- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. | Jiverly Wong was upset over losing his job at a vacuum plant, didn’t like people picking on him for his limited English and once angrily told a co-worker, “America sucks.”

It remained unclear exactly why the Vietnamese immigrant strapped on body armor, barged in on a citizenship class and killed 13 people and himself, but the police chief says he knows one thing for sure: “He must have been a coward.”

Wong, 41, apparently had been preparing for a gun battle with police but changed course and decided to turn the gun on himself when he heard sirens approaching, police Chief Joseph Zikuski said Saturday.

“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, Chief Zikuski said.

Wong, who used the alias Jiverly Voong, believed people close to him were making fun of him for his poor English-language skills and felt degraded, the chief said.

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

Then, on Friday, he parked his car against the back door of the association, burst through the front doors and shot two receptionists, killing one, before moving on to a classroom where he claimed 12 more victims, police said.

Chief Zikuski said that most of the dead had multiple gunshot wounds. Wong used two handguns - a 9 mm and a .45-caliber - for which he had obtained a permit more than a decade ago.

The receptionist who survived, Shirley DeLucia, 61, played dead, then called 911 despite her injuries and stayed on the line while the gunman remained in the building.

“She’s a hero in her own right,” Chief Zikuski said.

Police initially said it took 90 minutes to rescue her. On Saturday, Chief Zikuski said it was actually 39 minutes, and he said the police response followed all proper procedures.

“The police did the right thing,” he said.

Ms. DeLucia remained in critical condition Saturday. The chief said she and three other hospitalized victims were all expected to survive, and that police were in no hurry to question her.

“We’re giving her a break. There’s no reason to put her through that,” he said.

Binghamton police were withholding the names of victims until they could notify relatives and release all the names at once. Each autopsy takes two to four hours, and authorities are struggling to track down families around the globe.

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