US shooting suspect attended church, was from Atlanta area

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ATLANTA – The Georgia man arrested in connection with shootings at Atlanta-area day spas that left eight people dead graduated from a high school north of Georgia’s capital in 2017 and attended a Baptist church in the area.

Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia was arrested on Tuesday night and was being held in a Cherokee County detention centre.

His mug shot released by authorities showed him with a chin beard, short hair on the sides of his head, and longer hair on the top, some reaching his eyes.

Long graduated from Sequoyah High School in Canton, Georgia in 2017, a Cherokee County School District spokeswoman said.

The Daily Beast reported that an Instagram appearing to belong to Long, but which was no longer active, contained a tagline that read: “Pizza, guns, drums, music, family, and God. This pretty much sums up my life. It’s a pretty good life.”

Authorities said they did not have any initial indication that Tuesday’s shootings were racially motivated.

Six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent. A white woman and white man were also among those killed. Long is white.

Officials said Long indicated he may have frequented the spas where Tuesday’s occurred, although authorities could not immediately confirm he had visited any of them in the past.

Officials said Long may have been struggling with a sexual addiction that he presented as his motive for violence that primarily targeted minority women.

Elders at the Crabapple First Baptist Church, which Long attended in nearby Milton, Georgia, issued a statement expressing grief over the shootings.

“We are heartbroken for all involved. We grieve for the victims and their families, and we continue to pray for them,” the statement said. “Moreover, we are distraught for the Long family and continue to pray for them as well.”

The church appeared to have disabled its Facebook page, which had contained a 2018 video clip in which Long talked about his baptism and youth group in the seventh grade when a speaker discussed the biblical parable of the prodigal son, according to the Daily Beast.

“The son goes off and squanders all that he has and lives completely for himself and then, when he he’s wanting to eat pig food, he realised there’s something wrong and he goes back to his father and his father runs back to him and embraces him,” Long said in the clip.

“And by the grace of God I was able to draw the connection there and realise this is a story between what happened with me and God.”

Long’s family did not respond to a request for comment.

The family facilitated the arrest, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department.

Reuters visited the address listed in public records for the suspect and two other people with his surname. It was a modest, well-kept house in an upper middle-class neighbourhood in Woodstock, a predominantly white Cherokee County community of about 33,000 people.

On Wednesday, the shades were drawn and an American flag hung from an awning at the front of the ranch-style home.

Summer Barber, a 21-year-old dog groomer who lives up the road, said she had seen some of the residents ride four-wheelers on the weekends and had a few casual conversations with them, including to offer to groom their golden doodle.

Barber said she believed she had spoken with the suspect and a woman who might be his mother.

“They seem real nice, normal,” Barber said, adding that the area, which is not far from horse pastures, was a nice place to live.

“Nothing ever really happens here, people , raise families.”

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