The Binghamton shootings took place on Friday, April 3, 2009, at the American Civic Association immigration center in Binghamton, New York, United States. At approximately 10:30 a.m. EDT, Jiverly Antares Wong (aka Jiverly Voong), a naturalized American citizen from Vietnam, entered the facility and shot numerous people inside. Wong had taken English language classes there from January to March 2009 before dropping out.
Wong shot a teacher and students from his former classroom. The shooter killed 13 people and wounded four others, before committing suicide. It was one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history and the worst mass killing in the state of New York since the September 11 attacks. The injured people, aged from twenty to mid-fifties, were treated for gunshot wounds at Wilson Medical Center in Johnson City and Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital in Binghamton.
The American Civic Association in Binghamton provides citizenship, cultural, and language assistance to the local immigrant community.
At about 10:30 a.m. EDT, Jiverly Wong barricaded the rear door of the Binghamton American Civic Association building with a vehicle registered in his father’s name. He was described as wearing a bullet-proof vest, a bright green nylon jacket, and dark-rimmed glasses.
Wong entered through the front door, firing a number of bullets at people in his path. At 10:30 a.m. Broome County Communications received several 911 calls, and the first police were dispatched to the scene. Two of the Civic Association’s receptionists were among the first victims shot. While one of the receptionists was reported to have been shot through the head and killed, the second, shot in the stomach, feigned death and, when the gunman moved on, took cover under a desk and called 911. The receptionist’s call was taken by 911 staff at 10:38 a.m. The wounded receptionist, 61-year-old Shirley DeLucia, remained on the line for 39 minutes, despite her gunshot wound, and relayed information until she was rescued. She later recounted that the gunman had opened fire without saying anything.
The gunman entered a classroom just off the main reception areas, where an ESL class was being given to students. Out of the 16 people in the room, Wong hit 13 of them, including the professor. He then took dozens of other students hostage. Police arrived within minutes of the 911 calls; when Wong heard the sirens, he shot himself at 10:33 a.m., three minutes after he first opened fire. In all, Wong fired 99 rounds; 88 from a 9mm Beretta and 11 from a .45-caliber Beretta.
Police remained at the perimeter of the property, having locked down nearby Binghamton High School and a number of streets in the area. At one point, not knowing if the gunman was alive or dead, police summoned Broome Community College Assistant Professor Tuong Hung Nguyen, who is fluent in Vietnamese, to help communicate with Wong in the event of contact.
SWAT members entered the Civic Center building and began clearing it at 11:13 a.m.—43 minutes after the first call to the police at 10:30 a.m., and 40 minutes after patrol officers first arrived on the scene at 10:33 a.m. At the time of their entry, they had not yet confirmed that Wong had committed suicide, and they proceeded with caution. At approximately 12:00 noon, ten people left the building, with another ten following approximately forty minutes later. Some of the hostages had escaped to a basement, while more than a dozen remained hidden in a closet. Thanh Huynh, a high school teacher of Vietnamese background, was asked to translate so the Vietnamese survivors could be interviewed by the police.
Wong was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in the first-floor classroom with his victims. Items found on Wong’s body included a hunting knife, in the waistband of his pants; a bag of ammunition, which was tied around his neck; and two semi-automatic pistols (a .45-caliber Beretta Px4 Storm and a 9mm Beretta 92FS Vertec Inox, matching the serial numbers on his New York State pistol license). Also found at the scene were a number of unspent magazines, at least two empty magazines with a 30-round capacity each, and a firearm laser sight.
By 2:33 p.m., SWAT had completed the clearing of the building, and all those inside had been evacuated.
Jiverly Antares Wong (December 8, 1967 – April 3, 2009), a resident of Johnson City, New York, was identified as the perpetrator of the shootings.
– Personal life
Wong was born into an ethnic Chinese (Hoa) family in South Vietnam. He and his parents, Henry Voong and Mui Thong, immigrated to New York in the late 1980s; he moved to California some time later. In 1992, Wong was arrested there and convicted of a misdemeanor charge of fraud for forgery. Wong became a naturalized American citizen in November 1995; the following year, he registered a gun in Broome County, New York. Sometime after that, he left the United States to live in Ottawa, Ontario in Canada.
He returned to the U.S., taking up residence in Inglewood, California in December 1999. In California, Wong registered another gun. While living there, Wong married and later divorced Xiu Ping Jiang. The couple had no children. Wong worked for almost seven years as a delivery man for Kikka Sushi, a catering company located in Los Angeles.
