Image: Jiverly Wong
A Binghamton Police Department photograph shows Jiverly Wong, the gunman who killed 13 people in a rampage at an immigrant community center. Wong killed 13 people in a rampage at an immigrant community center and then committed suicide was wearing body armor, indicating he was prepared to battle with law enforcers, the Binghamton police chief said Saturday.
updated 4/5/2009 7:39:24 PM ET 2009-04-05T23:39:24

Even if police officers had immediately entered the immigrant center where a gunman had just shot down 13 people, the victims' injuries were so severe that none would have survived, a county prosecutor said Sunday.

The shooting at the American Civic Association stopped shortly after the first 911 calls came in Friday morning, but police didn't enter the building until nearly 45 minutes later.

Survivors reported huddling for hours in a basement, not knowing whether they were still in danger after the gunman, 41-year-old Jiverly Wong, killed 13 people.

Medical examiners who conducted autopsies reported that the victims' injuries were so severe they would not have survived, Broome County District Attorney Gerald F. Mollen said.

"We definitively can say nobody was shot after police arrival, and nobody who had been shot could have been saved even if the police had walked in the door within the first minute," Mollen said.

2 minutes to sort out events
The prosecutor's comments came at a news conference Sunday, an hour before officials released a list of names and home countries of the victims.

Four Chinese were among those killed, and a Chinese student was also shot in the arm and leg but survived, officials said. The other victims came from Haiti, Pakistan, the Philippines, Iraq, Brazil, Vietnam and the United States.

The first 911 calls came in at 10:30 a.m. EDT, police Chief Joseph Zikuski said at a news conference. The callers spoke broken English, and it took dispatchers 2 minutes to sort out what was happening, he said.

Patrol officers arrived at 10:33 a.m.,  five minutes before a wounded receptionist called police to report a gunman in the building, Zikuski said. Police had earlier said it was that call that brought them to the immigration center.

When police arrived at the scene, the gunfire had stopped, so they believed there was no "active gunman" in the center and decided to wait for the SWAT team to arrive, Zikuski said.

The SWAT team entered the building until 11:13 a.m., 43 minutes after the first call to police.

"I'm not sure why they wouldn't have gone in there if the shooting was already done," said Kent Moyer, president of California-based World Protection Group, which offers protection services for corporate, commercial, industrial, entertainment, residential and retail clients. "What is happening all across the board in law enforcement is they've switched the tactic. They're not relying on waiting until the SWAT team gets there."

Moyer said many law-enforcement agencies conduct rapid-response training where the uniformed patrol officers are taught that "once they have sufficient backup, that they go in prior to the SWAT team getting there."

Better for police to enter quickly
Zikuski contrasted the scene with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, in which 15 people died, including the two teenage gunmen. There, he said, it would have been better for police to enter the building as quickly as possible since it was obvious the gunmen were still alive and shooting.

Video: Binghamton pauses to mourn shooting victims "At Columbine, there were numerous shots ringing out and law enforcement stood by," he said. "I was, quite frankly, horrified when I knew that."

Pressed on why police didn't go into the building, Zikuski said information they were getting from the receptionist — specifically whether Wong was still alive — was uncertain enough to warrant caution. And unlike Columbine, police in Binghamton could be more deliberate because the gunman had stopped firing by the time they arrived.

"He was dead. We didn't know it," Zikuski said. "If there's a bunch of cops laying on the floor shot trying to rescue somebody else, it's not going to help anybody. All I can tell you is that we did what was expected and was the right thing to do under the circumstances. We did the right thing."

Zikuski said his officers would have gone into the building if shots had still been flying.

"If you arrive on the scene — the first two to four guys — and there's an active shooter, they enter," he said.

That is standard protocol today.

"Most law enforcement agencies have already changed their policies," Moyer said. "Obviously, that's something the state has to re-evaluate whether what they did was effective or not."

Wong was 'an avid gunman'
When reporters repeated the line of questioning on timing, Mollen jumped in to defend the police chief, a 30-year veteran of the force who has served as interim chief three times in the past 15 years.

"I don't think it's fair to ask Chief Zikuski to respond to hypotheticals," Mollen said, adding that there would be a full review and report on the shooting, including the police response.

A former FBI agent who was also a member of a SWAT team said the response was appropriate.

"Lord, that seems like that was fast," said Harold Copus, who now runs a consulting company based in Atlanta. "When something like this happens, as you can imagine, it's mass confusion."

Wong was "an avid gunman" who had recently visited a firing range weekly, Zikuski said, but authorities still don't know his motive.

Authorities don't know whether he had a particular target, and Zikuski said the choice of targets may have been random.

Officials have said Wong was apparently upset about losing his job at a vacuum plant and about people picking on him for his limited English.

