KOTA KINABALU - Resort developer Tiong Choon Kwong was answering the phone at the bustling Beverly Hills commercial complex near here when he was gunned down at close range - with a shotgun. Shocked, he shouted "I have been shot" to his friend who was having a drink in a restaurant and then collapsed in a pool of blood.
The 44-year-old Sarawakian, who was developing a resort at Dinawan Island off Papar, was talking on his handphone outside a 24-hour coffeeshop at around 10.30pm on Saturday when he was shot in the abdomen at close range. The gunman fled in a white car.
A friend, identified only as Ting, rushed the father of two to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with the help of police personnel, but Tiong died barely two hours later.
There could be more to the cold-blooded killing.
Tiong is said to be a former Restricted Residence detainee who served his time in Sabah's east coast Kunak district some years ago and only started his business about two years ago. His wife and two children are believed to be living in Sarawak although they come to Sabah often to visit him.
Some of his friends in Sabah believe he may have been the victim of a hit ordered by underworld kingpins in Sabah or Sarawak.
Ting, 44, said they were having a drink at the coffeeshop when Tiong suddenly left the table to take a call on his handphone.
"He was walking up and down in front of the shop while talking. So, I continued with my drink while waiting for him to come back. Suddenly, I heard a single loud gunshot and then I heard Tiong shouting that he had been shot," he said when met outside the hospital's emergency unit here.
Ting said he ran to Tiong, who was on the ground and bleeding, and shouted for help before a police officer in a patrol car came by to help rush the victim to the hospital.
"Everything happened so fast. I only managed to get a glimpse of a car fleeing the scene after I heard the gunshot. I don't know what happened. Tiong was still alive when I got to him," he said.
Later at a press conference, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said he did not suspect that the gunman was copying the execution-style shootings that had rocked Peninsular Malaysia over recent days.
"In the peninsula, they were using revolvers. Here, a shotgun was used. It could have been a real shotgun or even the home-made 'bakakuk'," he said.
"We need witnesses and any information from the public to help us get some leads," said Hamza.
Asked if the motive of the murder could have been cyber gambling rivalry, he said so far the police only knew that Tiong was developing a resort, adding that they would look into all aspects.
Sabah CID chief SAC Omar Mammah said they were still checking with Bukit Aman on Tiong's Restricted Resident status.
Police have urged those with information to contact Penampang police chief Deputy Supt Ratan Kumar Singh at 019-862 6000 or Penampang CID chief Asst Supt Che Rafizi Che Ramli at 019-813 3337.
The shooting has shocked many Kota Kinabalu residents as such execution-style killings are rare in Sabah.
"Oh My God, in Sabah Already," was one of many Facebook postings on the recent spate of shootings in the country.
"This is like Domino effect. One after another. How on earth do people get guns so easily?" asked another user.