The 21-year-old suspect in shootings at three Atlanta-area spas has been charged with eight counts of murder and homicide and one count of aggravated assault, police said Wednesday.

Robert Aaron Long was charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in the attacks in Cherokee County, according to the sheriff’s office there. The Atlanta police said later Wednesday afternoon that he was also charged with four counts of homicide in the killings in that city.

Six Asian women died in the attacks on Tuesday, prompting widespread concern that the killings could be the latest in a surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans.

Here’s what to know:

Beyond the pandemic, Asian American leaders fear U.S. conflict with China will fan racist backlash

3:45 a.m.
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President Biden has sought to blunt a reported surge in anti-Asian bias incidents by ordering the federal government not to use xenophobic language to describe the coronavirus and calling accounts of “vicious hate crimes” during the pandemic “un-American.”

But Asian American leaders are warning that a deepening geopolitical confrontation between the United States and China is contributing to the heightened suspicion, prejudice and violence against their communities in ways that could continue to intensify even after the pandemic begins to subside.

Advocates called Biden’s rhetorical efforts a welcome corrective to former president Donald Trump, who railed against the “China virus” and “kung flu.” Yet the broadening conflict among the world’s two largest economies — on trade, defense, 5G networks, cybersecurity, the environment, health security and human rights — has contributed to a growing number of Americans calling China the “greatest enemy” of the United States, according to a Gallup poll this week.

Crowds gather in D.C. to remember victims in Ga. shootings, protest anti-Asian violence

2:59 a.m.
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The day after eight people were killed in shootings that terrorized Atlanta, people in several cities gathered to remember the lives lost and protest violence against Asian Americans.

Impromptu memorials were set up Wednesday in Atlanta at the sites of the shootings, and residents of other cities, including New York and Washington, lit candles or observed moments of silence. At Gold Spa, where three women were fatally shot, flowers, cards and signs accumulated at the entrance.

In Washington’s Chinatown neighborhood, protesters carried banners and signs that read “Asian Lives Matter” and “#StopAsianHate!” while marching through the streets and chanting.

Some participants lit candles in honor of the eight victims, among them six women of Asian descent.

Survivor of Atlanta spa shootings called wife moments after the rampage

2:24 a.m.
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“I have been shot! Please come! I need you!”

Those were the last words Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz said over to his wife on the phone before he passed out steps away from Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Ga., on Tuesday night. Moments earlier, a gunman had gone on a shooting spree, eventually killing eight people in three different spas in the Atlanta area.

Hernandez-Ortiz, a 30-year-old man from Guatemala who works as a mechanic and owns an auto repair shop, is now battling for his life after surviving the deadly attacks that have shocked the nation and raised alarms of a recent surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans.

One victim was a Waffle House server killed while getting a massage

1:58 a.m.
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Delaina Yaun, one of the women fatally shot in Cherokee County, was a well-liked Waffle House employee who relatives and friends say was killed while on a date night.

Yaun, 33, had been a server at the restaurant chain since 2013, the company said in a statement. She transferred in 2018 to a location in Acworth, Ga., where she was cross-trained as a grill operator.

She and her husband, Mario, were getting a couple’s massage at Young’s Asian Massage when the gunfire began, according to a GoFundMe page set up to support her family. Her husband escaped.

A woman who identified herself as Yaun’s cousin said Yaun recently got married and had a 9-month-old daughter. She also has a second child, the GoFundMe page says.

Sheriff official who said spa shooting suspect had ‘bad day’ posted shirts blaming ‘CHY-NA’ for virus

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Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker said on March 17 that the 21-year-old suspect in the Atlanta-area spa shootings was "at the end of his rope." (Reuters)

The backlash began with the sheriff spokesman’s statement to reporters that the mass shooting suspect was having a “bad day.”

“He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jay Baker said Wednesday. He was describing the 21-year-old man accused of killing eight people, mostly Asian and almost all women, in a rampage across three Atlanta-area spas.

Then — as the violence stirred fears in an Asian-American community that already felt under attack — Internet sleuths and journalists found Baker’s Facebook posts promoting shirts that called covid-19 an “IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.”

Asian Americans see shooting as culmination of year of racism

As Helen Kim Ho learned that a White man with a self-described sex addiction was charged with killing eight people — including six Asian women — at spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday, she imagined the stereotypes of Asian women that must have run through his head.

