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The 21-year-old man accused of a series of shootings at three massage parlors in Georgia that left eight dead has reportedly traveled to Florida to carry out further shootings, authorities said.

“They determined that the suspect was on his way to Florida, I believe, possibly to carry out additional shootings,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms. “It really speaks of the coordination and rapid response to law enforcement. As tragic as it was, it could have been a lot worse.”

Officials say Robert Aaron Long, 21, killed eight people at Atlanta-area massage parlors and told police his act was not racially motivated and potentially had ” sex addiction “.

Still, investigators said they were investigating whether the deaths were hate crimes amid concerns over a wave of attacks on Asian Americans. Six of the victims were Asian and seven were women.

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Officials did not say that Long had previously been to the living rooms where the shooting took place. They also said he was planning to travel to Florida as part of a plot to attack “some type of porn industry.”

“He indicated that he had issues, potentially sex addiction, and that he may have frequented some of these places in the past,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said.

He said it was too early to tell if it was racially motivated. “But the indicators at the moment are that it may not be. It may be targets of opportunity. Again, we believe he has frequented these places in the past and that he may have gone wild. “

Many suspects who commit mass shootings have a history of violence against women. Still, lawmakers acknowledged that the attack haunted members of the Asian American community who viewed the shootings as an attack on them, given a recent wave of assaults.

“We are in a place where we have seen an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic,” said Bee Nguyen, Georgia State Representative. “It’s hard to think it’s not specifically aimed at our community.”

The attacks began Tuesday night when five people were gunned down at the Youngs Asian Massage Parlor near Woodstock, about 31 miles north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesperson Captain Jay Baker said. Two people died at the scene and three were taken to hospital where two died, Baker said.

About an hour later, police responding to a theft call found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa near the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, where tattoo parlors and strip clubs are in. a few blocks from the mansions and skyscrapers in one of the last non-gentrified huts in this part of town. Officers then learned that a call reported shots fired from across the street at Aromatherapy Spa and found another woman apparently shot dead.

“It looks like they’re Asian,” Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the “horrific shootings” and would receive an update later Wednesday from Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant warned it was too early to tell if the attack was a hate crime. Over the past year, thousands of incidents of abuse have been reported to an anti-hate group that tracks incidents against Asian Americans, and hate crimes in general have been at an all time high for over d ‘a decade.

“We are heartbroken by these acts of violence,” Asian Americans for Justice Atlanta said in a statement. “While the details of the shootings are still emerging, the larger context cannot be ignored. The shootings occurred under the trauma of increasing violence against Asian Americans nationally, fueled by white supremacy and systemic racism. “

Police in Atlanta and other major cities have deplored the killings, and some have said they will increase patrols in Asian-American communities. The Seattle mayor said “the violence in Atlanta was an act of hate,” and San Francisco police tweeted #StopAsianHate. The New York City Police Anti-Terrorism Unit said it was on high alert for similar attacks.

Other civil liberties groups and prominent Americans have also expressed dismay. Reverend Bernice King, daughter of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., said she was “deeply saddened that we live in a nation and a world steeped in hatred and violence. I stand with the Asian members of our House world, who are part of our global human family. “

Former President Barack Obama lamented that “even though we have fought the pandemic, we have continued to overlook the more enduring epidemic of gun violence in America.” While acknowledging that the gunman’s motive was not known, he said that “the identity of the victims underscores an alarming rise in anti-Asian violence which must end.”

Surveillance video recorded a man stopping at the Cherokee County business about 10 minutes before the attack, and the same car was spotted outside the Atlanta businesses, authorities said. A manhunt was launched and Long was arrested in Crisp County, about 240 kilometers south of Atlanta, Baker said.

The video evidence “suggests that it is extremely likely that our suspect is the same as the Cherokee County suspect who is in custody,” Atlanta police said in a statement.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that its diplomats in Atlanta confirmed to police that four of the deceased victims were women of Korean descent. The ministry said its consulate general in Atlanta was trying to confirm the nationality of the women.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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