A man accused of killing eight people at three spas in Atlanta has told police he had a sex addiction and was trying to eliminate the temptation he thought the businesses posed, say authorities.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, was arrested and charged after seven women, six of whom were of Asian descent, and one man were shot dead at the spas in Cherokee and Fulcon County on Tuesday.
Among the victims identified by officials were 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun, 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels, 49-year-old Xiaojie Yan and 44-year-old Daoyou Feng.
During interviews Long told police he had a sex addiction, but investigators are still trying to determine if there was any racial motivation involved, reports NBC News.
“These locations, he sees them as an outlet for him, something he shouldn’t be doing,” Captain Jay Baker, of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department, said at a news briefing.
Captain Baker said the suspect had an “issue with porn” and was “attempting to take out that temptation”.
“He was fed up, at the end of his rope. He had a bad day, and this is what he did,” he added.
His colleague Sheriff Frank Reynolds said the suspect “may have frequented some of these places in the past” and “might have been lashing out”.
Both officials made clear none of the businesses had confirmed links with sex work and there is no “victim blaming” at play.
But on any race element, police were still unsure.
“We are still early in this investigation so we cannot make that determination at this moment, Atlanta police Chief Rodney Bryant told the briefing.
They also revealed that Long appeared to be on his way to Florida when his vehicle was intercepted by police, allegedly preventing him from carrying out any other attacks there.
Long has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of assault.
The shootings began around 5pm local time on Tuesday, when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlour in a strip mall near a rural area in Acworth, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, Georgia.
Two people died at the scene and three were taken to hospital where two more succumbed to their injuries.
Two of the dead were women of Asian descent, along with a white woman and a white man.
Around 50 minutes later, police called to reports of a robbery at the Gold Spa in the Buckhead neighbourhood of Atlanta found the bodies of three women.
While at the 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.
The killings come amid a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States.
In New York, an NYPD spokesperson told Sky News they are deploying counter-terrorism officers to Asian communities throughout the city out of an abundance of caution following the Atlanta shootings.