Metro community remembers 8 lives lost on anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings
ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - On March 16, 2021, a shooting spree at three metro-Atlanta massage spas claimed the lives of eight people. Now, one year later, the community is remembering each of the victims and their loved ones who carry their loss.
Woodstock resident Robert Aaron Long, then 21, opened fire, shooting five people at an Acworth massage business known as Young’s Asian Massage. Xiaojie Tan, 49, Delaina Yaun, 33, Paul Michels, 54 and Daoyou Feng, 44, were killed and a man was seriously injured.
Investigators said Long then drove approximately 30 miles to Gold Massage Spa in Atlanta where he continued his shooting spree, killing three women: Suncha Kim, 69, Soon Chung Park, 74 and Hyun Jung Grant, 51.
Moments later, police said, he crossed the street to Aromatherapy Spa and fatally shot Yong Ae Yue, 63.
Long was arrested four hours after firing his first round in Cherokee County when Georgia State Patrol from Crisp County located his vehicle traveling south on I-75.
Six out of eight of the victims were of Asian descent. The killings sparked nationwide conversations about race and hostility toward Asian Americans, during a time when numerous attacks against Asians and Asian Americans were being reported across the country.
But Long told investigators his attacks were not racially motivated and that he suffered from a sex addition and saw massage spas as a source of his temptation -- that killing was a way for him to remedy his problem.
Since then, Long has been convicted of murder after pleading guilty in Cherokee County. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace did not pursue hate crimes charges, pointing out that one of the victims there was Hispanic and another was white.
But Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis did pursue hate crime charges explaining that in her view, Long’s “sex addiction” reasoning is not a valid defense and constitutes a hate crime.
Long currently awaits trial in Fulton County for four other murders, where Willis has publicly announced she will seek the death penalty.
Members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community paid tribute to those whose lives had been lost during the six-month anniversary of the shooting and again over the weekend at Blackburn Park during a remembrance vigil.
“Life after this tragedy has been about grieving, healing and reflection. But this past year has not been easy. Our family not only grieves on March 16, but every day because of the continued trauma,” said Robert Peterson, whose mother, Yong Ae Yue, was one of the eight victims. “My mother lived so that we could have a better life and do better. She would want us to continue to live and make her proud by leaving an impact on the world.”
An Asian Justice Rally will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Georgia Freight Depot located at 65 MLK Drive, SW, Atlanta, GA 30303. The event will mark the one year anniversary and bring awareness to increased violence against the AAPI community.
Another event will also be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at 5900 Brook Hollow Parkway in Norcross, sponsored by Atlanta Korean American Committee Against Asian Hate.
WHO ARE THE VICTIMS?
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33
Yaun was the customer who was killed in the spa shootings. She and her husband were at Young’s Asian Massage for a couples massage.
The couple had been married less than a year and had two children -- a teenage son and 8-month-old baby.
Yaun was one of four children. They grew up in the metro Atlanta area and Yaun worked at a Waffle House restaurant. She was described by her boss as a hard-working, good-hearted person.
Paul Andre Michels, 54
Michels was doing some maintenance work for Young’s Asian Spa when he was killed. He grew up in Detroit and had 9 siblings. He moved to Atlanta with his wife Bonnie 27 years ago.
Michels was also an Army veteran.
Xiaojie Tan, 49
Tan was the owner of Young’s Asian Spa and also owned Wang’s Feet and Body Massage in Kennesaw.
She was born in Nanning, which is near the China-Vietnam border. She married Michael Webb and moved to the United States. They had a daughter that Tan was very proud of.
Tan, who was described as a sweet and kind person, would have been 50 the day after the shootings.
Daoyou Feng, 44
Not much is known about Feng, who had only been working at Young’s Asian Spa for a couple of months.
Hyun Jung Grant, 51
Grant was working at the Gold Spa when she was killed. She was a single mother with 2 sons. She had been a teacher in South Korea before moving to the U.S. According to her sons, Park liked to take them to the aquarium or the mall during her free time. They also enjoyed eating at Korean restaurants.
Soon Chung Park, 74
Park, who was born in South Korea, often made food for the employees of Gold Spa. She was the oldest of the 8 victims in the spa shootings. Before moving to Atlanta, Park lived in the New York metro area. She was a widow and mother of 5 children.
Suncha Kim, 69
Kim moved to the U.S. from Korea in the 1980s. She worked at the Gold Spa and had two children and three grandchildren. Kim had been married for more than 50 years.
Yong Ae Yue, 63
Yue came to the U.S. from South Korea in the 1970s with her ex-husband Mac Peterson, whom she met when he was stationed with the Army in South Korea.
Yue became a licensed massage therapist after she was laid off because of the pandemic and worked at Aromatherapy Spa.
Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz, 30
Hernandez-Ortiz was badly wounded in the shooting. Hernandez-Ortiz moved to the U.S. from Guatemala more than 10 years ago and worked as a mechanic. He was married at the time of the shooting and had a 9-year-old daughter.
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