"He just wanted to be a successful businessman. He wanted to succeed in life," she said.
At the mall Monday night, witnesses said the sound of gunfire sent customers and employees rushing hysterically for the exits and hiding places at the mall, which remained closed Tuesday.
Jessica Stigliano, 21, of Ridgefield, who'd been in the food court, said she had thought, "Not many people run for their life, but that's what I'm doing right now."
Hundreds of law enforcement officers converged on the 2.2 million-square-foot mall, which was put on lockdown. New Jersey State Police landed a helicopter in the parking lot and SWAT teams with K-9 units initially went through the mall and started evacuating people.
Nick Woods was working in the Lego store when a woman ran by shouting that there was a shooting.
Woods said his supervisor locked them in a back room, along with a man and a child who ran into the store. When they finally peeked out two hours later, he said they saw police officers standing outside and Woods called 911 to ask that the officers be told they were coming out.
He said the emergency operator told him she couldn't contact individual police officers and that he should walk out with his hands in the air.
"I had to go out of the store shouting at the officers with my hands up, and they turned and pointed their guns at me," Woods said. "It was one of the scariest experiences of my life."
Joel Castaneda, 18, of Englewood, who was working at the Ann Taylor Loft store, also spent time locked in a back room. He said he heard several loud bangs and thought they were from construction at the mall until he saw people running.