BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) - The gunman who killed 13 people at an
immigrant aid center and then committed suicide was wearing body
armor, indicating he had been prepared "to take the police on," the Binghamton chief said Saturday.
Gunman Jiverly Wong, 41, apparently decided to kill himself when he heard the sirens, Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said. "He must have been a coward," he said.
"He had a lot of ammunition on him, so thank God before more lives were lost, he decided to do that," the chief said.
Wong parked his car against the back door of the American Civic Association, burst through the front doors and shot two receptionists, killing one, and then took most of his victims in a classroom, police said. The receptionist who survived played dead, then called 911 despite her injuries and stayed on the line while the gunman remained in the building.
The gunman's body armor indicates that "at one point in his thinking process that he was going to take the police on or at least try to stop us from stopping him," the chief said.
But the call from receptionist Shirley DeLucia, 61, whom police again described as a hero, brought police to the scene in two minutes.
The police chief disclosed that the most of the dead had multiple gunshot wounds, and that Wong had a permit for the two handguns he used.
Won had been taking classes at the Civic Association, which helps immigrants assimilate, until last month.
The gunman's actions were no surprise to Wong's family, the chief said. Wong, who used the alias Jiverly Voong, believed people close to him were making fun of him for his poor English language skills, he said.
Wong was ethnically Chinese but from Vietnam, a friend said Saturday. He was angry about recently losing a job at a Shop-Vac assembly plant, couldn't find other 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, who moved to the United States in the early 1990s, 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.
On Friday, Wong barricaded the American Civic Association community center's back door with his car, walked in the front and started shooting with two handguns. Within minutes, a receptionist, a teacher and 11 immigrants taking a citizenship class were dead.
DeLucia feigned death after she was shot and called 911 to get police to the scene within two minutes. Zikuski said the injured receptionist stayed on the phone for 90 minutes, "feeding us information constantly," despite a serious wound to the abdomen.
DeLucia was in critical condition at a hospital Saturday, along
with another victim in the same condition and another in serious condition. A fourth victim was in stable condition at another hospital.
Thirty-seven others made it out, including 26 who hid 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.
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."
Investigators said they had yet to establish a firm motive for the shooting, which was followed Saturday by the killing of three Pittsburgh police officers by a man reportedly fearful about a potential ban on guns.
At least 44 people have died in mass shootings nationwide in the past month. The Binghamton shooting was the nation's deadliest since April 2007, when 32 people and a gunman died at Virginia Tech.
Wong 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. Both guns are listed on a permit he obtained in 1996 or 1997, Zikuski 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, and Zikuski had no other information.
The attack at the American Civic Association, which helps immigrants settle in this country, came just after 10 a.m. as people from all over the globe - Latin America, China, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Africa - gathered for English and citizenship lessons in an effort to become a bigger part of their new home.
Abdelhak Ettouri, a Moroccan immigrant who lives in nearby Johnson City, told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin he found the back door locked when he tried to flee, then ran to hide in the basement as he heard 12 to 14 shots: "Tak-tak-tak-tak."
Hoi Nguyen of Binghamton said his 36-year-old daughter Phuong Nguyen, who survived the massacre, was taking an English class in
the basement when the gunfire started.
"She said it sounded like a firecracker and everyone in the class was startled," he said. "Then the teacher locked the door, called the police, then told everyone they couldn't leave the room."
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.