The bloody attacks — which happened within the space of about an hour — occurred at two parlors in northeast Atlanta and one about 30 miles northwest of the city in Cherokee County.
Police believe a 21-year-old suspect taken into custody Tuesday night was likely responsible for the three attacks.
Authorities haven’t identified the victims as they work to notify next of kin. But four were described as being of Korean ethnicity by South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
Earlier, Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said least four of the victims were female and appeared to be Asian.
Among the many questions remaining in the case, authorities are still investigating the motive behind the shootings. But the details of how the horror unfolded are becoming clearer.
How the shootings unfolded
Though spread across 30 miles, the attacks took place in quick succession.
Around 5 p.m. Tuesday, deputies were called to Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, Georgia, for reports of a shooting, Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesperson Jay Baker said.
Responding deputies found five people with gunshot wounds. Two people were pronounced dead at the scene and three were transported to a hospital, where two died, Baker said.
About an hour later and 30 miles away, Atlanta police responded to what was described as a robbery at the Gold Massage Spa on Piedmont Road in Atlanta. Police say they found three people dead.
While there, police received another call of shots-fired across the street at the Aroma Therapy Spa, where they found one person dead, Bryant said.
Authorities in the area, known as Atlanta’s Zone 2, said they were increasing patrols around similar businesses, and FBI spokesperson Kevin Rowson said the agency is assisting with the investigations.
At around 8:30 p.m., the highway patrol about 150 miles south of the city was alerted that a suspect in the Cherokee County shooting headed its way, Sheriff Frank Reynolds said in a video on the Crisp County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page.
After his vehicle was spotted, a chase ensued on Interstate 75 and a state trooper performed a maneuver that sent the SUV out of control.
“The suspect was taken into custody without incident … and transported to the Crisp County jail,” the official said.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office identified him as Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock.
Police believe Long is also responsible for the shootings in Atlanta, the Atlanta Police Department said in a news release.
“Video footage from our Video Integration Center places the Cherokee County suspect’s vehicle in the area, around the time of our Piedmont Road shootings,” the Atlanta Police Department said in a news release. “That, along with video evidence viewed by investigators, suggests it is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s, who is in custody. Because of this, an investigator from APD is in Cherokee County and we are working closely with them to confirm with certainty our cases are related.”
A community shaken
It is unclear still if the violence was motived by hate — and the police have not provided any motive for the shootings.
“The reported shootings of multiple Asian American women today in Atlanta is an unspeakable tragedy — for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the Asian American community, which has been reeling from high levels of racist attacks over the course of the past year,” it said. “This latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure.”
In Seattle, officials increased outreach to community-based organizations and added an increased presence of police patrols, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and Chief of Police Adrian Diaz said in a statement.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson condemned the shooting “in the strongest possible terms.”
CNN’s Nicole Chavez, Raja Razek, Jamiel Lynch and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.