“We’re not really Americans, we’re perpetually foreigners, and that idea plays out with women as being oversexualized,” said Ho, a Korean American and a founder of the advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta. “All of that had to have played out in this man’s own mind. In addition to the unspoken notion that Asian people are easy targets.”

Atlanta police said the suspect told them his actions were not racially motivated — even though the shooter targeted businesses known for employing Asians, and six victims were Asian women. The suspect claimed he had a “sex addiction,” according to police, and wanted to eliminate temptation, which sounded to many women as if their sexuality was somehow to blame.

The gunman’s intent seemed crystal clear to Asians living in Atlanta and across the nation who have long had to confront stereotyping, hateful harassment and even violence — and who say things have gotten even worse amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats link Atlanta massacre to anti-Asian rhetoric during pandemic

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As word spread Tuesday night that a White man had gunned down six women of Asian descent at three spas in the Atlanta area, Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) tweeted out the names of every Republican House member who had voted “nay” on her resolution to curb anti-Asian hate crimes. “There is blood on their hands” she wrote on Twitter.

“I put forth that resolution last year not for any partisan purpose of attacking anyone,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “I wanted to show the Asian community that Congress, your leaders on both sides of the aisle, condemn this sort of bigotry. I never expected it to be partisan at all.”

The rhetoric the legislation tried to squelch, she said, “certainly contributes to these sort of violent actions.”

The shootings are not surprising — if you’ve been paying attention, Asian American women say

11:08 p.m.
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Asian Americans have faced escalating threats and harassment this year, as former president Donald Trump and other Republican legislators have linked the coronavirus to the Asian community. The shootings on Tuesday, which took place at three spas in the Atlanta region, are the latest in a string of attacks that have disproportionately targeted Asian women.

Asian American women reported 2.3 times as many hate incidents as Asian American men over the past year, according to a report released Tuesday by Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating hate against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

None of this is surprising, Asian American women say: For years, they’ve paid close attention to anti-Asian sentiment, sounding the alarm. But attacks against their communities are often downplayed by politicians and journalists, they say, and even members of their own families, who stereotype Asian Americans as the “model minority”: successful, wealthy, well-educated. It’s exhausting, Asian American women said, to convince the country that they can be targets, too.

Shooting suspect’s claim of 'sex addiction,’ not race motive, still has racist undertones, experts say

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After he was arrested, Robert Aaron Long, accused of killing eight people, most of them women of Asian descent, told investigators that he was not motivated by race and claimed to have a “sex addiction,” according to police. But even that explanation has racist undertones, according to Asian American leaders and academics.

Long said spas like those involved in the attacks are “a temptation” he wanted to “eliminate,” Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office told reporters Wednesday. While Baker said Long’s motive is still under investigation, he echoed the alleged shooter’s claim that he was not targeting Asian Americans, fueling discourse about the fetishization of Asian women and criticism that police were disregarding the underlying prejudice of the attacks. Asian American leaders, including Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), pointed to the shooter’s specific focus on Asian workers.

“The shooter said it wasn’t racially motivated, but on the other hand, he’s going specifically to these spas where Asian women work precisely to serve the sexual fantasies of white males,” David Palumbo-Liu, a Stanford professor and author of “Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier,” said in an interview, “so to disentangle them is really to do a disservice to the fact that these things are so linked together.”

Palumbo-Liu said there is a long history, extending past the Vietnam War, of the fetishization of and murderous intent toward Asian women, citing the Broadway musical “Miss Saigon,” which critics have said romanticizes an imperialistic relationship and portrays Asian women as acquiescent and self-sacrificing.

More than 68 percent of documented reports of anti-Asian harassment and violence have been from women, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition documenting anti-Asian attacks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Vivien Tsou, national field director of National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said Asian women live in fear after they have been “reduced to a sexual fantasy, an ‘easy target,’ and a threat at the same time.”

“I’m sick to my stomach thinking about the ideations that led to the violence in Georgia — steeped in xenophobia, sexism, imperialism, and white supremacy,” she wrote in a statement.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of Stanford professor David Palumbo-Liu.

Atlanta spa shootings coincide with rise of anti-Asian hate online

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The fatal shootings of six Asian women in Georgia on Tuesday have turned a spotlight on a disturbing trend of the past year: Crimes against people of Asian descent have risen sharply in the United States, along with online slurs blaming them for the covid pandemic.

