The carnage could have been worse: About 20 people were inside the bath house when the shooting started Tuesday night near the front of the stand-alone brick building decked out with white columns and Greek-style statues.
Surveillance video from a nearby shopping center showed the man who Norcross police Capt. Brian Harr said had been asked to leave the spa earlier because he was being disruptive. Police were not called.
A few hours later, at about 8:30 p.m., the man returned shooting, Harr said. Investigators said they believe the person who asked the gunman to leave was among the dead, he said. Investigators recovered a .45-caliber gun used in the shooting.
Su Jung is one of several day spas about 15 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, where there is a large Korean population. The spas bill themselves as modeled on traditional Korean bath houses, offering a mix of saunas, massage therapy, beauty treatments and cafes.
Harr said authorities turned to the Korean Consulate to help contact the victims’ family members in Korea and were not going to release names until they were identified.
Investigators were trying to determine what led to the violence and heard various reasons for the dispute, including that it was spurred by a fight over money or food. Sonny Lee, who owns an auto center in the same shopping center, said the spa’s owner, who had lived in the area about 15 years, often argued with family members over money.
“He was very involved in the community. He was a member of different societies that gave back,” he said. “It’s a shock. It’s a very close-knit community.”
Norcross was once one of the centers of the Korean community in Atlanta. Much of the community has migrated further north, but Lee and other stalwarts stayed, catering to a clientele of mostly Korean and Hispanic customers.
The spa’s owner was a prominent member of Atlanta’s roughly 100,000 Korean-American residents, said Travis Kim, the president of the Korean-American Association of Greater Atlanta.
“He had great people skills,” Kim said. “He had a calm personality, so in various situations, he would give me a lot of ideas. When I was going through some rather difficult situations, he was there to give me advice, and I’m grateful.”
Kim said the Korean-American Association was reaching out to relatives of the victims to help with funeral arrangements and also was offering to help police with the investigation.
“I’m trying to see that police conclude their investigation on this case as quickly as possible so that our community can go back to normal life,” he said.
“It’s a very quiet community, and everyone’s just focused on working hard and working together to make it better. It’s a very difficult situation to deal with, but it happened, and we are trying to recover.”