From Blake Montgomery, Chamian Cruz, Noor Ibrahim, and Rachel Olding at The Daily Beast:
A Georgia man who professed a passion for guns and God was in custody on Tuesday night after a string of shootings that police said appeared to target Asian women at massage parlors and left eight people dead.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia, was caught on video at the crime scenes and later nabbed on a highway two hours south of Atlanta following a police chase, authorities said.
Police stressed that it was too early to announce a motive—but at least four of those killed were of Korean descent, and the horrific attacks come amid a wave of targeted violence against the Asian-American community.
A trickle of details about the suspect, who went by his middle name, offered few clues.
“Pizza, guns, drums, music, family, and God. This pretty much sums up my life. It’s a pretty good life,” read the tagline on an Instagram account that appeared to belong to Long.
A student who graduated from Sequoyah High with Long in 2017 who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Daily Beast, “He was very innocent seeming and wouldn’t even cuss. He was sorta nerdy and didn’t seem violent from what I remember. He was a hunter and his father was a youth minister or pastor. He was big into religion.”
God. Religion. Of course. Sigh. More:
Long’s family did not respond to calls for comment. His youth pastor at the Crabapple First Baptist Church confirmed he was the suspect and said elders would be releasing a statement.
A 2018 video on the Crabapple Facebook page features Long discussing his Christian journey toward baptism.
“As many of you may remember, when I was 8 years old I thought I was becoming a Christian, and got baptized during that time. And I remember a lot of the reason for that is a lot of my friends in my Sunday school class were doing that,” Long says in the clip.
“And after that time, there wasn’t any fruit from the root that is our salvation.”
He goes on to say that when he was in seventh grade he attended a youth group and a speaker was discussing the biblical story of the prodigal son.
“The son goes off and squanders all that he has and lives completely for himself and then, when he finds he’s wanting to eat pig food, he realized there’s something wrong and he goes back to his father and his father runs back to him and embraces him. And by the grace of God I was able to draw the connection there and realize this is a story between what happened with me and God. I ran away living completely for myself, and he still wants me, and so that’s when I was saved.”
A story by Roxanne Stone at Religion News Service sheds light on what may be a motive behind the brutal killings:
According to police, the suspect told them he had a “sexual addiction,” and he carried out the slayings to get rid of the temptation such places posed to him. Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said Long claimed he was on his way to Florida, where he had planned to commit similar acts of violence at a place connected with “the porn industry there.”
The story is still coming out, and we’ll be learning a lot more about the alleged shooter and the victims for quite some time. But Long’s supposed motivation is twisted. Personal “temptation”? He would’ve been better to poke out his eyes, cut off his hand, or… cut off some other member of his body. I’m also not buying the whole “this has nothing to do with hate” crap. Most of the victims were Asian women. I’m not in a mood to erase any of the victims race and gender, or any other part of who they were.
For those who were killed:
For those in mourning: