Police arrested the white 21-year-old Georgia man who told investigators the crimes were not racially motivated, though many of the victims were women of Asian descent. He told officials he blamed the spas for "providing an outlet for his addiction to sex."
The attacks began Tuesday evening when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor near Woodstock, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff's spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said. Two people died at the scene, and three were taken to a hospital where two died, Baker said.
Police identified the victims in Cherokee County: Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Yan, 49, of Kennesaw; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
About an hour later, police responding to a call about a robbery found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa near Atlanta's Buckhead area. Officers then learned of a call reporting shots fired across the street, at Aromatherapy Spa, and found another woman apparently shot dead.
"We are continuing to monitor the events around the tragic shooting of Asian Americans in Atlanta," Philadelphia police said on Twitter Wednesday morning. "While there is currently no known connection to our area, out of an abundance of caution, we have bolstered patrols around Asian communities and businesses."
We are continuing to monitor the events around the tragic shooting of Asian Americans in Atlanta. While there is currently no known connection to our area, out of an abundance of caution, we have bolstered patrols around Asian communities and businesses— Philadelphia Police (@PhillyPolice) March 17, 2021
Pennsylvania's Attorney General Josh Shapiro also tweeted following the killings.
"As I've said many times, hate speech begets hate crimes. That is why we all must speak with moral clarity, awareness and sensitivity. My heart is with the #AAPI community today. #StopAsianHate," he said.
Over the past several years, we have seen a disgusting rise in hate speech.— Josh Shapiro (@JoshShapiroPA) March 17, 2021
As I’ve said many times, hate speech begets hate crimes. That is why we all must speak with moral clarity, awareness and sensitivity.
My heart is with the #AAPI community today. #StopAsianHate
On Wednesday, in light of the murders, John Chin, the executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, called for a police presence at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Chinatown. Four hundred people were set to get vaccinated and he did not want anyone to be fearful.
In Philadelphia, attacks against Asians may not be reported as often due in part out of fear and intimidation, especially if there is a language barrier.
"I was just on the phone with the Anti-Defamation League yesterday talking about these incidents and they want to work with our community, " said Chin. "I think the city and all of us need to do more. In Philadelphia, they're reluctant to talk about it. They are afraid to take public transportation. Public schools are opening up and we are hearing that some parents don't want children going back to school."
Rebecca Ng is an acupuncturist in Chinatown. She is Chinese-American and has lived in the city for 39 years.
"I have a lot of friends who get attacked, and I hear a lot about senior people who get pushed and they get robbed. They are scared to take the subway to go outside. Sometimes, because of the language barrier, they can't communicate and that's why they keep quiet," she said.
Philadelphia leaders expressed their support of the Asian community in light of the recent crimes.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in her conversations with members of the Asian community that their growing safety concern is obvious.
"In personally going out and doing a walking tour, specifically in Chinatown, there was a lot of anxiety expressed around crimes against those perceived or are of Asian descent because of the pandemic, and that there was maybe some fear of reporting said crimes," she said.
"We have to talk to citizens of the city who are worried about harassment and racial attacks. We have to educate them and we are to call 911 to report it," Chin said.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, has been charged with murder and assault in connection with the Atlanta-area killings.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.