OAKLAND -- Saddled with debt, a failed marriage and a crumbling business, One L. Goh left Virginia and headed west in 2009 to start over.
It got much worse in the Golden State.
The brother of a heavily decorated Iraq War veteran lost a job as a Korean food deliveryman in San Mateo due to a hot temper. Another job at a peninsula Korean supermarket failed to pan out. His Army hero brother died in a tragic car accident shortly before his mother passed away in his home country of South Korea.
The naturalized U.S. citizen's life seemed to take a turn for the better last year when he enrolled at a tiny Christian vocational nursing school in Oakland, but that too went sour when he dropped out for unspecified reasons after a fight with administrators over tuition.
One, 43, reached his limit and bought a gun in February.
On Monday, the former student walked into Oikos University's single-building campus across Interstate 880 from the Oakland Coliseum and began shooting students he said teased him about his age and poor English. He killed a secretary, six former classmates, and injured three others in the worst mass shooting in the Bay Area in two decades.
The remorseless One turned himself into police an hour later. He was identified by some of the survivors and other witnesses as the shooter, and was formally arrested Tuesday morning on seven counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, carjacking and kidnapping, authorities
Just who was the chubby, 43-year-old loner?
Interviews with former classmates, administrators, employers, along with court documents from California and Virginia, tell a tale of a middle-aged man who had failed at marriage, his career and relationships, all while trying to live up to a brother outfitted with the Army Special Forces.
As One sat in an Asian food warehouse in San Mateo interviewing for a job in March 2009, he told the owner how he hoped to start a new life after divorcing his wife and leaving his 12-year-old daughter and a failed construction company on the East Coast.
Midway through the interview, the owner of C. H. Trading Co. took a cell phone call from his aunt. She needed help moving her furniture that weekend, the owner recalled Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
On the spot, the eager One volunteered to help her move. It went well and One was hired as a deliveryman.
One's temper soon got the better of him, the owner said, and he was fired four months later for arguing with customers.
"Something inside went wrong," the owner said. "He was very angry all these years."
The owner recently ran into an "upbeat" One in Oakland and he told his former boss about how he had returned to school to become a nurse and help elderly people.
"Not many people go back to school at that age," the owner said. "He was trying something new and it wasn't working."
He later got a job at a Daly City Korean supermarket, the owner said, where he worked with his father. Employees there declined to talk.
With the financial help of his father, an Oakland senior home resident, One enrolled in the small private Christian university's nursing program, police said.
By November, One dropped out of the one-year program and sparred with the administration after he tried to recoup his $6,000 tuition, police said. He told investigators, classmates irked him by teasing him over his broken English and older age, and started ignoring him.
His former boss and C. H. Trading Co. owner, however, said One spoke very good English.
It's unclear why he was kicked out of the program, but the Christian school purports a strict code of conduct: "Because Oikos functions as a community of believers, students are to demonstrate a respectful attitude in all encounters with administrators, professors, staff personnel, campus guests, and other students."
In February, One legally bought a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun at a Castro Valley gun shop. On Monday, he rode BART and took a bus to the campus, sneaking in through an open side door,police said. The front glass doors of the university are always locked.
Once inside, One grabbed the secretary and headed to his old nursing program classroom from the previous semester. The female administrator he targeted was not on campus, but inside the classroom, he found some familiar faces and some new students, investigators said. He ordered students against a wall, but once he shot the first victim, chaos ensued. He only stopped shooting when he saw students calling 911, police said.
As he fled, One stole a deceased student's car, driving to an Alameda Safeway where he told a clerk he had just shot people. He quietly was taken into custody by police and admitted to his involvement, Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said.
At a memorial service at an East Oakland church Tuesday night, an Oikos nursing instructor told mourners of One's "troubled" life.
"He couldn't concentrate on school" because of personal problems, said Soo Nam Sung, founding professor of the school's nursing program, through an interpreter.
The suspect's brother, U.S. Army Sgt. Su Wan Ko, died in a traffic accident in Virginia in March 2011, while on special assignment from the George C. Marshall Center, an international security and defense studies institute in Garmisch, Germany. One Goh attended a memorial service in Virginia along with their father Young Nam Ko, 72, of Oakland. Their mother Oak Chul Kim, of Seoul, South Korea, attended as well but has since died, according to published reports. The suspect's other brother, Su Kwon Ko, who lives in Virginia did not answer his phone for comment Tuesday.
Court records show several court judgments and tax liens against One dating back to 2006, when he lived in Virginia. He owed more than $23,000 in federal taxes at one point and thousands of dollars more to banks and apartment owners.
The most recent judgment, in December, was for $985 to Capital One Bank.
He has no previous criminal record, only a minor traffic citation.
One was booked into Santa Rita Jail on Tuesday morning and is being held without bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in an Oakland courthouse.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley will have to decide if Goh should face the death penalty after a preliminary hearing or grand jury indictment, said Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the office.
Staff writers Harry Harris, Paul Rosynsky and Robert Salonga contributed to this report. Contact Matthias Gafni at mgafni@bayareanewsgroup or 925-952-5026.