People who knew the suspected gunman in Friday’s shooting at an immigration services center in Binghamton, New York, were not surprised by his actions, the police chief said.
“From the people close to him, the actions that he took were not a surprise to them,” Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said Saturday. Wearing body armor and carrying two weapons, Jiverly Wong, 41, used his car to barricade the back door of the American Civic Association, which provides services to immigrants and English classes, authorities said. He burst in through the front of the building, fatally shooting 13 people before apparently turning the gun on himself, police said. Wong was from an ethnically Chinese family living in Vietnam and had changed his last name to Voong. “Some of this behavior on his [Wong’s] part wasn’t a total shock,” Zikuski said without elaborating. Wong had been taking English classes at the association but dropped out the first week in March, the police chief said. Watch investigators struggle to make sense of the shooting » “Apparently people were making fun of him. He felt he was being degraded because of his inability to speak English, and he was upset about that,” Zikuski said. Watch police question whether teasing led to shooting rampage »
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Wong also was upset about recently losing a job, Zikuski said. Wong lived with his parents in Johnson City, near Binghamton, the site of a law enforcement search Friday. He was known to practice target shooting there, acquaintances told state police. The 13 people who were killed belonged to the association, authorities said. Four people were wounded and were in local hospitals as of Saturday. They are all expected to survive, Zikuski said. Angela Leach, a representative of the American Civic Association, read a statement through tears at a news conference Saturday. View photos from the scene in Binghamton » “Whatever drove this individual to do what he did I cannot possibly fathom,” Leach said. “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.” Zikuski said, “He must have been a coward; he decided to end his own life” when he heard police sirens. By late Saturday, police had begun notifying family members of the victims. Police haven’t released the names of any victims, but the police chief said he hoped to do so soon. One of the victims was Omri Yigal’s wife, Dolores, Yigal told CNN. A native of the Philippines, she was taking English classes at the center to better herself. Yigal said he had no anger for the shooter. “My thoughts are on my wife. I don’t have time for that now,” he said. Yigal said he felt “grief for my wife and that’s it.” “She’s come so far,” he said haltingly, his arms crossed and his eyes to the ground, “so much.” From Strasbourg, France, after a NATO summit, President Obama said his administration is communicating with Binghamton law enforcement. “I am heartbroken for the families who survived this tragedy, and it just underscores the degree to which in each of our countries we have to guard against the kind of senseless violence that the tragedy represents,” Obama said. Alerting authorities to the shooting, a receptionist at the American Civic Association called 911 at 10:31 a.m. Friday while she hid under her desk. The receptionist, who pretended to be dead before crawling under a desk, said she was shot in the stomach, Zikuski said. Watch Zikuski give a timeline of the shooting » The police chief called her a “very brave lady.” Police arrived on the scene minutes after the phone call; by that time, the shooting had stopped. The woman is among the four wounded, he said. She was in serious condition this weekend. Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan said Wong used his father’s car to block the building’s door. Two semi-automatic handguns — a .45-caliber and a 9 mm — were found at the center and were licensed to Wong, Ryan said. Authorities executed a search warrant at Wong’s home in Johnson City, Ryan said. “They took a computer hard drive — they took an empty long gun case and some other bags,” the mayor said.
In 1999, state police received a tip from a confidential informant who told them Wong was planning a bank robbery, according to Zikuski. The information indicated Wong had a crack or cocaine habit and owned handguns, according to the police chief. He did not provide additional information. Binghamton, a city of about 50,000 people, is close to the Pennsylvania state line and about 140 miles northwest of New York City.