Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, the only person to survive being shot by Robert Aaron Long, 22, during a March shooting spree that left eight people dead at three massage parlors in Georgia, says he wants him to be “ultimately judged" by God after a prosecutor announced she plans to seek the death penalty for his crimes.
“I don’t want the world to hear me saying that he should or shouldn’t die,” Hernandez-Ortiz told WSBTV Wednesday through his translator and attorney Doug Rohan.
Hernandez-Ortiz said he was at Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County on March 16 when he came face to face with Long.
“I heard the shots fired as I was inside the room. I opened the door. I could see the victims. I saw the attacker and I looked at him eye to eye. I begged him not to shoot me,” he said.
Long reportedly shot Hernandez-Ortiz in his face and the bullet traveled through his throat and lodged into his stomach.
“People don’t typically get shot in the face and survive, without there being a miracle. So I want him to also understand the miracle of God, and ultimately be judged by that God,” Hernandez-Ortiz said. “I don’t have any hate in my heart toward the attacker, but certainly at the end of the day, I want to see justice done.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis announced at a news conference Tuesday that she plans to get justice for four of Long’s victims killed at two of the Atlanta-area spas: Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.
"Last year, I told the voters of Fulton County that I could not imagine a circumstance where I would seek [the death penalty]," Willis said during a press briefing Tuesday cited by ABC News. "Unfortunately, a case has arisen in the first few months of my term that I believe warrants the ultimate penalty, and we shall seek it."
Willis also noted that she would seek hate crime charges in the case because six of the victims were Asian women, while two were white.
Long was further indicted by a separate grand jury in Cherokee County Tuesday for the shooting at Young’s Asian Massage that claimed the lives of Xiaojie "Emily" Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54. Hernandez-Ortiz was the only shooting victim to survive. Six others were present at the time of the shooting but were not hurt.
The Washington Post reported that Gold Spa, one of the businesses attacked, had been the subject of prostitution stings by the Atlanta Police Department. The newspaper obtained police reports indicating that police conducted seven undercover stings at Gold Spa and made 10 arrests during a two-year period from 2011 to 2013.
A spokesperson for the Cherokee County District Attorney D.A. Shannon Wallace told WSBTV that she will make a decision on whether to pursue the death penalty before Long’s arraignment.
“Cherokee has traditionally been very conservative, and the death penalty is viewed as a conservative issue, so I have every expectation that Cherokee will likely announce they are going down the same path,” said Rohan.
Dana Toole whose sister, Delaina Yaun, was killed at Young’s Asian Massage, said if the death penalty is the best option for justice in this case, and she will not oppose it even though she knows Long’s death won’t bring her sister back.
“It won’t bring her back, I just put it in God’s hands, because it’s not my choice to take another life,” Toole told WSBTV. “What is justice in this case? Making sure he stays where he’s at. If the death penalty is proceeded forward, then so be it.”
Prior to the shootings, Long was a devout member of Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia, where he worshiped with his family and was a youth leader years earlier.
Tyler Bayless, who said he lived with Long in an Atlanta halfway house for recovering addicts named Maverick Recovery in late 2019 and early 2020, said the former youth worker confessed to struggling with sexual sins he committed at massage parlors and doesn’t believe his actions were racially motivated.
“I lived with Robert Aaron Long for a few months. I can tell you right now that this is not racially motivated killing, but the product of an emotionally disturbed young man who was religious to the point of mania and who felt deep shame about why he frequented these places,” Tyler Bayless revealed in a Facebook post in March. “I wonder how this would have gone if he had been in an environment where he wasn’t repeatedly told how sinful he was for the things that drove him. What a tragic loss of life, and a kid that was all around one of the sweeter people you’d meet.”
Shortly after the shooting, Crabapple First Baptist Church announced that they rescinded Long’s church membership.
“We want to be clear that this extreme and wicked act is nothing less than rebellion against our Holy God and His Word,” a statement from the church said. “Aaron’s actions are antithetical to everything that we believe and teach as a church. 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 church did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Christian Post Thursday on the death penalty being sought for Long.