"Disrespected" Binghamton Shooter Bitter Over Job Loss

Authorities said suspect was angry over lack of work and problems with English

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    This split image shows two photos of the same man released by the Binghamton Police Department. Jiverly Voong, aka Jiverly Wong, is the gunman who killed 13 people in a rampage and then committed suicide. He was wearing body armor, indicating he was prepared to battle with law enforcers, the Binghamton police chief said Saturday.

    The gunman at the center of the Binghamton, New York, massacre was described as an angry loner with a drug problem who was embarrassed and enraged by his inability to assimilate and hold down a job as authorities tried to piece together what set him off and lead him to murder 13 innocent people at an immigration center Friday, before committing suicide.

    What was clear is that Jiverly Wong was a registered gun owner who had recently become despondent over being fired from his job and had braced for a battle with cops after trapping his victims and shooting them methodically. He wore body armor but ended up killing himself at the sound of approaching police.

    Authorities also credited one of the first victims of the attack with preventing more bloodshed by pretending to be dead, calling 911 and giving police detailed information on the killer's path -- all the while bleeding from a gunshot wound to her abdomen that left her in critical condition.

    "He must have been a coward," Binghamton's Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said, speculating that Wong decided to turn the gun on himself when he heard sirens. "He had a lot of ammunition on him, so thank God before more lives were lost, he decided to do that."

    Binghamton Shooting Rampage Leaves 14 People Dead

    [NEWSC] Binghamton Shooting Rampage Leaves 14 People Dead
    As many as 14 people are dead after a lone gunman opened fire in a civic center in Binghamton, N.Y. (Published Saturday, Apr 4, 2009)

    Wong was the "kind of guy who would come in mad one day and shoot people," said Kevin Greene, who described himself as a former co-worker of the alleged shooter at a Shop Vac assembly plant that had since closed, the New York Daily News reported.

    Greene said that he had asked Wong -- who also used Jiverly Voong as an alias -- whether he liked the New York Yankees.

    "He said, 'No, I don't like that team. I don't like America. America sucks," Greene said, adding that Wong's penchant for guns was well known and that he often practiced shooting at ranges.

    On Saturday, Zikuski told NBC's "Today'' show that people "degraded and disrespected'' the gunman, a Vietnamese immigrant, over his poor English skills. Mayor Matthew Ryan told ABC's "Good Morning America'' he was angry about his language issues and his lack of employment.

    Binghamton Police Chief Says Shooter Motive, ID Still Unclear

    [NY] Binghamton Police Chief Says Shooter Motive, ID Still Unclear
    Binghamton Police Chief Joe Zikuski explains preliminary efforts to identify the shooter in the deadly rampage. (Published Friday, Apr 3, 2009)

    Zikuski also said Wong was prepared for a battle with cops. He was wearing body armor. He was also a lawful gun owner, having permits for the two semiautomatic handguns that he used in the deadly attack.

    Wong was ethnically Chinese but from Vietnam, a friend said Saturday. He was angry about recently losing a job, couldn't find work and complained that his unemployment checks were only $200 a week, said Hue Huynh, a Binghamton grocery store proprietor whose husband worked with Wong years ago.

    Wong moved to the U.S. in the early 1990's and had driven a truck in California before recently returning to Binghamton, only to lose a job there, Huynh said.

    "He's upset he don't have a job here. He come back and want to work," she said. Her husband tried to cheer him by telling him he was still young and there was plenty of time to find work, but he complained about his "bad luck," she said.

    State police got tips suggesting that Wong may have been planning a bank robbery in 1999, possibly to support a crack-cocaine addiction, Zikuski said. But the robbery never happened.

    An 'act of senseless violence'

    The 41-year-old gunman shot himself to death after the bloody rampage that critically wounded four others and shattered the peace of a small business center in downtown Binghamton, sending shock-waves as far as Europe, where President Barack Obama called it an "act of senseless violence."

