate to you why it’s racially motivated. And that’s kind of the feeling of gaslighting that I think is going on in the community right now, of are we being oversensitive? Are these racial or is it racial in a way that we just can never prove?

So it just fuels this feeling for Asian-Americans of feeling overlooked by the legal system. And even when law enforcement says, look, we’ve charged this as a murder or whatever it is, this person will face very, very harsh penalties, I think this is why hate crime laws exist. They exist because they were intended to send a message to some marginalized community that you belong here, that when a hate crime happens it terrorizes an entire community in a way that is very unique and in a way that we don’t see for other types of crimes. And that is why that designation is important to some people. Just the idea that you have to call it what it is because if you don’t, then we will not get a full accounting of what is happening.

[music]
michael barbaro

So whether or not enforcement ends up calling this mass shooting a hate crime, calling hate crimes hate crimes is going to be essential to the Asian-American community to feel that they are being seen by their government.

nicole hong

Yeah, I think the reality is, for Asian-Americans, whether this ends up being legally charged as a hate crime or not, it is making people feel a sense of terror and fear. It’s already a hate crime in the minds of Asian-Americans.

michael barbaro

Well, Nicole, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

nicole hong

Thank you, Michael.

michael barbaro

On Wednesday, the suspected shooter was charged with eight counts of murder. So far, authorities have released the names of four of the eight people he killed. They are Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, and Paul Andre Michaels.

[music]

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

Federal prosecutors have charged four leaders of the extremist group, the Proud Boys, in four different states for their role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The F.B.I. now believes that the far right group, whose members are vocal and violent supporters of President Trump, was a chief instigator of the attack. During a presidential debate last year, Trump told the Proud Boys to, quote, “stand back and stand by,” language widely seen as encouraging the group to act on his behalf. Since January 6, the government has brought federal charges against 13 members of the group.

And for the second year in a row, the Internal Revenue Service will give Americans extra time to file their taxes as a result of the pandemic. Instead of the usual deadline of April 15, Americans will have until May 17.

Today’s episode was produced by us the Asthaa Chaturvedi, Austin Mitchell, Neena Pathak, and Luke Vander Ploeg. It was edited by M.J. Davis Lin and Paige Cowett and engineered by Marion Lozano.

That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

As the debate over what legally qualifies as anti-Asian bias unfolds, the community is grappling with the reality that the law is simply not designed to account for many of the ways in which Asian-Americans experience racism.

Proving a racist motive can be particularly difficult with attacks against Asians, experts say. There is no widely recognized symbol of anti-Asian hate comparable to a noose or a swastika. Historically, many Asian crime victims around the country were small-business owners who were robbed, complicating the question of motive.

“There’s a recognizable prototype with anti-Black or anti-Semitic or anti-gay hate crime,” said Lu-in Wang, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “They’re often more clear-cut.”

Asian-Americans are sharply divided over the best measures to curb the violence, reflecting the wide ideological and generational differences within a group that encompasses dozens of ethnicities.

From New York to Washington, crowds gathered on Wednesday night to pay tribute to the victims of Tuesday’s shootings in the Atlanta area and stand in solidarity with Asian-Americans who have become increasingly targeted for violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

They brought candles and signs proclaiming “Asian Lives Matter” with them to a series of vigils, one night after a gunman shot and killed eight people at three metro Atlanta massage businesses. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.

The outpouring of tributes recalled previous public showings of solemnity and outrage after mass shootings and bias attacks, though the authorities have said they were still determining whether the rampage constituted a hate crime.

Credit…Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

A hate-crimes law that was passed in Georgia last year could come into play if the authorities determine that the suspect in this week’s deadly shootings at Atlanta-area massage parlors was motivated by racism or misogyny.

The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, told investigators that he was driven by what he has described as a sex addiction, not by racism. Six of the eight victims were of Asian descent.

Hate-crime charges for attacks against Asians are rare, as they require proof of a racist motive that can be difficult to establish. Mr. Long was initially charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

But hate-crime charges could be added later under the new Georgia law, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, in June. Before that, Georgia was one of the few states without a hate-crime law.

The bill had been stalled for years but gained steam last summer after the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was fatally shot near Brunswick, Ga., in February 2020. A graphic video of the shooting sparked widespread outrage, one of several killings that inspired nationwide protests over racial justice.

The law allows for extra penalties to be applied for crimes motivated by a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender or disability.

Chuck Efstration, a Republican state representative who sponsored the hate crimes law, told WSB-TV in Atlanta that he believed it could apply in this case. Even if investigators can’t prove racism as the motivation, the law also covers gender, he pointed out. All but one of the eight people who were killed in Tuesday’s shootings were women.

“The great thing about the bill that we passed last year — it provides both sex and gender as protected classes in addition to race and other protected groups,” Mr. Efstration said.

Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At least eight police departments in major cities across the United States have announced plans to increase patrols in Asian communities after eight people, including six Asian women, were killed in a series of shootings at massage parlors in Atlanta this week.

