What We Know So Far About The Victims Of The Atlanta-Area Shootings
Four people were killed in the shooting at Youngs Asian Massage in Acworth, Ga., the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said on Wednesday. They have been identified as Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng. The sole survivor, Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, remains hospitalized with injuries.
Four women were also killed in two spas across the street from one another in Atlanta. The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office identified these women, between the ages of 51 and 74, when asked about victims of the spa shootings: Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim and Yong Ae Yue.
An Atlanta Police Department incident report listed fatal gunshot wounds as the cause of death for all four victims. South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday that four of those killed in Tuesday’s attacks were of Korean descent, The Korea Herald reports. Atlanta police worked with the Korean consulate there to identify the women, though authorities had difficulty locating their family members in South Korea and other places, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting.
The suspect was arrested within hours of the attacks and faces charges of murder and assault. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday that he confessed to the shootings but claimed they were not motivated by racial animus — prompting widespread debate over what constitutes a hate crime and how to present the gunman’s explanation, especially in the context of a recent nationwide surge in violence against Asian Americans.
The group Stop AAPI Hate tracked 3,795 “hate incidents” against the Asian American community between last March and the end of February 2021, according to a report released Tuesday. Those incidents include verbal harassment and physical attacks and are likely a vast undercount, the group said. Women of Asian descent reported 2.3 times more incidents of violence than men.
As the nation mourns and calls for change, details are beginning to emerge about some of the victims of Tuesday’s attacks. NPR will update this page as more information about the victims becomes available.
Yong Ae Yue, 63
Yue was a licensed massage therapist. She was laid off last year during the pandemic, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, and was happy when she was finally called back to work at the spa.
Yue went out of her way to make sure others were cared for, according to her sons Elliot and Robert. They say she loved cooking for family and friends, always ensuring her sons’ friends were well fed when they visited.
“My mother didn’t do anything wrong,” Robert Peterson told the AJC. “And she deserves the recognition that she is a human, she’s a community person like everyone else. None of those people deserved what happened to them.”
She moved to Georgia in the 1980s after meeting an American soldier, where she had her two sons, the newspaper reported. Elliot, her eldest son, served in the U.S. Army before retiring in September.
When Yue wasn’t working or caring for others, she enjoyed watching TV, movies and soap operas mostly, and reading, Robert Peterson told AJC. She always had her dog, Lyong, by her side.
Hyun Jung Grant, 51
Grant was a single mother “who dedicated her whole life” to providing for her two children, her son Randy Park, 23, wrote on a GoFundMe page in which he said she was a victim of the shooting at Gold Spa.
“She was one of my best friends and the strongest influence on who we are today,” Park wrote. “Losing her has put a new lens on my eyes on the amount of hate that exists in our world.”
Park told the Daily Beast that he and Grant could talk about anything, and got sushi every night before she went to work. She loved dancing, clubbing and Tiesto, he added.
He said he was at home in Duluth, Ga., on Tuesday evening when he got a call from the daughter of a survivor who been next to his mother during the shooting — a moment he described as “surreal.”
Grant was an elementary school teacher in Korea before moving to the U.S. for what her son called “regular immigrant reasons.” She and her two sons were the only members of their family in the country, with everyone else remaining in South Korea.
“As much as I want to grieve and process the reality that she is gone, I have a younger brother to take care of and matters to resolve as a result of this tragedy,” Park wrote on the online fundraising page. “Frankly, I have no time to grieve for long.”
He said he needed urgently to figure out a short-term living situation for himself and his brother, save up for basic necessities and plan his mother’s funeral — though he wrote in his initial post that he was unable to obtain her body, citing “legal complications.”
Some 19,000 donors, many of them anonymous, had raised more than $758,000 for the family as of midday Thursday. In an update, Park thanked them profusely for their support, writing that “sharing and listening was more than enough” and that he “will live the rest of my days grateful for what has essentially given my family a second chance.”
“My mother can rest easy knowing I have the support of the world with me,” he wrote.
Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta
Michels was a U.S. Army veteran who had been married for more than two decades and owned a home security systems company, his brother John Michels told NPR. Family members described him to The Daily Beast as a “staunch Republican,” a gun owner and a baptized Roman Catholic.
Michels grew up with four sisters and four brothers in southwest Detroit, where generations of his family worked for General Motors. While they were born two and a half years apart, John said they were like twins.
“If I knew everything that he did, pretty much, he knew everything that I got into,” he said.
Michels recalled an adventurous childhood marked by long bike rides, playing with fireworks and family trips to the lake. They served in the military at the same time, with Michels serving in West Germany and Fort Knox, Ky., between 1985 and 1989.
Michels relocated to Georgia for work in 1995, and met his wife shortly after. He later opened up a home security systems company, of which he was the sole employee. Outside of his long hours, his brother said, he spent decades amassing a collection of rare coins — something their father had done. Even while living in different states, the brothers would on occasion get in their cars, meet in the middle and spend weekends together.
