A Georgia sheriff’s official has been pulled as spokesperson in the investigation into the Atlanta-area massage parlor shootings that left eight people dead and at least one injured earlier this week, after he said the suspect in the slayings had “a really bad day,” an official confirmed.
Cherokee County Communications Director Erika Neldner told The Associated Press late Thursday that she would be handling all media inquiries involving Tuesday night’s mass shooting going forward, taking over for Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker.
Baker was widely criticized following statements he made Wednesday during a news conference providing an update in the case.
Baker had described the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, as being “pretty much fed up, at the end of his rope,” saying: “Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”
Long was charged with eight counts of murder, four of which were carried out at a Cherokee County massage parlor. The other shootings occurred at two other locations. Six people of Asian American descent were among the dead. Officials have stressed that the investigation is ongoing, and authorities have not yet made an official determination as to the motive of the attacks — including whether they were racially motivated — at this time.
The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said Friday that the four victims are 74-year-old Soon C. Park, 51-year-old Hyun J. Grant, 69-year-old Suncha Kim and 63-year-old Yong A. Yue.
Grant’s son, Randy Park, identified his mother by her maiden name, Hyun Jung Kim.
In a statement, the sons of Yue said they were “devastated” by her death and that “words cannot adequately describe our grief.”
“At this time, since the case has garnered so much attention, we are asking that the media and the public to please respect our family’s privacy while we grieve and while we make arrangements for our mother’s funeral,” they said.
The four victims killed in the Cherokee County shooting were identified as 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun, 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels, 44-year-old Daoyou Feng and 49-year-old Xiaojie Tan, who owned the business.
Police said Long, who was arrested hours later and roughly 150 miles away, took “responsibility” for the string of attacks and claimed it was not racially motivated. During a Wednesday news conference, Baker said Long purportedly has “what he considers a sex addiction” and allegedly sees massage parlors as “a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.”
The 21-year-old was allegedly on his way to Florida at the time of his arrest and indicated he was potentially going “to carry out additional shootings,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at the news conference.
Earlier Thursday, Sheriff Frank Reynolds issued a statement acknowledging that some of Baker’s comments stirred “much debate and anger” and said the agency regrets any “heartache” caused by his words.
Some activists had called for Baker to be fired over both his comments and the discovery of a 2020 Facebook post that Baker appeared to have written to promote a T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus. Neither Reynolds nor Baker has commented on the post, which was taken down Wednesday night.