Robert Aaron Long, the prime suspect in the shootings at three massage parlors in the state of Georgia on Tuesday, has been formally charged with eight murders and faces the death penalty.
According to police, the 21-year-old said he was gender dependent and motivated by a desire to “eliminate temptation”. But the fact that six of the victims were Asian women shocked the American Asian-American community.
Over the past year, complaints of hate crimes against citizens of Asian descent or ethnicity in the country have risen from an annual average of less than 200 to nearly 4,000 – a fact that victims and civil rights groups attribute in part to the conspiracy theory that the Covid-19 pandemic became deliberate Launched by the Chinese government.
In particular, representatives of the Asian-American community in the US accuse former President Donald Trump of fueling and legitimizing last year’s attacks by insisting on calling the SARS-Cov-2 virus a “Chinese virus”.
On Tuesday, just before news of the Georgia shootings began to dominate the country’s attention, Trump again referred to SARS-CoV-2 as the “China virus” in an interview with Fox News.
“We have brought the economy to a level that the world has never seen before,” said the former US president. “We were the envy of the world when we were hit by the Covid – the virus from China, as I call it – and after that we went down like any other economy.”
According to Cherokee County Police (the site of the first of three attacks on Tuesday, 70 kilometers north of Atlanta), the attacker drove a van along the road that connects his residential area with the state capital, Georgia, and stopped for three massages at salons.
In the first case, he killed four people with a 9mm pistol that the seller said he had legally bought on the same day. In front of him, at the entrance to Atlanta, he killed four other people in two other massage parlors across the street.
Of the eight victims, seven were women – six employees of an Asian massage parlor and a white client. At the site of the first attack, a white man was also killed in the hall and a Spanish man was attacked while leaving a shop next door, resulting in serious injuries.
The South Korean consulate in Atlanta announced on Wednesday that four of the dead women are ethnically Korean, but the nationality of all victims has not yet been disclosed.
Death or life imprisonment
On Wednesday, Robert Aaron Long was formally charged with eight willful murders and one offense of gross physical integrity and will hold his first trial on Thursday.
Georgia is one of the US states that impose the death penalty by lethal injection. Should Long be convicted of premeditated murder, he could be sentenced to death (however, if the local prosecutor asks for that conviction, which has not yet been confirmed).
Unlike other US states, Robert Aaron Long has no right to a new trial if the Georgia trial jury does not unanimously approve the death sentence. Instead, he is automatically sentenced to a death sentence. with or without the option of parole.
Since Tuesday’s attack, several figures and companies from all walks of life have joined a campaign to condemn hatred against Asians in the United States.
“Racism against Asians kills. It is real. And it’s growing and getting stronger, ”said Andrew Yang, former Democratic candidate for the White House Democratic Party and current New York mayoral candidate.
Yang was born in the United States to Taiwanese immigrants and said he had no doubts about the aggressor’s motivations. “As an Asian American, I think that’s exactly what happened: Asian women have been the target of a devastating, tragic, and meaningless hate crime.”
On Wednesday, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jay Baker refocused the debate on the aggressor’s motivations, telling a press conference that Robert Aaron Long was “sex dependent” and “wanted to remove the temptation” of massage parlors.
Baker’s statements have been widely criticized by civil rights organizations who accuse him of finding mitigating factors for an attack primarily directed against Asian women. And they stress that it is not common to hear the police comment on conversations with suspects when the attackers are unaware.
“He had enough and really hit the limit,” said Captain Jay Baker on Wednesday. “I had a bad day yesterday and I did that.”
A message was circulated on Wednesday evening, which Baker posted on Facebook on March 17, 2020, in which the Cherokee County police spokesman revealed he agreed to allegations that the covid-19 pandemic was provoked by China.
“I love my t-shirt! Enjoy it while you don’t go out, “said Baker, accompanying the photo of T-shirts that read” Covid 19, virus imported from ‘Chy-na’ “.