Atlanta massage parlor shooting suspect 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long has been charged with “malice murder” and aggravated assault, a county sheriff announced Monday.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that Long, who is accused of opening fire at three spas, killing eight people including six of Asian descent, could still face further charges.
“Working with jurisdictions across Georgia, Robert Aaron Long was quickly apprehended and now faces malice murder and aggravated assault charges in our jurisdiction,” the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
Malice murder is an offence in the state of Georgia that alleges express or implied malice.
Long took “full responsibility” for the shootings on the night of March 16, officials said last week, adding that the 21-year-old may not have targeted the parlors out of a racially motivated animus but because he wanted to end his sexual addiction.
Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds told reporters last week that Long was apparently a frequent visitor at the massage parlors prior to his shooting spree. Many such parlors are known to illegally offer sexual services and are most commonly staffed by Chinese immigrants, many of whom have fallen victim to human trafficking rings.
“The suspect has been interviewed, which indicated he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction. He may have frequented some of these places in the past,” Reynolds said, adding that allegedly, the gunman sought to “eliminate the temptation” by committing acts of violence against them.
Reynolds added that “the indicators right now are it may not be. It may be targets of opportunity. Again, we believe that he frequented these places in the past and maybe have been lashing out.”
Long has asserted that the shootings were not fueled by racism.
Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant also said that officers “are just not there yet” about whether the shooting was racially motivated.
The sheriff’s office said Monday that its deputies were still looking into the incident and gathering evidence.
“In an effort to preserve the case for prosecution, the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office will not be making any additional comments about this case at this time,” the office added.
The FBI is assisting both Cherokee County and Atlanta police in investigating the case.
The investigation hasn’t so far uncovered an anti-Asian motive on Long’s part, however lawmakers are calling on people to stop hurting Asian Americans in the wake of the incident.
According to police statistics reported to the FBI, while Asian Americans have increasingly become the victims of hate crimes because of their ancestry in recent years, the incidents remain rare.
Jack Phillips and Petr Svab contributed to this report.