- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP) - Four Chinese nationals were killed and a fifth was wounded by a distraught man who burst into an immigrant center and murdered 13 people before killing himself.

Police are still reaching around the globe to notify families of those killed Friday by 41-year-old Jiverly Wong, who was apparently upset about losing his job at a vacuum plant and about people picking on him for his limited English. His victims came from around globe, including Laos, Mexico, Somalia and the former Soviet republics.

China’s Deputy Consul General Shi Yong said Binghamton police notified the Chinese Consulate-General in New York that four Chinese nationals were among those killed, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Their identities were being established and could be released as early as Sunday.

One Chinese student was among the wounded, according to officials with the Chinese Consulate-general in New York, who did not identify the student. He suffered gunshot wounds in the arm and leg, the news agency reported.

Wong was born in Vietnam to a Chinese family. He moved to the U.S. in the early 1990s and soon afterward became a citizen, friends and relatives said.

At 10:30 a.m. Sunday just outside the front door of the First Congregational Church, next door to the shooting scene, Tom Bucker pulled on a thick rope to sound the church’s bell 14 times, once for each victim and once for Wong.

“It was very sad, but it’s an honor I could do something for the people who have been injured and killed,” said Bucker, who’s been the bell-ringer for 15 years.

The process of notifying families has been slowed by the many languages the victims spoke and their far-flung homelands.

On Saturday evening, police drove up to Omri Yigal’s modest, neatly kept house to deliver the news that his wife, Dolores, was among the dead. A recent immigrant from the Philippines, she was in an English class at the American Civic Association on Friday morning when Wong opened fire.

“They said she probably went quickly so she didn’t suffer, I pray,” Omri Yigal said, his voice shaking.

His wife had dreamed of getting a job working with children.

“She wanted to learn English so she could find work,” he said.

A briefing was scheduled for noon Sunday. Meanwhile, families were beginning to bury their loved ones.

A service was planned for Sunday afternoon at the Islamic Center of the Southern Tier for two of the victims. One of them, Layla Khalil, was an Iraqi woman and mother of three in her 50s who came to the United States after surviving three car bombings in Iraq, said Imam Kasim Kopuz, leader of the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier.

“To think that would happen here,” Kopuz said.

Raini Baudendistel, executive director of the Crime Victims Assistance Center of Binghamton, said Sunday her agency’s counselors were “trying to provide emotional support and guidance and make referrals as appropriate.” She said victims’ families were eligible for up to $6,000 from the state crime victims board to help pay for funeral expenses.

It remains unclear why Wong strapped on a bulletproof vest, barged in on the citizenship class and started shooting, but police Chief Joseph Zikuski said he knows one thing for sure: “He must have been a coward.”

Wong had apparently been preparing for a gun battle with police but changed course and decided to turn the gun on himself when he heard sirens approaching, Zikuski 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.

Police and Wong’s acquaintances portrayed him as an angry, troubled man who struggled with drugs and job loss and perhaps blamed his adopted country for his troubles. His rampage “was not a surprise” to those who knew him, Zikuski said.

“He felt degraded because people were apparently making fun of his poor English speaking,” the chief said.

Until last month, he had been taking classes at the American Civic Association, which teaches English to immigrants and helps them prepare for citizenship tests.

Wong used two handguns _ a 9 mm and a .45-caliber _ for which he had obtained a permit more than a decade ago.

A receptionist who survived, 61-year-old Shirley DeLucia, played dead, then called 911 despite her injuries and stayed on the line while the gunman remained in the building. DeLucia remained in critical condition Saturday. The chief said she and three other hospitalized victims were all expected to survive.

Wong worked at IBM for a time, friend Hue Huynh said, and after seven years in California, came to Binghamton where he worked at the Shop-Vac plant.

Zikuski said Wong was fired from that job, where he assembled vacuum cleaners.

___

Associated Press writers John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y., and John Kekis, Michael Hill and Carolyn Thompson in Binghamton contributed to this report.

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