Gunman blocks back door, opens fire at immigrant offices in Binghamton
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - A gunman walked into an immigrant services center and opened fire on Friday, killing 15 people before he killed himself, law enforcement sources told NBC News.
Earlier, Gov. David Paterson put the number of dead at 12 to 13.
A federal law enforcement official said the suspected gunman was found dead in the building of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The man carried identification with the name of 42-year-old Jiverly Voong of nearby Johnson City, N.Y., a law enforcement official said. Sources later told NBC's Pete Williams that the name Voong, as well as another surname initially reported, was an alias.
"I speak for all of New York when I offer my prayers for the victims and families of this tragedy," Paterson said hours after the gunman shot several people and took dozens hostage. The gunman first blocked the back door with his car, authorities said.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey, whose district includes Binghamton, said the gunman had recently been let go from IBM in Johnson City and opened fire on a citizenship class.
"People were there in the process of being tested for their citizenship," Hinchey said in a telephone interview. "It was in the middle of a test. He just went in and opened fire."
Authorities scheduled a news conference for Friday afternoon.
At least 41 people were in the American Civic Association building at the time of the shooting and that citizenship classes had been scheduled Friday at the center, The Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin reported.
Mayor Matthew Ryan initially said the gunman had a high-powered rifle but law-enforcement sources later told NBC that he had actually used two handguns.
The suspect was described as a man in his 20s between 5 feet, 8 inches, and 6 feet tall, wearing a bright green nylon jacket and dark-rimmed glasses.
Police locked down a nearby high school and advised local business owners to stay inside.
Rich Griffith, who works across the street from the hostage scene, said he saw three people carried out of the building on stretchers alive.
Binghamton, with a population around 45,000, is about 150 miles northwest of New York City. The American Civic Association helps immigrants in the area with naturalization applications, counseling, resettlement, citizenship, family reunification and translators.
Mary Pat Hyland, who teaches classes at the center, told MSNBC that many of the immigrants served there are from Vietnam and Laos. "We have a very diverse ethnic area," she said.
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.”
At least six hospitalized
Five people with gunshot wounds were being treated at Wilson Medical Center in Johnson City, according to hospital spokeswoman Christina Boyd.
The wounded ranged in age from 20 to their mid-50s, and their conditions ranged from stable to critical, she said.
Linda Miller, a spokeswoman at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, confirmed that a student from Binghamton University was being treated in the emergency room.
Around 1 p.m. ET, Pennie Kerber, 72, told the AP in a phone call from her home across the street that the scene appeared to be settling down.
"The cops are all standing around in the front now. They're still all over the roof for sure," she said. "The SWAT shooters that were to the side of the building look like they're not there anymore."
Redeemer Lutheran Church in Binghamton planned a prayer vigil on Friday night for those affected by the shooting.
Police evacuate students
When the shooting started at 10:30 a.m. ET, people fled to the basement in search of safety. More than a dozen people were hiding in a closet for more than an hour.
College student Leslie Shrager told the AP that she and her five housemates were sleeping when police pounded on the front door of their house next door to the shooting scene.
Officers escorted the six Binghamton University students outside, she said, and that's when they learned of the shooting.
"One of our housemates thought they heard banging of some kind. But when you're living in downtown Binghamton, it's always noisy," said Shrager, of Slingerlands, an Albany suburb. "Literally two minutes later the cops came and got us out."