Former housemates at a rehab facility in Georgia say Robert Aaron Long was a "deeply religious" man who was "tortured" by guilt over his sex addiction. But those deeply held Christian beliefs apparently weren't enough to stop him from allegedly killing eight people. Tyler Bayless tells CNN that most residents of the Maverick Recovery Center were there dealing with drug or alcohol problems, but Long was there for sex addiction. Bayless says he shared a housing unit with Long for six months in 2019 and 2020. He says Long, who is accused of killing eight people at three Atlanta-area spas, sometimes told him he had "relapsed" and "gone to massage parlors explicitly to engage in sex acts." More:
- "A lot of shame." "He would say I've done it again and it just ate away at him," Bayless says. "He felt a lot of guilt, and a lot of shame," Bronson Lillemon, another former Maverick resident, tells USA Today. "I don’t know the specific massage parlors that he went to, but I would assume that the ones he shot up were the ones he went to.”
- They never heard him use racist language. Most of the people killed Tuesday were Asian-American women, but former housemates and high school classmates say that if Long had racist opinions, he kept them to himself. Bayless says Long spent very little time online and "didn't even have a cell phone."
- Sources say he claimed to want to "help" others. Police say Long, 21, admitted the killings and said they weren't racially motivated. Law enforcement sources tell CNN that Long told investigators he had considered killing himself, but decided he want to "help" other sex addicts with the killing spree. Police say he described the killings as a way to remove temptation. They say that when he was arrested Tuesday night, he was apparently on his way to carry out more attacks in Florida.
- Deputy criticized for "really bad day" remark. Cherokee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker is being strongly criticized for telling reporters Long had "was pretty much fed up" and had been having a "really bad day." Critics accused Baker of trying to justify Long's actions and noted that last year, he promoted sales of T-shirts blaming "CHY-NA" for the pandemic, reports the Washington Post. "All of us have experienced bad days," tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu. "But we don’t go to three Asian businesses and shoot up Asian employees."
- "We must stop making excuses." Asian-American lawmakers were among those saying that while Long claims to have not had a racist motive, his choice of targets made it clear that his hate was rooted in stereotypes about Asian women, the New York Times reports. "Racially motivated violence should be called out for exactly what it is—and we must stop making excuses or rebranding it as economic anxiety or sexual addiction," said Rep. Marilyn Strickland in a speech on the House floor. "As a woman who is Black and Korean, I'm acutely aware of how it feels to be erased or ignored."
- "We are not about to get into victim blaming." Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says the businesses targeted were operating legally. It has not been confirmed that they were locations of sex work, CNN reports. "We are not about to get into victim blaming, victim shaming, here. As far as we know in Atlanta, we have not had any 911 calls from that location. I believe one minor call on someone stealing some keys," Bottoms said. "So we don't know additional information about what his motives were, but we certainly will not begin to blame victims."
- Elders at his church speak out. Elders at the suburban Atlanta church Long attended say they are grieving for the victims and praying for everybody involved, including the Long family, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. "We are heartbroken for all involved. We grieve for the victims and their families, and we continue to pray for them," the Crabapple First Baptist Church in Alpharetta said in a statement. Police say Long's family reported him to investigators after they recognized him in surveillance footage released after the shootings.
(The shootings may be tried as a hate crime