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After dropping off flowers Jesus Estrella, left, and Shelby stand in support of the Asian and Hispanic community outside Young's Asian Massage on March 17, 2021, in Acworth, Ga.

Curtis Compton/The Associated Press

A man who survived the shooting that killed his wife at an Atlanta-area massage business last week said police detained him in handcuffs for four hours after the attack.

Mario Gonzalez said he was held in a patrol car outside the spa. The revelation, in an interview with Mundo Hispanico, a Spanish-language news website, follows other criticism of Cherokee County officials investigating the March 16 attack, which killed four people. Four others were killed about an hour later at two spas in Atlanta.

Gonzalez’s accusation would also mean that he remained detained after police released security video images of the suspected gunman and after authorities captured him 150 miles south of Atlanta. He questioned whether his treatment by authorities was because he’s Mexican.

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The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment Monday.

Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, is accused of shooting five people, including Gonzalez’s wife Delaina Ashley Yaun, at the first crime scene near Woodstock, about 50 kilometres north of Atlanta. One man was wounded. In all, seven of the slain victims were women, six of them of Asian descent.

Cherokee sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker was removed as spokesman for the case after telling reporters the day after the shootings that Long had “a really bad day” and “this is what he did.” A Facebook page appearing to belong to Baker promoted a T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus last year.

Sheriff Frank Reynolds released a statement acknowledging that some of Baker’s comments stirred “much debate and anger” and said the agency regretted any “heartache” caused by his words.

Gonzalez and Yaun, 33, had gotten a babysitter for their infant daughter and went to Youngs Asian Massage to relax. They were in separate rooms inside when the gunman opened fire.

Gonzalez heard the gunshots and worried about his wife but was too afraid to open the door, he told Mundo Hispanico in a video interview. Deputies arrived within minutes. Gonzalez said they put him in hand cuffs and detained him for about four hours, according to the website.

“They had me in the patrol car the whole time they were investigating who was responsible, who exactly did this,” Gonzalez said in the video.

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During the interview with Mundo Hispanico, Gonzalez showed marks on his wrists from handcuffs. “I don’t know whether it’s because of the law or because I’m Mexican. The simple truth is that they treated me badly,” he said.

“Only when they finally confirmed I was her husband, did they tell me that she was dead,” he said. “I wanted to know earlier.”

Left alone to raise their daughter and his wife’s teenage son, Gonzalez said the shooter took “the most important thing I have in my life.”

“He deserves to die, just like the others did,” Gonzalez said.

Authorities have said the shooting in Cherokee County happened around 5 p.m., and just after 6:30 p.m. the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook still images from a surveillance camera showing a suspect in the parking lot outside. Reynolds said Long’s family recognized him from those images and gave investigators his cellphone information, which they used to track him.

Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock said in a video posted on Facebook that night that his deputies and state troopers were notified around 8 p.m. that the suspect was headed their way. Deputies and troopers set up along the interstate and saw the black 2007 Hyundai Tucson around 8:30 p.m. A trooper performed a manoeuver that caused the vehicle to spin out of control, and Long was arrested.

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