Wong failed to show up to work one day in July 2007, having moved to Binghamton, New York that month, near his parents. Later, he called the company to get a copy of his W-2 earnings statement in 2008, asking that it be forwarded to a New York state address. Although early reports suggested Wong had recently lost his job at a local IBM plant in nearby Endicott, New York, IBM said they had no records showing Wong had ever worked for the company. Wong worked at a local Shop-Vac vacuum cleaner plant until it closed in November 2008.
Wong had been taking English classes at the center, beginning in January 2009 and continuing through March. His attendance was intermittent, and he stopped coming altogether. He shot the students and teacher in the classroom where he had formerly attended sessions.
– Possible motives
Several sources suggested possible motives for Wong’s attack, including feelings of being “degraded and disrespected” for his poor English language skills, depression over losing his job, and difficulty in finding work in New York. A few years before the killings, he had worked as an engineer at Endicott Interconnect Technologies, a high-tech electronics company. In 2004, the company laid off five percent of its workforce. A coworker from that time said of him, “He was quiet—not a violent person” and “I can’t believe he would do something like this”. Press TV noted that Taliban leader Baituallah Mehsud claimed responsibility for the shootings, stating, “They were my men. I gave them orders in reaction to US drone attacks.” However, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation discounted the claim as inconsistent with their evidence that Wong was a lone gunman.
The Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said, “From the people close to him … this action he took was not a surprise to them.” Wong had allegedly made comments such as “America sucks” and talked about assassinating U.S. President Barack Obama to his former coworkers at Shop Vac.
– Package mailed to TV station
Several days after the incident, an envelope was received by the Syracuse, New York, TV station News 10 Now dated March 18, 2009 and postmarked April 3, 2009, the day of the shootings. The three stamps used for the postage were a Liberty Bell and two Purple Hearts.
The package contained a two-page handwritten letter; photos of Wong, holding guns while smiling; a gun permit; and Wong’s driver’s license. In the letter, he mentioned some motives, but most of the content is a rambling, paranoid accusation of perceived police misconduct and persecution of him, especially through “secret” visits to his residences.
– Text of letter
Following is the verbatim text of Wong’s letter to News 10 Now (it includes his errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation). The two-page letter was handwritten, using (nearly) all capital letters. While it was not signed, authorities believe that it was written by Wong.
DATE: MARCH – 18 – 2009
“DEAR: NEW TEN NOW
“I AM JiVERLY WONG SHOOTING THE PEOPLE
“THE FiRST I WANT TO SAY SORRY I KNOW A LiTTLE ENGLiSH I HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND ALL OF THiS. OF COURSE YOU NEED TO KNOW WHY I SHOOTING? BECAUSE UNDERCOVER COP GAVE ME A LOT OF ASS DURiNG EiGHTEEN YEARS. I GOT SEVEN YEARS AND EiGHT MONTH DELiVERY TO GROCERY IN THE CALiFORNiA. CAME BACK NEW YORK ON THE AUGUST – 2007. LET TALK ABOUT WHEN I LiVE IN CALiFORNiA. SUCH AS. . .COP USED 24 HOURS THE TECHNiQUE OF ULTRAMODERN AND CAMERA FOR BURN THE CHEMiCAL IN MY HOUSE. FOR SWiTCH THE CHANNEL Ti.Vi. FOR ADJUST THE FAN. FOR MADE ME UNBREATHBLE. FOR MADE ME VOMiT. FOR CONNECT THE MUSiC INTO MY EAR.
“UNDERCOVER COP USUAL COiNED SOME NASTY WAS NOT TRUE ABOUT ME AND SPREAD A RUMOUR TO THE RECEiVER AND SOME PEOPLE KNOW ME CONDUCE TOWARD MANY PEOPLE PREJUDiCED AND SELFiSH TO ME . . . COP MADE ME LOST MY JOB . . . COP PUT ME BECAME POOR.
“LET TALK ABOUT WHEN I LiVE AT THE 28.BAKER . ST. 2ND FLOOR. JOHNSON CiTY. NEW YORK 13790. IT TERRiBLE WHEN I LiVE THERE SUCH AS. . COP WAiT UNTiL MiDNiGHT WHEN I OFF THE LiGHT AND WENT TO THE BED. COP UNLOCK MY DOOR AND CAME IN TAKE A SiT IN MY ROOM <> ON THE THiRTEEN TiME HAD THREE TiME TOUCH ME WHEN I SLEEPiNG. ONE TiME STOLEN 20 DOLLAR IN MY WALLET ONE TiME USED ELECTRiC GUN SHOOT AT THE BEHiND MY NECK. (THAT TiME I DiD NOT KNOW ENGLiSH)
“PLEASE CONTiNUE SECOND PAGE THANK YOU.
