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What we know about the victims of the Atlanta shootings

Candles are lit as a sign of solidarity following a march in Chinatown in Washington, D.C., on March 17 to remember and honor the eight lives lost in Atlanta. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

One was a newlywed bride getting a massage with her husband. Another was an immigrant from China who proudly built her business from nothing. The youngest was 33. The oldest was 74.

In three deadly shootings Tuesday at Atlanta-area spas, eight people lost their lives, leaving behind family members — one an infant daughter — and friends, including longtime customers.

Seven of the eight killed were women. Six people were of Asian descent. Two were White.

The alleged gunman, Robert Aaron Long, 21, was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

Surveillance video shows the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, enter Young’s Asian Massage more than an hour before shooting was reported. (Video: Elyse Samuels/Gabby’s Boutique)

Suspect frequented spas where he killed, police say, but motive still under investigation

Here is what we know about those who died in the shootings.

Xiaojie Tan

Thursday would have been Xiaojie Tan’s 50th birthday.

Instead, Tan, of Kennesaw, Ga., was remembered by her friends who left flowers at her business, Young’s Asian Massage, the scene of a shooting that killed her and three others.

Tan, or Emily, as she was known by some friends, was dedicated to her job and workers, according to her husband, Jason Wang. The couple ran Young’s Nail Salon, Young’s Asian Massage and Wang’s Feet and Body Massage.

“She donated and gave money to her employees and treated them so well,” Wang, 47, said. “She was always celebrating their birthdays, doing good things for them.”

She was also proud of her daughter, a recent graduate from the University of Georgia.

Her daughter, Jami Webb, 29, told USA Today that her mother was her best friend.

“She did everything for me and for the family,” Webb told the newspaper. “She provided everything. She worked every day, 12 hours a day, so that me and our family would have a better life.”

Webb and Tan’s ex-husband, Michael Webb, did not respond to requests for comment.

Tan sometimes hosted Lunar New Year and Fourth of July parties with food and fireworks at her spa, said friend and customer Greg Hynson, 54.

Hynson said they met six years ago.

“She was a very good friend, a kind, sweet person,” Hynson said.

Hynson said Tan’s business was unfairly stigmatized by some who associated her store with sex work.

“She was absolutely professional,” he said. “She cared about her job, she cared about her customers, she cared about her friends and family.”

After he heard about the shooting, Hynson rushed to the scene, shocked to see police cars.

“I can’t wrap my mind around it,” he said. “The kindest, sweetest people, gone. For what?”

Before moving to Georgia about a decade ago, she and her ex-husband lived in Port St. Lucie, Fla., where their family befriended Xiaohua and Gary Pettit, who have a daughter who is younger than Jami Webb.

Xiaohua Pettit, who grew up in Nanning, the same city in China as Tan, recalled how her friend taught her the ins-and-outs of nail care when she was looking for a new profession in the United States.

While she was also working 60 hours a week, Tan hosted lessons at her house, teaching other women the business. In the same period, she trained and became licensed in massage therapy. She forwarded money to her family in China, and even sent back other gifts for her parents with the Pettits when they visited Nanning.

“She didn’t do much for herself, but she helped everyone else,” Gary Pettit said.

On Tuesday, as soon as she saw the news of the shooting, Xiaohua Pettit reached out to her friend to check on her. But no reply came. She considered maybe Tan was working late hours, as she did so often. A mutual friend in China told her she had just talked to Tan that morning.

“I kept calling and texting,” Pettit said.

Instead, the friend later heard from Tan’s family that she was among the victims and called Pettit to break the news. Pettit burst into tears.

At a two-story townhouse in Kennesaw listed in Tan’s name, neighbors who recalled her friendly nature said she moved out two years ago.

Ken Butler, who lives two doors down, said Tan had lived at the house with her husband, whom he identified as Jason. Butler said they were “really very nice people” who took interest in their indoor aquarium, summer plants and their pet Chihuahua.

“They just struck me as really hard-working people who owned businesses and tried to earn a living,” Butler, 29, said. “It is really unfortunate.”

Butler said he is highly skeptical of the reports that Long had frequented Young’s in search of sexual encounters.

“They were not these kinds of people,” said Butler. “They were good, honest people.”

Atlanta spa killings lead to questions about sex work and exploitation

Butler, who moved into the neighborhood in 2015, said Tan rarely had any guests over but she, Jason and their daughter were social with other neighbors.

“She always so nice always said hello and waved,” added Butler’s wife, Taylor, 25.

Delaina Yaun

Delaina Yaun, 33, and her husband had decided to treat themselves Tuesday. They booked a couples massage and were in separate rooms when the gunman entered and started shooting, according to DeLayne Davis, a relative. Yaun was killed. Her husband escaped.

“They were just taking an afternoon together,” Davis said. “It was the first time they’d ever been to that place.”

The past year had been momentous for Yaun. Over the summer she gave birth to her second child, a daughter. Shortly after, she and her husband, Mario Gonzalez, were wed in a small ceremony in Ringgold, Ga.

Her dreams were finally coming true. Things were falling into place with her,” said Lisa Marie, Yaun’s longtime friend. “It was good to see her happiness.”

Gonzalez told the news website Mundo Hispanico that moments after the horrific shooting, when he was anguished by the uncertainty of what had happened to his wife, he was briefly arrested and handcuffed by police officers who had arrived there. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s office, who responded to the event, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Friends and relatives said Yaun put her family above all else. When a divorce upended her sister’s family a couple of years ago, Yaun took in two of her sister’s preteen children to live in her home.

