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Man Arrested After 8 People Are Shot To Death At Atlanta-Area Massage Parlors

NOEL KING, HOST:

Police in Georgia are investigating a series of deadly shootings that took place in the Atlanta area. Eight people were killed. Authorities say many of them were women of Asian descent. Now, police have arrested one man, who is white, but they haven't said anything about a motive yet. Advocacy organizations, we should note, recently released data that shows hate crimes against Asians surged almost 150% last year. Earlier today, I talked to Alex Helmick, who's a reporter with WABE in Atlanta, and he told me what is known so far.

ALEX HELMICK, BYLINE: Well, police say four people were shot and killed north of Atlanta in Cherokee County, at a place called Young's Asian Massage. Another person was shot and taken to the hospital there. Not long after that shooting, about 40 miles away in northeast Atlanta, shootings at two more spas killed another four people. The spas were across the street from each other. Police say six of the eight people who died appear to be Asian women.

KING: OK. Police have arrested one man. What do we know about him?

HELMICK: Twenty-one-year-old Robert Aaron Long, who's white, does not appear to have a criminal record. Police say he's from Woodstock, Ga., about 30 miles north of Atlanta. He was arrested about 150 miles south of Atlanta in Crisp County, where he's being held. The sheriff there says state troopers arrested him after ramming his vehicle along the highway.

And authorities say they have surveillance video of Long allegedly near the first spa - that's the one in Cherokee County - around 5 o'clock yesterday evening, when the shooting occurred. And Atlanta Police say Long's vehicle was picked up on surveillance after that and have pieced together that Long's black SUV was in the area of the two Atlanta spas, so officials say it's extremely likely this was the same suspect for all three shootings.

KING: Have the police said whether or not they believe this was racially motivated?

HELMICK: They have, and they say they're still investigating a motive. They have said, as we've mentioned, that most of the victims appear to be of Asian descent, but they haven't directly linked race to this shooting.

KING: OK. And, Alex, what do you know about what will happen next?

HELMICK: Well, officials say Cherokee County authorities are working with Atlanta Police to further link the suspects in the shootings, and the FBI says it, too, is assisting both law enforcement agencies. And Long will likely be moved from south Georgia, presumably to either Cherokee County or Atlanta, and Atlanta Police say they are planning a press conference for later this morning.

KING: And I imagine we will learn a bit more about some of the victims. WABE's Alex Helmick. Alex, thanks for your reporting. We appreciate it.

HELMICK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.