A deadly shooting rampage began Friday morning in Binghamton, N.Y., with a gunman trapping his victims inside an immigration center before opening fire without so much as uttering a word, authorities say. It ended with 14 people dead, - including the presumed shooter - four others critically injured and a nation left to ponder a recent few weeks that have brought four mass shootings.
Forty people have died since March 10 in these attacks, which occurred in Alabama, California and North Carolina. Binghamton is about 135 miles north of New York City.
“Now here in Binghamton, we probably have the worst tragedy and senseless crime in the history of this city,” New York Gov. David Paterson said during a press conference. “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?”
President Obama, who is traveling in Europe, released a statement that he and his wife “were shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the act of senseless violence.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and the people of Binghamton,” the president said. “We don’t yet know all the facts, but my administration is actively monitoring the situation and the vice president is in touch with Gov. Paterson and local officials to track developments.”
Authorities have not publicly identified the shooter, who apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Associated Press, citing an unnamed law enforcement source, identified the suspect as 42-year-old Jiverly Voong of nearby Johnson City. U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a Democrat whose district includes Binghamton, told the AP that the gunman recently had lost his job at IBM.
Police said they had not determined a motive.
Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said police received a 911 call from a receptionist at the American Civic Association Center who said she had been shot. The chief said that woman was undergoing surgery Friday evening and remained in critical condition; a second receptionist was killed.
“What I know is he just came in and shot them,” he said. “I don’t think there was any conversation.”
The gunman then apparently walked into a citizenship class and continued shooting.
“People were there in the process of being tested for their citizenship,” Mr. Hinchey told the AP. “It was in the middle of a test. He just went in and opened fire.”
Chief Zikuski said authorities arrived within minutes of receiving the 911 call and saw a car the gunman had borrowed parked against the back door of the center.
“It obviously was premeditated,” Chief Zikuski said. “He was making sure no one could escape.”
The gunman may have committed suicide before police arrived, but authorities laid siege to the center for hours to make sure the building could be cleared safely. The body of the man authorities suspect to be the killer was found with a satchel of ammunition, Chief Zikuski said.
The chief said 37 people survived the attack without injury, 27 of whom barricaded themselves in a boiler room. He said it was difficult convincing many of the people inside that it was safe to leave.
Media reports earlier Friday indicated several men in plastic wrist restraints were taken from the building. Chef Zikuski said none of those men were suspects and that anyone who remotely resembled the description of the gunman initially was restrained.
Authorities said the Civic Center, which, according to its Web site, was founded by a group of immigrants in 1939 and works to help other immigrants and refugees with resettlement, citizenship and family reunification, was not chosen at random. Chief Zikuski said he suspects the gunman was associated with the center, though he did not elaborate.