Authorities in Cherokee County originally said 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long was charged with four counts of murder and one count of assault in the shooting at a massage parlor there. Authorities updated that on Wednesday to eight counts of murder.
The other victims were killed at two spas in Atlanta.
Officials said they’re still investigating whether the killings were hate crimes amid concerns over a wave of attacks on Asian Americans. Six of the victims were Asian and seven were women.
Authorities said Long, who’s white, told police his act wasn’t racially motivated and that he potentially had a “sex addiction.”
They also said he was planning to go to Florida in a plot to attack “some type of porn industry.”
“He made indicators that he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction, and may have frequented some of these places in the past,” said Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds.
It was not clear if Long ever went to the parlors where the shootings occurred.
The attacks began Tuesday evening when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor near Woodstock, about 30 miles north of Atlanta. Two of the victims died at the scene and three were transported to a hospital where two of them also died, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said.
Later Tuesday evening, police officers responded to a call of a robbery in progress at Gold Spa in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Officers found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds. While they were at that scene, they learned of a call reporting shots fired at another spa across the street, Aromatherapy Spa, and found a woman who appeared to have been shot dead inside the business.
The shootings appear to be at the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia,” Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen said, the first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia House and a frequent advocate for women and communities of color.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that regardless of the shooter’s motivation, “it is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop.”
The attack was the sixth mass killing this year in the U.S., and the deadliest since the August 2019 Dayton killing that took the lives of nine people, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reporting by AP’s Kate Brumback and Angie Wang.