“I, along with my staff, have decided that this office will seek the death penalty,” Willis told reporters. âLast year I told voters in Fulton County that I couldn’t imagine a circumstance I would look for him. And at that point, I didn’t.â
âUnfortunately, a case arose during the first months of my mandate which, in my opinion, warrants the ultimate sanction,â she added. In addition, we have filed a notice that we will ask for an improvement of the sentence, in accordance with the Georgian Law on Improvement of Sentences, commonly known as the Hate Crimes Law, depending on the race and gender of the victims. “
Willis said it was the first law enforcement in Fulton County and, according to her, in the state.
Willis said she was comfortable with the sentencing decision.
“I personally walked through the crime scene in this case,” she told reporters. “I have spent over six hours with the families involved in this case. We have reviewed the evidence and I am comfortable in the decision that this is an appropriate sentence to seek.”
Willis added: âThe message I hope we send is: It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are. It doesn’t matter which side of the tracks you come from. It doesn’t matter how rich you are. You will be treated as a valuable individual. .. “
Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition against anti-Asian racism, said in a statement that while hatred of AAPI persists, women continue to report incidents at a disproportionate rate “largely due to the combination of racism and misogyny experienced by Asian American women “.
“As our hearts still ache from the tragic Atlanta spa shootings in which six Asian American women were murdered, we recognize the significance of the Fulton County district attorney‘s decision , Fani Willis, to bring a hate crime complaint against Robert Aaron Long on the basis of both race and gender, âthe statement said.
Long also indicted in Cherokee County
Long was also charged in Cherokee County with four counts of malicious murder, four counts of murder, 11 counts of attempted felony and aggravated assault and aggravated assault, possession of a firearm. during the commission of a crime and criminal damage. to first degree ownership.
The new law specifies stronger penalties for crimes where victims have been targeted, among other things, for their race, gender and sexual orientation. Seven of the victims killed in the spa shootings were women and six of the victims were women of Asian descent.
Some government officials had raised concerns early on that ethnicity had come into play in the shootings, especially given the nationwide surge in anti-Asian violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Long, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., Is believed to have opened fire at spas on the afternoon and early evening of March 16, first at a business located about 30 miles northeast. west of Atlanta, followed by two more at spas in northeast Atlanta.
Long charged with 19 counts in Fulton County
Long was indicted on a total of 19 counts in Fulton County: four counts of malicious murder, four counts of murder, one charge of domestic terrorism, five charges of aggravated assault and five charges possession of a firearm while committing a crime, according to the indictment.
Peter Skandalakis, director of the Georgia Council of Prosecutors, said the increased punishment for hate crimes for homicide in the state was either a maximum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole at 30 years or life without release. conditional, ie the death penalty.
Skandalakis said he was not aware of the law used in the past year. The mission of his agency is to provide support to prosecutors.
It will be for a separate Cherokee County grand jury to rule on the charges of others killed in the shooting in Acworth, Ga., Which left four dead and one person injured.
Cherokee County officials previously said Long told investigators the shootings were not racially motivated and told them he had a “sex addiction.”
The lawyer named by Long could not be reached immediately for comment.
Long was arrested on the night of the shooting about 150 miles south of Atlanta, in a traffic stop on Interstate 75, authorities said.
The victim’s family reacts to the arraignment
âAlthough nothing will bring our beloved Xiaojie back to us, we congratulate the prosecutor’s office on its decision,â the statement said. “We have no doubt that the death penalty is both deserved and appropriate, if the accused is ultimately convicted of these indescribable crimes.”
The Webbs say they hope the Cherokee County DA will make the same decision to pursue the death penalty.
“Naturally, a decision not to pursue this case as a death penalty case in Cherokee County would be disappointing to us, to say the least,” the statement said.
The statement also said that the murders being labeled a hate crime do not bring peace to the family.
“We were careful along the way not to call for these murders to be characterized as a hate crime. Rather, we were confident that prosecutors would make the appropriate decision based on their investigation,” Webbs said in the statement. “We are not satisfied that the Fulton County District Attorney‘s Office has designated this as a hate crime. It frankly disgusts us that anyone’s hatred for others causes them to do such a horrible and cowardly act.”
Asian Americans Advance Justice – Atlanta (AAJC-Atlanta), an affiliation of five organizations defending the civil and human rights of Asian Americans, also released a statement following the act of accusation that the healing effort in the community will continue.
âOur communities in Georgia and in particular the families of the victims are still in mourning. Our future work continues to center healing, care and the reinvention of justice for our communities,â said Stephanie Cho, Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, in the release.
The statement said the causes of racism must be addressed so that people of all backgrounds can be safe.
“We join in the growing nationwide calls for community and accountability solutions that address the root causes of racism, violence and prejudice so that all Asians, Pacific Islanders, black, brown , wherever we were born, can work. , walk down the street and walk through our lives without fearing for ourselves or our loved ones. “
Suspect told MPs he has sex addiction and ‘problem with porn’
After his arrest, Long told investigators he believed he had a sex addiction and “a problem with pornography,” and claimed to see spas as “a temptation … that he wanted to eliminate,” the captain said. Cherokee County Sheriff’s Jay Baker. at the time.
He was originally charged in Cherokee County with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, according to the sheriff’s office. He also faced four counts of murder in Atlanta, according to city police.
Sheriff Frank Reynolds of Cherokee County, where the Acworth shooting took place, told reporters that Long has indicated “that he has problems – potentially sex addiction – and that he may have dated some people. of these places in the past “.
A police source told CNN shortly after the shooting that the suspect was recently kicked out of the home by his family due to his sex addiction, which the source said involved spending hours frequently watching video. online pornography.
Shooting kills eight
Shortly before 5 p.m. on March 16, MPs were called to Young’s Asian massage between the Georgian towns of Woodstock and Acworth after reports of a shooting, Cherokee County Sheriff officials said.
The shooting left four people dead – two Asians and two whites – and one person injured, Baker said. Two of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene, while the other two died in a hospital.
Killed were Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, from Kennesaw; and Daoyou Feng, 44 years old.
The injured survivor was Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, authorities said.
About an hour later and 30 miles away, Atlanta police responded to what was described as a robbery at 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 victims were identified as Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong Ae Yue, 63, according to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Investigators found surveillance footage of a suspect near the Cherokee County scene and posted the footage to social media.
Long’s family saw the footage, contacted authorities, and helped identify him. He is being held without bail in Fulton County.
Georgia was one of four states without a hate crime law.
Nicquel Terry Ellis and Natasha Chen contributed to this report.