"We have no question that the death penalty is both deserved and appropriate"
The death penalty is being sought for the shooter who targeted three Atlanta Asian spas, leaving eight people dead.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, unleashed his brutal attack on 16 March, moving from various massage parlours in the area and shooting workers.
Captain Jay Baker, who said the suspect was having a “bad day”, was removed as spokesperson for the incident.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed notice with the Fulton Superior Court on Tuesday that she plans to seek the death penalty for hate crimes targeting the sex and race of the victims.
“I, along with my staff, have made a determination that this office will seek the death penalty,” Willis told reporters. “Last year, I told the voters of Fulton County that I could not imagine a circumstance where I would seek it. And at that time I did not.”
“Unfortunately, a case has arisen in the first few months of my term that I believe warrants the ultimate penalty,” she added.
“Further, we have filed a notice that we will seek sentence enhancement, pursuant to Georgia’s sentencing enhancement statute, commonly referred to as a hate crime statute, based on the race and gender of the victims.”
“I have personally walked the crime scene in this case,” she told reporters. “I have spent more than six hours with the families involved in this case. We have reviewed the evidence, and I am comfortable in the decision that this is an appropriate sentence to seek.”
“The message that I hope we are sending is, It does not matter your ethnicity. It does not matter what side of the tracks you come from. It does not matter your wealth. You will be treated as an individual with value.”
Stop AAPI Hate said in a statement thatwomen continue to report incidents at a disproportionate rate “in no small part due to the combination of racism and misogyny Asian American women experience.”
“As our hearts still ache from the tragic Atlanta Spa Shootings, in which six Asian American women were murdered, we acknowledge the importance of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ decision to seek hate crime charges against Robert Aaron Long on the basis of both race and gender,” the statement said.
Long was indicted for 19 counts: Four charges for malice murder, four charges of felony murder, one charge for domestic terrorism, five charges for aggravated assault, and five charges of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Peter Skandalakis, director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, said the enhanced hate crime penalty for homicide in the state is the maximum of life in prison with possibility of parole at 30 years, life without parole, or the death penalty.
Michael Webb and Jamie Webb, the ex-husband and daughter of Atlanta spa shooting victim Xiaojie Tan commending the DA for seeking the death penalty.
“Although nothing will bring our beloved Xiaojie back to us, we commend the DA’s office for their decision,” the statement said. “We have no question that the death penalty is both deserved and appropriate, if the accused is ultimately convicted of these unspeakable crimes.”
“Naturally, a decision not to pursue this as a death penalty case in Cherokee County would be disappointing to us, to say the least,” the statement said.
In other news, an Asian police officer was shot and killed whilst responding to a domestic violence.