Police say N.Y. immigrant shooter's act no surprise

BINGHAMTON, New York Sat Apr 4, 2009 4:20pm EDT

1 of 13. Law enforcement crime scene tape secures the area in front of the American Civic Association in Binghamton, New York April 4, 2009. Gunman Jiverly Voong went on a shooting spree on Friday killing 13 people before committing suicide inside the building.

Credit: Reuters/Hans Pennink

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BINGHAMTON, New York (Reuters) - Authorities identified the gunman who killed 13 people and himself at an immigrant services center on Friday as Jiverly Wong, 41, a Vietnamese immigrant who had taken English classes there.

Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said on Saturday no motive for the shooting had been determined, but he confirmed reports that Wong, who also went by the name Voong, had felt degraded by his inability to speak English and by a recent job loss.

"From the people close to him ... this action he took was not a surprise to them," Zikuski told a news conference.

"He felt degraded from his inability to speak English and he was upset about that," he added.

The city has received inquiries from representatives of nine countries and two consulates about the victims, whose identities have not yet been released, Mayor Matthew Ryan said.

On Friday morning, Wong barricaded the back door of the building with a car and, wearing body armor, entered the front and opened fire on two receptionists, killing one. He then went to a classroom and fired, killing another 12 people who were taking English language instruction before killing himself.

Zikuski said the massacre was over quickly, before police had even arrived at the scene, where they removed dozens of survivors who hid from the carnage. Survivors said Wong did not speak before opening fire. The four wounded, including a receptionist who called police, were expected to survive.

The massacre in Binghamton, a town of some 45,000 people about 150 miles northwest of New York City, was the worst U.S. mass shooting since the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.

"That this tragedy should have happened in our community to our friends who only wanted to advance their knowledge and love of America is unbearable," a spokeswoman for the American Civic Association said in a statement.

The American Civic Association building is used to teach English and provide other services to recent immigrants to the United States who are preparing for U.S. citizenship.

There have been several mass shootings in recent years in the United States, where guns are widely available for purchase and the right to own weapons is enshrined in the Constitution.

Zikuski said Wong was "heavily armed" and had held a permit since 1995 or 1997 for two handguns recovered at the scene.

Last month a man killed 10 people, many of them family members, in a shooting rampage in Alabama, and on Saturday several police officers were shot and some reportedly killed in Pittsburgh.

(Writing by Chris Michaud, editing by Jackie Frank)

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