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Family helped police track down Atlanta spa shooting suspect

Atlanta Police and the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office outlined a timeline of how the events unfolded at the three spas.

ATLANTA — A crime spree across metro Atlanta left eight people dead and another person hurt Tuesday evening at three spas.

Wednesday morning, Atlanta Police and the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office outlined a timeline of how the events unfolded. 

4:55 p.m. | Young's Asians Massage deadly shooting

"We got a call about 4:55 yesterday afternoon of shooting in the Bells Ferry/ [Highway] 92 area of Southwest Cherokee County. Our deputies responded and found multiple gunshot victims," Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said.

Deputies said a total of five people were shot at the Young's Asians Massage. Four people died and the fifth person is still in the hospital.

Reynolds said they used video to quickly identify a suspect and posted photos on their social media accounts. 

"Shortly thereafter, we were contacted by members of the family indicating that that may be their their son," Reynolds said. 

The suspect was later identified as Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man.

5:47 p.m. | Shootings at Atlanta spa locations

"On yesterday at 5:47, our units responded to 1916 Piedmont Road on a robbery call," Atlanta Police Interim Chief Rodney Bryant said. 

When officers arrived, they said they found three people who had been shot and killed at Gold Spa.

"While investigating that location, they received another call at 1907 Piedmont Road, where they found another female shot inside that location," he added.

Gold Spa is located across the street from Aromatherapy Spa, the location of the last shooting. 

Credit: AP
Officials stand in front of a massage parlor after a shooting, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Bryant said they then connected with the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office.

"Immediately, the sheriff and I and the chief in that jurisdiction started having conversations, trying to bring things together," Bryant said. 

Catching the suspect Robert Aaron Long

Reynolds said Long's family coming forward helped them move the case along quickly, leading to his arrest.

"We met with them and I was there speaking with the family," he said. "They're very distraught and they were very helpful in in this apprehension. We were able to track his phone."

That move led deputies to alert Crisp County authorities of his possible movement. 

Reynolds said Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock coordinated with Georgia State Patrol to apprehend the suspect. 

Credit: Crisp County Sheriff's Office

GSP Lt. Mark Rowley said they had a trooper monitoring traffic on I-75 South. 

"The trooper observed the suspect's vehicle traveling south. He started following the vehicle and waited for backup, which included two other Georgia state troopers, as well as the sheriff of this county and some of his deputies," Rowley said. "They initiated the traffic stop and then immediately pitted the vehicle. After the vehicle was pitted, the suspect was taken into custody without further incident and transported to the county jail."

Authorities said a 9mm gun was recovered during the traffic stop.

The possible motive

Bryant said his office has received numerous calls from people asking if this was a hate crime. Many of the victims - six of the eight - were Asian women. However, right now, they said they are still early in the investigation. 

"So, we cannot make that determination at this moment. Again, we are very early in this investigation. Even though we've made an arrest, there's still a lot more work to be done," he said. 

Authorities said they did interview the suspect and he claimed it wasn't racially motivated.

"He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it's a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate," said Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. 

He also said the suspect claimed he was planning to go to Florida to do more acts in that state.

"It sounds to me like these locations, he sees them as an outlet for him, for some things he shouldn't be doing, and an issue with porn, and that he was attempting to take out that temptation," he said. 

Long's first appearance in court is set for Thursday.