ACWORTH, Ga. — Mario González heard the gunfire from inside Young’s Asian Massage and immediately worried about his wife, who was in another room. But before he could check on her, he said, law enforcement officials handcuffed and detained him for about four hours while they worked to determine the identity of the gunman.
During that time, officers told him: His wife, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, had been killed.
Mr. González described the March 16 shooting and the confused hours that followed in a video interview and news story published by the Spanish-language news site Mundo Hispánico. He expressed his frustration with law enforcement officials for detaining him, suggesting that he might have been treated poorly because he is Latino, and shared his anguish over the loss of his wife.
“They took away the most precious thing that I have in my life,” Mr. González said of the gunman, before stopping himself and correcting tenses. “That I had.”
The attack at Young’s Asian Massage was part of a shooting spree at three spas in and around Atlanta. Ms. Yaun was among eight people killed by a gunman who intentionally targeted employees at those businesses, law enforcement officials said.
Representatives for the Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Sunday, but the accusations leveled by Mr. González come after the agency had already faced scrutiny after a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office described the gunman as having “a really bad day.”
The spokesman, Capt. Jay Baker, was no longer the office’s public representative on the case, and the sheriff, Frank Reynolds, apologized and defended Captain Baker as not intending to disrespect the victims or their families. “We regret any heartache Captain Baker’s words may have caused,” Sheriff Reynolds said.
Efforts to reach Mr. González in recent days have also been unsuccessful.
Tuesday had been a date night for Mr. González and Ms. Yaun, and the couple, who married last spring, went after work to Young’s Asian Massage, in Acworth, an Atlanta suburb. They arrived shortly before the shooting started, Mr. González said in the video interview, and they were ushered into separate rooms for their massages.
The authorities said that Robert Aaron Long, 21, began his rampage shortly before 5 p.m. on Tuesday at Young’s, which is wedged in a small shopping center between a boutique and hair salon.
Mr. González told Mundo Hispánico that he heard the gunshots but that he was too afraid to open the door to see what was happening. He feared the bullets were flying into the room where his wife was taken.
Once Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies arrived, he was detained and held for about four hours, Mr. González said, according to Mundo Hispánico.
He said he did not see his wife as he was led out of the spa, and officers did not let him get close to her. Eventually, he said, officers told him that his wife had been killed.
“And they knew that I was the husband,” Mr. González said of the authorities. He held a photograph of himself with his wife as he spoke. “They gave me the news that she was dead.”
He questioned why it took officials so long to tell him that his wife had died, and wondered why they had detained him in the first place.
“Maybe because I’m Mexican, I don’t know,” he said. “Because the truth is, they treated me badly.” He showed the camera the marks left on his arm from the handcuffs placed on him by officers.
- Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in the Atlanta massage parlor shootings. The suspect’s motives are under investigation, but Asian communities across the United States are on alert because of a surge in attacks against Asian-Americans over the past year.
- A torrent of hate and violence against Asian-Americans around the U.S. began last spring, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Community leaders say the bigotry was spurred by the rhetoric of former President Trump, who referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus.”
- In New York, a wave of xenophobia and violence has been compounded by the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has dealt a severe blow to New York’s Asian-American communities. Many community leaders say racist assaults are being overlooked by the authorities.
- In January, an 84-year-old man from Thailand was violently slammed to the ground in San Francisco, resulting in his death at a hospital two days later. The attack, captured on video, has become a rallying cry.
Mr. González had met Ms. Yaun at a Waffle House restaurant, where he was a customer and she was a server. Ms. Yaun had been a single mother, raising a 13-year-old son. The couple married last year and had a daughter, who is now 8 months old. “What I need most right now is support,” Mr. González said in the interview.
After the shooting at the Acworth spa, the authorities said that Mr. Long continued his attack. Gunfire was reported at two other massage parlors near each other in Atlanta.
His car was spotted two hours later, about 150 miles south of Atlanta, in Crisp County, Ga., officials said.
Investigators said that Mr. Long appeared to have been motivated by an addiction to sex. He targeted the spas as an outlet for something “that he shouldn’t be doing,” Captain Baker said in a news conference last week.
Mr. Long has been charged with eight counts of murder. On Sunday, Crabapple First Baptist Church, the conservative congregation that had been central to his life, formally ejected him from church membership, saying it could “no longer affirm that he is truly a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”
In Sunday services, the first since the rampage, the sermon was devoted to grief and pain, including biblical passages of loss and lament. The names of the eight victims were read aloud.
“All of our hearts are broken,” said Jerry Dockery, the senior pastor, adding that the congregation had been gutted by the “hatred and violence” of the attacks.
It was a sense of devastation that Mr. González struggled with as he contemplated raising his stepson and his daughter without Ms. Yaun.
“That murderer,” he said in the interview, “only left me pain.”
Rick Rojas reported from Acworth and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio from New York. Jack Healy contributed reporting from Milton, Ga.