'He felt degraded'
"He felt degraded because people were apparently making fun of his poor English speaking," the chief said.

Wong, who used the alias Jiverly Voong, believed people close to him were making fun of him for his poor English language skills, the chief said.

Until last month, he had been taking classes at the American Civic Association, which teaches English to immigrants and helps them prepare for citizenship tests.

Then, on Friday, he parked his car against the back door of the association, burst through the front doors and shot two receptionists, killing one, before moving on to a classroom where he claimed 12 more victims, police said.

The police chief said that most of the dead had multiple gunshot wounds. Wong used two handguns — a 9 mm and a .45-caliber — for which he had obtained a permit more than a decade ago.

Video: Police: N.Y. shooter planned long siege The receptionist who survived, 61-year-old Shirley DeLucia, played dead, then called 911 despite her injuries and stayed on the line while the gunman remained in the building.

"She's a hero in her own right," he said.

Police initially said it took 90 minutes to rescue her. On Saturday, Zikuski said it was actually 39 minutes, and he said the police response followed all proper procedures.

"The police did the right thing," he said.

DeLucia remained in critical condition Saturday. The chief said she and three other hospitalized victims were all expected to survive, and that police were in no hurry to question her.

"We're giving her a break. There's no reason to put her through that," he said.

Wong's tactics — including the body armor and copious ammunition — fit him into a category of killers called "pseudo-commandos," said Park Dietz, a criminologist and forensic psychiatrist at UCLA who analyzed the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado in 1999.

Barricading the back doors to trap his prey "was his way of ensuring that he could maximize his kill rate," Dietz said. "This was all about anger, paranoia, and desperation."

'He was really good at doing his job'
Wong was born in Vietnam to an ethnically Chinese family. He moved to the States in the early 1990s and soon afterward became a citizen, friends and relatives said. He worked at IBM for a time, friend Hue Huynh said, but decided to move to California.

There, he worked for seven years at a caterer called Kikka Sushi, eventually making $9 an hour, said Paulus Lukas, the company's human resources manager.

"He was really good at doing his job — we respected him for that," Lukas told the Los Angeles Times. "He's never late, he's always punctual. And when he finishes his job, he goes home. He doesn't complain, he doesn't argue with people. He gets along."

But one day he simply didn't show up for work, Lukas told the Times. Early last year, he called asking the company to send his tax forms to a New York state address.

'America sucks'
Back in New York, he worked at the Shop-Vac plant in Binghamton. Former co-worker Kevin Greene told the Daily News of New York that Wong once said, in answer to whether he liked the New York Yankees, "No, I don't like that team. I don't like America. America sucks."

Zikuski said Wong was fired from that job, where he assembled vacuum cleaners. That's apparently when things really started to go downhill.

"People who end up doing this particular thing have an accumulation of stressers in their lives, and ultimately there is the one that broke the camel's back," Dietz said. "Job loss is one of the big ones, and those stressers are happening more often this year."

Huynh, the 56-year-old proprietor of an Asian grocery store in Binghamton frequented by the gunman's sister, ran into Wong at the gym recently and noted that he was complaining about how he couldn't find work.

His unemployment benefits were only $200 a week, and he lamented his bad luck, she said.

"He's upset he don't have a job here. He come back and want to work," Huynh said. Her husband tried to cheer him up by saying that he was still young and had plenty of time to find work.

Upset about losing job
Wong's story is similar to how friends were describing the recent trials of a man accused of opening fire on Pittsburgh police officers during a domestic dispute Saturday, killing three of them. They said he had recently been upset about losing his job; police say that, like Wong, he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

A woman reached at the home who identified herself as Wong's sister told The Associated Press late Friday she did not believe he was the gunman. "I think somebody involved, not him," she said.

That's not an unusual response, Dietz said.

Video: Binghamton massacre "What will be revealed if the investigation goes deep enough is that many people in a shooter's world knew that he was angry, mad, unreasonable, scary at times, and recently some of them came to learn that he was threatening and armed," said Dietz, who is not involved in the Binghamton investigation.

"They've known that for a long time, but none of them did what they should have done with that information."

State police got tips suggesting that Wong may have been planning a bank robbery in 1999, possibly to support a crack-cocaine addiction, Zikuski said. But the robbery never happened, and Zikuski had no other information.

Wong's father was well-known in the Binghamton area through his work years ago at the now-defunct World Relief Organization, helping recent immigrants find a doctor and obtain food stamps.

"Everyone, when they come to America, he's the one who helps," said Ty Tran, who came to the United States in 1990.

Mark Preston, 48, a neighbor of the gunman in Johnson City, outside Binghamton, said people in the family keep to themselves but often tended the bushes in their yard.

"They grow great vegetables and roses," he said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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