Families have been left in shock and are grieving after a gunman opened fire Tuesday at three Atlanta-area spas, killing eight and seriously wounding another.
The attacks began around 5 p.m. Tuesday when four people were killed in Cherokee County. Less than an hour later, four more were killed in two shootings in Atlanta.
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33
Delaina Ashley Yaun, of Acworth, left behind two children after she was killed in the Cherokee County attack, according to a GoFundMe set up to help the family with funeral expenses. Her family could not be reached Thursday at phone numbers listed for them.
“We just don’t know how to do any of this alone,” the GoFundMe stated.
One friend told NBC-affiliate WXIA-TV that Yaun had gotten married in August. One of her daughters is 9 months old, the friend said, calling Yaun an incredible mom who loved her husband and children.
Paul Andre Michels, 54
Paul Andre Michels, of Atlanta, was at a spa in Cherokee County when he was killed. The 54-year-old Army veteran had moved to the area after growing up in Southwest Detroit. Michels had gotten married and was a business owner, his brother, John Michels, told NBC’s “Today” show.
“My brother is a very hardworking, loving husband; a good brother,” John Michels said. “A man who would do anything for someone if they needed it.”
Xiaojie Tan, 49, and Daoyou Feng, 44
In addition to the Yaun and Michels, Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng were killed in the Cherokee County shooting, according to the sheriff’s office. Family members for Tan, 49, and Feng, 44, could not be reached.
The Atlanta victims
The victims in Atlanta have not yet been identified by police or the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office. All four were women.
“We need to make sure that we have a true verification of their identities and that we make the proper next-of-kin notification,” Atlanta police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton told reporters on Thursday, adding that police are working closely with South Korean diplomats to find family members.
Another man, Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, was injured in the Cherokee County shooting. A GoFundMe his wife, Flora Gonzalez Gomez, set up said that he is hospitalized in the intensive care unit after suffering a gunshot to his forehead.
“He will be needing facial surgery,” she wrote. “Please pray for my family and the family’s that were affected by this shooting.”
Gonzalez Gomez did not immediately return a phone call on Thursday.
The suspected gunman, Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, was arrested and charged with eight counts of murder; four related to the killings at the two Atlanta spas and four related to the shootings at the Cherokee County spa.
He also faces an aggravated assault charge in Cherokee County.
Six of the victims from the shootings are of Asian descent, officials said. The deaths happened the same day the reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate released a report stating that the number of anti-Asian hate incidents has risen significantly. The report noted that a disproportionate number of the incidents involved women.
In a tweet, the organization said the shootings were an “unspeakable tragedy.”
Authorities said Long’s testimony indicated he might have had a sexual addiction and saw the businesses as a temptation he needed to eliminate.
Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Long “may have frequented” some of the spas and “might have been lashing out.”
It’s unclear whether the businesses had any ties to sex work. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that the spas were “legally operating businesses that have not been on our radar” and that “we are not about to get into victim blaming, victim shaming here.”
“A crime against any community is a crime against us all,” she said at a news conference Wednesday.
Officials said Long’s testimony could be a possible motive for the shooting spree.
Long was arrested in Crisp County, about 125 miles south of Atlanta, after his family helped police track his phone. A 9 mm firearm that he purchased legally on the day of the shootings was found in the car he was driving, according to two senior law enforcement officials briefed on the matter.
Long is being held without bond in Cherokee County. He was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning but it was canceled. A Cherokee County court clerk said that the case documents are sealed and it’s unclear if the arraignment has been rescheduled. It’s not clear if Long has obtained an attorney.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.