On Tuesday, eight people were shot and killed and one more was injured in a string of murders at three separate spa businesses in Georgia. Four people were killed at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth and four more people were killed at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta. The suspect is 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, who has reportedly confessed to the murders. And while law enforcement refuses to acknowledge that race was a factor and that six of the eight people killed were of Asian descent, it is very clear that it plays some part in this tragedy.
On Friday, NBC Asian America released the names of the eight people killed: 74-year-old Soon Chung Park; 51-year-old Hyun Jung Grant; 69-year-old Suncha Kim; 63-year-old Yong Ae Yue; 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun’ 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels; 49-year-old Xiaojie Tan; and 44-year-old Daoyou Feng. The one person who has so far survived the attacks was 30-year-old Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz. He remains in the ICU with wounds to his forehead, throat, lungs ,and stomach. But these are just names and while there is not too much known about them, each one of those people were loved.
Hyun Jung Grant (whose maiden name is Kim) was the mother of two boys. She was killed while she worked at Gold Spa in Atlanta. The older of her two children, 23-year-old Randy Park, spoke with the Daily Beast saying he found out about his mother’s murder while sitting at their home playing video games. He said that he had not experienced much in the way of racism in his day-to-day life, but everything he knew has been turned upside down. “It’s surreal. But I have a younger brother that I have to take care of now, so as much as I want to be sad and grieve—and I am super sad—I have no choice but to move on. To figure out the whole living situation for probably the next year with my brother.”
Park said he and his mother were very close and ate dinner together before she went to work every night. Park says that his mother was his best friend. His mother “worked her ass off” to provide for her two sons, and Park knew that. He says his mother was a teacher back in South Korea and “here in America, she did what she had to do. She was a single mother of two kids who dedicated her whole life to raising them.”
Delaina Yaun and her husband were at Young’s Asian Massage to relax, Yuan’s sister told CNN. They were there in order to get some “time together” on a date. The couple had just recently married in August, and had an 8-month-old daughter. According to the BBC, Yuan also had a teenage son from a previous relationship. Yuan’s husband was in another room and escaped unscathed. Yuan’s sister told ABC that “He’s taking it hard.”
Paul Andre Michels was married, and an Army veteran who ran business installing security systems. He moved to Atlanta from Detroit 25 years ago, and according to his brother John Michels, was thinking about making a career change, possibly starting his own spa business. “His age caught up to him. You get to a point where you get tired of climbing up and down ladders,” his brother said.
Xiaojie Tan reportedly owned two businesses, including Young’s Asian Spa where the shooting took place. Tan was killed two days before she was to celebrate her 50th birthday with her one child, 29-year-old Jami Webb. “She did everything for me and for the family. She provided everything. She worked every day, 12 hours a day, so that me and our family would have a better life,” Webb told USA Today. Tan met Michael Webb, an American business man in the southern Chinese city of Nanning almost 20 years ago. Webb and Tan were married in 2004 and Webb adopted Tan’s daughter Jami. The couple raised Jami together, and though they separated in 2012, they remained close as parents of Jami. “She’d always say, ‘we family,’ Even when we got divorced, she’d say that: ‘We family.’ Because that’s how she was,” said her ex-husband.
Longtime friend, customer, and fellow business owner Greg Hynson told USA Today that any implication that Tan and her business were involved in sex work was erroneous. “You’re coming here to get a massage. All these girls that have worked for her over the years are working for her on their own free will. They’re here for a better life. They’re diligent and work hard and all the money they make is going toward a better life for their family.” According to Tan’s daughter, her mother called China to speak with her sister and mother every day on the way to and from work. According to Webb, they could not bring themselves to tell Xiaojie’s mother that her daughter had died. They carried out the ceremony for Xiaojie Tan’s 50th birthday, pretending she was still alive. “She kept asking to talk to my mom. We told my grandma that my mom lost her phone and couldn’t answer,”
The lone survivor of the attack was 30-year-old Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz. The New York Times reports that Hernandez-Ortiz’s wife Flor Hernandez received a call from him saying he had been shot, before the call dropped. She has set up a fundraiser for him, writing that he remains in intensive care. She reports that he was shot in the forehead, and his wounds included his throat, lungs, and stomach. She says he will need facial surgery as well. Hernandez-Ortiz continues to fight for his life, while his wife says that this coming week includes their daughter’s 10th birthday. The BBC reports that his 9-year-old daughter Yoseline told news outlets that “he is a really good dad.”
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