She was close with her mother, who also lived with her. Marie remembered getting misty-eyed seeing the two of them dance to Boyz II Men at her wedding. “They were inseparable,” she said.

When she wasn’t with family, Yaun worked hard, covering the third shift at a local Waffle House. She had been a server at the restaurant chain since 2013 and was recently cross-trained as a grill operator, Waffle House said in a statement.

Yaun’s friend Rose Cross, 23, also recalled her affection for others, telling the Post that Yaun let her stay with her when she lost her job due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I just can’t believe she’s gone,” Cross said. “She was a light. She just made everybody happy. She loved to smile and joke and hang out with her kids and make sure they always had fun. She was a happy person.”

Yaun’s Facebook page was sprinkled with pictures of her wedding and her children, along with loving messages from her husband.

“It’s you who occupies all of my heart,” he wrote in one of their last exchanges.

“Thank you, my love,” she replied. “You and me.”

Paul Andre Michels

Paul Andre Michels, 54, had started working as a handyman at Young’s Asian Massage only in recent months.

After his business installing security systems faltered, Michels, an Army veteran, struggling to find a new job during the pandemic, appreciated getting to build again, his longtime friend Kikiana Whidby said.

“He enjoyed work and seeing the results of his work,” Whidby, 27, said.

When he wasn’t working, he fished or spent time with his wife of 24 years, Bonnie. Although the couple didn’t have any children, Whidby said Michels treated everyone like he was their uncle. He came from a large family in Detroit, the seventh of nine children.

It was only natural when Whidby had her son, Joey, that she asked Michels to be his godfather. Michels went above and beyond in his role. He and his younger brother, John Michels, went shopping and set up a nursery for Whidby’s son, who did not survive a congenital breathing problem.

“He would give you the shirt off his back,” Whidby said. “He would do anything in his power to help anyone.”

Michels was fond of gift-giving, with Christmas being one of his favorite holidays, Whidby said.

“He was a good, hard-working man who would do what he could do to help people,” John Michels said in an interview with WSB-TV 2. “He’d loan you money if you needed it sometimes. You never went away from his place hungry.”

Daoyou Feng

Daoyou Feng, 44, began working at Young’s Asian Massage in recent months, according to Tan’s friend Hynson.

She was kind and quiet, he said.

Her relatives could not be reached for comment.

Yong Ae Yue

Yong Ae Yue, 63, was among the four workers killed in Atlanta. She was also a mother, according to her family’s attorney BJay Pak.

Her sons, in a statement shared by Pak, thanked “those who have reached out to provide support and words of encouragement.”

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved mother, and words cannot adequately describe our grief,” they said.

One son, Robert Peterson, 38, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution she was laid off amid the pandemic and excited to return to work. She frequently spent her time cooking Korean food, visiting friends and watching movies and soap operas or reading.

“My mother didn’t do anything wrong,” Peterson said. “And she deserves the recognition that she is a human, she’s a community person like everyone else. None of those people deserved what happened to them.”

Hyun Jung Grant

Working long hours at Gold Spa in Atlanta, Hyun Jung Grant, 51, was a single mother who did all she could to support her sons, according to son Randy Park, 23.

Park told the Daily Beast that Grant loved dancing, electronic music and her sons. He said she hid her job from them, saying instead that she worked at a makeup store. Before she moved from South Korea, she was an elementary school teacher, she told her sons.

“And here in America, she did what she had to do,” he said to the news website. “She was a single mother of two kids who dedicated her whole life to raising them.”

Why don’t we know more about the Atlanta shooting victims?

Co-workers of Park remembered Grant visiting her son at the Tree Story Bakery and Cafe in Duluth, Ga., where he worked.

“I could see the joy in her eyes every time she would see him working,” bakery worker Isaac Cho said. “I could tell from that that she was a very loving mother who cared for her family.”

Park started a GoFundMe fundraiser after he and his younger brother were told they would be forced to move from their home.

“Losing her has put a new lens on my eyes on the amount of hate that exists in our world,” he wrote on the page.

In an update the same day the fundraiser surpassed $1 million, Park said he was grateful for the outpouring of aid.

“My mother can rest easy knowing I have the support of the world with me,” he wrote.

Soon Chung Park

Soon Chung Park, 74, spent most of her life in the New York metropolitan area and moved to Atlanta several years ago to be closer to friends, said Scott Lee, her son-in-law. She helped manage one of the spas and prepared lunch and dinner for the employees, according to Lee and local community members.

“She just liked to work,” Lee said in an interview. “It wasn’t for the money. She just wanted a little bit of work for her life.”

Outside of the spa, Park was fit and active, Lee said.

“She was very healthy,” he said. “Everybody said she was going to live past 100 years old.”

Lee said he had grown close to Park since marrying her daughter a decade ago. They lived under the same roof in Lyndhurst, N.J., before she relocated to Georgia. Sometimes the two of them would dance together. When they spoke, she made a point to refer to him by his given name rather than his in-law title in Korean — a reflection of their deep bond, he said.

Park missed opportunities to visit the family last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. She was planning to move back into Lee’s home in June when her apartment lease in Atlanta ended, according to Lee. Most of her family still lived in the Northeast.

Lee recalled: “We always said to her, ‘Come back and be with us.’”

Suncha Kim

Suncha Kim, 69, worked at one of the spas in Atlanta.

Her family could not be reached for comment.

Kim, a grandmother, was married for more than 50 years, a family member told the Times. She enjoyed line dancing and worked hard, the relative said.

Marisa Iati, Lateshia Beachum, Julie Tate and Alice Crites contributed to this report.