belief. Stephen T. writes:
Receptionist a ‘hero’ at Binghamton center
Rampage left 14 dead
SATURDAY, APRIL 4, 2009
BINGHAMTON (AP)—The two receptionists at the American Civic Association community center barely had time to react when a gunman stormed in the front door and shot them at close range before firing on a roomful of immigrants taking a citizenship class.
One receptionist survived, playing dead, before crawling under a desk and calling 911.
Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said she stayed on the phone for 90 minutes, “feeding us information constantly,” despite a serious wound in the abdomen.
“She’s a hero in her own right,” he said.
The gunman killed 13 people—a dozen in the classroom—before apparently killing himself.
Four people were critically wounded in the Friday massacre, and 37 others made it out, including 26 who hid for hours in a basement boiler room while police tried to determine whether the gunman was still alive and whether he was holding any hostages, Zikuski said.
Investigators said they had yet to establish a motive for the shooting, which was at least the fifth deadly mass shooting in the U.S. in the past month.
The suspected killer—believed to be a Vietnamese immigrant—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 man believed to have carried out the attack was found dead in an office with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a satchel containing ammunition slung around his neck, authorities said. Police found two handguns—a 9 mm and a .45-caliber—and a hunting knife.
A second law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the handguns were registered to Jiverly Wong, another name the man used. Both officials were not authorized to speak publicly.
Initial reports suggested Voong had recently been let go from IBM. But a person at IBM said there was no record of a Jiverly Voong ever working there.
The attack at the American Civic Association, which helps immigrants settle in this country, came just after 10 a.m.
The gunman parked his car against the back door before barging through the front and opening fire, apparently without saying a word. He then entered a room just off the reception area and fired on a citizenship class while terrified people scrambled into a boiler room and a storage room.
The center was filled with people from countries as far off as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, all working to become more a part of their new home—learning English, taking a class to gain U.S. citizenship. The gunman may have walked a similar path to become an American decades ago.
“I heard the shots, every shot. I heard no screams, just silence, shooting,” said Zhanar Tokhtabayeva, a 30-year-old from Kazakhstan who was in an English class when her teacher screamed for everyone to go to the storage room. “I heard shooting, very long time, and I was thinking, when will this stop? I was thinking that my life was finished.”
Police arrived in minutes, heard no gunfire and waited for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers. They then spent two hours searching the building. They led a number of men out in plastic handcuffs while trying to sort out victims from the killer or killers.
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?”
The 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 police chief said the suspected gunman “was no stranger” to the community center and may have gone there to take a class. He said he had no idea what the shooter’s motive was.
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 citizenship.
On Friday evening, police searched Voong’s house and carried out three computer hard drives, a brown canvas rifle case, a briefcase, a small suitcase and several paper bags.
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.
“They told me they don’t have much hope for me,” the Filipino immigrant said before going home to wait for a telephone call.
Dr. Jeffrey King, speaking at the Catholic Charities office, said he was certain his mother, 72-year-old Roberta King, who taught English at the community center, was among the dead.
Authorities read a list of survivors and his mother’s name wasn’t on it, he said.
King, one of 10 children, described his mother as a woman brimming with interests ranging from the opera to the preservation society to collecting thousands of dolls. He recollected a recent conversation in which he told her to enjoy her retirement.
“I said, ‘Mom you’re in your 70s,’” King said. “She said, ‘What? You don’t think I enjoy working?’”
They were talking about taking a trip to the Jersey shore this summer.
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 region 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.; shootings that began with a traffic stop 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.