Live Updates: Biden and Harris to Visit Atlanta in Wake of Shootings

Here’s what you need to know: President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Atlanta on Friday.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Asian-American in the role, will meet with Asian-American leaders in Atlanta on Friday afternoon after a shooting rampage at Asian massage parlors left eight people dead this week. While investigators continue to assess whether the shootings were racially motivated, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are expected to discuss the nationwide increase of attacks on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders during the coronavirus pandemic. Six of the people killed in the Atlanta shootings were women of Asian descent. At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Asian-American lawmakers warned that the country had reached a “crisis point” amid a sharp increase in discrimination and violence targeting the Asian community. It was the first congressional hearing on the issue held in over three decades. Although Asian-Americans, like other minority groups, have long endured deadly violence, the threats and discrimination they continue to face are often trivialized as harmless insults. “There’s a tendency to not believe that violence against Asian-Americans is real,” said Angela Hsu, 52, a lawyer in suburban Atlanta. “It’s almost like you need something really, really jarring to make people believe that there is discrimination against Asian-Americans.” Investigators in Cherokee County, where one spa was targeted, have said that the gunman told them he had a “sexual addiction” and had carried out the attacks as a way to eliminate temptation. The president and vice president canceled a political event that had previously been scheduled for Friday night in Georgia, the White House announced. “During their trip to Atlanta,” White House officials said, “they will instead meet with Asian-American leaders to discuss the ongoing attacks and threats against the community.” An itinerary for Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris says they will meet with Asian-American leaders at Emory University after visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This week, Ms. Harris, whose mother was born in India, condemned the bloodshed and expressed her solidarity with the Asian-American community. “This speaks to a larger issue, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it,” Ms. Harris said, adding that the motive in the shooting was still unclear. “I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” she added. As a tribute to the shooting victims, Mr. Biden on Thursday ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff through sunset on Monday. The police have identified the victims of the attack on Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44. Police officials said on Thursday that they would not release the name of the four people killed at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta until they had properly notified the victims’ family members, and that they were working with South Korean consular officials to do so. Video transcript Back bars 0:00/1:19 -0:00 transcript Police Say Atlanta Shooting Suspect Frequented 2 Spas He Targeted The Atlanta Police said on Thursday that Robert Aaron Long, charged with killing eight people at Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent, had been a customer of at least two of the three businesses. “We are not done. In most cases of homicides, we don’t have a quick apprehension, there’s usually a lengthy investigation, especially when there’s involving multiple victims. And so, again, we’re still working very diligently to ascertain all the facts so we can have a successful prosecution because that’s what’s most important now. So I was hoping that we would be able to release the names of the victims, but we are not able to do that at this time. And the reason is we need to make sure that we have a true verification of their identities, and that we make the proper next of kin notification.” Reporter: “The investigation into a possible hate crime. Is that still on the table?” “Our investigation is looking at everything. So nothing is off the table for our investigation.” Reporter: “Any indication the suspect visited those spas?” “Now, early in our investigation, it appears that he may have frequented those locations, yes. I can’t say that he specifically targeted those individuals. But you know, what I will say is that he did frequent, as the question keeps coming up, that he did frequent those two locations within Atlanta.” The Atlanta Police said on Thursday that Robert Aaron Long, charged with killing eight people at Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent, had been a cus

Live Updates: Biden and Harris to Visit Atlanta in Wake of Shootings
Here’s what you need to know: President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Atlanta on Friday.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Asian-American in the role, will meet with Asian-American leaders in Atlanta on Friday afternoon after a shooting rampage at Asian massage parlors left eight people dead this week. While investigators continue to assess whether the shootings were racially motivated, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are expected to discuss the nationwide increase of attacks on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders during the coronavirus pandemic. Six of the people killed in the Atlanta shootings were women of Asian descent. At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Asian-American lawmakers warned that the country had reached a “crisis point” amid a sharp increase in discrimination and violence targeting the Asian community. It was the first congressional hearing on the issue held in over three decades. Although Asian-Americans, like other minority groups, have long endured deadly violence, the threats and discrimination they