Four of the counts against 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long are related to shootings at two massage parlours in Atlanta. The other four are related to shootings at a massage parlour in Cherokee County.
Eight people, most of them women of Asian descent, were killed in Tuesday’s shootings.
Police arrested the Georgia man who they say has taken responsibility for the shootings, while denying they were racially motivated, although many of the victims were women of Asian descent.
Officials told reporters that Long, from Woodstock, said he was a frequent visitor to massage parlours and intended to “eliminate” the “temptation” he thought they posed.
They would not say whether sex took place at the parlours where the shootings occurred.
They said Long was acting alone and a 9mm handgun was found in his car when he was arrested, and he was planning to go to Florida to attack “some type of porn industry”.
Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said it was too early to say if it was hate crime, but many members of the Asian American community said they felt they had been targeted.
“We’re in a place where we’ve seen an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans since the pandemic started,” said Georgia state representative Bee Nguyen. “It’s hard to think it is not targeted specifically toward our community.”
“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Jay Baker told reporters.
The attacks began on Tuesday evening, when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlour near Woodstock, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesman Captain Jay Baker said.
Two people died at the scene and three were taken to hospital where two more died, he said.
The Sheriff’s Office identified the victims as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Xiaojie Yan, 49, and Daoyou Feng, 44.
The injured person is 30-year-old Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz.
About an hour later, police responding to a call about a robbery found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa near Atlanta’s Buckhead area.
Officers then learned of a call reporting shots fired across the street, at Aromatherapy Spa, and found another woman apparently shot dead.
“It appears that they may be Asian,” Mr Bryant said.
The attacks came after a recent wave of assaults on Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of coronavirus across the US. The virus was first identified in China, and then-president Donald Trump and others have used racially charged terms like “Chinese virus” to describe it.
Over the past year, thousands of incidents of abuse have been reported to an anti-hate group that tracks incidents against Asian Americans, and hate crimes in general are at the highest level in more than a decade.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said: “This was a tragic day with many victims. But thankfully the suspect was quickly apprehended.”
Bottoms added that regardless of the shooter’s motivation, “it is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden has been briefed on the “horrific shootings” and would receive an update later Wednesday from Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray. The FBI is assisting Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities in the investigation.
Vice President Kamala Harris expressed support to the Asian American community, as she sent condolences to the victims’ families.
“We’re not yet clear about the motive. But I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” said Harris, who is the first Black and South Asian woman to hold the office of vice president.