A vendor turned gunman fatally shot one man and critically wounded another at an East Garden City company Wednesday, terrorizing a busy shopping and business district as police hunted into the night for the killer, authorities said.
Armed with a handgun, Sang Ho Kim, 63, entered Savenergy Inc. at 645 South St. at about 10:10 a.m., then killed an employee and shot the company owner over a soured business relationship, Nassau police said.
The gunman drove off in what may be a white Honda Pilot, police said. With guns drawn, officers scoured the area for him for hours, the intensive search paralyzing one of the busiest shopping and business areas of Nassau County for more than three hours as nearby schools and stores were locked down.
Some officers ordered shoppers at the nearby Roosevelt Field mall to go back inside and told arriving shoppers to stay in their vehicles. Others searched door to door in the business district. Officers also canvassed parking lots and checked shrubbery searching for the suspect.
Access was virtually frozen for hours to nearby streets and schools in Garden City and East Williston, and on the Nassau Community College campus as the manhunt expanded with an air search and officers from Garden City, Suffolk County, the state and the FBI.
"People were running around; it was pretty chaotic," said Jennifer Haber, of Stamford, Conn., who heard gunfire as she walked from the mall to her room at a nearby hotel. "Cops were everywhere, and people were running. I'm shaken up."
Friends and a law enforcement source identified the victim who survived as John Choi, the chief executive of Savenergy, an energy efficiency company.
Choi was in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow Wednesday night, hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said.
Police did not identify either victim.
Police eye motive
Kim apparently had a dispute with "the deceased and the owner [over] . . . a bad business deal," Nassau Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki said at a news conference.
Police did not release other details, including the type of handgun and the number of shots fired.
Authorities Wednesday sought the public's help in tracking down Kim by releasing a photo and details of the vehicle being sought, a 2008 Honda sport utility vehicle. Kim had been wearing a red shirt and a brown or gray suit jacket, police said.
Police do not consider him a threat to the public and believe he has left the immediate area. But Skrynecki called him "a very dangerous individual."
Less than two hours after the shooting, Kim left a message on his sister's voice mail, saying he was going to kill himself, said the sister, 54, a Syosset resident who asked not to be publicly named.
"My brother left message on suicide: 'I love you so much, I love my family,' " the sister said.
"I'm upset," she said. "I hope he's not dying. . . . My whole family is waiting for him."
She said her brother lives in Flushing, Queens, and described him as a "very, very nice man" who had a business disagreement with Choi. The two were to meet Tuesday to discuss the problem, she said, but Choi did not show up, angering her brother.
Police have been examining security footage from the area to piece together any trace of Kim.
The shooting took place in a single-story commercial building at the end of South Street, within walking distance of Roosevelt Field mall and yards away from the Meadowbrook State Parkway.
Savenergy was co-founded in 1996 by Choi, who serves as the firm's chief executive and president. The business was honored by the Long Island Power Authority last year with a Rising Star certificate in the commercial lighting efficiency program.
Choi helped create the Korean American Public Affairs Committee in Oyster Bay, a nonprofit formed in 2006 to help Korean-American professionals and businesses, said committee president David Chulwoo Lee, who learned Choi had been wounded when Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano called him.
"He's very actively involved," said Lee, who describes Choi as a "good Christian who has a passion for supporting the community."
Daniel Kim, who says he is a friend of Choi, said he is a police booster. "He does so much for the community," he said. "He is beloved."
No one answered the door at Choi's home, a white and beige two-floor house on a quiet, residential area in Woodmere.
"Our prayers are with the victims," said Mangano, who was at the news conference.
Haunted by shooting
The workplace shooting haunted Burt Grant, a representative of Hicksville-based Metro Area Sales, which planned to represent Savenergy to sell its lighting products, manufactured in Korea. Grant said he was on his way to a 12:30 p.m. meeting with Choi when he heard what happened on the radio.
"My office called me, they were in a panic," he said. "They asked me where I was. I told them I wasn't there.
"I'm kind of shocked. We had this meeting planned for three weeks. I'm glad the meeting wasn't at 10 o'clock because we would have been in the building."CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the shooting suspect's relationship with Savenergy.