Mar 17, 2021
Atlanta Police Press Conference on Spa Shootings Transcript March 17
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and law enforcement officials held a press conference on March 17, 2021 to address the Atlanta-area spa shootings that resulted in the deaths of 8 people. Read the transcript of the full news briefing speech here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
You may have at the moment?
Male Reporter: (00:00)
Sheriff, so are you saying when you talked to the suspect you said he has a sexual addiction. But I’m sure you asked him was this racially motivated? Was this racially motivated?
Speaker 1: (00:11)
As the chief indicated, it’s still early, but the indicators right now are it may not be. It may be targets of opportunity. Again, we believe that he frequented these places in the past and may have been lashing out. And part of that is in your media packet as well.
Speaker 3: (00:33)
You want to hold all questions to the end, please.
Male Reporter: (00:33)
But the working theory is a sexual addiction issue rather than a racial profile?
Speaker 1: (00:38)
During our interviews, we asked that specific question and that did not appear to be the motive from-
Speaker 3: (00:51)
You want to hold all questions till the end, please.
Speaker 1: (00:51)
Yes. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (00:51)
Let us get through the press conference and then we’ll answer any questions. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (00:51)
Thank you, ma’am. I appreciate that. I’ll turn it over to the next person.
Chief Rodney Bryant: (01:02)
So on yesterday at 5:47, our units responded to 1916 Piedmont road on a robbery call. Upon arrival, they discovered three females shot inside this location. While investigating that location, they received another call at 1907 Piedmont Road where they found another female shot inside that location. Both locations were massage parlors. And at that time, we recognized that we had had information previously put out by Cherokee County, that they had a similar incident occurring in their jurisdiction. Immediately, the Sheriff and I and the Chief in that jurisdiction started having conversations trying to bring things together.
Chief Rodney Bryant: (01:56)
As we stated earlier, the collaboration between the different and the local and state partners, we immediately started having conversations to coordinate our efforts to determine who our individual, the subject that we were looking for. I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the quick response of the Sheriff’s Department, identifying, getting their photo, and putting that picture out so that we could get a quicker response in identifying the person that was the suspect in this type of incident.
Chief Rodney Bryant: (02:33)
Once we were able to get our information and gather our information and coordinate with Cherokee County, we immediately put that out metro-wide. Having conversations, again, as I stated with our federal, state, and local partners. All immediately asked what could they do. All resources immediately started getting involved so that we could bring this to a quick closure. And from that, I’ll turn it over to Georgia State Patrol, who concluded with the arrest.
Lieutenant Mark Riley: (03:09)
Good morning. Yesterday afternoon, after the two incidents occurred here in Fulton and Cherokee Counties, there was a lookout put out. There was also intel given, our GEMA liaison. And GEMA and Homeland Security liaison sent out emails letting us know a potential area where the suspect’s vehicle may be. The Sheriff of Cherokee County reached out to his partner down in Crisp County, who reached out to the Georgia State Patrol in Cordele. And we had a trooper monitoring traffic on 75 South. The trooper observed the suspect’s vehicle traveling south. He started following the vehicle and waited for backup, which included two other Georgia State Troopers, as well as the Sheriff of Crisp County, and some of his deputies. They initiated a traffic stop and then immediately pitted the vehicle. After the vehicle was pitted, the suspect was taken into custody without further incident and transported to the Crisp County Jail.
Speaker 3: (04:09)
We’ll now open for questions.
Keisha Lance Bottoms: (04:12)
I do want to add one thing that was not mentioned. I believe Captain Baker shared with us that they determined that the suspect was on his way to Florida, I believe, and perhaps to carry out additional shooting. So again, it really speaks to the coordination and the quick response from law enforcement. For as tragic as this was on yesterday in Metro Atlanta, this could have been significantly worse. And again, I can’t express enough my gratitude for the coordination, and the public as a whole should be grateful that the suspect was quickly apprehended because it is very likely that there would have been more victims on yesterday.
Male Reporter: (05:05)
Could you explain a little bit more about what the locations were that he targeted? The Sheriff mentioned he had a sexual addiction. Were they places where somebody could have sexual encounters or were they more traditional spa-like venues?
Keisha Lance Bottoms: (05:20)
We are not about to get into victim blaming, victim shaming here. As far as we know in Atlanta, we’ve not had any calls, 911 calls from that location. I believe one minor call on someone stealing some keys. So we don’t know additional information about what his motives were. But we certainly will not begin to blame victims. And as far as we know in Atlanta, these are legally operating businesses that have not been on our radar, not on the radar of APD.
Male Reporter: (05:58)
Ma’am, what your message-
Female Reporter: (06:02)
Can someone talk to us about the surviving victim that was shot outside of the store? Can somebody talk to us about that at all?
