Hazy Picture of Gunman Emerges

Wong described as hard-working but nervous loner.

April 3, 2009, 12:57 PM

April 4, 2009 — -- As the community of Binghamton, N.Y., begins to heal from the shooting rampage that left 14 people dead at an immigrant services center, police are starting to piece together a spotty portrait of the man behind the violence.

On Saturday, the local police chief dismissed as a "coward" 41-year-old Jiverly A. Wong, a Vietnamese-American who reportedly also used the last name Voong, adding that those who knew the suspect were not completely surprised at his violent outburst.

Former co-workers said he was a loner who often seemed nervous but worked hard without complaint.

Wong arrived Friday at Binghamton's American Civic Association with guns, extra ammunition and wearing body armor, Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said. But he evidently killed himself before police arrived.

"He must have been a coward," Zikuski said. "We speculate when he heard the sirens that he decided to end his own life.."

Police are still not sure of the motive, but family and friends indicated that Wong was upset about losing a job at the company Shop-Vac and felt he was "being degraded" because of his inability to speak English well, Zikuski said.

Wong was unmarried but lived with his father, mother and sister in Union, N.Y., Zikuski said. Until the first week in March, when he apparently dropped out, he was a student at the immigrant center.

Wong had worked in Binghamton for Shop-Vac, but was laid off in November, investigators learned.

Donald Ackley, a former co-worker of Wong's at the vacuum cleaner factory, told ABC News that he was loner who often seemed nervous, but he wouldn't have expected such violence from him.

""He was real nervous, really high strung. He worked real hard. Everything he did was fast," Ackley said.

Although Wong did "quirky things," he added that there was "nothing that would leave you to believe he was capable of doing something like this."

Ackley also said that Wong worked very hard and "wasn't a complainer."

It was difficult for the two to communicate because of the language issue, he said, but "he kept to himself… He didn't interact with a lot of employees."

Another former co-worker, from the Inglewood, Calif., company Kikka Sushi, told the Los Angeles Times that Wong was a good worker but quiet.

"We didn't really think this person could do such a thing. He was really good at doing his job – we respected him for that," Paulus Lukus, human resources manager for Kikka Sushi, told the Times. "He's never late, he's always punctual. … He doesn't complain, he doesn't argue with people. He gets along."

Lukus said that Wong worked for the company as a deliveryman for nearly seven years, until July 2007. But he said Wong never formally quit. He just didn't show up for work one day.

In a statement, Kikka Sushi confirmed that Wong had worked for the company but said that out of respect for the victims of the tragedy, it would not comment further.

Actions Not a Total Shock

On Saturday, Zikuski also said a 1999 report filed with the state police revealed that Wong had been planning a bank robbery and was addicted to drugs. He also referred to a protective order against him related to a divorce in California, but did not provide additional details.

Wong had not shared his intentions with those close to him, but Zikuski said that to those who knew him well, Wong's behavior yesterday "wasn't a total shock."

Because Wong had been wearing body armor at the time of the shooting, police think he may have anticipated an altercation with them, though he evidently chose suicide instead, Zikuski said.

Shirley DeLucia, the receptionist who placed a 911 phone call to police after pretending to be dead, might have prevented additional slayings, Zikuski said.

"I'd describe her as a hero," he said.

The police chief said she and three other victims are at area hospitals and are expected to survive.

Officials are in the process of identifying the victims and notifying familes. Zikuski said they expect to finish by Saturday evening and then will release the full list of names.

Angela Leach, president of American Civic Association, said the organization was stricken with grief but would continue to work with the community and "come out of our sadness more resolute in our mission to help people realize the dream of American citizenship."

"Every ounce of our energies, caring and compassion is going to help those who are suffering," she said.

Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan said leaders of the 40,000-person community are working with local and state agencies to investigate the incident and support the families. He added that nine countries and two consulates have reached out to offer assistance.

Earlier, Ryan told ABC News, "You'll see this community mourn and grieve. But they'll come back and be strong. We have a very strong immigrant population. We honor them and we'll mourn with them and make sure that we move forward."

Officials said the community is a planning a city-wide interfaith vigil for Sunday and has set up support services for families of the victims.

Shooting Over Within Minutes

Officials have said Wong entered the one-story American Civic Association in downtown Binghamton at 10:31 a.m. on Friday.

Within minutes, the shooting was over and 14 people -- including the gunman -- lay dead.

Wong entered the civic association armed with two pistols -- a 9 mm and a .45 caliber handgun. A satchel around the gunman's neck carried high-capacity magazines, a survival knife and a flashlight, according to police.

He allegedly burst into the civic center wearing a bright green nylon jacket and dark-rimmed glasses and promptly shot two female receptionists.

Most of the people killed or injured were in one classroom taking a citizenship exam.

The police chief said 37 people were safely removed from the building, 26 of whom had barricaded themselves in the building's boiler room.

Police arrived just two minutes after the receptionist called 911. Though the shooting lasted only minutes, it took police three hours to make sure the shooter wasn't still alive and laying in wait for more victims.

When the carnage was over, Wong's body was found with a hunting knife jammed into the waistband of his pants.

"He shot those people? No. No," said a woman who identified herself as Voong's sister but would not give her name when reached by ABCNews.com Friday.

She said her brother went to take classes Friday at the civic association and that she had not heard from him since. She said she did not know that he was involved in the shooting.

"I'm going to pass out," she said, and hung up the phone.

A neighbor who lived on the same block as Voong and his family described the family as "quiet" and said they mostly kept to themselves.

"They were nice people," said the neighbor, who identified herself only as Darlene. "They were good neighbors."

Obama Comments on Shooting

People were told in nearby buildings to stay away from windows, and Binghamton High School was under a lockdown as police used the school as a staging area. The school is a block-and-a-half away from the shooting site.

President Obama gave a statement from the NATO summit he was attending in France.

"I am heartbroken for the families who survived this tragedy," he said. "And it just underscores the degree to which, in each of our countries, we have to guard against the kind of senseless violence that the tragedy represents."

New York Gov. David Paterson called the shooting "the worst tragedy and senseless crime in the history of the city."

"We all just have profound sorrow and sadness," he said.

ABC News' Stephanie Sy, Bill Weir, Richard Esposito, Pierre Thomas, Russell Goldman, Scott Michels and Ned Potter contributed to this report.

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