Motive A Mystery In Binghamton, N.Y., Shootings
ROBERT SMITH, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Smith.
We know more today about the man who stormed into an immigrant assistance center in Binghamton, New York, and began shooting. Thirteen people died, then the gunman killed himself. Police say he was a 41-year-old immigrant from Vietnam named Jiverly Wong. He was wearing body armor, and his motives are still a mystery.
NPR's Brian Naylor has the story.
BRIAN NAYLOR: It was raw and gray in Binghamton today, reflecting the mood of many in this town still reeling from yesterday's mass shooting. The president of the Board of the American Civic Association, where Jiverly Wong opened fire on a citizenship class yesterday morning, spoke to reporters at a news conference.
Fighting back tears, Angela Leach said that this tragedy happened in her community is almost unbearable.
Ms. ANGELA LEACH (President, Board of the American Civic Association): Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.
Whatever drove this individual to do what he did, I cannot possibly fathom. But we will come out of our grief and sadness more resolute in our mission, and more dedicated than ever to help people realize the dream of American citizenship. Thank you.
NAYLOR: Police say Jiverly Wong, who had changed his name to Voong, lived with his parents and sister in Union, about eight miles from Binghamton. He had taken English classes at the civic association himself, dropping out last month.
Yesterday morning, he walked into a classroom full of other immigrants, carrying two handguns, which were registered to him. Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said Wong was wearing a bulletproof vest.
Mr. JOSEPH ZIKUSKI (Binghamton Police Chief): Which would tell us that at one point in his thinking process, he was going to take the police on, or at least try to stop us from stopping him. He must have been a coward. We speculate when he heard the sirens that he decided to end his own life. So that's what - he was heavily armed, had a lot of ammunition on him, and thank God before more lives were lost that he decided to do that.
NAYLOR: Wong killed 13 people inside the classroom and wounded four. They remain in the hospital but are expected to survive. Among them was a receptionist at the front desk. Police have not identified her, but Chief Zikuski today called her a hero.
Mr. ZIKUSKI: She was shot. She pretended she was dead. Once the gunman went in the room, she crawled underneath the desk. Luckily, she had access to the cell phone, and she called 911 for assistance.
NAYLOR: Zikuski said Wong had had a brush with the law once before and in 1999, came to the attention of police when he allegedly plotted to rob a bank. He said police did what follow-up they could.
Wong recently was laid off from a job at a Binghamton company called Shop Vac. Zikuski said he was upset about that.
Mr. ZIKUSKI: From the people close to him that what - these actions that he took was not a surprise to them. We picked up that he was - apparently, people were making fun of him. He felt that he was being degraded because, from what we get, his inability to speak English, and he was upset about that.
NAYLOR: Zikuski defended the response of police, who waited some 90 minutes before breaking into the barricaded building. He said the shootings were over by the time police had arrived. He said that, in his words, when some crazy lunatic picks up a gun and starts shooting, I don't know how we prevent that.
There is a small immigrant community in Binghamton, and many Vietnamese do their shopping at the Hang Phat grocery store. In between carrying large bags of rice for customers, Thanh Huynh said the shooter's family were regulars at the store, and it was difficult to know what to say.
Mr. THANH HUYNH (Employee, Hang Phat): I don't know how to use the best words to describe him. I feel a little bit sad for community, right? They are good family. I've talked to them; they are a very good family. The family come here quite often, like at least once or twice a week, you know?
(Soundbite of music)
NAYLOR: There have been a number of memorial vigils since the shooting. Tomorrow, there will be a formal interfaith service as residents try to come to terms with what happened in their quiet community.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, Binghamton, New York.
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