By Phil Corso
A business meeting turned deadly last week when one man opened fire on another before turning the weapon on himself in an apparent murder-suicide at a hotel near John F. Kennedy International Airport, authorities said.
According to police, Gary Zalevsky, 47, of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., was sitting in a private room with five other men last Thursday near the Hilton Garden Inn lobby, at 148-18 134th St., before he stood up and fired five shots into the head of Brian Weiss, 31, of Davie, Fla.
He then turned the stolen .380-caliber Beretta pistol on himself, police said.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said authorities were investigating what may have led to the dispute between the men, but Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told The New York Times they may have been linked by an Internet vitamin or food supplement business project.
Police said they have not found any relation between Weiss’ shooting and his professional standing. Weiss worked as a top officer for FWM Laboratories, a southern Florida company that marketed health supplements online, The Times reported.
The state’s Better Business Bureau collected more than 4,000 complaints against Weiss’ company in 2009, according to the Florida attorney general’s office.
One hotel worker said he noticed several suspicious, European-looking men meeting in a cafe near the lobby and speaking another language before hearing the shots. The worker said one of the men had asked where the bathroom was and left the room seconds before the shots were fired.
“It was as if he knew,” the worker said. “Something suspicious was going on.”
A photo of the scene showed what appeared to be Weiss lying face-up in a pool of blood with what looked like Zalevsky hunched over a nearby chair after the DA said he used the gun to shoot himself.
Police said the other four men at the table immediately fled the room when the shots were fired, but were apprehended soon after.
Ramon Sterling, 42, was on his way home after working his shift at the nearby Do & Co. catering, at 149-32 132nd St., when he saw officers from the 106th Precinct put the four men on the ground in handcuffs. He said they appeared to be in their mid-30s and European.
“The cops had them all on their stomachs,” Sterling said. “It didn’t look like they cooperated too much.”
Although police have not arrested the other men sitting at the table, NYPD chief spokesman Paul J. Browne said their attempts to flee raised skepticism among investigators.
According to police, the four men asked for lawyers and were not cooperative upon their questioning.
When asked about the possibility of the men’s connection to Russian organized crime, Kelly said it was unclear, but police were not ruling anything out. Brown would also not comment on any potential links.
“That is only a matter of speculation at this point,” Brown said.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.