ACWORTH, Georgia — Bang.
Marcus Lyon heard the first gunshot and bolted 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 hallway door.
She dropped to the floor, blood pouring from her head.
Lyon, 31, dove for the floor and kept quiet.
Then the bell on the front door of Young’s Asian Massage tinkled.
Lyon jumped into his pants and raced out the door to his car parked outside, grabbing his own pistol, ready to fight off the shooter.
The gunman was gone.
Behind him, a trail of carnage. Moaning men and women, bleeding and dying.
Lyon called 911.
“I said you all need to come, people are dead.”
Four people died in the shooting, two at the spa, and two later at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, authorities said. A fifth person remains hospitalized.
Lyon, a delivery driver, said he was a first-time customer Tuesday. He’d seen the spa while working in the area, and with an aching back and neck from climbing in and out of his truck all day, he figured a massage was worth a shot.
“She had maybe two rubs on my neck before I heard the gunshot,” said Lyon. “She opened up the door and I heard another ‘pow’ sound.”
Lyon waited as police arrived. They took his gun and his witness statement, and medics carried away the wounded and the dead. Too upset to share the bed with his girlfriend and four-year-old son, Lyon slept on the couch that night.
On Thursday morning, he returned to the spa to look at the growing memorial of flowers and candles and signs. He didn’t know the victims, he said, but they mattered to him.
“The whole time I was on the floor, I thought I was going to die,” he said. “I’m just thankful I’m alive.”
Authorities said Robert Aaron Long, 21, attacked the spa and two others in the Atlanta area Tuesday. Before his attack, he sat in his car outside Young’s for about an hour after buying a handgun, police officials said.
Killed in the shooting at Young’s were owner Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, and Daoyou Feng, 44. Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, was wounded but survived. Other victims were not immediately named. The victims were mothers, spouses, friends, bosses.
Long told authorities he saw the spas as “a temptation that he wanted to eliminate,” according to a Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. Long had been treated for sex addiction, friends said.
Lyon said he saw nothing to indicate the spa was anything other than a legitimate massage salon. Tan held a massage therapy license, according to state records. Yaun and her husband were at the spa for a couples massage.
Although authorities say Long’s attack was not racially motivated, he’s accused of killing a total of eight people, six of them Asian women. Long was arrested Tuesday night about 150 miles south of Atlanta, and police said he was heading to Florida and intended to carry out more shootings at spas there.
The shootings unfolded amid a wave of anti-Asian attacks across the country, including assaults on the elderly, that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and conservative leaders, including former President Donald Trump, blaming the outbreak on China.
“This is an issue that is happening across the country. It is unacceptable. It is hateful. It has to stop,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said.
Lyon said Thursday he had only begun to come to terms with the horror he experienced. As authorities responded to his 911 call Tuesday evening, he began video-recording the carnage around him. Watching the video again Thursday, he shuddered at how close to death he came — and the tragedy he witnessed.
“I wasn’t really freaking out before because the adrenaline kicked in,” he said. “But once everything calmed down, well, I wake up every morning hearing those gunshots.”