ATLANTA – Police said Thursday that “nothing is off the table” in the investigation of the deadly shootings at two Atlanta massage businesses, including whether the slayings were a hate crime.
Those attacks and a third one near the suburban town of Woodstock killed eight people and prompted President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to change their plans for a previously scheduled trip to Atlanta. The pair postponed a political event in favor of meeting Friday with Asian American community leaders.
A 21-year-old white man, Robert Aaron Long, is charged with murder in Tuesday's slayings. Six of those killed were women of Asian descent.
“Our investigation is looking at everything, so nothing is off the table,” Deputy Atlanta Police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said at a news conference.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said it also was investigating whether the killings were hate crimes.
Georgia lawmakers last year passed a hate crimes law that allows additional penalties to be imposed for certain offenses when motivated by a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender or disability. A hate crime is not a standalone crime under the law, but it can be used to add time to a sentence once someone is convicted of another crime.
Investigators believe Long had previously visited two of the Atlanta massage parlors where four of the women were killed, Hampton said.
Long told police that the attacks were 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.