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DA to Seek Hate Crime Charges and Death Penalty in Atlanta Spa Shootings

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The Fulton County District Attorney’s office announced a grand jury indicted the man charged with alleged Atlanta Spa shooting eight people on May 11, 2021. Court filings indicate the prosecutors will pursue hate crime charges and will seek the death penalty.

Robert Aaron Long, the alleged shooter, was indicted on four counts of murder, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, four counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony, and one count of domestic terrorism.

Breaking down the indictments, four of the five counts of assault with a deadly weapon are concerning the four shooting victims who died, and the fifth is for pointing a gun at another woman who had reason to fear for her life.

The indictment includes a domestic terrorism charge that says that Long committed a series of interrelated illegal acts during the shooting. The distinctive characteristics include “the intent to cause serious bodily harm and to kill individuals and groups of individuals, and with the intent to intimidate the civilian population of this state and its political subdivisions.”

ShootingWhen arrested, Long was charged murdering four Asian women by shooting Yong Ae Yue, 63; Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; and Hyun Jung Grant, 51, in Fulton County.

He was also charged with four other shootings in Cherokee County, where he remains in jail. A Cherokee County grand jury has yet to be convened. These shooting victims are Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed notices of her intent to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty against Long, who is white. Doing so violates the vow she made while a candidate. On June 9, 2020, Georgia Reform Partnership, each of the Democratic candidates for District Attorney pledged they would not seek the death penalty.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed Georgia’s revised hate crimes bill into law on June 26, 2020. The law sets additional criminal sentencing guidelines on any individual who intentionally commits a crime based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and mental or physical disability.

The law does not allow for a stand-alone hate crime. A jury must decide if the person’s crime fits into the state’s definition of such a crime but only after he or she is convicted of the underlying crime.

If Long is found guilty of committing hate crimes during his shooting spree, he could be the first under Georgia’s newly revised hate crime law.

Shootings and assaults against Asians in the United States are at an all-time high. Based on some of the reports, assailants spew nasty dispersions and mimicking former President Donald Trump’s disproven claim that COVID-19 was manufactured by the Chinese — often using the terms Kung-flu and Chinavirus.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

AP: Prosecutor plans to seek death penalty in spa shootings; by Kate Brumback
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: BREAKING: Atlanta spa shootings suspect indicted, will face hate crime charges; by Alexis Stevens

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Jimmy Emerson, DVM’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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