State and federal investigators are scrambling to learn more about Robert Aaron Long, the suspect in a string of deadly shootings at three Atlanta-area Asian spas, and his alleged motive.
Not much information has surfaced about the 21-year-old from Woodstock, about a half-hour drive north of Atlanta.
He is presently detained without bond in Cherokee County, where he faces four counts of murder and a charge of aggravated assault, according to the county sheriff’s office. More charges are possible.
Following Tuesday’s shootings at two spas in Atlanta and another in Acworth, about 10 miles west of Woodstock — which left eight people, at least four of them Asian women, dead — authorities located Long about 150 miles south of Atlanta, in Crisp County. State police took him into custody after using a special pursuit maneuver to spin his car out of control.
The suspect “did take responsibly for the shootings,” Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said.
Sheriff Frank Reynolds in Cherokee County, where the Acworth shootings took place, told reporters Long “made indicators that he has some issues — potentially, sexual addiction — and may have frequented some of these places in the past.”
The suspect “may have been lashing out,” the sheriff said.
Tyler Bayless said he shared a housing unit with Long at Maverick Recovery, a rehab facility in Roswell, Georgia, between August 2019 and January or February 2020. He said that most residents were suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, but Long was being treated for sex addiction.
“It was something that absolutely would torture him,” Bayless said. He said Long was a “deeply religious person — he would often go on tangents about his interpretation of the Bible,” and was distraught about his addiction to sex.
Bayless said that on multiple occasions during his stay at the facility, Long told him that he had “relapsed” and “gone to massage parlors explicitly to engage in sex acts.”
“He’d feel extremely guilty about it,” Bayless said. “He’d talk about how he was going to harm himself.”
He said he didn’t know whether Long had specifically gone to any of the spas where he allegedly shot eight people dead Tuesday night.
Long told Bayless that he was “raised in a very religious household,” Bayless said.
And, he “talked about how one of his favorite memories was that he got a gun on his 10th birthday,” Bayless said.
Bayless, who hasn’t spoken with Long since Long left the recovery facility, said he had never heard him say anything derogatory about Asian people.
After hearing Long was the suspect in the shootings, Bayless said he was shocked that his former roommate would do such a thing. It was eerie to think back about “what a calm, collected, nice, normal guy he was,” Bayless said.
Mason Clements, who is listed as the registered agent at Maverick Recovery in business filings, said in a text message that “I am unable to comment on any client past, present or future due to confidentiality agreements.”
Another former roommate of Long’s also told CNN that Long had been in rehabilitation for sex addiction, and that in summer 2020 he had lived with Long at a transition house for people leaving rehab, though he declined to name the facility or divulge the state where it’s located.
He recognized Long from the surveillance footage disseminated by authorities, he said, and Cherokee County dispatch records indicate the ex-roommate called police Tuesday night.
The ex-roommate hadn’t spoken to Long “in a long time,” he said, but Long seemed to have “self-hatred” and the former roommate recalled a time Long became “very, very mad, mad at himself” after rear-ending the roommate’s car.
He also described Long as kind and generous and said he often cooked for friends
The ex-roommate “never heard (Long) say anything racial,” he told CNN.
Long told police the shootings were “not racially motivated,” according to Baker, who reiterated his superior’s assertion regarding sex addiction.
“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him he wanted to eliminate,” Baker said.
Investigators believe that when he was captured, Long might have been en route to Florida to perpetrate more shootings, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told reporters.
Long had a 9 mm firearm in his car when he was arrested, Baker said. It was not clear if Long had legally obtained it, the captain said.
It was Long’s family who turned him in Tuesday, Reynolds said, indicating the parents called police after seeing surveillance footage that authorities posted to social media.
“We were contacted by members of the family indicating that may be their son, so we met with them,” Reynolds said. “They were very distraught, and they were very helpful in this apprehension.”
Once investigators identified Long, the sheriff said, they tracked his phone and anticipated his movements, leading to his arrest in Crisp County.
In his mugshot, Long is wearing a suicide prevention suit as a precautionary measure, which is customary, Crisp County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Haley Little said.