Prosecutor in Atlanta Spa Shootings Case Seeks Hate Crime Charges and Death Penalty for Alleged Suspect

The individual accused of the heinous murder of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at three Atlanta-area spas was indicted on murder charges by two different grand juries on May 11 and now faces additional hate crime charges as well as the death penalty.

Kate Brumback of the Associated Press has reported that “a Fulton County grand jury indicted Robert Aaron Long, 22, in the March 16 slayings of Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63. A separate grand jury in Cherokee County indicted Long for a separate shooting there that resulted in the killings of Xiaojie ‘Emily’ Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54.”

Following the indictments, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed additional paperwork stating that she also intends to charge Long with committing hate crimes and will be seeking the death penalty in his case. 

Brumback reported that “the hate crime charges are based on the actual or perceived race, national origin, sex and gender of the four women killed.”

In a news conference, Willis said that she hopes the decision to seek the death penalty and hate crime charges in the case will “send a message that everyone within this community is valued.”

Willis’ decision to seek the death penalty in this case goes against views she held while running for district attorney last year. 

“Last year, I told the voters of Fulton County that I could not imagine a circumstance where I would seek the death penalty,” she said during the news conference on the Atlanta murders. “Unfortunately, a case has arisen … that I believe warrants the ultimate penalty and we shall seek it.”

Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace echoed Willis’ sentiment in her own statement on the case, saying, “Today we have taken another step forward in seeking justice for the victims of this crime and for their family members.”

Long stands accused of 19 different charges in Fulton County, including murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and domestic terrorism, plus an additional 23 counts in Cherokee County. Those charges include malice murder, felony murder, attempt to commit murder and aggravated assault.

According to Brumback, Willis’ notice of intent said, “the killings are eligible for the death penalty because each was committed while Long was in the act of committing another capital offense, namely the killings of the victims.” The notice also emphasized that each killing was “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved depravity of mind” and “was committed during an act of domestic terrorism.”

Following Willis’ announcement, Asian American advocacy group and anti-Asian hate reporting center, Stop AAPI Hate, released a statement noting the importance of seeking hate crime charges in this case. 

“While hate towards all AAPIs persists, women continue to report at a disproportionate rate (64.8%) to our center. This trend is in no small part due to the combination of racism and misogyny Asian American women experience,” the group said. “In reports shared with Stop AAPI Hate, women describe their experiences of simultaneously facing sexual harassment and racism — showcasing how COVID-19 is being weaponized as part of sexual harassment.”


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