A first court appearance for the 21-year-old Woodstock man who confessed to gunning down eight people at spas in Atlanta and Cherokee County was cancelled with no explanation on March 18.
According to a report from 11 Alive, no details were provided surrounding the cancelation. A clerk at Cherokee Magistrate Court said the information was unavailable because all records in the case have been sealed.
Investigators continue to decide whether Robert Aaron Long will be charged with a hate crime, since six of his victims were Asian women. Georgia passed a hate crimes bill last year that includes race, sex, and gender as protected classes.
State Rep. Bee Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia House, said the shootings appeared to be at the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia.”
“We have been taught as Asian Americans to keep our heads down because our parents believed it would be safer for us,” Nguyen said on the House floor Thursday. “But, what’s happened is we are now invisible and when things happen to us, people don’t speak up until a tragedy like this occurs.”
Georgia’s Asian American Pacific Islander lawmakers are expected to hold a press conference Thursday morning at the State Capitol, according to a report from CBS 46.
“The shootings happened under the trauma of increasing violence against Asian Americans nationwide, fueled by white supremacy and systemic racism,” said Stephanie Cho, executive director of the nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, citing scapegoating of Asian people for the COVID-19 pandemic and general discrimination against immigrants.
At a Wednesday press conference, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and officials from the Atlanta Police Department and Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department said that Long had described himself as having a “sexual addiction” and that he sought to “eliminate” the businesses, which he may have patronized, due to blaming them for his condition. Long reportedly was on the way to Florida, where he may have intended to attack a sexually oriented business, according to Bottoms.
“Whether it’s senseless violence we’ve seen play out in our streets or more targeted violence like we saw yesterday, a crime against any community is a crime against us all,” Bottoms said at the press conference.
While airing the claim that the killer may have been motivated by anger at his sexual behavior, Bottoms and police authorities emphasized they are not excusing the crimes. They said there was no immediate evidence that any of the spas offered sexual services or broke any laws.
“We are not about to get into victim-blaming, [or] victim-shaming, here,” said Bottoms.
She said the Atlanta spas were operating legally and were “not on the radar of APD.” Without specifying a timeframe, she said there were no 911 calls related to either location aside from one about a theft of keys.
Debbie Skopczynski, the chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit F, a city advisory group in the area that often hears reports about local business licensing and policing, said the spas were not on her group’s radar, either. “I am not aware of any concerns or issues with these businesses,” she said in an email.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black and South Asian American official to hold the office, tweeted her support of the Asian American community Thursday night.
Doug and I grieve with the families and communities of those whose lives were horrifically taken last night. Violence is never acceptable and has no place in our country. While the motive is unknown, @POTUS and I want the Asian American community to know we stand with you.
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) March 18, 2021
John Ruch contributed to this report.