Death Penalty, Hate-Crime Charges Sought in Atlanta Spa Shootings

People bring flowers to the memorial site set up outside Gold Spa on March 19 in Atlanta. Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

The suspect arrested for the killing of eight people, including six Asian women, at Atlanta-area spas in March was indicted on murder charges by a Fulton County grand jury on Tuesday. Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis indicated that she will seek the death penalty in the case and will also pursue hate-crime charges.

Robert Aaron Long, a 22-year-old white man, faces “four counts of murder, four counts of felony murder, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and one count of domestic terrorism,” the AP reports.

Willis filed notice that she will seek hate-crime charges in the case, saying some of the victims were targeted for being of Asian heritage. The shootings came amid a rise in anti-Asian violence across the U.S. and sparked a nationwide outcry over discrimination and attacks against Asians.

Long is accused of attacking three Georgia spas on March 16 — two in Atlanta and one in suburban Acworth. Tuesday’s legal actions only apply to the shootings at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta, which left four people dead: Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.

Long is facing additional murder charges in Cherokee County, where Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54, were killed at Youngs Asian Massage in Acworth earlier on the same day. One person was wounded. A separate grand jury for Cherokee County will decide on charges in this shooting.

Georgia’s hate-crime law, newly signed by Governor Brian Kemp in June 2020, requires a jury to determine whether a hate crime was perpetrated after an individual has been convicted on the initial charges. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the law permits “enhanced criminal penalties to be levied against those who target their victims on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, sex, national origin, religion, or physical or mental disability.”

Death Penalty Sought in Atlanta Spa Shootings