The Kowloon Bay resident at the centre of twin shooting deaths over the weekend used to operate a triad-run gambling den at the Yau Ma Tei wholesale fruit market, police investigations reveal.
Anti-triad officers were checking if the underworld links of the late Li Tak-yan, 51, had enabled him to amass an arsenal of guns and ammunition, a police source close to the investigation said.
A raid of the jobless man's home in the Kai Ching public housing estate threw up two handguns, 43 rounds of ammunitions and three holsters, apart from six bullets fired in the fracas.
"His former wife told officers he worked at the gambling den in the wholesale fruit market from 2005 to 2010," the source said.
Li liked gambling, he said, and was a delivery worker in the market, though there was no evidence to suggest he was a triad member. The gambling den is understood to be run by 14K, the most active gang in that market.
Li is thought to have killed a neighbour on Saturday night before turning the gun on himself 12 hours later as elite officers used explosives, tear gas and stun grenades to storm his flat in Lok Ching House.
The gun fired at police and at Li was a Black Star 7.62mm pistol, while the neighbour, air-conditioning technician Liu Kai-chung, 43, died under a home-made handgun.
Police ballistics experts are checking whether the guns, believed to be made across the border, were used in any crimes in Hong Kong. Mainland authorities will be asked to check if the weapons were smuggled in.
Access was more of an obstacle than cost in acquiring weapons, another police source said, since it was not easy to find an underground firearms dealer in the city. A handgun could be had for as little as HK$4,000 on the black market, he said, while "each round of ammunition costs tens of dollars".
No robberies involving firearms have been recorded in the city since a solitary case in 2006, police figures show.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said laws on firearms control were sufficient as shown by the fact that gun crime was "extremely rare". But, he added: "Because of the massive number of people entering and leaving [Hong Kong each day], how we ensure we miss no one is something we need to work on."
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying praised the police for their "swift and professional" action. He also thanked residents of Kai Ching estate for cooperating with police during the operation.