Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez and her husband of less than a year wanted the night to themselves away from their kids on Tuesday.
To mark the special occasion, the newlyweds went to Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County, the 33-year-old’s younger sister, Dana Toole, told The Daily Beast.
“She was supposed to be enjoying a fun time with her husband,” Toole said, noting that her sister was the mother of a 14-year-old son and an 8-month-old daughter.
But the romantic getaway took a tragic turn after 21-year-old Robert Long allegedly entered the Asian massage parlor, fatally shooting Yaun and three others, before attacking two other massage parlors in a rampage that he blamed on his sexual-addiction issues.
“Hurry... we hiding right now... they have a gun,” one woman inside Gold Massage Spa, the second parlor hit in the shooting spree, can be heard saying in a 911 call released by the Atlanta Police Department on Wednesday. “I’m hiding right now.”
“Please come, OK?” she pleaded.
In a second call, a woman said she’d heard “some guy came in” Aroma Therapy Spa “and a lady is passed out in front of the door. Everyone is scared so everyone is hiding.”
In total, Long killed eight people during the tragic rampage—six of them Asian women.
“[Yaun’s daughter] is not even going to get to know her mom,” Toole, 29, told The Daily Beast, adding that she believes it was the couple’s first time at the massage parlor. “How do you explain that?”
Yaun, described as outgoing and family-oriented, is one of four victims to be identified so far. Authorities say that after Long killed four people inside Young’s Asian Massage—and injured a fifth who is in critical condition at a local hospital—he went to two other parlors and killed four more people.
“We believe he frequented these places in the past and may have been lashing out,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said in a Wednesday press conference.
He was eventually nabbed on a highway two hours south of Atlanta after a police chase. His family helped the police track him down. He admitted to police he was on his way to a pornography-related venue in Florida, authorities said, adding that it was “very likely there would have been more victims.”
The other victims of the Young’s parlor incident have been identified as Daoyou Feng, 44; Paul Andre Michels, a 54-year-old business owner who had been married for over two decades; and Xiaojie Tan, a 49-year-old who appeared to own at least two massage parlors in Atlanta. Business records indicate one of Tan’s businesses is Young’s.
The identities of the three people found dead at Gold Massage Spa in Atlanta and the person found dead at the Aroma Therapy Spa across the street have not yet been released.
Long, who has been charged with murder and attempted murder, allegedly confessed to police he had sex-addiction issues and blamed the massage parlors for providing an outlet for his addiction.
While the shootings come amid a wave of anti-Asian violence in the United States, authorities say Long allegedly insisted he was not intentionally gunning for people of Asian descent—though police said the investigation is ongoing and the murders could still be categorized as a hate crime.
The fact that the gunman targeted Asian massage parlors and killed a half-dozen Asian women has spurred uproar online and among community leaders. Nearly 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian hate incidents were reported between March 2020 and last month, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition documenting discrimination during the pandemic.
“As we wait for more details to emerge, I ask everyone to remember that hurtful words and rhetoric have real-life consequences. Please stand up, condemn this violence, and help us #StopAsianHate,” Rep. Judy Chu, (D-CA), who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, wrote on Twitter after the event.
Michels, who was killed at Young’s Asian Massage, was described by family members as a hardworking Army veteran who owned an electric company and was a “staunch Republican.”
“He was a gun-owner. He was baptized Roman Catholic,” John Michels, his 52-year-old brother, who lives in Michigan, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. He added that his brother was interested in “getting in the massage business” and was looking to own establishments.
“Before I would say anything, I would like to see the police do an investigation first,” John Michels said, stressing that he supports the right to due process and Second Amendment rights. “As a veteran, I protected those rights for him. My brother was a veteran of the United States Army Infantry. He served in Germany and Fort Knox. He was in West Germany and Fort Knox, Kentucky. He served from 1985-89.”
Michels’ sister, Ann Thornsberry, told The Daily Beast that while they were not a “close-knit family” her brother owned an electrician-related business and had been married for over 20 years.
Tan also seemed to be a hardworking business owner, who was listed as the “company agent” for at least two massage parlors in Atlanta. In addition to Young’s, Tan promoted a separate massage establishment, Wang’s Feet, and Body Massage, on her Facebook, and public records list her as the company’s agent. A man who answered the phone at the business, who identified himself as Mr. Wang, told The Daily Beast “right now I cannot speak about this issue" before hanging up.
A family member for Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, the Hispanic man from Acworth who survived the shooting at Young’s on Tuesday, told The Daily Beast the 30-year-old remains in critical condition.
“We are just praying for him and hope he will pull through. He is the kindest man,” the family member, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said Wednesday.
In an interview with The New York Times, Hernandez-Ortiz’s wife said he was steps away from a money exchange business that’s next to Young’s Asian Massage parlor when he encountered Long. The mechanic, who moved from Guatemala over a decade ago, immediately called his wife after being shot.
“I’ve been shot!” Hernandez-Ortiz told his wife, Flor Gonzalez, on the phone. “Please come.”
After the horrifying plea, the 30-year-old choked and the call dropped, Gonzalez said. It was not until after midnight that Gonzalez was able to see her husband following surgery Tuesday night at a local hospital. She said Hernandez-Ortiz suffered injuries to his throat, lungs, forehead, and stomach.
“He’s still alive, he’s fighting for his life,” Gonzalez told the Times, adding that her husband is a “dedicated father, very loving.” “But the doctors told me that he will have a long recovery after he leaves the hospital.”
Dana Toole added to The Daily Beast that her family first learned about Yuan’s death after their third sister, who worked across the street from the spa, saw the 33-year-old’s truck in photos from the scene.
“We had no idea she was there until they saw her truck,” Toole says. “We waited four hours to find out what happened.”