BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — A gunman opened fire at an immigration services centre in downtown Binghamton on Friday, killing as many as 13 people before authorities found him dead, officials said.
Gov. David Paterson said at a news conference that 12 or 13 people had been killed.
A law enforcement official said the body of the man believed to be the gunman was found in an office of the American Civic Association building. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the details of an ongoing hostage situation and was talking on condition of anonymity.
The gunman barricaded the rear door of the building with his car before entering through the front door, firing his weapon, the official said.
It wasn’t clear whether the gunman was included in the number of dead provided by the governor.
The Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin reported that citizenship classes had been scheduled Friday at the centre.
The Binghamton SWAT team responded, and the FBI was sending hostage negotiators and an evidence response team to the scene. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was also sending agents to Binghamton.
Indications were that the shooter was a young male, the law enforcement official said.
An officer at the scene said the suspected gunman had ID saying he was 42-year-old Jiverly Voong.
The American Civic Association is an organization that helps immigrants in the Binghamton area with naturalization applications, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The association describes itself as helping immigrants and refugees with counselling, resettlement, citizenship, family reunification and translators.
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.”
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, said a student from Binghamton University was being treated there.
The shooting occurred in a mixed neighbourhood of homes and small businesses in the centre of Binghamton, a city of about 47,000 located 225 kilometres northwest of New York City.
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.”
At the junction of the Susquehanna and the Chenango rivers, the Binghamton area was the home to Endicott-Johnson shoe company and the birthplace of IBM, which between them employed tens of thousands of workers before the shoe company closed a decade ago and IBM downsized in recent years.