Talk to those who knew Raymond Kot, and they can’t think of anyone who did not like the longtime casino worker with a ready smile.

But at about 3:50 p.m. Wednesday, a regular customer followed the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort shift manager into a private back room and shot at him three times, hitting him in the torso, authorities said. Kot was rushed to the Regional Trauma Unit at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, where he died at 5:24 p.m.

Speculation as to why alleged gunman Mark Magee would have targeted Kot has varied, but authorities are not commenting on the motive.

Police are investigating a note Magee was carrying that called the casinos corrupt places that cheat people. Philadelphia TV station WPVI Channel 6 says on its Web site it received a letter from Magee prior to the shooting that did not contain any threats but accused the casino industry of 20 years of cheating. The letter did not mention Kot, the station says.

The Associated Press reported Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. CEO Mark Juliano said Magee was carrying a suicide note, but Juliano told The Press of Atlantic City he did not see the note and that he had heard that information second-hand.

State Police confirmed the two did know each other through Magee’s visits to the casino.

“He was targeted,” Sgt. Julian Castellanos said, offering no other details.

The State Police Division of Gaming Enforcement is investigating the crime due to its location.

While there have been a handful of armed robberies inside Atlantic City casinos — including one in 1994 in which a security guard was shot — this is the first time anyone was killed.

Magee, 57, of Norristown, Pa., appeared slightly stunned Thursday as he made his first appearance before Superior Court Judge Albert Garofolo.

“Do you want me to read the charges to you?” Garofolo asked.

“I understand them, Your Honor,” Magee replied in a clear voice.

He is charged with murder and various weapons offenses, including possession of a weapon without a permit and possession of hollow-point bullets. He also indicated he cannot afford an attorney and will apply for a public defender. Magee is being housed in the Atlantic County Jail on more than $1 million cash bail.

Meanwhile, media gathered outside Kot’s home in the Shires development in Egg Harbor Township. His widow, Nancy, declined to talk with reporters. Kot’s 16-year-old son, who attends St. Augustine College Preparatory School in Buena Vista Township, is away on a class trip to Costa Rica, according to Tammy DiLella, an administrative assistant at the school. She said counseling would be offered when the students return.

“It’s a random thing, but it could have been anyone in the casino who could be vulnerable,” said Paul McComb, a pit boss at Bally’s Atlantic City who lives across the street from the Kots. “People lose their tempers, and they’re in and out.”

Atlantic City Vice Unit Detectives Jaimee Moore and Kevin Fair captured Magee shortly after the shooting. He dropped the .38-caliber handgun he was carrying as they approached, according to a statement from the Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case.

Police Chief John Mooney gave credit to his officers in their handling of the case Wednesday night.

“In particular, I’m very, very proud of Detectives Jaimee Moore and Kevin Fair, who distinguished themselves in the highest traditions of law enforcement in taking into custody an armed homicide suspect.”

Investigators offered little information about Magee, other than that he was a longtime gambler who had lost money at several casinos. He told authorities he basically quit his job as a property manager for an apartment building in Norristown before coming to Atlantic City. The address listed in the charges shows he lived in an apartment on West Sterigere Street there.

In Egg Harbor Township, Kot’s neighborhood is full of casino managers, McComb said. And many understand the underlying risk in that.

“You’re dealing with a lot of people at their worst. You’re dealing with an economy that’s bad now,” he said. “A lot more people are out of a job, betting over their heads, and (there are) people who shouldn’t be gambling. It’s a volatile situation.”

“A lot of us are surprised it took so long,” he added.

“To me, it’s like a bad dream,” said Kim Cao, another casino-employed neighbor who first met Kot when they worked together at Resorts Atlantic City.

“He was like a big brother,” she said. “He was always smiling. If you had any questions, you could go and ask him.”

Donald Trump, who is no longer associated with the casino company he used to run, remembered Kot fondly.

“It’s very sad,” he said. “He was a hard worker, a fine worker. He was respected by everybody. I knew him for a long time.”

Kot had worked at the Taj since it opened in 1990.

“Ray was one of the most decent, quality, sincere, caring and industrious human beings I ever met,” said casino analyst Harvey Perkins, who started in the gaming business with Kot when they were dealers 31 years ago. “He had a very easy manner about him that would put both employees and customers at ease. I’m a better person for knowing him in my life.”

An autopsy was conducted Wednesday, but the report was not complete, according to the Atlantic County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“He was a great guy and family man,” McComb’s wife, Mary Ann, said of Kot. “It’s just a tragedy to think someone gets up, picks up the paper, puts on a tie and never comes back.”

Staff writer Donald Wittkowski contributed to this

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