AMKO Trading Store Attack

Dec. 8, 2020
More often than we'd like to admit, active shooters kill in more than one location during a "single" event.

Active Shooter events that occur in multiple locations as part of a single attack / killing spree are more common than we usually like to acknowledge. Even going back as far as 1966, referencing the “Texas Tower” massacre, Charles Whitman killed at home before he ever barricaded himself at the top of the clock tower to commit his attack. Several other killers have committed multiple murders in disparate locations before moving to the main location of their attack. Some commit the attack and then try to escape or move to another location and kill more. The point is that multiple-location killings aren’t as rare as we’d all wish and that holds true of the AMKO Trading Store attack as well.

As is also too common with active shooter events, this one had a domestic characteristic to it as well. The attacker had prior relationships with at least one victim and work relationships with others.

On Tuesday, January 9, 2001, the attacker – Mr. Ki Yung Park was working at his convenience store in Houston, Texas. Working with him was his estranged wife, Byong Sun. One witness found during the post-event investigation stated that he had seen Park sweeping the parking lot outside his convenience store that morning, at about 8:30am, and that he looked disheveled. He was reported to have looked tired, as if he was bearing a heavy weight and his hair was a mess / not combed.

Sometime between that 8:30am sighting and roughly 12:30pm that same afternoon, Park shot and killed his estranged wife who was working with him in the convenience store. Her body wasn’t found until after Park committed his further attack elsewhere, but since he could not have returned to the store, it’s obvious she was his first murder that day. Her body was discovered in the walk-in cooler of the convenience store when investigators responded there after Park’s attack at the Amko Trading Store.

It’s reported that at approximately 12:30pm on that day, Park entered Amko Trading in southwest Houston where he shot and killed three victims: Chung Chang, his wife Hyun Chang and their daughter, Kathy Chang. Each victim was reportedly shot in the head and Park had been armed with two handguns when he entered the establishment. After police arrived at the scene, Park shot himself in the head but did not immediately die from his wounds. He was transported to the hospital and succumbed to his wounds that evening.

There isn’t a lot of information available about the background of the perpetrator, Ki Yung Park. Of Korean descent, Park owned and operated a convenience store with his estranged wife. Witnesses interviewed after the attack reported that Park, in the weeks prior to the attack, had been acting oddly. He wasn’t keeping regular store hours and was often heard yelling at his estranged wife. One witness said, “He didn’t seem like a mean person. He just looked kinda tired and stressed.” At least one witness was inside Chang’s business when Park entered and began shooting. The witness escaped without issue and reported that it appeared as if Park was only targeting the Changs; that he had no intent or interest in killing anyone else.

Allegedly, Park’s attack was motivated by two things: first, he suspected that his estranged wife was having an affair with Chung Chang. Second, the Chang family’s business was a direct competitor to Park’s and he may have perceived their success as a threat to his. People who knew both Park and the Changs reported that Park had been acting very strange in the weeks prior to the attack. Some suspected him of having mental challenges or instabilities.

From the law enforcement perspective, the lessons learned from this event are… really only one lesson learned: An active shooter event isn’t always random and, in fact, has been proven not to be quite often. In many, if not the large majority of, attacks, the shooter knows one or more of the victims and primarily targets them. In cases of complete random killings, like the attack at Virginia Tech or the Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, the shooter is either attacking a concept through the people present (VA Tech) or just attacking random people due to mental / emotional instability or anger. Those are the ones that are hardest to spot, stop and investigate.

About the Author

Joshua Borelli

Joshua Borelli has been studying active shooter and mass attack events over the course of the past several years, commensurate with receiving training on response and recovery to natural disasters and civil disturbances. Joshua started to outline this series of articles in an attempt to identify commonalities and logistical needs patterns for response.

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