Authorities say the alleged shooter, Robert Aaron Long, 21, does not appear to have been motivated by ethnic hatred. But the broader trend of hateful words and deeds against Asians and Asian Americans is clear, researchers say, and appears to have spiked since the November presidential election and the contentious months that followed.

Terms including “China,” “Wuhan” and “flu” surged on far-right forums on Telegram, 8kun and TheDonald.win as former president Donald Trump pushed baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud, according to data tracked by the Network Contagion Research Institute, which monitors misinformation and online extremism. The terms were used on those platforms 44 percent more in January than in the average month last year.

Atlanta shootings put focus on year of heightened violence against Asian communities in the West

9:20 p.m.
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The slaying of six Asian women among eight people killed in shootings at three Atlanta-area spas on Tuesday left Asian communities in many Western countries shaken, after a year that has seen a spike in racist attacks and threats against people of Asian descent.

The suspected attacker, Robert Aaron Long, 21, may have been motivated by a sexual obsession, according to police. But police have not ruled out a racial motivation, and racist, misogynist and sexualized violence often intertwine.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that four people of Korean descent were among the victims. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was already in Seoul on a diplomatic trip, said Wednesday that he was “horrified by this violence” and offered “deepest condolences to the families and friends” of the victims.

FBI ‘prepared to investigate’ possible civil rights violations, if evidence points in that direction

8:50 p.m.
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An FBI spokesman said Wednesday that the bureau stands ready to investigate the deadly shootings at spas in the Atlanta area as a federal case, if evidence emerges pointing toward a criminal civil rights violation.

Responding to an inquiry from The Washington Post about the bureau’s role in the investigation, Kevin Rowson, a spokesman for the FBI office in Atlanta, said, “We coordinate closely with local authorities. If, in the course of the local investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate.”

The statement suggests that, so far, federal authorities are deferring to local investigators and prosecutors and have not formally opened a civil rights inquiry into the shootings that left eight people dead, including six Asian women. Long has been charged with murder in Georgia, a state that has the death penalty.

Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Wednesday that Long, the man charged in connection with the killings, had denied he was motivated by racism, instead claiming he had a sex addiction and might have been “lashing out” at establishments he had previously frequented. Investigators will not simply take the suspect’s word for his motives, but have already spoken to his close relatives and will examine any online postings, writings or other interactions that may offer clues to what he did, officials said.

‘Everyone’s scared’: 911 callers describe witnesses hiding after shootings

8:07 p.m.
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In a hushed voice, a woman inside Gold Spa pleaded with an Atlanta 911 operator to send police after seeing a gunman.

“Please come, okay?” she said before the call disconnected.

Terrorized workers at two of the three spas targeted by a shooter Tuesday hid from the attacker, according to audio from two 911 calls released by the Atlanta Police Department on Wednesday afternoon. The callers, a woman at Gold Spa and a friend of someone hiding at Aromatherapy Spa, described the gunman and the scene after the two shootings, where four people were killed.

The woman at Gold Spa told the operator she was reporting a “robbery.” When the operator asked for a description, she said she saw a “White man” with a gun. She said she was not sure where he went because she was hiding, whispering on the call that she could not speak loudly.

“We need police,” she said softly.

The friend of a witness to the Aromatherapy Spa shooting said people had taken cover from the gunman behind a desk after he shot a woman. The caller told the operator that the woman was motionless on the ground.

“I’m not there yet but some guy came in and shoot the gun so everyone heard the gunshot and some lady got hurt I think,” she said. “Everyone’s scared.”

Atlanta police told The Post that the audio released “were the only two calls received by dispatch during the time of incident.”

Suspect in Atlanta spa shootings charged with murder and homicide, authorities say

7:59 p.m.
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Robert Aaron Long, the 21-year-old suspect in shootings at three Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead, was charged Wednesday with murder and homicide, police said.

He was charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault for the attacks in Cherokee County, according to the sheriff’s office there. The Atlanta police said later Wednesday that he was also charged with four counts of homicide for the killings in that city.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday identified four victims killed in Tuesday’s shooting: Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth, Ga.; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw, Ga.; and Daoyou Feng, 44. A fifth victim suffered wounds that are not life-threatening, police said.

Police said Long confessed to the shootings during his interview with authorities.

Correction: An earlier version of this article included a police misspelling of one of the victim’s names. It is Xiaojie Tan, not Yan.