The 21-year-old man suspected of killing eight people – six of them Asian women – at three metro Atlanta massage parlors professed a passion for guns and God, according to a report.
Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Georgia, was arrested without incident Tuesday night about 150 miles south of Atlanta and charged with murder, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Information about Long is sparse, but The Daily Beast reported that a tagline on an Instagram account that appeared to belong to the suspect said: “Pizza, guns, drums, music, family, and God. This pretty much sums up my life. It’s a pretty good life.”
A student who graduated from Sequoyah High School with Long in 2017 told the news outlet on condition of anonymity: “He was very innocent seeming and wouldn’t even cuss.
“He was sorta nerdy and didn’t seem violent from what I remember. He was a hunter and his father was a youth minister or pastor. He was big into religion,” the former classmate added.
A 2018 video on the Crabapple First Baptist Church’s Facebook page features Long discussing his Christian journey toward baptism, according to The Daily Beast.
“As many of you may remember, when I was eight years old I thought I was becoming a Christian, and got baptized during that time. And I remember a lot of the reason for that is a lot of my friends in my Sunday school class were doing that,” Long says in video.
“And after that time, there wasn’t any fruit from the root that is our salvation,” he says, adding that as a seventh-grader he attended a youth group and a speaker was discussing the biblical story of the prodigal son.
“The son goes off and squanders all that he has and lives completely for himself and then, when he finds he’s wanting to eat pig food, he realized there’s something wrong and he goes back to his father and his father runs back to him and embraces him,” he says, according to the report.
“And by the grace of God I was able to draw the connection there and realize this is a story between what happened with me and God. I ran away living completely for myself, and he still wants me, and so that’s when I was saved.”
In a statement, elders of the church told Heavy.com: “We are grieved to hear the tragic news about the multiple deaths in the Atlanta area. We are heartbroken for all involved.
“We grieve for the victims and their families, and we continue to pray for them. Moreover, we are distraught for the Long family and continue to pray for them as well,” they added.
The suspect’s family did not respond to calls from The Daily Beast for comment.
Authorities said Long is the suspect in the shootings at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor in Cherokee County that left four people dead and one person injured – and in two more shootings in northeast Atlanta that resulted in four more deaths.
The victims, whose names have not yet been released, included six Asian woman, a white woman and a white man, officials said.
“It does appear that it’s the same suspect,” Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee sheriff’s office told the newspaper, adding that surveillance images indicate that Long is the suspect in all three shootings.
Police stressed it was too early to cite motive in the bloodbath, but the attacks come amid a wave of targeted violence against the Asian-American community.