Georgia officials announced on March 18 that they will be charging Robert Aaron Long, 21, with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. Long allegedly shot and killed at least eight people on March 16 after opening fire in three Atlanta area spas. The businesses were Asian-owned and six of the victims were Korean.
The race and gender of the victims instantly prompting speculation that the shootings were part of a surge in hate crimes of Asian Americans since the onset of the COVID19 pandemic. So far, the United States has seen an 150 percent increase of violence against Asians since the beginning of the pandemic in the winter of 2020.
Long has not been charged with a hate crime, and the Cherokee County Sheriff told the press that nothing in his interviews indicated that race was a motive.
The victims were: Xiaojie Tan, 50; Delaina Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Daoyou Feng, 44; Yong Ae Yue, 63; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Soon Chung Park, 74; and Suncha Kim, 69. An unidentified man was also injured.
It didn’t take long for racism to appear in the ordeal. Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker incited outrage by saying that “Yesterday [March 16]was a really bad day for him (Long) and this is what he did.” Later that afternoon, photos from Baker’s Facebook surfaced of T-shirts printed with “Covid 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.”