Keisha Lance Bottoms: (06:09)
That’s a question for our Cherokee partners.
Captain Jay Baker: (06:13)
Thank you. I’m Captain Jay Baker with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office. So, that victim is stable. He’s in stable condition at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta.
Female Reporter: (06:22)
Was he caught in the crossfire or do you think he was a …
Captain Jay Baker: (06:23)
Don’t know … And by the way, I agree with the Mayor, we’re not going to do any victim shaming. We’re not sure what his presence was there. And the other people that were killed at that location, we’re not going to say whether they were employees or whether they were there just by happenstance. So just don’t want to go into that at this time. I do have a press release with their names that we will give y’all when this is over with.
Female Reporter: (06:41)
Is that the only survivor?
Captain Jay Baker: (06:44)
That is the only survivor. We had four killed and one survive.
Male Reporter: (06:47)
During the interview with the suspect-
Female Reporter: (06:49)
[crosstalk 00:06:49] You stated that, so from the suspect was perhaps upset at these locations for allowing him to have an outlet for his addiction. Can you elaborate on that?
Captain Jay Baker: (06:57)
Yeah. Let me go into a little bit of detail. So the suspect did take responsibility for the shootings. He said that early on once we began the interviews with him. He claims that these, and as the chief said, this is still early, but he does claim that it was not racially motivated. He apparently has an issue, what he considers sex addiction and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate. Like I said, it’s still early on, but those were comments that he made.
Male Reporter: (07:33)
Did he discuss any kind of religious motivation for this or was he just …
Captain Jay Baker: (07:38)
Not that I’m aware of. Not that I’m aware.
Female Reporter: (07:40)
Captain Jay Baker: (07:41)
None political. I’ve heard nothing about politics.
Female Reporter: (07:43)
And a sense of his social media history, is that something you’ve been able to look up.
Captain Jay Baker: (07:47)
That’s something that investigators, and they’ve been working on it, and that’s certainly one of the things they’ll be doing.
Male Reporter: (07:51)
Sheriff, did you have a sense that he understood the gravity of what he did?
Captain Jay Baker: (07:57)
When I spoke to the investigators, they interviewed him this morning and they got that impression, that, yes, he understood the gravity of it. And he was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. And yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.
Male Reporter: (08:11)
Captain Jay Baker: (08:13)
I’m not going to go to … I don’t know if he was remorseful or not.
Male Reporter: (08:16)
You mentioned Florida-
Female Reporter: (08:17)
He was a pretty young guy. Was he a student? Does he live with his parents?
Captain Jay Baker: (08:19)
He’s 21 years of age. It’s my understanding he does not live with his parents. I don’t know who he was living with at the time of this incident.
Female Reporter: (08:25)
Was he employed?
Captain Jay Baker: (08:27)
I’m not aware of that either. That’s some of the things …
Male Reporter: (08:29)
Two questions. Just to be clear, the suspect has admitted to the shooting event?
Captain Jay Baker: (08:33)
Male Reporter: (08:33)
And second … Yes, he has?
Captain Jay Baker: (08:36)
Male Reporter: (08:36)
And secondly, there was an indication that the family notified you. What indications or what reasons did the family notify you?
Captain Jay Baker: (08:43)
We put out an image of a possible suspect very early on in this incident. And we were notified by his family, who were fully cooperative, and we are greatly appreciative of their assistance in this matter.
Male Reporter: (08:56)
[crosstalk 00:08:56] How did you get the image, Sheriff? Was the image from the surveillance camera?
Captain Jay Baker: (08:59)
Surveillance cameras. There were several businesses there and we were able to get images from those.
Male Reporter: (09:03)
And then you also ID’d car also from surveillance?
Captain Jay Baker: (09:06)
The car and then, of course, obviously we were able to get in touch with parents who identified it from social media, that was their child.
Male Reporter: (09:11)
You mentioned Florida. Did he mention any particular businesses that he was going after in Florida?
Captain Jay Baker: (09:18)
Just my understanding, it was some type of porn industry in that state that he was wanting to go do some similar act in that location. No additional details at this time.
Female Reporter: (09:26)
[crosstalk 00:09:26] I’m sorry. To clarify, did you say earlier about interviewing the suspect, you said it was not racially motivated?
Captain Jay Baker: (09:32)
He did make that claim.
Female Reporter: (09:33)
Despite there not being a racial motivation, there has been a very real set of anti-Asian hate attacks across the country. We heard from New York City Police that they’re actually sending resources out of an abundance of caution to their Asian communities across the city. Now, for any of the law enforcement partners here, is there anything similar as far as strategy and extra support for either the Asian American communities in Metro Atlanta or similar businesses like massage parlors?
Captain Jay Baker: (10:01)
Do you want to speak to that?
