ACWORTH, Ga — Eight people were shot to death at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area on Tuesday evening, the authorities said, adding that a suspect was in custody.
All but one of the people killed were women and six of them were Asian, according to law enforcement officials.
The gunman, identified as Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., was captured in Crisp County in South Georgia after a manhunt, said the authorities, who had earlier released a surveillance image of a suspect near a Hyundai Tucson outside one of the massage parlors.
The motive for the killings was unclear, though the Atlanta police initially characterized the shooting at one of the parlors in the city as a robbery in progress.
Four people died in the first shooting, at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, a northwest suburb of Atlanta, said Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. That shooting, in which one person was injured, was reported around 5 p.m.
At 5:47 p.m., the Atlanta police said, officers responded to a robbery at Gold Spa in the northeast part of the city, where they found the bodies of three women with gunshot wounds. While the officers were at the scene, the police said, they received a report of shots fired at the Aromatherapy Spa across the street, where they found the body of another woman.
Debra and Gregory Welch, who live in the neighborhood, said it was usually quiet and peaceful, although they referred to the stretch where the shootings took place as the community’s “red-light district.” “It’s for sure disturbing,” Mr. Welch said of the shootings, “but even more so if it’s related to an anti-Asian factor from the Covid pandemic.”
Northwest of Atlanta, Young’s Asian Massage is tucked in a modest strip mall, with a beauty salon on one side and a boutique on the other. Like much of suburban Georgia, it is a diverse place, with panaderias and Latin businesses and American-style chain restaurants.
On Tuesday night, the blue lights of police vehicles cast an eerie glow as detectives worked inside the spa.
Rita Barron, 47, the owner of Gabby’s Boutique next door, was with a group of onlookers standing near a used car lot. She said she had been with a customer when she heard noises through the wall that sounded like claps — and then women screaming.
She called 911, and soon saw people being taken out of the spa by police officers.
Nearby, a wail of anguish went up from another cluster of people waiting for any news. Three dropped to the pavement, two of them embracing and shaking as they cried.
Richard Fausset reported from Acworth, Ga., and Neil Vigdor from Greenwich, Conn. Sean Keenan contributed reporting from Atlanta, Azi Paybarah from Albany, N.Y., and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio from New York.