UPDATED: 10:00 p.m. ET, March 17, 2021
One of the police officers being credited with helping to orchestrate the capture of a suspected white supremacist mass murderer near Atlanta is also being called out for his choice of language to describe the shootings that killed with people on Tuesday.
Robert Aaron Long was arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder from the shooting spree that killed eight people, including six Asian women.
As officials announced developments in the case during a press briefing Wednesday, announcing the arrest of Cherokee County Capt. Jay Baker seemingly excused Long’s murderous behavior as him having “a really bad day.” That questionable comment came as police quickly ruled out racism as a motive because Long said so, Baker and other officials said.
There was also criticism of Baker saying Long had “an issue with porn” and targeted Asian massage spas because he saw the locations as “a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.” The suggestion, critics argued on social media, was that the victims were to blame instead of the perpetrator of the heinous crimes.
Long was charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in Cherokee County, as well as four counts of homicide in Atlanta. Officials said he admitted to the shootings and may have even been headed to Florida to carry out more violence when he was apprehended Tuesday night.
Law enforcement officials announced Long was motivated by his apparent sex addiction and not race during a press conference on Wednesday morning. Social media users scoffed at the claim that Long was merely having “a very bad day” which resulted in the deaths of eight innocent people.
Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said during Wednesday’s press conference that it was still too early to make a determination whether the shooting constituted a hate crime by the 21-year-old suspect.
Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds added during the press conference that law enforcement was able to apprehend Long relatively quickly because they were able to track his phone. Reynolds said Long’s family is “distraught.”
Long was being held at the Cherokee County Adults Detention Center, where Reynolds said: “he made indicators that he has some issues, potentially a sexual addiction, and may have frequented some of these places in the past.”
When asked if the attacks were racially motivated, Reynolds said “the indicators right now are that it may not be.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said there were no indications that the businesses targeted were operating in any illegal capacities.
Baker said there were no indications that religion played a role in the shootings.
The officials at the press conference described a well-coordinated effort across multiple law enforcement agencies to act swiftly and capture Long.
Long was expected to be arraigned Thursday morning.
Long was arrested in nearby Crisp County around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night and booked into Crisp County Sheriff’s Office, which released his mugshot.
All three shootings were carried out in about 45 minutes.
The FBI officially joined the investigation into the shootings that came as violent attacks and hate crimes against Asians were spiking across the country.
Four people were found dead in Young’s Asian Massage Parlor in Cherokee County, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Long was arrested specifically for that shooting while authorities see if he’s linked to the other shootings.
In that shooting, which took place at about 5 p.m., five people were shot, including two who were pronounced dead at the scene and two others who later died from their injuries.
Two other massage parlors were targeted two hours later, leaving an additional four people dead.
The victims’ identities were expected to be released at some point on Wednesday.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that “most” of the employees at the three establishments were Asian. The victims at the first location reportedly included two Asian women and a white man and white woman. According to reports, a Hispanic man was injured but was expected to survive.
The other four people killed at the two other locations were all Asian women.
Long reportedly bought the gun he allegedly used hours before the shootings. Capt. Baker said a 9mm gun was recovered from Long’s car and no other weapons were found. There was no indication he was working with anyone else.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department released images of Long about an hour and a half after the first shooting was reported on Tuesday.
According to Heavy.com, Long is a resident of a town called Woodstock, which is located about a 30-minute drive north of Atlanta. The location where he was arrested in Crisp County is about 200 miles away from Woodstock and about 150 miles south of Atlanta.
Long initially fled when approached by law enforcement, according to one report. Amazingly, the suspected mass shooter who was considered armed and dangerous was able to be taken into custody without police shooting him, let alone killing him.
Recent reports of anti-Asian attacks in the U.S. have become increasingly frequent. A new report released Tuesday found that nearly 3,800 anti-Asian incidents took place during the 12 months of the pandemic, something that racist conspiracy theorists have blamed on China.
As a result of Tuesday night’s deadly attacks near Atlanta, the NYPD sent its officers trained in counterterrorism deployments to Asian neighborhoods in New York City “out of an abundance of caution.”
The Washington Post reported Wednesday morning that anti-Asian sentiment, discrimination and hate crimes have been proliferating in the Atlanta area, in particular, since the pandemic hit.
One of the major proponents of pushing the debunked narrative of China being responsible for COVID-19 has been former President Donald Trump. He called it “the China virus” as well as the “Kung Flu” on numerous occasions.
That truth increases the chances of Long, the suspected gunman behind Tuesday’s shootings, being a likely supporter and avid follower of Trump — similar to the thousands of people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 election for Joe Biden because Trump said he was the victim of fraud that caused him to lose.
The Washington Post reported about a year ago that Trump’s racist labeling of COVID-19 as “the China virus” could lead to violence.
“It’s racist and it creates xenophobia,” Harvey Dong, a lecturer in Asian American and Asian diaspora studies with the University of California at Berkeley, said at the time. “It’s a very dangerous situation.”
This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.