Americas

Women of Asian Descent Were 6 of the 8 Victims in Atlanta Shootings

Delaina Ashley Yaun was looking forward to a date with her husband on Tuesday afternoon. The couple chose a relaxing massage at Young’s Asian Massage in a modest shopping center outside of Atlanta — a spa she had never visited before.

Soon after they arrived, Ms. Yaun was dead. A gunman had stormed into the business, the police said, killing four people and critically wounding a fifth.

In all, eight people were killed at three massage parlors in Atlanta and nearby Cherokee County on Tuesday. The authorities said six of them were of Asian descent and two were white. Seven were women.

The shooter, a white man identified as 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, told the police he had a “sexual addiction” and said the spas were “an outlet for him, something that he shouldn’t be doing.”

A day later, investigators struggled to make sense of the tragedy that evoked a long history of hate crimes committed against people of color and violence against women.

On Wednesday, the authorities named the victims found inside Young’s Asian Massage as Ms. Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Paul Andre Michels, 54, whose brother said he lived in Tucker.

Additionally, Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, was injured in the attack and remained in critical condition at an area hospital, family members said.

Officials with the Atlanta Police Department said on Wednesday they would not release the names of the four victims who were killed in the other two massage businesses until family members were notified.

Relatives of Ms. Yaun said she had never been to Young’s Asian Massage, in a diverse suburb about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, before Tuesday. She and her husband arrived shortly before the shooting began. She was killed but her husband survived, locked in a nearby room as gunshots rang out, according to Dane Toole, Ms. Yaun’s half sister.

“He’s not OK,” Ms. Toole said about her sister’s husband. “He’s taking it hard.”

Ms. Yaun, one of four siblings who grew up in the area, had worked as a server at a Waffle House restaurant. She raised a 13-year-old son as a single mother and had an 8-month-old daughter, family members said.

“It was just all about family,” Ms. Toole said. “Whatever we’d do, we’d do it together. It doesn’t seem real. I expect to see her walking through the door any minute. It just hasn’t quite sunk in yet.”

DeLayne Davis, a relative, called Ms. Yaun “a good, godly woman.”

Ms. Davis stood with family and friends outside Ms. Yaun’s home in Acworth on Wednesday afternoon, wiping tears from her eyes.

“She was the rock for this family,” Ms. Davis said. “If any family needed anything, they went to her. She doted on her kids.”

Paul Andre Michels, another person killed at the spa, was one of nine siblings, his brother John Michels said.

A Rise in Attacks Against Asian-Americans

    • Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in the Atlanta massage parlor shootings. Though the authorities in Atlanta said they did not believe the shootings were racially motivated, Asian communities across the United States are on alert because of a surge in attacks against Asian-Americans over the past year.
    • A torrent of hate and violence against Asian-Americans around the U.S. began last spring, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Community leaders say the bigotry was spurred by the rhetoric of former President Donald J. Trump, who referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus.”
    • In New York, the wave of xenophobia and violence has been compounded by the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has dealt a severe blow to New York’s Asian-American communities.
    • In January, an 84-year-old man from Thailand was violently slammed to the ground in San Francisco, resulting in his death at a hospital two days later. The attack was captured on video and the man’s death became a rallying cry.

    “We did almost everything together,” Mr. Michels, 52, said. His brother, he said, was a businessman and a veteran of the U.S. Army infantry, where he served in the late 1980s. Paul Michels had been married for more than 20 years and was a Catholic as well as a strong political conservative, his brother said. He grew up in southwest Detroit and moved to Georgia about 25 years ago for work.

    “My brother was a very hard-working, loving man,” Mr. Michels said.

    Mr. Hernandez-Ortiz, the man injured in the attack, was making his way to a money exchange business next door to Young’s Asian Massage when shots rang out, his wife, Flor Gonzalez, said. Moments later, he desperately reached for his cellphone.

    “I’ve been shot!” Mr. Hernandez-Ortiz told his wife, she later recalled. “Please come.”

    Ms. Gonzalez, 27, said she rushed to the hospital on Tuesday and was unable to see her 30-year-old husband until after midnight. Doctors told her that he had been wounded in his forehead, throat, lungs and stomach. He underwent surgery on Tuesday night.

    “Doctors told me he had been very lucky, but that he was still very grave,” she said. “He was lucky that the bullet didn’t penetrate his brain.”

    Ms. Gonzalez said she reminded her husband that next week the couple had been planning to celebrate their daughter’s 10th birthday, as a form of encouragement.

    “I pleaded with him to keep fighting and that he has a family,” she said. “He loves his daughter a lot. He’s always been a dedicated father, very loving.”

    Mr. Hernandez-Ortiz, who goes by Alex, moved to Georgia from Guatemala more than 10 years ago, his wife said, and worked as a mechanic. They had been married just as long.

    “Many others died,” she said holding back tears, “and my heart breaks for them. Whoever did this is not human.”

    Anne Berryman contributed reporting from Acworth, Ga. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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