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Prosecutors to Seek Hate Crime Charges, Death Penalty Against Suspect in Atlanta-Area Spa Shootings

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 5/11/2021 Claire Hansen
a close up of a flower: ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 21: Members of the Bad Asian and Civic Walls groups paint a mural near Krog Street Tunnel on March 21, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. The murals are in remembrance of the eight lives lost at the three spa shootings in Atlanta this past week. All across the United States people have banned together to show support for Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities after the shootings that left eight dead, six of whom were Asian women. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images) © Megan Varner/Getty Images ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 21: Members of the Bad Asian and Civic Walls groups paint a mural near Krog Street Tunnel on March 21, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. The murals are in remembrance of the eight lives lost at the three spa shootings in Atlanta this past week. All across the United States people have banned together to show support for Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities after the shootings that left eight dead, six of whom were Asian women. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Prosecutors will seek hate crimes charges and the death penalty against a man accused of killing eight people – including six women of Asian descent – in a shooting rampage at Atlanta-areas spas in March.

The suspect, 22-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury for the killing of four people at two spas in Atlanta, all of whom were women of Asian descent. Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, said in a court filing Tuesday that Long targeted the four women in Atlanta because of their race, national orign, sex and gender, and that prosectors will seek hate crime penalties if Long is convicted of murder. Hate crime charges enhance the penalty for an underlying crime.


Video: Atlanta spa shootings: US police investigate if killings are hate crimes (Dailymotion)

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Long has also been charged with the deaths of four other people at a spa in Cherokee County just before the Atlanta shootings.

The killings shook the country in March amid a rise in anti-Asian hate during the coronavirus pandemic. The case will be one of the first major tests of Georgia's new hate crime law, which was passed last summer after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who prosecutors say was killed by three white men while jogging.

All but three states in the U.S. have hate crime laws, which enhance the penalty for crimes motivated by bias or targeting someone based on characteristics like race, ethnicity and religions.

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