U.S. Army veteran Latrelle Rolling, left, and Jessica Lang, right, pause to pray after dropping off flowers at Young's Asian Massage on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Acworth.

U.S. Army veteran Latrelle Rolling, left, and Jessica Lang, right, pause to pray after dropping off flowers at Young’s Asian Massage on Wednesday, March 17 in Acworth. Eight people were found dead after shootings March 16, at three different spas in the Atlanta area.

Crabapple First Baptist Church, attended by Robert Aaron Long, the gunman who shot and killed eight people across metro-Atlanta March 16, released a statement saying that Long “alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires.”

Long, 21, of Woodstock, purchased a gun March 16. Later that day, he walked into three metro Atlanta spas and opened fire, killing eight people and wounding one, according to police.

Shortly after hearing of the murders, Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, took down its website and social media pages. More than 24 hours after the shootings, the church published a online statement, as well as the congregation’s beliefs. The church said they took down the sites as a precaution and feared for their members’ safety.

The church confirmed Long was active an active member at Crabapple First Baptist, especially in the church’s youth group. Long was baptized when he was eight, but was baptized again in 2018. The church has since removed Long’s testimony from their Facebook page. Crabapple First Baptist said they have now started the process of terminating Long’s membership, as they can “no longer affirm that he is truly a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”

“We were absolutely devastated at this senseless loss of life and callous disregard for human beings created in the image of God,” the statement reads. “We grieve for the victims and their families, and we continue to pray for all of those affected by this heinous crime as they deal with unimaginable pain and sorrow.”

Long was arrested hours after the shootings and, as of Wednesday evening, is facing several charges in Cherokee, including four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, according to sheriff’s office Capt. Jay Baker. Long also faces a slate of charges stemming from the shootings in Atlanta and is being held in Cherokee without bond.

While six of the eight victims were Asian women, Long told police the murders were not racially motivated. Long confessed to the shootings and blamed his actions on his alleged sex addiction.

“No blame can be placed upon the victims,” the church said. “He alone is responsible for his evil actions and desires. The women that he solicited for sexual acts are not responsible for his perverse sexual desires nor do they bear any blame in these murders. These actions are the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which Aaron is completely responsible.”

According to the Southern Baptist Convention, Christians should oppose “all forms of sexual immorality.” The Convention’s website does not go into much detail on what that entails. The Southern Baptist Convention did not respond to Neighbor Newspaper’s request for comment on the shootings or if the church’s teachings on sexuality could have played a role.

When asked if they teach that women are responsible for men’s sexual sin against them, Crabapple First Baptist Church stated they “categorically reject this idea.”

“Each person is responsible for his or her own sin,” the church wrote. “In this case, the shooter is solely responsible for his heinous actions, not the victims who were targeted.”

When asked to elaborate on that statement by Neighbor Newspapers, the church said they have no further comment at this time.

“Aaron’s actions are antithetical to everything that we believe and teach as a church,” Crabapple First Baptist wrote in its online statement. “In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the actions of Aaron Long as well as his stated reasons for carrying out this wicked plan. The shootings were a total repudiation of our faith and practice, and such actions are completely unacceptable and contrary to the gospel.”

Crabapple also stated they “repudiate any and all forms of misogyny and racism” and “explicitly denounce any and all forms of hatred or violence against Asians or Asian-Americans.”

“The City of Milton is greatly saddened by these killings, and our hearts go out to the victims,” Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood said.

The church declined to comment on how they plan to address the murders with its congregation.

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