Man kills 12 at immigration centre in New York State


A gunman killed 12 people at an immigration services centre in Binghamton, New York, today after walking in and randomly opening fire on people taking exams to become US citizens, officials said.

The gunman then killed himself, ABC News reported. The gunman, who was named locally 42-year-old Jiverley Voong from upstate New York, died of a gunshot wound to the head.

It is believed that Voong had recently been laid off from IBM in Johnson City.

ABC News, citing federal and state authorities, said 26 people were also wounded in the incident at Binghamton, a town of some 45,000 people about 150 miles (240 km) northwest of New York City.

"An individual walked in ... and just randomly started shooting," Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski told reporters.

Governor David Paterson said 12 or 13 people, including the gunman himself, were killed.

Vice-President Joe Biden told a civil rights meeting in New York City the victims were in the process of taking exams to become citizens when the shooting started.

"We've got to figure a way to deal with this senseless, senseless violence," Mr Biden said.

Heavily armed police, fire fighters and a battery of emergency services teams surrounded the Binghamton centre. A crowd gathered behind police lines as victims were taken out on stretchers and small groups of hostages emerged.

Federal authorities sent hostage negotiators and other specialists to assist local officials, and a nearby high school was locked down.

Some local media reports said the suspected gunman was Asian and that authorities requested a Vietnamese translator to speak with him.

As many as 41 people were inside the building when the shooting started, local television WBNG said, citing police scanners. It said some fled to a basement and others hid in a closet.

"We have three patients at our facility with gun shot wounds, two female and one male, with conditions ranging from stable to critical. One other shooting victim was taken to Lourdes Hospital," said a spokeswoman for Binghamton General Hospital.

Others came out on foot.

"About 15 or so employees of the Civic Association came out crying with their hands behind their heads and they were escorted by the police and they took them to ambulances and took them away," a witness told WNBF radio.

The American Civic Association building is used to teach English and provide other services to recent immigrants to the United States who are preparing for US citizenship.

There are been several mass shootings in recent years in the United States, where guns are widely available for purchase and the right to own weapons is enshrined in the Constitution.

Last month, a man killed 10 people, many of them family members, in a shooting rampage in Alabama.

On April 16th, 2007, Virginia Tech, a university in Blacksburg, Virginia, became the site of the deadliest shooting rampage in modern US history when a student gunman killed 32 people and himself.