Michels told NPR that Youngs Asian Massage was one of his brother’s clients, and he believes he was working on their security system when the shooting took place. Citing the importance his faith places on forgiveness, Michels said he intends to establish a relationship with Long, and plans to send him a Bible, a rosary and a miraculous medal — though he noted it’s “a very hard thing to do.”
“My brother Paul was a good-hearted, warm, loving individual who would do anything to help people,” he said. “Very, very kind, very generous and very loving. And he will be missed.”
Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw, Ga.
Tan was the registered owner of Youngs Asian Massage, according to public records.
She is also listed as the owner of Wang’s Feet & Body Massage, about seven miles away in Kennesaw, which she promoted in posts on her personal Facebook page. Tan has held cosmetology licenses in Florida and Georgia since 2008, and she was board certified as a massage therapist in Georgia in 2016.
In interviews with USA Today, her friends and family members described Tan, who also went by the name Emily, as an ambitious worker and caring friend who dreamed of traveling.
“She was full of smiles and laughter. She was just a pleasure to be around,” Michael Webb told the publication. He was married to Tan for eight years but remained close with her as they raised their daughter, now 29.
Tan — a naturalized citizen — initially worked as a nail technician, and opened a nail salon when the family moved to Georgia in 2010, several years after she arrived in the U.S.
“She did everything for me and for the family,” her daughter Jami told USA Today. “She provided everything. She worked every day, 12 hours a day, so that me and our family would have a better life.”
Greg Hynson, a longtime friend and massage therapy client of Tan’s, described her to NPR as “very smart, very intelligent, a loving, kind, generous, unselfish person who loved her family and loved her close friends.”
He said he saw her about once a week, often dropping by the massage spa to chat or share a bite to eat if she wasn’t busy. They bonded over things like owning small businesses and caring for aging parents, which he said they checked in with each other about often.
On Hynson’s birthday last October, he said, Tan invited him over to her workplace, where she surprised him with a cake and flowers.
He had planned on doing something similar for her next birthday. She would have turned 50 on Thursday.
Delaina Yaun, 33, of Acworth, Ga.
Yaun and her husband, Mario Gonzalez, were getting a couples massage after work on Tuesday at Youngs Asian Massage when the attack started, family members told Fox 5 in Atlanta. They were first-time customers of the establishment.
Gonzalez, who reportedly was able to make it out of the spa safely, told an Atlanta CBS affiliate that he and his wife were in separate rooms when the shooting started.
Yaun leaves behind a 13-year-old son and an infant daughter, the station reported, as well as her mother and siblings.
“He took mothers, families away that didn’t deserve this,” Yaun’s mother, Margaret Rushing, told Fox 5. “They’re innocent. They did nothing wrong. And I just don’t understand why he took my daughter.”
Yaun worked as a Waffle House cook, according to her Facebook profile.
John Beck, Yaun’s manager of three years, who grew close with her family, told BuzzFeed News that she would feed diners who were homeless and bring them home to offer them showers and clean clothes.
“Her heart was so big,” Beck said. “She loved people, and she loved her children. She was a very, very special person to me.”
Yaun and Gonzalez married in 2020, according to Beck, who added, “She got pregnant out of nowhere, got married, blessing after blessing — she was so happy.”
In a Facebook post in which she identified herself as Yaun’s cousin, Cristy Lynn McGouirk called Yaun a “great role model,” praising her strong will and “heart of gold, kindness, and pure love.”
“You were an amazing Mother, Sister, Daughter, Aunt, Grandaughter, Cousin, & best friend that anyone could have asked for,” she wrote. “Your legacy lives on, you have touched so many peoples lives, you were one of the most dedicated women I have ever known.”
Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, Ga.
Flor Gonzalez told The Washington Post that her husband of 10 years, who was injured in the attack, called her immediately after being shot “steps away” from Youngs Asian Massage.
She believes Hernandez-Ortiz, who works as a mechanic and owns an auto repair shop, may have been heading to a shop next door to send money to his parents in Guatemala when he was caught in the gunfire.
He was shot “in the forehead down to his lungs and into his stomach,” according to a GoFundMe page set up by Gonzalez. In it, she wrote that he remains hospitalized in intensive care and will need facial surgery.
“Please pray for my family and the family’s that were affected by this shooting,” she wrote.
Gonzalez was able to visit her husband after midnight on Tuesday night and told The New York Times that she urged him to keep fighting. She reminded him that they had been planning to celebrate their daughter’s 10th birthday next week, and she described him as “a dedicated father, very loving.”
Gonzalez told The Washington Post that at least one bullet is inside Hernandez-Ortiz’s stomach and it’s currently too risky for doctors to remove it, but that doctors have said there are positive signs that he will recover.
She praised his resilience, noting that he arrived from Guatemala a decade ago and worked his way up to opening his own business.
“He came from nothing and has come a long way. That is why I have faith he will survive this,” she said. “He is strong and optimistic, and that should help him get through this.”
Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Ellen Eldridge contributed to this report.