ATLANTIC CITY - When problems arose on the casino floor at the Trump Taj Mahal, Ray Kot could deal with them like a pro, his colleagues said yesterday.
But not even Kot, a casino veteran who worked roulette tables in this city's first gaming venue in 1978, could deal with Mark Magee, of Norristown, Pa., who authorities say used hollow-point bullets to fatally shoot the beloved shift manager Wednesday afternoon.
"We're all in a state of shock here," said Trump Entertainment Resorts' chief executive officer, Mark Juliano. "It's really like we lost a member of our family." Tall and wiry with ruffled gray hair, Magee stood before Atlantic County Superior Judge Albert J. Garofolo in Mays Landing yesterday and answered softly when asked if he understood the gravity of the charges.
"I understand," Magee said. No motive was offered during the brief court appearance.
Juliano confirmed that people in the casino were familiar with Magee but did not say if he had been causing problems there. On Wednesday, state police said that Magee was a regular at the boardwalk casino.
The New Jersey Attorney General's Office, which is handling the case because the state has jurisdiction inside the casinos, said that Magee followed Kot into a card-and-dice room just off the main casino floor about 3:50 p.m. and fired three hollow-point bullets from a .38-caliber handgun into his torso.
Atlantic City police detectives arrested Magee shortly after the shooting, about 100 feet from the casino entrance. Magee dropped to the ground when approached by the detectives, the Attorney General's Office said.
Juliano said that a security guard was nearby when the shooting took place but that it happened very fast.
"This isn't something we did," Juliano said. "This isn't something Ray did. This is something this man did to Ray.
"This individual, as far as I could tell, was someone with serious, serious issues."
Magee was being held in the Atlantic County Jail on $1.1 million bail on murder and weapons charges, including possession of hollow-point bullets. Magee told Garofolo that he could not afford a lawyer.
No one from Kot's or Magee's family attended the hearing. But Trump employees did attend - one of them weeping, a few rows behind Magee.
Kot, of Egg Harbor Township, died at Atlantic City Medical Center a little more than an hour after the shooting, authorities said.
Juliano said that Kot was married and had a teenage daughter at home and a son living in Costa Rica.
Table games at the Taj Mahal were suspended after the shooting, but reopened yesterday morning. Grief counselors were available for employees.
"It's a real somber mood in there," said shift manager Sal Perna. "We're all just trying to cope."