ACWORTH, Georgia – Bang.
Marcus Lyon heard the first shot and screwed upright on the massage table.
The woman who had just started massaging his neck looked at him and walked across the small room to open the hall door.
She dropped to the ground Blood flowed from her head.
Lyon, 31, appeared on the ground and was silent.
Then the bell on the front door of Young asian massage rang the bell.
The silence returned.
Lyon jumped in his pants and ran out the door to his car parked outside. He reached for his own pistol and was ready to fend off the shooter.
The shooter was gone.
Behind him a trail of slaughter. Men and women moaning, bleeding and dying.
Lyon called 911.
“I said you all have to come, the people are dead.”
Four people died in the shootings, two in the spa and two later in Wellstar Kennestone Hospital. A fifth person remains in the hospital.
Lyon, a delivery driver, said he was a first-time customer on Tuesday. He’d seen the spa while working in the area, and with a sore back and neck climbing into his truck all day, he thought a massage was worth trying.
“She had maybe two rubs on my neck before I heard the shot,” said Lyon.
Lyon was waiting when the police arrived. They took his gun and his testimony, and medics carried away the wounded and dead. Lyon was too upset to share the bed with his girlfriend and four year old son and slept on the couch that evening.
He returned to the spa Thursday morning to check out the growing memorial with flowers, candles and signs. He doesn’t know the victims, he said, but they are important to him.
“The whole time I was on the floor I thought I was going to die,” he said. “I’m just grateful that I’m alive.”
Authorities said 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long attacked the spa and two other people in the Atlanta area on Tuesday. Before his attack, he sat in his car outside Young’s for about an hour after buying a gun, police officers said.
Owners Xiaojie “Emily” Tan (49), Delaina Ashley Yaun (33), Paul Andre Michels (54) and Daoyou Feng (44) were killed in the shootings at Young. Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, was wounded but survived. Other victims were not named immediately. The victims were mothers, spouses, friends, bosses.
Long told authorities he viewed the spas as “a temptation he wanted to remove,” according to a spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. Long had been treated for sex addiction, friends said.
Lyon said he saw nothing to suggest the spa was anything other than a legitimate massage parlor. According to state records, Tan was licensed to practice massage therapy. Yaun and her husband went to the spa for a couples massage.
Although authorities say Long’s attack was not racially motivated, he is charged with killing a total of eight people, including six Asian women. Long was arrested about 150 miles south of Atlanta Tuesday evening, and police said he was on his way to Florida and intended to conduct more shootings at spas there.
The shootings came amid a wave of anti-Asian attacks across the country, including attacks on the elderly that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, and conservative leaders including former President Donald Trump accused China of blaming the outbreak.
“This is a problem that is occurring across the country. It is unacceptable. It is hateful. It has to stop,” said Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta mayor.
Lyon said Thursday he was only just beginning to grapple with the horror he was experiencing. When authorities responded to his 911 call on Tuesday evening, he began videotaping the carnage around him. When he saw the video again on Thursday, he shuddered at how close he was to death – and at the tragedy he witnessed.
“I wasn’t really freaked out before because the adrenaline was kicking in,” he said. “But as soon as everything calms down, I wake up every morning and hear those shots.”