ATLANTA (NewsNation Now) — A Georgia sheriff’s office captain has been replaced as the spokesman in the investigation into the recent massage spa slayings after the spokesman drew widespread outrage for saying the suspect in the killings had had a “really bad day.”
Cherokee County Communications Director Erika Neldner announced in a statement Thursday that she will be handling media inquiries related to Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into Tuesday’s slayings.
The statement did not give details about the status of Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker, who was criticized for saying during a news conference Wednesday that the 21-year-old suspect had had “a really bad day” and “this is what he did.”
Authorities have charged Robert Aaron Long with eight counts of murder for the slayings, four of which occurred at a massage business in Cherokee County. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.
Earlier Thursday, Sheriff Frank Reynolds issued a statement acknowledging that some of Baker’s comments stirred “much debate and anger” and said the agency regrets any “heartache” caused by his words.
Some activists had called for Baker to be fired over both his comments and the discovery of a 2020 Facebook post that Baker appeared to have written to promote a T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus. Neither Reynolds nor Baker has commented on the post, which was taken down Wednesday night.
The Atlanta Police Department shared new details Thursday about their investigation of Tuesday’s mass shooting that killed eight people at three Atlanta-area massage businesses.
“We are not done,” said APD Deputy Chief Charles Hampton, Jr.
Hampton said the gunman, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, had frequented both of those locations in the past.
“I can say he frequented both of those locations, yes,” Hampton said, adding that he cannot comment on if any individuals inside the businesses were specifically targeted.
Hampton also said that “nothing is off the table” in relation to potential future charges against Long.
APD said they haven’t been able to notify family members of some of the victims from Tuesday’s deadly shootings at two businesses along Piedmont Road. Authorities said they’re also working diligently to ensure the correct relatives are notified.
Hampton also said they will not share too many details about the case or comment on what others have said about it adding that they do not want to try the case in the public.
“This is a tragedy. And again, we have to remember eight families are impacted by this,” Hampton said. “And we wouldn’t be doing justice by putting a lot of information out in the public, especially, in our cases, where the next of kin has not been notified.”
Long was charged Wednesday with eight counts of murder in the shootings at the three spas after he was forced to stop by troopers while driving toward Florida.
Long told police that Tuesday’s attack was not racially motivated. He claimed to have a “sex addiction,” and authorities said he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation. But those statements spurred outrage and widespread skepticism given the locations and that six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent.
“Our investigation is separate from Cherokee County’s investigation. Our investigation is slightly different,” Hampton said.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said two of the victims died at the scene and three were transported to a hospital where two of them also died.
Two women of Asian descent were among the dead there, along with a white woman and a white man, Baker said, adding that the surviving victim was a Hispanic man.
Those victims were identified as: 49-year-old Xiaojie Yan, 44-year-old Daoyou Feng, 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun and 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels, The condition of the injured man is not known.
Authorities said they didn’t know if Long ever went to the massage businesses where the shootings occurred but that he was heading to Florida to attack “some type of porn industry.”
“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,” Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker told reporters.
Later Tuesday evening, police officers responded to a call of a robbery in progress at Gold Spa in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Officers found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds. While they were at that 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.
More charges against Long are expected.
The shootings caused outrage across the country as Asian American organizations nationwide organized events aimed at showing unity.
Hundreds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders turned to social media to air their anger, sadness, fear and hopelessness. The hashtag #StopAsianHate was a top trending topic on Twitter hours after the shootings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.