    Obama, speaking from Germany, said he and Michelle Obama were praying for the victims and their families.

    Closer to home, the New York Governor expressed "outrage" over what he called "the worst tragedy and senseless crime in the history of this city."

    "I speak for all of New York when I offer my prayers for the victims and families of this tragedy," New York Gov. David Paterson said hours after the bloodbath that was meticulously planned and executed.

    "It was just panic," said Alex Galkin, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, who was taking English classes when the shots rang out. He ran to the basement with a group of people to escape the chaos.

    Cops searched Wong's home Friday evening and carried out evidence that included three computer hard drives, a brown canvas rifle case, a briefcase, a small suitcase and several paper bags.

    Zikuski said the dead suspect was "known" to people at the center and had attended classes up until last month.

    A woman who identified herself as Wong's sister said she did not think he was the shooter and insisted he may have been a victim.

    "He didn't have a gun. I think somebody involved, not him. I think he got shot by somebody else," said the woman, who refused to give her name.  "I think there's a misunderstanding over here because I want to know, too."

    As authorities worked to identify the victims, they offered few details on how the killer executed his deadly plan. They said most of the victims had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

    Before his rampage, the shooter pulled a car up to the back door of the facility at about 10:30 a.m. to block a key escape route. He then entered the building through the front door.

    "It obviously was premeditated. He was making sure nobody could escape," Zikuski said.

    The chief defended the time it took officers to go into the building — an hour to 90 minutes.

    "If some crazy lunatic decides to pick up a gun and go someplace and start shooting people, I really don't have the answer how long for us that could prevent anything like that," Zikuski said.

    "What I will tell you is that the police did the right thing," he said. "We have procedures and protocols."

    The hero receptionist

    The shooter first wounded two receptionists, a male and a female, at the center's front desk. The female, 61-year-old Shirley DeLucia, now in critical condition, pretended she was dead to fool the shooter, then ducked underneath her desk to make the 911 call that alerted police.

    Zikuski, the police chief, said DeLucia 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 other receptionist died from gunshot wounds, Zikuski said.

    The shooter then entered an adjacent room, where dozens of potential citizens were gathered to take an exam, and continued to fire. Most of the test-takers could barely speak English, Zikuski said.

    Police showed up within two minutes of the receptionist's call - and about a minute after cops arrived, the shooting stopped. Officers were in constant contact with those inside the building, instructing them on how to build barricades to keep the shooter out.

    SWAT teams spent several hours clearing the building and escorted dozens of people out safely, Zikuski said. Cops also rescued 26 visitors who had locked themselves in the basement of the center.

    Zikuski said officials don't know how many bullets were fired or how long the gunman shot, but that they'll continue to question survivors for information about the shooting.

    Officers recovered two handguns from the scene, Zikuski said.

    "An examination was being given for...immigrants to become Americans," Vice President Joe Biden said. "I ask you to keep these folks in your prayers. We've got to figure out a way to deal with this senseless, senseless violence."

    Center staff 'stricken with grief'

    The American Civic Association is an organization that helps immigrants in the Binghamton area with naturalization applications, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Mary Pat Hyland, a teacher at the center, told MSNBC that many of the immigrants who frequented the association were from Vietnam and Laos.

    "We have a very diverse ethnic area," Hyland said.

    "This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families," Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said in a joint statement Friday afternoon.

    The area is in a stretch on the west side of the Chenango River in the city of about 45,000 near the Pennsylvania border. Emergency vehicles lined the streets in the neighborhood which is a mix of homes and small businesses.

    The association's president, Angela Leach, "is very upset right now," said Mike Chanecka, a friend who answered a call at her home as Leach wept in the background.

    "She doesn't know anything; she's as shocked as anyone," Chanecka said. "For some reason, she had the day off today. And she's very worried about her secretary."

    Later on Friday night, center officials said in a statement they were "stricken with grief about today's horrific assault and share this grief with the victims' families, our community and the entire nation."

    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.