“FROM 1990 TO 1995 NEW YORK UNDERCOVER COP TRY TO GET A CAR ACCiDENT WiTH ME. SUCH AS WHEN I DRiViNG ON THE HiGHWAY AND ON THE STREET UNDERCOVER COP SUNDDENLY BRAKE THE CAR STOP IMMEDiATELY AT THE OF FRONT MY CAR . . . COP DiD IT 32 TiME LiKE THAT DURiNG 1990 TO 1995 BUT I NEVER HiT THE CAR.
“MANY TiME FROM 1990 TO 1997 AT THE DAY TiME . . . COP EXPLOiT UNKNON ENGLiSH AND WENT TO MY HOUSE KNOCK THE DOOR FOR HARASS AND DOMiNEER. OF COURSE DURiNG THAT TiME COP COiNED SOMETHiNG WAS NOT TRUE ABOUT ME AND SPREAD A RUMOUR NASTY LiKE THE CALiFORNiA COP.
“FROM AUGUST – 2007 UNTiL NOW COP GAVE ME NOT TO MUCH ASS ONLY ONE TiME COP LEAVE A MASSAGE IN MY VOiCE MAiL AND SAiD << COME BACK YOUR COUNTRY >> AFTER FIVE MiNUTE I SEND A TEXT MASSAGE TO THEM I SAiD I WILL CALL THE POLiCE AND THEY SEND IT BACK TO ME THEY SAiD THEY ARE THE POLiCE
“DEAR. NEW TEN NOW. RiGHT NOW I STiLL GET UNEMPLOMENT BENEFiT OF THE COMPANY SHOP VAC ENDiCOTT. NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR WAS CHEAT AND UNPAiD FROM DECEMBER – 1st – 2008 TO DECEMBER – 28th – 2008. I ALREADY CLAiM WEEKLY BENEFiT FROM THAT DATE. ANY WAY I CAN NOT ACCEPTED MY POOR LiFE. BEFORE I CUT MY POOR LiFE I MUST ONESELF GET A JUDGE JOB FOR MAKE AN IMPARTiAL WiTH UNDERCOVER COP BY AT LEAST TWO PEOPLE WiTH ME GO TO RETURN TO THE DUST OF EARTH.
“ALREADY IMPARTiAL NOW. . .COP BRiNG ABOUT THiS SHOOTiNG COP MUST RESPONSiBLE. AND YOU HAVE A NiCE DAY.”
During this incident, Wong killed 13 people and critically wounded four. An account of each of the victims was published in The New York Times on April 6, 2009.
- Parveen Ali, age 26, an immigrant from northern Pakistan
- Almir Olimpio Alves, age 43, a Brazilian Ph.D. in Mathematics and visiting scholar at Binghamton University, attending English classes at the Civic Association
- Marc Henry Bernard, age 44, an immigrant from Haiti
- Maria Sonia Bernard, age 46, an immigrant from Haiti
- Li Guo, age 47, a visiting scholar from China
- Lan Ho, age 39, an immigrant from Vietnam
- Layla Khalil, age 53, an Iraqi mother of three children
- Roberta King, age 72, an English language teacher who was substituting for a vacationing teacher
- Jiang Ling, age 22, an immigrant from China
- Hong Xiu “Amy” Mao Marsland, age 35, a nail technician who immigrated from China in 2006
- Dolores Yigal, age 53, a recent immigrant from the Philippines
- Hai Hong Zhong, age 54, an immigrant from China
- Maria Zobniw, age 60, a part-time caseworker at the Civic Association, whose parents were from Ukraine
- Shirley DeLucia, age 61, the Civic Association receptionist who feigned death and contacted police
- Long Huynh, age 42, a Vietnamese immigrant whose wife, Lan Ho, was killed. Huynh had tried to shield her with his body, but a bullet that shattered Huynh’s elbow ricocheted, striking and killing his wife. Huynh was wounded three more times: he lost a finger to a shot, was hit by a bullet in his chest, and another bullet entered his chin and exited through his cheek.
- Two other unnamed people
- President Barack Obama referred to the shootings as “senseless violence” and offered sympathy to the victims.
- New York Governor David Paterson ordered state flags to be flown at half staff on April 8, 2009.
- Wong’s parents, Henry Voong and Mui Thong of Johnson City, New York, issued a statement apologizing for their son’s actions, expressing their shared grief and asking forgiveness from the victims’ families.