A gunman cooly backed his car up to the rear door of the immigration services center in Binghamton, N.Y. to block the exit, making it more difficult for his victims to escape the bloody rampage, officials said.
At least 41 people were in the American Civic Association when the gunfire sparked -- the madman walked in through the front door firing. When it was over, 14 people, including the shooter, were dead.
"It was obviously premeditated. He made sure nobody could escape," police chief Joe Zikuski said of the cold-blooded killer.
After the shooting erupted at about 10:30 a.m., 15 people hid in a closet and 26 fled to the boiler room to search for cover, the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin reported. An ACA employee told Fox News that on Fridays they held English lessons in the building's basement.
Most of the visitors to the center couldn't speak English, Zikuski said. They came to the center in droves in an attempt to be part of the "American dream," New York Governor David Paterson said hours after the massacre.
Meanwhile, SWAT team sharpshooters and bomb squad experts gathered outside the building on the city’s Front Street.
"Within minutes, [the situation] turned into one just flooded with police," Bob Joseph, news director of WNBF Radio, told CNN.
Officers were heroically alerted to the massacre by a wounded receptionist who played dead to sneak in a 911 call, Zikuski said. Shooting stopped about a minute after cops arrived on the scene.
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, just 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."
Zhanar Tokhtabayeva, a 30-year-old from Kazakhstan, told the AP that she was in an English class when she heard a terrifying shot, then fled the room.
"I heard the shots, every shot. I heard no screams, just silence, shooting," she said. "I heard shooting, very long time ... and I was thinking, when will this stop? I was thinking that my life was finished."
Others on the scene waited for news of friends or family trapped inside the building, not knowing if their loved ones had fallen victim to the gunman's rage.
Omri Yigal, a Filipino immigrant, stood outside the center and watched cops swarm into the building where his wife, Delores, took English lessons.
"At this point, I know the scale of what happened, but I just hope Delores is OK," Yigal said. "I haven't got any information. ... The only thing I have right now is hope."
Dr. Jeffrey King, speaking at a Catholic Charities office where counseling was being offered Friday night, said he was certain his mother, 72-year-old Roberta King, who taught English at the community center, was among the dead.
Authorities read a list of survivors and his mother's name wasn't on it, he said.
King, one of 10 children, described his mother as a woman brimming with interests ranging from the opera to the preservation society to collecting thousands of dolls. He recollected a recent conversation in which he told her to enjoy her retirement.
"I said, 'Mom you're in your 70s,'" King said. "She said, 'What? You don't think I enjoy working?'"
The Press & Sun-Bulletin said about 10 people came out of the building shortly after noon. They emerged with their hands on their heads. The police searched some of them, the newspaper reported.
None of the people searched or questioned by officers are suspects in the shooting, Zikuski said.
At about 12:40 p.m., another 10 people covered in white sheets walked out of the rear of the building, the newspaper said.
About 1 p.m., Pennie Kerber, 72, told the Associated Press
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 any more. It looks like it's clearing."
Officers said they believe the shooter is a man named Jiverly Voong, who was found dead inside of the building. Officials said he was armed with two handguns, a 9 mm and a .45 caliber, and his carried a bag filled with high capacity magazines, a survival knife and a flashlight.
Four people are in critical condition at a nearby hospital, Zikuski said.
The wounded ranged in age from 20 to their mid-50s, and their conditions varied from stable to critical, hospital authorities said.
Cops rescued 37 survivors from the scene.
Pointing out the fact that the civic center was a place for new immigrants to take English and citizenship classes, Joseph told CNN that “dozens of countries are likely to be represented at the civic association daily,” and thus affected by the tragedy.
Linda Miller, a spokeswoman at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, confirmed that a student from Binghamton University was being treated at the emergency room.
Published at 3:20 PM PDT on Jul 17, 2009
Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area