Atlanta spa shooting victims identified

National

FILE – In this March 17, 2021, file photo, flowers, candles and signs are displayed at a makeshift memorial outside of the Gold Spa following a shooting in Atlanta. While the U.S. has seen mass killings in recent years where police said gunmen had racist or misogynist motivations, advocates and scholars say the shootings this week at three Atlanta-area massage parlors targeted a group of people marginalized in more ways than one, in a crime that stitches together stigmas about race, gender, migrant work and sex work. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — The names of four additional victims in the Atlanta-area massage businesses shootings have been released, hours before President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arrive in Atlanta to meet with Asian American community leaders.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday that the four victims at two Atlanta businesses are Soon C. Park, 74; Hyun J. Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong A. Yue, 63. Family members identified Grant by her maiden name, Hyun Jung Kim.

The medical examiner performed autopsies on all four victims Wednesday, saying all but Suncha Kim died Tuesday from gunshots to the head. She died from a gunshot to the chest.

Three of the women died at the Gold Spa in Atlanta, while the fourth woman died across the street at Aromatherapy Spa. The medical examiner didn’t immediately say which woman died at Aromatherapy.

A 21-year-old white man, Robert Aaron Long, is charged with murder in Tuesday’s slayings. He’s also accused of killing four people and wounding a fifth person at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor near Woodstock, in Atlanta’s northwestern suburbs.

Cherokee County authorities earlier identified the dead there as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Xiaojie Tan, 49, who owned Youngs.

Police continue to investigate the deadly shootings, with Deputy Atlanta Police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. saying Thursday that “nothing is off the table” in his department’s inquiry, including whether the slayings were a hate crime.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said it also was investigating whether the killings were hate crimes.

Georgia lawmakers last year passed a hate crimes law that allows additional penalties to be imposed for certain offenses when motivated by a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender or disability. A hate crime is not a standalone crime under the law, but it can be used to add time to a sentence once someone is convicted of another crime.

Investigators believe Long had previously visited two of the Atlanta massage parlors where four of the women were killed, Hampton said.

Long told police that the attacks were not racially motivated. He claimed to have a sex addiction, and authorities said he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.

Crabapple First Baptist Church, where Long was an active member, issued a statement Friday saying it was seeking to remove Long from membership, saying “we can no longer affirm that he is truly a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”

The church said its teaching does not condone violence against Asian Americans or women and it’s improper to view women as somehow responsible for male sexual urges.

“Each person is responsible for his or her own sin,” the church said. “In this case, the shooter is solely responsible for his heinous actions, not the victims who were targeted.”

Long’s statements spurred outrage and widespread skepticism in the Asian American community, which has increasingly been targeted for violence during the coronavirus pandemic. Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker also drew criticism for saying Long had “a really bad day” and “this is what he did.”

Sheriff Frank Reynolds released a statement Thursday acknowledging that some of Baker’s comments stirred “much debate and anger” and said the agency regrets any “heartache” caused by his words. Baker was replaced Thursday as spokesman for the investigation.

Long’s lawyer, J. Daran Burns, issued a statement Thursday offering condolences to the victims’ families and saying he is working on Long’s behalf “to investigate the facts and circumstances” surrounding the slayings.

Long waived his right to an initial hearing in Cherokee County Magistrate Court.

Biden and Harris had already been scheduled to travel to Atlanta to tout the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, but the trip took on new meaning after the shootings. The visit also comes amid an intense debate over voting rights in Georgia.

Biden and Harris, the first vice president of Asian descent, will instead meet with Asian American leaders to discuss threats against the community, meet with other local leaders and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for an update on the pandemic.

Also Thursday, Biden directed that flags be flown at half-staff through sunset Monday in honor of the dead.

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