Mario González and his wife, Delaina Yaun, walked into Young’s Asian Massage last Tuesday feeling “happy” and “joyful,” he recalled. He and Yaun, 33, married last summer and recently welcomed a baby girl. In love and looking forward to a relaxing afternoon together, they booked a first-time couples massage at the Acworth, Ga., spa and headed over at the end of Yaun’s restaurant shift.
The last time González saw his wife alive was before they were ushered into separate rooms at the spa. Near the end of their hour-long massages, González heard gunshots; they sounded as if they were coming from the room Yaun was in, he said in an exclusive interview Thursday with the Spanish-language news outlet Mundo Hispánico.
When police led him out of the business, he was not allowed to get close to his wife. Instead, González told Mundo Hispánico, he was handcuffed and detained for nearly four hours and in the dark about his wife’s condition.
“When they realized I was the husband they gave me the news that she was dead,” González said, according to Mundo Hispánico.
González and family members did not respond to several interview requests by The Washington Post.
Throughout his interview with Mundo Hispánico, the anguished widower held a picture of him and Yaun with their family as he recounted his treatment in police custody and pleaded for justice for the victims.
“They kept me in the police car during the whole time until they investigated what had happened and who was the attacker, but I wanted to know what happened earlier. Earlier,” he stressed. González questioned why police detained him in the first place and why they waited so long to tell him his wife was dead.
“Maybe because I am Mexican, I don’t know,” he said.
“The truth is, they treated me badly,” he added, raising his arm to the camera to show his wrists. “I still have the marks.”
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to several requests for comment related to González’s alleged treatment in custody. The office has faced intense criticism following initial updates from its spokesman, who appeared to uncritically amplify the suspect’s narrative while describing him as “having a really bad day.”
Capt. Jay Baker was removed as a spokesman on the case, but the criticism continued when reporters discovered Baker’s social media posts that appeared to promote racist T-shirts with anti-Asian messages.
Six of the eight victims from the shooting rampage were Asian women, and all three businesses were Asian-owned spas. Yaun and another victim were White.
Yaun was among the first four victims killed in a roughly hour-long rampage that spanned 30 miles. Just before 5 p.m., the gunman identified by police as Robert Aaron Long opened fire inside Young’s Asian Massage and killed Yaun along with Xiaojie Tan, who owned Young’s; Paul Andre Michels, the spa’s handyman; and Daoyou Feng, a spa employee.
About an hour later, the gunman drove to Gold Massage Spa in Atlanta and killed three more women before heading to Aromatherapy Spa across the street and killing one more woman. One man was injured and remains hospitalized.
The 21-year-old suspect, who is White, was taken into custody, where police say he admitted to the shootings. Police said he claimed to have been driven by a “sexual addiction” and saw the spa businesses as “temptations” to be eliminated. He was charged last week with eight counts of murder and homicide and one count of aggravated assault.
Psychology experts remain skeptical of sex addiction as a legitimate psychological diagnosis, and it is not part of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5, the nearly 1,000-page guidebook psychiatrists use to diagnose mental disorders. Critics have also noted that violence against Asian women has a long history in the United States of being both racial and sexual — even more so in reference to Asian immigrant women in low-wage personal service jobs like massage spas and nail salons.
González in his interview called the killer an “assassin” and said he should die for the lives he took.
“They need to do something, do not allow him to go free,” he said. “It’s not fair that a man like that kills [my wife] and then walks away free.”
He said what he needs most now is support; after losing his wife, he has their son and daughter to care for.
“He took away the most valuable thing I have in my life,” González said before correcting himself. “That I had.”