‘It just really hit home’: Georgia killings leave unforgettable mark on local businesses
ACWORTH, Georgia — The wall of Rita Barron’s clothing store in a five-shop strip mall has a bullet hole in it. And four people in the shop next door were fatally shot Tuesday.
“I’m sad for everybody because I knew all of them,” said Barron. She was working in her shop, Gabby’s Boutique, with her husband when a gunman opened fire at the spa next door, called Young’s Asian Massage.
In all, eight people died in the gunman’s rampage at three similar spas in the Atlanta area. The killings have struck a chord of fear throughout businesses like Barron’s.
Business owners and locals around the three spas where Robert Aaron Long is accused of killing eight people told the USA TODAY Network they’re worried about hate crimes. Police said Long confessed to the shootings, which have been denounced as another instance of anti-Asian American violence amid a rising tide of hate crimes throughout the U.S.
Atlanta spa shootings suspect charged with murder: Too soon to tell if killings were racially motivated, police say
Police on Tuesday said Long claimed to have a sex addiction and told authorities shootings were not racially motivated, despite six of the victims being Asian women. Long, of Woodstock, Georgia, was charged with eight counts of murder Wednesday in all three shootings.
Andrew Eun, who identifies as Asian American, was born in Atlanta and has lived in the city for 34 years. The shootings were a particular shock to have hit so close to his — and his parents’ — workplaces.
“When it took place in downtown Atlanta, you are talking about a few blocks from where my parents work and the location in Northwest Atlanta is actually about 15 minutes from the place that I work,” Eun said. “I think it just really hit home. I think it’s incredibly disturbing.”
Although the shooting was shocking to him, Eun said anti-Asian American sentiments are not new. He recounted how he was called slurs at a young age, as early as when he was in third grade. And lately, anti-Asian attitudes seem to be spreading across the country, he said.
What we know: Suspect officially charged after 8 people killed at 3 businesses; most victims were Asian
“I think there is so many different ways to explain and try to understand this phenomenon. I think anti-Asian-American sentiment has been here in the nation for a very long time,” he said.
When asked if he was afraid to go out in public as an Asian-American, he said, “Yes, 100%”.
Adrian Lopec is a manager of Big Savings Tool and Liquidation, located in the strip in Acworth. His shop is on the end of the strip and farthest from the spa and he said he always exchanged pleasantries with the owners of Young’s Asian Massage when they saw each other.
“You don’t hear anything like this happening,” Lopec said. “All these years that I’ve been living here, I haven’t experienced something like this.”
In Atlanta, residents braved wet and dreary weather Wednesday afternoon to bring flowers and candles to memorialize the victims of those killed Tuesday evening.
Visual timeline: What happened at the Atlanta-area spa shootings
Several flower bouquets and candles sat at the steps of Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa on Piedmont Road. Signs were also left at Gold Spa with messages like “We must love each other and protect each other” and “We will defend each other; we will stand in solidarity.”
Reflecting on the area, one resident, Kevin Howell, said he’s careful when he leaves home on early weekend mornings. His home is close to the business one Piedmont Road. The streets, he said, are often filled with loud cars and louder music.
“This area has gotten really crazy,” he said.
From his balcony, Howell said he can can see behind Aromatherapy Spa, one of the spas impacted by Tuesday’s violence.
“And all you see is people waiting outside or going in at the craziest times in the morning,” Howell said. “A lot of people would park in the back so they wouldn’t be seen.”
Sukari Olawumi, who works at a private practice nearby, said she came to pay her respects due to the horror of the event.
‘Stop killing us’: Attacks on Asian Americans highlight rise in hate incidents amid COVID-19
“I was devastated and angry,” Olawumi said. “It’s unacceptable and there is no reason for it to happen.”
Residents Erica Gonzalez and Roula Abisamra brought out some of the flowers and other memorial tokens as a way to stand up for fellow people of color.
“We came here to show our support for everyone and let everyone know that this is not accepted or tolerated here in Atlanta,” Gonzalez said.
Abisamra added: “I’m not an expert on crime, on violence. What I know is that, as women of color, we are especially targeted for violence over and over. We wanted to say, ‘We see you, you shouldn’t have lost your lives. We’re in this with you and we want to protect you.’”
Source: Read Full Article