Around 10:30 EDT yesterday morning [April 3 2009], a man entered the building housing the American Civic Association on Front Street in Binghamton, New York. He shot the two people at the reception desk and then went to a room just off the reception area and continued shooting. The remaining door to the building was blocked by a car, presumably driven by the gunman.
The Binghamton police have not released a great many details at this moment. I watched the first press conference. The Chief of Police in Binghamton stated very firmly that the suspect used two handguns and not a rifle as has been widely reported.
37 people emerged alive from the building. Four of them were wounded, and the chief described them as being in critical condition. Fourteen bodies were found.
It is unclear what activities were underway at the time of the shootings. Some reports say that a class preparing for the US citizenship test was in progress. Other reports have said that the test was being given – unlikely since that test is usually administered at a government office. A survivor on CNN says that she was in an English class.
The media have named a suspect. The Chief refused to discuss a name until the investigation had progressed.
The suspect named by the media is Jiverly Wong, also seen named as Jiverly Voong. So far the media has not covered itself with distinction in their reporting. As I write this piece Fox News continues to report the use of a rifle, as do other media. I saw the police chief firmly deny that to be the case.
Other media reports have the suspect being recently laid off by IBM in that area. IBM denies any connection with the named suspect and CNN has reports that he once worked at Endicott Interconnect Technologies and was now working as a vacuum cleaner repairman.
Most of the people uninjured hid in a boiler room until police cleared the building. Binghamton city police, Broome County Sheriff’s deputies, New York State Police and a number of federal law enforcement officers from various agencies responded.
Fox News attempted to cover the story from their newsroom, with multiple on-air personalities working the story at the same time. It looked awful, very unprofessional, and the amount of information being conveyed was scant. Out of their dust emerged some factual errors that they have yet to correct.
Fox cut away from the first news conference to Glenn Beck. He proceeded to rant about the reason that the story was being covered. The meaty portion of the press briefing was not broadcast on Fox so that Glenn could flap his gums.
The conference was delayed nearly an hour so that NY Governor Patterson and others to arrive from Albany. It opened with statements by Binghamton’s mayor, the Governor and the local Congressman before actual news was presented. Broome County deputies were very prominent on scene, but the mayor, the Governor and the Congressman all neglected to name the Sheriff’s Department as they thanked the law enforcement agencies involved. Their speeches were all puffery and could have been skipped for a short, pithy expression of support and concern.
Of course, the mayor of Binghamton, the Congressman and the Governor are all Democrats and the Sheriff is a Republican. If a deputy had been killed, would they still have refused to recognize the department?
I am sure that much more will be revealed in the next few days. I would suggest that the Binghamton police department develop a press relations / media liaison position for these types of incidents to make available accurate and timely information. The police have done a rather poor job to this point. The media, by and large, should be mortally embarrassed by their performance.