ATLANTA (AP) – As the investigation continued into what prompted a 59-year-old man to burst into a suburban Atlanta spa and fatally shoot his sisters and their husbands before killing himself, authorities released Thursday the names of the gunman and his victims.
The rampage happened late Tuesday at the Su Jung Health Sauna when police say Jeong Soo Paek killed his family members at the spa, a gathering place for Korean-Americans in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross.
Norcross Police Capt. Brian Harr said detectives were trying to determine a motive, but said they believe the shootings could have involved a financial dispute or a fight over food.
He identified the victims as 61-year-old Kum Hi Song, 64-year-old Byong Ok Kang, 57-year-old Kum Sook Kim and 55-year-old Tae Yol Kim. Friends of the victims said they were respected members of Atlanta’s Korean-American community of 100,000.
“We’re trying to get through this and handle the final services, to be with my family,” said Michael Kang, Byong Kang’s son.
Friends of Byong Kang, one of the spa’s co-owners, said he was a well-known member of the community who served on a variety of committees, including an advisory council for Korean business groups.
“He had great people skills,” said Travis Kim, the president of the Korean-American Association of Greater Atlanta. “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 he had met Paek a few times and described him as an odd man who always wore dark sunglasses.
The carnage could have been worse. When the gunfire erupted, about 20 people were inside the stand-alone brick building decked out with white columns and white Greek-style statues. Spas in the area model themselves after traditional Korean bath houses, offering saunas, beauty treatments and cafes.
Hours before the shooting unfolded, police said Paek was asked to leave the spa because he was being disruptive. Harr said the man returned around 8:30 p.m. and opened fire in the salon area near the front of the building.
Investigators later recovered a .45-caliber gun they believed was used in the shooting.
The spa is located at a busy intersection in the community northeast of Atlanta that’s lined with strip malls and small businesses, many catering to Korean and other immigrant communities who settled nearby. Some stores in the suburb feature signs in English, Korean and Spanish.
Sonny Lee, who owns an auto center in the same shopping center, said Kang was known to argue with family members over money. He said Kang lived in the area for about 15 years and made a name for himself in the community.
“He was a member of different societies that gave back,” Lee said. “It’s a shock. It’s a very close-knit community.”
Korean organizations are reaching out to relatives of the survivors to help with funeral arrangements and also offering to help police with the investigation, Kim 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.”
Associated Press writer Jeff Martin contributed to this report.
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