On Tuesday, shortly after details of the deadly shootings made national headlines, the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism bureau said on Twitter that it would “be deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution.”

In Seattle, the Police Department said it would increase patrols and outreach to support the city’s Asian-American community.

Since then, at least six other police departments have promised increased security to residents and business owners.

Houston’s chief of police said on Wednesday that a virtual town-hall meeting would be organized to discuss concerns about crimes targeting the Asian community there and that the department would increase patrols in certain areas out of an “abundance of caution.”

Similar statements of solidarity and promises for protection were also made Wednesday by police departments in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and in Fairfax County, Va.

In San Francisco, where there had been a rise an anti-Asian violence in recent weeks, including a fatal attack on an older Thai man, the police department said it was coordinating with the federal authorities and increasing its presence in Asian neighborhoods.

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Gun control activists have seized upon a key element of Tuesday’s shooting rampage at spas in metro Atlanta: Because Georgia has no waiting period for gun sales, the suspect was allowed to buy a weapon on the same day the authorities say he killed eight people.

The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, legally bought a gun from Big Woods Goods, a gun shop and shooting range outside Atlanta, on Tuesday, according to a lawyer for the business. It was unclear whether the gun he bought was the 9-millimeter handgun the authorities recovered while arresting Mr. Long.

The gun shop’s lawyer said the business had complied with all laws and regulations and was cooperating with the authorities. But critics of Georgia’s gun laws said that had the state required Mr. Long, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., to wait several days before completing the purchase, as some other states require, the bloodshed might have been averted.

“In Georgia, it’s easier to buy a gun than it is to vote,” Matthew Wilson, a Democratic state representative from the Atlanta suburb of Brookhaven, said on Twitter.

Igor Volsky, a co-founder and executive director of the group Guns Down America, said on Twitter that 10 states and the District of Columbia had waiting periods on gun purchases. He said they reduced gun homicides by about 17 percent, citing a 2017 report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

To buy a firearm from a licensed gun dealer in Georgia, buyers must pass an instant background check. Gun control groups noted, however, that people who have a weapons carry license can avoid that background check.

The weapons carry licenses, which are valid for five years, require a background check and fingerprint to be kept on file with law enforcement. People with felony convictions or who have been recently discharged from a mental hospital or drug treatment facility are not eligible for the licenses, which can take up to 30 days to approve.

A representative for the Georgia Department of Public Safety said in an email on Wednesday night that the agency did not keep records of registered firearms.

It was not immediately clear if Mr. Long, who has a hunting license, had passed an instant background check or if he had a weapons carry license, or whether he had bought any firearms before Tuesday.

Credit…Pool photo by Lee Jin-man

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, who are on a trip in East Asia, on Thursday condemned the deadly shootings in Atlanta and offered condolences to the victims’ families during a news conference in Seoul, South Korea.

Four of the women who were killed in the attacks were ethnic Koreans, according to an official from the South Korean Consulate in Atlanta, citing the Foreign Ministry in Seoul.

At the news conference, Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong of South Korea thanked Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin and said his government was following the news from Atlanta closely.

The American officials also met with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, who “expressed sadness over the shocking news of the Atlanta shooting and offered his condolences to the victims’ families,” said his spokesman, Kang Min-seok.

In South Korea, where gun ownership is strictly banned and crimes involving firearms are extremely rare, people have been mesmerized and concerned by a recent spate of shooting attacks in the United States, their country’s most important ally.

“The Atlanta shooting is so shocking,” a commentator said on Twitter. “You are free to own firearms in the United States! Is it a real developed country?”

South Koreans closely follow crimes against ethnic Koreans in the United States because many families have children or relatives studying or living there.

“I have a relative in Atlanta and the first thing I did when I heard the news was to call the relative to see if everything is OK,” another Twitter user said. “Hating China under the pretext of the coronavirus is leading to violence against all Asians there.”

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Korean business and community leaders gathered on Thursday afternoon to underscore the growing fear among Asian-Americans in Georgia after Tuesday’s mass shooting that left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent.

“We do not feel safe here,” said Baik Kyu Kim, the head of the recently formed Atlanta Korean American Committee Against Asian Hate Crime.

Mr. Kim, speaking in Korean, addressed community leaders at the Chung Dam restaurant in Duluth, Ga., and said the shooting was just the latest act of violence against Asian-Americans in Georgia, citing a series of robberies targeted Asian business and assaults on Asian residents over the past four years.

Mr. Kim also rebuked the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office for not describing the shooting that killed four people at a spa there as racially motivated.

“There is absolutely no way this was not a racially motivated killing against Asians,” he said.

He predicted that fear among Asian-Americans would continue to grow unless local police officials made a concerted effort to protect them. “We are not in the fear of the shooter, who has already been arrested and will be prosecuted,” he said. “We are in the fear of being targeted, being isolated and being undifferentiated by law enforcement and local governments.”

