The Alleged Atlanta Shooter’s Church Is Kicking Him Out

The Crabapple First Baptist Church has disavowed him and insists its teachings had no role in his "wicked" actions.
​Image of Crabapple First Baptist Church ​from Google Maps Street View
Image of Crabapple First Baptist Church from Google Maps Street View 

The Southern Baptist church that the alleged Atlanta shooter belonged to is now forcefully disavowing him and removing him from the organization altogether.

A statement on the new front page of the Crabapple First Baptist Church’s website says: “These actions do not in any way reflect the biblical character of a true follower of Jesus Christ and member of His Church. In accordance with the biblical pattern and our church bylaws, we have started the process of church discipline to remove him from membership since we can no longer affirm that he is truly a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”

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The statement was among eight paragraphs and a six-part Q&A on Crabapple’s website explaining why the Milton, Georgia, church had gone dark for two days, and denying its teachings played a role in suspect Robert Aaron Long’s beliefs. 

In the hours after the Atlanta massage-parlor shootings, the church had disabled its website and shuttered its social media presence, while the church’s pastor Jerry Dockery and elder members of the church provided brief statements condemning the events that took place Tuesday evening.

The new statement discussed the Long family’s history with the church. “We were absolutely distraught when we found out that the shooter was a member of our congregation,” it says. “The Long family have been members of our church for many years. We watched Aaron grow up and accepted him into church membership when he made his own profession of faith in Jesus Christ. These unthinkable and egregious murders directly contradict his own confession of faith in Jesus and the gospel.”

Former classmates told VICE News that Long, 21, was a devout member of Crabapple First Baptist, and even led a worship and sermon club at his high school. His father was an active member, and the church confirmed that Long had been a member since he was a child. As an adult, the alleged shooter served as a youth leader and was even re-baptized in 2018.

Sometime Tuesday, Long legally purchased a 9mm handgun at a Georgia gun shop and hours later allegedly attacked three massage parlors in the Atlanta area, killing eight and severely injuring one. Six of the dead were Asian women, some of whom owned or worked in the spas, and the attacks have set off national outrage over a surge of violent attacks on Asian Americans in the past year.

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The church calls the shooter’s actions “wicked” and “antithetical” to what they teach, and said that his alleged issues with sex addiction and the women he allegedly solicited for sex in the past are in no way responsible for pushing him to go on the killing spree.

“We will continue to grieve, mourn, and pray for the families and loved ones of the victims. Finally, we deeply regret the fear and pain Asian-Americans are experiencing as a result of Aaron’s inexcusable actions,” the statement concludes.

The church says they’ve been in full cooperation with the ongoing law enforcement investigation and explained that they shut down their website to protect congregants’ safety. The church also clarified that they’ve never taught that acts of violence against minorities and women are OK, directly addressing the shooter’s alleged struggles with sex addiction. It’s been reported that the shooter attended rehab for the alleged addiction and wrestled with guilt and depression over his inability to overcome it. 

“We categorically reject this idea,” the church writes on their website. “Each person is responsible for his or her own sin. In this case, the shooter is solely responsible for his heinous actions, not the victims who were targeted.”

On Wednesday, Long was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. Six of the victims of the mass shooting were women of Asian descent, however, authorities said Wednesday that they don’t believe race played a role in the shooting.