Hostages taken, fatalities at NY immigrant center
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP)—A gunman walked into an immigration services center in downtown Binghamton on Friday, killing an unknown number of people, wounding at least six and taking as many as 41 hostage, officials said.
Two handguns were recovered at the scene, said a law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the details of an ongoing hostage situation and was speaking on condition of anonymity.
Mayor Matthew Ryan told the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin that the gunman had a high-powered rifle.
The FBI was sending hostage negotiators and an evidence response team to the scene. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was also sending agents to Binghamton.
The gunman barricaded the rear door of the American Civic Association with his car before entering through the front door, firing his weapon, the official said.
“We do know that a gunman entered the American Civic Association in Binghamton this morning and that there are fatalities,” Gov. David Paterson said in a statement.
The Binghamton newspaper reported 41 hostages in the building of the American Civic Association and said apartments were being evacuated.
Emergency dispatchers were in contact with some people inside by phone, WBNG-TV reported. The gunman might still be in the building, the newspaper reported. The Binghamton SWAT team responded.
Indications were that the shooter was a young male, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether he was still in the building, the law enforcement official said.
Five people with gunshot wounds were being treated at Wilson Medical Center in Johnson City, according to hospital spokeswoman Christina Boyd.
The wounded ranged in age from 20 to their mid-50s, and their conditions ranged from stable to critical, she said.
Linda Miller, a spokeswoman at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, confirmed that a student from Binghamton University was being treated at the emergency room.
A police dispatcher who spoke to the AP wouldn’t confirm a number of people shot or injured.
Around 1 p.m., Pennie Kerber, 72, told the AP in a phone call from her home across the street that the scene appeared to be settling down.
“The cops are all standing around in the front now. They’re still all over the roof for sure,” she said. “The SWAT shooters that were to the side of the building look like they’re not there any more. It looks like it’s clearing.”
The shooting occurred in a mixed neighborhood of homes and small businesses in the center of Binghamton, a city of about 47,000 located 140 miles northwest of New York City.
College student Leslie Shrager told the AP that she and her five housemates were sleeping when police pounded on the front door of their house next door to the shooting scene.
Officers escorted the six Binghamton University students outside, she said, and that’s when they learned of the shooting.
“One of our housemates thought they heard banging of some kind. But when you’re living in downtown Binghamton, it’s always noisy,” said Shrager, of Slingerlands, an Albany suburb. “Literally two minutes later the cops came and got us out.”
The American Civic Association describes itself as helping immigrants and refugees with counseling, resettlement, citizenship, family reunification and translators.
It also intervenes with emergencies, including fighting, hunger and homelessness, according to information from the association’s Web site.
At the junction of the Susquehanna and the Chenango rivers, 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.