Six of the victims were Asian, the authorities said, raising fears that there may have been a racial motivation to the crimes.
ACWORTH, Ga. — Eight people were shot to death at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area on Tuesday evening, the authorities said, raising fears that the crimes may have targeted people of Asian descent.
Six of the people killed were Asian, and two were white, according to law enforcement officials. All but one were women.
A suspect, identified as Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., was captured in Crisp County, about 150 miles south of Atlanta, after a manhunt, said the authorities, who had earlier released a surveillance image of a suspect near a Hyundai Tucson outside one of the massage parlors.
Although it was not clear whether there was a racial motivation in the shootings, Stop AAPI Hate, formed to prevent anti-Asian discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic, called them “an unspeakable tragedy” for both the victims’ families and an Asian-American community that has “been reeling from high levels of racist attacks.”
The Atlanta police initially characterized the shooting at one of the parlors in the city as a robbery in progress. The suspect in custody is white.
Four people died in the first shooting, at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, a northwest suburb of Atlanta, said Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. That shooting, in which a Hispanic man was injured, was reported around 5 p.m.
At 5:47 p.m., the Atlanta police said, officers responded to a robbery at Gold Spa in the northeast part of the city, where they found the bodies of three women with gunshot wounds. While the officers were at the scene, the police said, they received a report of shots fired at the Aromatherapy Spa across the street, where they found the body of another woman.
Debra and Gregory Welch, who live in the Piedmont Heights neighborhood, said it was usually quiet and peaceful, although they referred to the stretch where the shootings took place as the community’s “red-light district.” On the same block, near Cheshire Bridge Road, there is another massage parlor, a tattoo shop and a strip club.
“It’s for sure disturbing,” Mr. Welch said of the shootings, “but even more so if it’s related to an anti-Asian factor from the Covid pandemic.”
There have been nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents targeting Asian-Americans nationwide since last March, according to Stop AAPI Hate. The group said the shootings on Tuesday “will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian-American community continues to endure.”
In Seattle, the Police Department said on Tuesday night that it would increase patrols and outreach to support the city’s Asian-American community. The New York Police Department’s counterterrorism bureau said on Twitter that it would “be deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution.”
The F.B.I. was assisting in the investigation, a spokesman for the Atlanta field office said.
The percentage of Asian-Americans in Georgia has increased in recent decades, and about 7.6 percent of residents in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, are of Asian descent.
“Our entire family is praying for the victims of these horrific acts of violence,” Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, tweeted.