A sign is seen in front of the American Civic Association, where a gunman opened fire in Binghamton, N.Y., Friday. A gunman barricaded the back door of a community center with his car and then opened fire on a room full of immigrant.AP PHOTO
Unidentified people embrace outside a Catholic Charities office where counselors tend to relatives of victims of the shooting in Binghamton N.Y., Friday. A gunman barricaded the back door of a community center with his car and then opened fire on a room full of immigrants.AP PHOTO
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — The community center was filled with people from countries as far off as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, all working to become more a part of their new home — learning English, taking a class to gain U.S. citizenship. The gunman may have walked a similar path to become an American decades ago.
He parked his car against the back door, stormed through the front and shot two receptionists, apparently without saying a word. Then he fired on a citizenship class while terrified people, their only escape route blocked, scrambled into a boiler room and a storage room and prayed he wouldn’t follow.
“I heard the shots, every shot. I heard no screams, just silence, shooting,” said Zhanar Tokhtabayeva, a 30-year-old Kazakh who was in an English class when her teacher screamed for everyone to go to the storage room. “I heard shooting, very long time, and I was thinking, when will this stop? I was thinking that my life was finished.”
The gunman killed 13 people — all but one of them in the classroom — before apparently killing himself Friday morning at the American Civic Association building in Binghamton. Four people were critically wounded.
One of the receptionists survived; shot in the abdomen, she played dead before crawling under a desk and calling 911. Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said she stayed on the phone for 90 minutes, “feeding us information constantly,” despite her serious wound.
“She’s a hero in her own right,” he said.
Investigators said they had yet to establish a motive for the massacre, which was at least the fifth deadly mass shooting in the U.S. in the past month alone.
Police said they arrived within two minutes at the American Civic Association, an organization that helps immigrants settle in this country. The gunman was believed to be a Vietnamese immigrant himself.
The man believed to have carried out the attack was found dead with a