Immigration community center target of rampage
A gunman barricaded the back door of a community center with his
car and then opened fire on a room full of immigrants taking a
citizenship class Friday, killing 13 people before apparently
committing suicide, officials said.
said they had yet to establish a motive for the massacre, which was at
least the fifth deadly mass shooting in the U.S. in the past month
The gunman — believed to be a Vietnamese immigrant himself — had recently been let go from IBM, said Rep. Maurice Hinchey, whose congressional district includes Binghamton. But IBM could not immediately confirm that.
attack came just after 10 a.m. at the American Civic Association, an
organization that helps immigrants settle in this country. Police Chief Joseph Zikuski
said the gunman parked his car against the back door, "making sure
nobody could escape," then stormed through the front, shooting two
receptionists, apparently without a word.
The killer then entered a room just off the reception area and fired on a citizenship class.
"The people were trying to better themselves, trying to become citizens," the police chief said.
receptionist was killed, while the other, who was shot in the abdomen,
pretended to be dead, then crawled under a desk and called 911, he
said. Police said they arrived within two minutes. The rest of those
killed were shot in the classroom. Four people were critically wounded.
The man believed to have carried out the attack was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound
in an office, a satchel containing ammunition slung around his neck,
authorities said. Police found two handguns — a 9 mm and a .45-caliber
— as well as a hunting knife, authorities said.
people in all were rescued from the building, included 26 who hid in
the boiler room in the basement, cowering there for three hours while
police methodically searched the building and tried to determine
whether the gunman was still alive and whether he was holding any
hostages, Zikuski said. Those in the basement stayed in contact with
police by cell phone, switching from one phone to another when their
batteries ran out, Zikuski said. Others hid in closets and under desks.
one point, police led a number of men out of the building in plastic
handcuffs while they tried to sort out the victims from the killer or
Most of the people brought out couldn't speak English, the chief said.
Alex Galkin, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, said he was taking English classes when he heard a shot and quickly went to the basement with about 20 other people.
"It was just panic," Galkin said.
Zhanar Tokhtabayeva, a 30-year-old from Kazakhstan, said she was in an English class when she heard a shot and her teacher screamed for everyone to go to the storage room.
heard the shots, every shot. I heard no screams, just silence,
shooting," she said. "I heard shooting, very long time, and I was
thinking, when will this stop? I was thinking that my life was
Gov. David Paterson said the massacre was probably "the worst tragedy and senseless crime in the history of this city." Noting mass killings in Alabama
and Oakland, Calif., last month, he said: "When are we going to be able
to curb the kind of violence that is so fraught and so rapid that we
can't even keep track of the incidents?"
community center was holding class "for those who want to become
citizens of the United States of America, who wanted to be part of the American Dream,
and so tragically may have had that hope thwarted today," the governor
said. "But there still is an American dream, and all of us who are
Americans will try to heal this very, very deep wound in the city of Binghamton."
The suspected gunman carried ID with the name of 42-year-old Jiverly Voong of nearby Johnson City, N.Y., but that was believed to be an alias, said a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The police chief would not confirm the name of the dead man with the
ammunition satchel, saying authorities were still trying to establish
with certainty that he was the gunman.
"We have no idea what the motive is," Zikuski said. He said the
suspected gunman "was no stranger" to the community center, and may
have gone there to take a class.
A woman who answered the phone at a listing for Henry D. Voong
said she was Jiverly Voong's sister but would not give her name. She
said her brother had been in the country for 28 years and had
"The police just called me and said he got shot," she said.
Asked if she was aware that he might have been involved in the
shooting, she said: "How? He didn't have a gun. I think somebody
involved, not him. I think he got shot by somebody else."
"I think there's a misunderstanding over here because I want to know, too," she said.
Waiting outside a Catholic Charities
office where counselors were tending to relatives of victims, Omri
Yigal said his wife, Delores, was taking English lessons when the
gunman attacked. He had no word on what happened to her.
"At this point, I know the scale of what happened, but I just
hope Delores is OK," the Filipino immigrant said. "I haven't got any
information. ... The only thing I have right now is hope."
The American Civic Association helps immigrants in the
Binghamton area with citizenship, resettlement and family
reunification. The shootings took place in a neighborhood of homes and
small businesses in downtown Binghamton, a city of about 47,000 situated 140 miles northwest of New York City.
The Binghamton area was the home to Endicott-Johnson shoe company and
the birthplace of IBM, which between them employed tens of thousands of
workers before the shoe company closed a decade ago and IBM downsized
in recent years.
A string of attacks in the U.S. in the last month left 44 people dead in all.
A gunman killed 10 people and himself in Samson, Ala.; a traffic
stop shootout in Oakland, Calif., left four police officers and the
gunman dead; an apparent murder-suicide in Santa Clara, Calif.,
left six dead; and a gunman went on a rampage at a nursing home Sunday,
killing seven elderly residents and a nurse who cared for them.