The new committee is made up of nearly two dozen Korean community groups in Georgia, including the Korean American Chamber of Commerce, the Korean Church Council of Greater Atlanta and the Georgia Korean-American Real Estate Association.

Credit…Shuran Huang for The New York Times

Xiaojie Tan, the hardworking owner of Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Ga., made her patrons feel at home and treated her friends like family, one longtime customer said on Thursday. Two days ahead of her 50th birthday, Ms. Tan was among eight people killed at three spas in the Atlanta area.

One of her employees, Daoyou Feng, was also among those left dead on Tuesday. The suspected gunman, Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

Greg Hynson, the longtime customer of Ms. Tan, described her as “just the sweetest, kindest, most giving person.” He last saw her last weekend, he said, when stopping by her spa to say hello.

Ms. Tan, whose friends called her Emily, was originally from China and had a daughter she was tremendously proud of, he said. Mr. Hynson, a former competitive weight lifter, had regular appointments for massages to ease his upper neck trauma, and he and Ms. Tan had been friends for years.

“It just doesn’t seem real that she’s not around,” he said. When he heard about the shooting, he rushed to the scene and was horrified to see police lights flashing from a block away. “I was in a state of shock,” he said.

Ms. Feng, 44, had just started working at the spa in the past few months, Mr. Hynson said.

“They welcomed you,” he said. “If you were a friend of Emily’s, you were a friend of theirs.”

Ms. Tan and Ms. Feng were among four victims killed inside Young’s Asian Massage. The others were Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; and Paul Andre Michels, 54, whose brother said he lived in Tucker. Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, was injured in the attack and remained in critical condition on Thursday, family members said.

Officials with the Atlanta Police Department said on Thursday that they would not release the names of the four victims who were killed in the other two massage businesses until their family members had been notified, and that they were working with South Korean consular officials to do so.

Although the gunman was apparently targeting employees of the massage parlors, the victims also included customers.

Here’s what we know so far about the other victims.

Delaina Ashley Yaun was looking forward to a date with her husband on Tuesday afternoon. The couple chose a relaxing massage at Young’s Asian Massage in a modest shopping center outside of Atlanta — a spa she had never visited before, according to relatives.

She and her husband arrived shortly before the shooting began. She was killed, but her husband survived, locked in a nearby room as gunshots rang out, according to Dane Toole, Ms. Yaun’s half sister.

“He’s not OK,” Ms. Toole said about her sister’s husband. “He’s taking it hard.”

Ms. Yaun, one of four siblings who grew up in the area, had worked as a server at a Waffle House restaurant. She raised a 13-year-old son as a single mother and had an 8-month-old daughter, family members said.

“It was just all about family,” Ms. Toole said. “Whatever we’d do, we’d do it together. It doesn’t seem real. I expect to see her walking through the door any minute. It just hasn’t quite sunk in yet.”

DeLayne Davis, a relative, called Ms. Yaun “a good, godly woman.”

Ms. Davis stood with family and friends outside Ms. Yaun’s home in Acworth on Wednesday afternoon, wiping tears from her eyes.

“She was the rock for this family,” Ms. Davis said. “If any family needed anything, they went to her. She doted on her kids.”

Paul Andre Michels, who was among those killed at Young’s Asian Massage, was one of nine siblings, his brother John Michels said.

“We did almost everything together,” said Mr. Michels, 52.

Credit…Kennesaw Police Department, via Facebook

His brother, he said, was a businessman and a veteran of the U.S. Army infantry, where he served in the late 1980s. Paul Michels had been married for more than 20 years and was a Catholic as well as a strong political conservative, his brother said. He grew up in southwest Detroit and moved to Georgia about 25 years ago for work.

“My brother was a very hard-working, loving man,” Mr. Michels said.

Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, the man injured in the Acworth attack, was making his way to a money exchange business next door to Young’s Asian Massage when shots rang out, his wife, Flor Gonzalez, said. Moments later, he desperately reached for his cellphone.

“I’ve been shot!” Mr. Hernandez-Ortiz told his wife, she later recalled. “Please come.”

Ms. Gonzalez, 27, said she rushed to the hospital on Tuesday and was unable to see her 30-year-old husband until after midnight. Doctors told her that he had been wounded in his forehead, throat, lungs and stomach. He underwent surgery on Tuesday night.

“Doctors told me he had been very lucky, but that he was still very grave,” she said. “He was lucky that the bullet didn’t penetrate his brain.”

Ms. Gonzalez said she reminded her husband that next week the couple had been planning to celebrate their daughter’s 10th birthday, as a form of encouragement.

“I pleaded with him to keep fighting and that he has a family,” she said. “He loves his daughter a lot. He’s always been a dedicated father, very loving.”

Mr. Hernandez-Ortiz, who goes by Alex, moved to Georgia from Guatemala more than 10 years ago, his wife said, and worked as a mechanic. They had been married just as long.

“Many others died,” she said holding back tears, “and my heart breaks for them. Whoever did this is not human.”





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