continue to face are often trivialized as harmless insults. “There’s a tendency to not believe that violence against Asian-Americans is real,” said Angela Hsu, 52, a lawyer in suburban Atlanta. “It’s almost like you need something really, really jarring to make people believe that there is discrimination against Asian-Americans.” Investigators in Cherokee County, where one spa was targeted, have said that the gunman told them he had a “sexual addiction” and had carried out the attacks as a way to eliminate temptation. The president and vice president canceled a political event that had previously been scheduled for Friday night in Georgia, the White House announced. “During their trip to Atlanta,” White House officials said, “they will instead meet with Asian-American leaders to discuss the ongoing attacks and threats against the community.” An itinerary for Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris says they will meet with Asian-American leaders at Emory University after visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This week, Ms. Harris, whose mother was born in India, condemned the bloodshed and expressed her solidarity with the Asian-American community. “This speaks to a larger issue, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it,” Ms. Harris said, adding that the motive in the shooting was still unclear. “I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” she added. As a tribute to the shooting victims, Mr. Biden on Thursday ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff through sunset on Monday. The police have identified the victims of the attack on Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44. Police officials said on Thursday that they would not release the name of the four people killed at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta until they had properly notified the victims’ family members, and that they were working with South Korean consular officials to do so. Video transcript Back bars 0:00/1:19 -0:00 transcript Police Say Atlanta Shooting Suspect Frequented 2 Spas He Targeted The Atlanta Police said on Thursday that Robert Aaron Long, charged with killing eight people at Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent, had been a customer of at least two of the three businesses. “We are not done. In most cases of homicides, we don’t have a quick apprehension, there’s usually a lengthy investigation, especially when there’s involving multiple victims. And so, again, we’re still working very diligently to ascertain all the facts so we can have a successful prosecution because that’s what’s most important now. So I was hoping that we would be able to release the names of the victims, but we are not able to do that at this time. And the reason is we need to make sure that we have a true verification of their identities, and that we make the proper next of kin notification.” Reporter: “The investigation into a possible hate crime. Is that still on the table?” “Our investigation is looking at everything. So nothing is off the table for our investigation.” Reporter: “Any indication the suspect visited those spas?” “Now, early in our investigation, it appears that he may have frequented those locations, yes. I can’t say that he specifically targeted those individuals. But you know, what I will say is that he did frequent, as the question keeps coming up, that he did frequent those two locations within Atlanta.” The Atlanta Police said on Thursday that Robert Aaron Long, charged with killing eight people at Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent, had been a customer of at least two of the three businesses.CreditCredit...Chang W. Lee/The New York TimesMonths before Robert Aaron Long was charged with carrying out a bloody rampage at three massage parlors that horrified the nation and stoked a furious outcry over anti-Asian violence, the 21-year-old suspect who had grown up in a conservative Baptist church appeared fixated on guilt and lust. As investigators on Thursday pieced together whether and how racism and sexism might have motivated Tuesday’s attacks, people who knew Mr. Long offered new details about a dangerous collision of sexual loathing and what a former roommate described as “religious mania” that marked his life in the years before the shooting spree. Mr. Long, whose church strictly prohibited sex outside of marriage, was distraught by his failed attempts to curb his sexual urges, said Tyler Bayless, a former roommate who lived with Mr. Long at a halfway house near Atlanta for about five months beginning in August 2019. Nearly once a month, Mr. Long would admit he had again relapsed by visiting a massage parlor for sex, Mr. Bayless said, and he once asked Mr. Bayless to take his computer away from him. In early 2020, Mr. Long moved from the halfway house for more intensive treatment at HopeQuest, a Christian addiction center, and the two men fell out of touch, Mr. Bayless said. “I think he just felt like he could not be trusted out there alone,” Mr. Bayless added, referring to Mr. Long’s inability to stop visiting the spas. The Atlanta police said on Thursday that Mr. Long had been a customer at two spas in the city that were targeted in the attacks that killed eight people over all, including six women of Asian descent. They did not specify whether he had sought anything more than a massage. Clockwise from top left: Xiaojie Tan; Delaina Ashley Yaun; Paul Andre Michels; Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz.Credit...Clockwise from top left: Kennesaw Police Department, via Facebook; via Dana Toole; Kennesaw Police Department, via Facebook; via Flor Gonzalez Xiaojie Tan, the hardworking owner of Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Ga., made her patrons feel at home and treated her friends like family, one longtime customer said on Thursday. Two days ahead of her 50th birthday, Ms. Tan was among eight people killed at three spas in the Atlanta area. One of her employees, Daoyou Feng, was