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Victims of the spa shootings highlight the vulnerability of working-class Asian women as more Asian Americans get attacked

“This one fact alone highlights the vulnerability, the invisibility, and the isolation of working-class Asian women in our country,” Nguyen said at a Thursday news conference.

“When they go missing, or when they die, the loss of their lives will not incite the same kind of rage. And they won’t even be treated with the same humanity,” she said.

“And in this case, they’ve been characterized as a problem that needed to be eliminated.”

Authorities have not yet confirmed a motive for the shootings at three Atlanta-area spas, which killed eight people — including six Asian women. A suspect is in custody.

Atlanta Deputy Police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said Wednesday the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, frequented the two Atlanta spas.

But across the US, Asian Americans are riddled with fear as unprovoked attacks against them intensify.
Anti-Asian hate crimes have more than doubled during the pandemic, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
The violence has surged amid racist rhetoric during the coronavirus pandemic — some popularized by ex-President Donald Trump. Many Asian Americans have been subjected to vitriol about the “China virus” or the “kung flu” — even those who have never been to Asia.
Asian American communities are on edge after Tuesday’s deadly shootings.

“I feel like that just took it to a whole other extreme,” said Hanna Kim, a teacher from Novi, Michigan.

Kim, a 24-year-old Korean American, said she often feels like she has a target on her back. Last year, she said a parent wanted to remove one of her students from her second-grade class because Kim was Asian.

“Are people going to say things to me?” Kim said she often asks herself. “Are people going to avoid me because they think that for some reason I’m going to be the one that’s spreading the virus?”

Yet despite outrage over the shootings, attacks against Asian Americans continue.

An Asian man and woman were assaulted Wednesday by the same suspect in separate attacks, San Francisco police said. Investigators are trying to determine whether bias was a motivating factor in the attack.

“While we’re relieved the suspect was quickly apprehended, we’re certainly not at peace as this attack still points to an escalating threat many in the Asian American community feel today,” said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of Southern Poverty Law Center.

What we know about the victims

Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw; and Daoyou Feng, 44, were all fatally shot at Youngs Asian Massage in Cherokee County.

A trip to the spa that ended in death. These are some of the victims of the Atlanta-area shootings

Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, was also shot at the spa but survived.

Three more victims were found dead at Gold Massage Spa in Atlanta, and another victim was found dead across the street at the Aroma Therapy Spa.

The names of those four victims have not yet been released by authorities.

“We need to make sure we have a true verification of their identities and that we make the proper next of kin notification,” Hampton said Wednesday.

What we know about the suspect

Long, 21, faces eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

Long was on his way to Florida, possibly to take the lives of more victims, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said, citing investigators.

What we know about Robert Aaron Long, the suspect in Atlanta spa shootings

The suspect told police he believed he had a sex addiction and that he saw the spas as “a temptation … that he wanted to eliminate,” Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker said.

But Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said it is still too early to know a motive.

It’s not clear whether any of the three businesses offered sexual services in addition to massages. But authorities have given no indication the three businesses were operating illegally.

Capt. Jay Baker on Tuesday said Long “was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”

Baker is no longer the spokesperson for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office’s case investigating the spa shooting, the Sheriff’s Office confirmed to CNN.

CNN has reached out to Baker for comment.

Sheriff Frank Reynolds said in a statement Thursday he has known and worked with Baker for many years and his comments “were not intended disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy or express empathy or sympathy for the suspect.”

How the attacks unfolded

Shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, deputies were called to Youngs Asian Massage between the Georgia cities of Woodstock and Acworth after reports of a shooting, Cherokee County sheriff’s officials said.

That shooting left four people — two Asian and two White — dead and one person injured, Baker said.

About an hour later and 30 miles away, Atlanta police responded to the Gold Massage Spa on Piedmont Road in Atlanta. Police said they found three people dead.

While there, police received another call of shots fired across the street at the Aroma Therapy Spa, where they found one person dead, Bryant said.

The names of those four victims have not yet been released by authorities.

Investigators found surveillance video of a suspect near the Cherokee County scene and published images on social media.

Long’s family saw the images, contacted authorities and helped identify him, Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Wednesday.

“(The family members) are very distraught, and they were very helpful in this apprehension,” Reynolds said.

‘It would be appropriate’ if the suspect was charged with a hate crime, mayor says

Long has claimed responsibility for the shootings at the spas, the Cherokee County sheriff’s office said.

Fetishized, sexualized and marginalized, Asian women are uniquely vulnerable to violence

He is facing four counts of murder and a charge of aggravated assault, according to the county sheriff’s office. He also has been charged with more four counts of murder, Atlanta Police Department said.

A law enforcement source told CNN that Long was recently kicked out of the house by his family due to his sexual addiction, which, the source said, included frequently spending hours watching pornography online.

Bottoms said “it would be appropriate” if Long was charged with a hate crime.

“Sex” is a hate crime category under Georgia’s new law. If Long was targeting women out of hatred for them or scapegoating them for his own problems, it could potentially be a hate crime.

The shootings don’t have to be racially motivated to constitute a hate crime in Georgia.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Xiaojie Tan’s last name based on information provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.

CNN’s Amanda Watts, Stephen Collinson, Audrey Ash, Casey Tolan, Nicquel Ellis, Nicole Chavez, Artemis Moshtaghian, Raja Razek, Jamiel Lynch and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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