The 21-year-old suspect charged with multiple counts of murder after eight people were shot and killed in Atlanta had previously attended rehab for sex addiction, his former roommate has said.
Two people who lived with Robert Aaron Long in transitional housing supported the police’s narrative that sex addiction was the motivation for the alleged attack when speaking to USA Today.
Tyler Bayless, who said he lived with Long for six months in 2019 and 2020 at Maverick Recovery Center in Roswell, Georgia, said Mr Long was deeply religious and could not control his desire to visit massage parlors.
“He would say, ‘I’ve done it again’ and it just ate away at him,” Mr Bayless told the newspaper, claiming that Mr Long would relapse and then express guilt because of his Christian faith.
Mr Bayless’ relationship with Mr Long was first reported by CNN. Mr Bayless told the broadcaster that while most residents at Maverick Recovery were suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, Mr Long was being treated for sex addiction.
He told USA Today that Mr Long would spend hours in prayer and would confess indiscretions in weekly therapy sessions.
Bronson Lillemon, who told the newspaper he lived with Mr Long for three months in 2020, said that Mr Long felt a lot of “guilt” and “shame” as a result of his religion and his sexual urges.
Most of the victims of the shooting were of Asian descent. A new study based on police department statistics across major US cities revealed this week there have been a nearly 150 per cent surge in reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020.
Grace Kao, an expert on Asian American studies and the sociology department chair at Yale University, told the outlet that it was hard to separate the issue of race from the shootings.
Ms Kao said that given that “Asian American women have been viewed as exotic and feminine objects in US mass media and suspected of prostitution from the earliest US immigration restrictions”, the suspect could easily have viewed Asian American women in the same manner.
“If you talk to the average Asian American woman, most of us have been subject to varying degrees of sexual harassment that targets our gender and racial identities,” Ms Kao added. “They do not exist separately in the lives of individuals.”
Authorities in Georgia have claimed that interviews with the subject revealed that his shootings may not have been racially motivated, but tied to sexual issues.
“The suspect has been interviewed, which indicated he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction. He may have frequented some of these places in the past,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said on Wednesday.
The alleged shooter purportedly wanted to “eliminate the temptation” by removing the massage parlors, which provided an outlet for his addiction, according to police.
The Daily Beast reported on Tuesday that a student who graduated from high school with Mr Long in 2017 and spoke on condition of anonymity described him as “big into religion” and “nerdy”, saying they believed he was the child of a pastor.
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