also among those left dead on Tuesday. The suspected gunman, Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. Greg Hynson, the longtime customer of Ms. Tan, described her as “just the sweetest, kindest, most giving person.” He last saw her last weekend, he said, when stopping by her spa to say hello. Four of the eight people who died have been publicly identified so far, and officials with the Atlanta Police Department said on Thursday they would not release the names of the four victims who were killed in the other two massage businesses until family members were notified. In addition to Ms. Tan and Ms. Feng, the victims included: Delaina Ashley Yaun: Ms. Yaun, 33, was on a date with her husband when she was killed. A mother of two, Ms. Yaun had grown up in the area and had worked at a Waffle House restaurant. Paul Andre Michels: Mr. Michels, 54, who came from a large family, was a businessman and an Army veteran. He grew up in Detroit and moved to Georgia about 25 years ago. A fifth person, Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, was walking past the parlor when he was shot multiple times, according to his family. He remains in critical condition. Sung Yeon Choimorrow, the executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said many Asian-American women viewed the attacks this week in Atlanta as a culmination of racialized misogyny.Credit...Youngrae Kim for The New York Times After eight people, six of them Asian women, were fatally shot this week in a rampage near Atlanta, a law enforcement official said that in the gunman’s own words, his actions were “not racially motivated,” but caused by “sexual addiction.” The official, Capt. Jay Baker of the Sheriff’s Office in Cherokee County, where one of the three massage businesses targeted by the gunman was located, cautioned that the investigation was in its early stages. But the implication was clear: It had to be one motive or the other, not both. That suggestion was met with incredulity by many Asian-American women, for whom racism and sexism have always been inextricably intertwined. For them, racism often takes the form of unwanted sexual come-ons, and sexual harassment is often overtly racist. With reports of anti-Asian attacks surging after the Trump administration repeatedly emphasized China’s connection to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is evidence that most of the hate, unlike other types of bias crime, has been directed at women. “People on here literally debating if this was a misogynistic attack against women or a racist attack against Asians,” Jenn Fang, the founder of a long-running Asian-American feminist blog, Reappropriate, wrote in a scathing Twitter thread. “What if — wait for it — it was both.” Sung Yeon Choimorrow, the executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, an advocacy group, said that when she first came to the United States to attend college in 2000, she was “stunned, dumbfounded, horrified” by the way she was frequently approached by male strangers who professed to love Korean women. “It is the ‘Me so horny, I love you long time,’ in like weird accents, and ‘Oh, are you Korean? I love Korea,’” she said, adding that she began to wonder if American men were crazy. She said many Asian-American women viewed Tuesday’s shooting rampage as the culmination of this racialized misogyny. “I’m telling you, most of us didn’t sleep well last night,” she said. “Because this was what we had feared all along — we were afraid that the objectification and the hypersexualization of our bodies was going to lead to death.” Crabapple First Baptist Church, in Milton, Ga., where Robert Aaron Long was a member.Credit...Nicole Craine for The New York Times The Baptist church where the Atlanta shooting suspect, Robert Aaron Long, was an active member posted a lengthy statement on its website Friday morning that called this week’s attacks on three spas “the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind.” “We want to be clear that this extreme and wicked act is nothing less than rebellion against our Holy God and His Word,” the statement from Crabapple First Baptist Church, in Milton, Ga., said. “The shootings were a total repudiation of our faith and practice, and such actions are completely unacceptable and contrary to the gospel.” The police said that Mr. Long, 21, told them that he has a sexual addiction, and that the shootings were an attempt to eliminate temptation. Crabapple First Baptist strictly prohibits sex outside of marriage. Mr. Long had previously checked himself into a Christian rehab clinic in order to combat what he perceived as an addiction. The Atlanta police said on Thursday that Mr. Long had been a customer at two of the spas that were targeted in the attacks, but did not specify whether he had sought anything more than a massage. The church’s statement placed the blame fully on Mr. Long. “The women that he solicited for sexual acts are not responsible for his perverse sexual desires nor do they bear any blame in these murders,” the church said. “These actions are the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which Aaron is completely responsible.” The church said it was cooperating with law enforcement and that it deeply regretted “the fear and pain Asian-Americans are experiencing as a result of Aaron’s inexcusable actions.” Mr. Long and his family have been active members of the conservative evangelical church for many years. Mr. Long was baptized there as an adult in 2018, according to a now-deleted Facebook post from the church. The statement on Friday said the church had begun the process of “church discipline” to remove Mr. Long from its membership. “This is more than a crime scene,” Woojin Kang said outside Gold Spa in Atlanta.Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times ATLANTA — A year ago, Thanh Bui lived in Minneapolis when George Floyd was killed by police officers there. He saw the way the killing so deeply affected his girlfriend, who is Black, and many of his friends. He was angry then, he said, but now he really understands how they felt, after a gunman targeted massage parlors in and around Atlanta, killing eight people, including six women of Asian descent. “Right now, I’m fighting to find some peace,” Mr. Bui, who is Vietnamese, said in Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, after he brought small bouquets of flowers to two of the spas in a strip of storefronts. Mr. Bui, 25, was not alone in being drawn to the scene of the violence. Some stopped to pray. Some came to protest. Some just came, pulled by a mix of curiosity, anger, anguish and disbelief. There were messages handwritten in marker on ripped pieces of cardboard — “Rest In Peace, beautiful angels” — and supermarket roses that still had a reduced-price sticker on the cellophane. The displays might have been modest, yet that did not diminish the hurt and confusion they were meant to convey. Many of the people who trickled through expressed a particular pain that the attacks had happened in Atlanta. The city envisions itself as a haven for diverse communities; there is a sense that it thrives because of the culture, food, ideas and ambitions that have been imported here from around the South, the country and the world. “God bless diversity,” one poster said. “Black and Asian solidarity,” said another. Most of the people at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa on Thursday did not know the women killed there. But they knew the climate. They knew the antipathy that existed toward Asian-Americans — a sentiment that they considered inextricable from the attacks, no matter what the police said of the suspect’s motivations. Mr. Kang, left, and Minwoo Nam held signs outside Gold Spa.Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York TimesMeg Ermer, 19, stopped by with her sister on a trip from Chattanooga, Tenn. She had heard taunts against Asian-Americans in high school — about eating dogs or spreading the coronavirus. “People think it’s just jokes,” she said. But those jokes, she believed, had given root to something more sinister, and she wanted to see the evidence for herself. “I think people’s attitudes need to change for their actions to change,” she said. Woojin Kang and Min Woo Nam, graduate students of theology at Emory University in Atlanta, held signs outside one of the spas for hours. Passers-by honked and waved their fists out of car windows in solidarity. “This is more than a crime scene,” Mr. Kang, 27, said. “We need to stand on these grounds.” They hoped that the violence might cause others to understand what the Asian-American community has had to confront. “We all need to lament together,” Mr. Kang said, “to scream out together.” “Look,” he said, with disappointment, gesturing to a parking lot outside of the spa where he and Mr. Nam had, for a long stretch, been the only ones there with posters. But a few minutes later, a few dozen people marched up the street, chanting, “Justice! Now!” Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s office, right, speaking to the news media on Wednesday.Credit...Nicole Craine for The New York Times A sheriff’s deputy will no longer serve as his agency’s spokesman for the investigation into the Atlanta-area spa shootings after he drew criticism for saying that the suspect in the attacks had “a really bad day” before the shootings, and for anti-Asian Facebook posts that he made last year. The deputy, Capt. Jay Baker, was no longer speaking on behalf of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office on the shooting, according to a spokeswoman for the county. The spokeswoman, Erika Neldner, said in a text message on Thursday that she would be taking over the communications duties in the case. At a news conference on Wednesday, Captain Baker discussed the frame of mind of the man charged with eight counts of murder in Tuesday’s shootings. He said that the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., had understood the gravity of his actions when he was interviewed by investigators. “He was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope,” Captain Baker said. “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.” The comments were widely panned on social media, with critics characterizing them as callous and pointing to Facebook posts from March 30 and April 2 of last year by Captain Baker, in which he promoted sales of an anti-Asian T-shirt. The shirts, echoing the rhetoric of President Donald J. Trump, referred to the coronavirus as an “imported virus from Chy-na.” “Place your order while they last,” Captain Baker wrote at the time in one of the posts. He did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday. State Senator Michelle Au of Georgia said that Captain Baker’s remarks about the suspect illustrated how law enforcement treated crimes against certain groups differently, and that his Facebook posts were an example of casual, open racism toward Asian-Americans. “It’s not treated the way that other forms of racism are,” she said in an email. “It’s more accepted, it’s more palatable, it’s more tolerable for large swaths of the population.” On Thursday, the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, a nonprofit group, demanded that Captain Baker be removed from his job. “These racist social media posts that have now been shared have been on his page for almost a year,” the group wrote on Facebook, “and it took a mass shooting to bring them to light.” In a statement on Thursday, the Cherokee County sheriff, Frank Reynolds, defended Captain Baker, saying that he did not intend to disrespect any of the victims or express “empathy or sympathy” for the suspect. “Captain Baker had a difficult task before him, and this was one of the hardest in his 28 years in law enforcement,” Sheriff Reynolds said. He added, “On behalf of the dedicated women and men of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, we regret any heartache Captain Baker’s words may have caused.”