ATLANTA: Shootings at two massage parlours in Atlanta and one in the suburbs on Tuesday (Mar 16) evening left eight people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said.
A 21-year-old man suspected to be involved in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said.
The attacks began around 5pm local time, when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor in a strip mall near a rural area in Acworth, about 50 km north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Captain Jay Baker said.
Two people died at the scene and three were transported to a hospital where two of them also died, Baker said. Authorities were not immediately releasing the gender or race of the victims, Baker said. No one was arrested at the scene.
About 5.50pm, police in the Buckhead neighbourhood of Atlanta, responding to a call of a robbery in progress, found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa in northeast Atlanta.
While they were at that scene, they learned of a call reporting shots fired at another spa across the street, Aromatherapy Spa, and found a woman who appeared to have been shot dead inside the business.
“It appears that they may be Asian,” Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said.
A man suspected in the Acworth shooting was captured by surveillance video pulling up to the business about 4.50pm on Tuesday, minutes before the attack, authorities said.
Baker said the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, was taken into custody in Crisp County, about 240km south of Atlanta.
Baker said they believe Long is also the suspect in the Atlanta shootings.
Police said video footage showed the suspect’s vehicle in the area of the Atlanta spas about the time of those attacks as well.
That, as well as other video evidence, “suggests it is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s, who is in custody", Atlanta police said in a statement. Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities were working to confirm the cases are related.
FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said the agency was assisting Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities in the investigation.
Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock said in a video posted on Facebook that his deputies and state troopers were notified around 8pm that a murder suspect out of north Georgia was headed toward their county. Deputies and troopers set up along the interstate and “made contact with the suspect", who was driving a 2007 black Hyundai Tucson, at about 8.30pm, he said.
A state trooper performed a PIT, or pursuit intervention technique, manoeuvre, “which caused the vehicle to spin out of control”, Hancock said. Long was then taken into custody "without incident" and was being held in the Crisp County jail for Cherokee County authorities who were expected to arrive soon to continue their investigation.
Due to the shootings, Atlanta police said they dispatched officers to check nearby similar businesses and increased patrols in the area.