Eight people were shot and killed at three Atlanta-area massage parlors on Tuesday, police said, announcing the arrest of a suspect. Six women of Asian origin are among the victims. It was not known at the end of the evening whether these attacks had a racist motive.
After examining the CCTV footage, “it is highly probable” that the same shooter was involved in all three attacks, a police spokesperson told Agence France-Presse (AFP). The US federal police, the FBI, is also participating in the investigation.
A first shooting killing four and wounding two took place on Tuesday around 5 p.m. local time (10 p.m. in Switzerland), in a massage parlor nearly 50 km from Atlanta, the largest city in the state of Georgia. , in the southeastern United States, said a spokesperson for the county police, quoted by the daily Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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Later in the afternoon, two more shootings left four dead in two neighboring massage parlors in Atlanta, city police said in a statement to AFP.
A context of resurgence of attacks against Asians
“Upon arrival, the police found three women who had died inside (the massage parlor) from visible gunshot wounds. Still on site, the police were informed of shots fired on the other side of the street, ”where they found another deceased woman, the statement said.
A suspect has been in custody since Tuesday night, Cherokee County police said in a Facebook post: Robert Aaron Long, 21, was arrested more than 240 km south of Atlanta.
The daily Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the first shooting took place in an Asian massage parlor, where two women of Asian descent, a white woman and a white man died. In addition, the four victims of the other two shootings are themselves of Asian origin, still according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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It is not yet known whether these shootings specifically targeted the Asian community. They come against a backdrop of an upsurge in attacks recorded in recent months against Americans of Asian origin.
The need to act to protect this minority
According to anti-racist activists, resentment was fueled by the speech by former President Donald Trump, who often referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus”. Although it is sometimes difficult to establish the xenophobic motive for an attack, crimes motivated by anti-Asian racism nearly tripled from 49 to 122 last year in the 16 largest American cities, from after a study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism based in San Bernardino, California.
Georgia has nearly 500,000 inhabitants of Asian origin, or just over 4% of its population, according to the Asian American Advocacy Fund, an Asian human rights group in the United States.
“Tonight’s (Tuesday) attacks on members of the Asian-American community in Georgia are absolutely horrifying. As information continues to flow, this attack unfortunately follows the trend of violence against Asian-Americans who have exploded through the pandemic, ”reacted the President of the Democratic Party of Georgia Nikema Williams in a statement.
On Tuesday evening, the New York police announced “as a precaution” the sending of reinforcement patrols in areas concentrating residents of Asian origin.
“Today’s tragic Atlanta murders reaffirm the need to act and protect ALL marginalized minorities in America from racism,” tweeted famous lawyer Ben Crump, known to represent those close to George Floyd.