A 21-year-old gunman with a “sex addiction” has taken responsibility for killing eight people in spas around the US city of Atlanta, but denied a racial motive to the attacks that have shaken the country’s Asian community, police said Wednesday.
Six of the victims of Tuesday night’s killings were of Asian origin, exacerbating concerns over a surge in violence targeting the community during the pandemic.
Authorities however stressed they had not determined the motive of the shooter, identified as Robert Aaron Long, a white man who is believed to have acted alone.
“The suspect did take responsibility for the shootings,” Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office told a news conference.
“This is still early, but he does claim it was not racially motivated,” Baker added.
“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as… a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.”
Authorities arrested Long after tracking his phone following a brief pursuit about 150 miles (240 kilometers) from Atlanta, officials said.
After he was detained, “he made a comment… that he was headed to Florida and that he was going to do similar acts in that state,” Baker said, adding that Long wanted to target “some type of porn industry.”
President Joe Biden said violence against Asian-Americans is “very troublesome.”
“I know that Asian Americans are very concerned,” Biden said, though he stressed any motive had “yet to be determined.”
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the shootings as “a vicious and vile act that compounds the fear and pain that Asian-Americans face each day.”