Keisha Lance Bottoms: (10:04)
Yeah. So obviously, whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that many of the victims, the majority of the victims were Asian. We also know that this is an issue that’s happening across the country. It is unacceptable. It is hateful, and it has to stop. That being said, we are coordinating in real-time to make sure that our communities have the resources that they need. We have not seen a significant uptick in formal complaints within the city of Atlanta, but obviously, this is a large metropolitan region. And we know that we’re hearing the stories. We’re seeing them on television. We’re seeing them on social media. So we certainly are aware and we stand ready to provide any additional resources.
Keisha Lance Bottoms: (11:02)
But again, because of the quick coordination, when I was on my way home from city hall last night when I received the alert that there was a business shooting on Piedmont Road, I immediately called Chief Bryant, who had already been in touch with Cherokee County and they were already making the connection. So we had a very rapid response. But certainly, we will continue to be proactive and provide resources to the extent that we can to make sure that our communities are protected. And again, encouraging anyone, we know many of our communities are sometimes hesitant to bring in law enforcement. If there are things and concerns that are happening in your communities, around your businesses, et cetera, there’s nothing too big or too small that we want to be aware of it all to make sure that we can provide resources and respond accordingly.
Male Reporter: (11:58)
Can you clarify what sort of weapons were retrieved from his vehicle or that he used in the shootings, and were they all legally obtained weapons?
Captain Jay Baker: (12:08)
I can tell you that a nine millimeter firearm was located in his vehicle when he was taken into custody. Whether it was legally obtained, would be one of the things that our investigators will be looking into. And just to be clear, our victims, I know that obviously Atlanta, all their victims were Asian, two of our victims were White, in case anyone was unaware of that. We had two Asians and two Whites that were killed at our location.
Female Reporter: (12:29)
Were the victims employees or patrons?
Captain Jay Baker: (12:32)
That’s one of the things at this time, we’re not going to go into details about why they were there.
Male Reporter: (12:34)
On the nine millimeter, that was the weapon he used.
Captain Jay Baker: (12:37)
Well, obviously we’ll have to do forensics on the firearm, but we’re confident that it is.
Male Reporter: (12:43)
[crosstalk 00:12:43]. But it was the only weapon that he fired?
Captain Jay Baker: (12:45)
Male Reporter: (12:45)
Did he have a-
Captain Jay Baker: (12:45)
No other weapons were located in the vehicle.
Female Reporter: (12:50)
How much ammunition did he have?
Captain Jay Baker: (12:50)
Female Reporter: (12:50)
Do you have a sense of how many times he shot, how much ammunition he had on him?
Captain Jay Baker: (12:52)
I don’t have that information.
Female Reporter: (12:54)
Is there any reason to believe that other similar businesses should still be concerned today? Is there still a threat?
Captain Jay Baker: (12:59)
To my opinion, that he was acting alone. There’s no indication that anyone was working with him. So we’re confident that’s not going to be a problem.
Male Reporter: (13:08)
And, sir, can you clarify, you said he was on his way to Florida where you believe that he … You and the mayor said that you believe he would have engaged in additional acts of violence against similar businesses?
Captain Jay Baker: (13:18)
He made a comment to that effect, that he was headed to Florida and that he was going to do similar acts in that state.
Female Reporter: (13:25)
And the issue was that he wanted to destroy what had been tempting him? [inaudible 00:13:30].
Captain Jay Baker: (13:30)
It sounds to me like these locations, he sees them as an outlet for him. That it’s something that he shouldn’t be doing and an issue with porn, and that he was attempting to take out that temptation.
Speaker 3: (13:45)
Two more questions, please. Only two more questions.
Female Reporter: (13:45)
And he had visited both of those locations before?
Captain Jay Baker: (13:45)
Female Reporter: (13:46)
He had visited both of those locations?
Captain Jay Baker: (13:48)
I’m unaware if he’d been to those specific locations.
Female Reporter: (13:50)
We got that.
Captain Jay Baker: (13:50)
One more. Anybody?
Female Reporter: (13:55)
What would the conversation like with his family? Is there anything you can share about that?
Captain Jay Baker: (13:58)
I don’t want to go into details other than to say that we’re really appreciative of the family. Without them, this would not have happened as quickly as it happened. They were very supportive and certainly, this was difficult for them.
Female Reporter: (14:11)
Did he resist at all during the arrest?
Captain Jay Baker: (14:12)
No, he did not resist.
Female Reporter: (14:13)
Mental health issues?
Speaker 3: (14:15)
All right. Thank you.
Keisha Lance Bottoms: (14:17)
Captain Jay Baker: (14:17)
Keisha Lance Bottoms: (14:17)
Captain Jay Baker: (14:19)
And by the way, I’ll bring out our press release and put it out for y’all shortly.
Female Reporter: (14:20)