Accused Gunman, Robert Aaron Long, Had Visited Atlanta Spas He Targeted, Police Say


“Our investigation is looking at everything,” Chief Hampton said. “Nothing is off the table.”

Growing up in the culturally conservative exurbs of Cherokee County, north of Atlanta, Mr. Long “brought his Bible to school every day,” said Darin Peppers, 51, the city director for First Priority of Metro Atlanta, a high school evangelical group. He played a box drum during morning praise meetings of his Christian youth group at Sequoyah High School, Mr. Peppers said.

According to one school yearbook, Mr. Long led a weekly gathering of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “I really feel like God is wanting me to be a leader in the church so I felt like this would be a really good opportunity to exercise some of those principles,” the yearbook quoted him saying, “and also just reach out to our campus with the gospel.”

In recent years, Mr. Long and his family were active members at Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Ga. He was baptized there as an adult in 2018, according to a now-deleted Facebook post by the church.

The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and put itself on a list of churches that are “friendly” to the mission of Founders Ministries, a group within the denomination that has criticized what it characterizes as a leftward drift within evangelicalism.

Crabapple’s bylaws include a lengthy passage on marriage and sexuality that condemns “adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, polygamy, pedophilia, pornography, or any attempt to change one’s sex.”

The church’s lead pastor, Jerry Dockery, preached a sermon about gender roles in September, drawing on a passage in 1 Timothy that instructs women to dress modestly and to “learn in quietness and full submission.”


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