American headlines were led by the spectacular killings by Jiverly Wong at an immigration service center in Binghamton New York. His sister who lived with Jiverly at their parent’s house expressed disbelief that his brother was involved. She said that Jiverly was citizen who had immigrated from Vietnam and was taking language classes at the center that day. A neighbor who lived on the same block said the family was "quiet" and "they were good neighbors" but Jiverly barely spoke English. He borrowed his father’s car and blocked the rear entrance before entering in the front, guns ablaze. 14 persons were reported dead, and 37 were rescued from the American Civic Association. The victims include two receptionists, one of whom called 911 after playing dead. The other receptionist was killed, as were 13 who were trapped in a citizenship classroom.
The building was soon surrounded by police, SWAT teams in helmets and protective vests, FBI and other federal officers. The police called on Broome Community College assistant professor Tuong Hung Nguyen to to help communicate with the gunman in Vietnamese. A number of people were taken hostage. Two groups of about ten each were released, while some escaped to a basement. A dozen hid themselves in a closet.
Former teacher Than Huynh was called by authorities to translate for Vietnamese-speaking survivors. He said that people tried to run away quietly rather than screaming. Wong was found to have shot himself, with two Beretta semiautomatic pistols at his side. Both weapons matched his state pistol license records, and he wore a bag full of ammunition around his neck. There was some confusion as to whether Wong was laid off from IBM, as later information was that his father was the one who worked for IBM, but the younger Wong had been laid off from a vacuum cleaner company.
Press reports appear to be downplaying that Wong was an Asian American compared to the description of Seung-Hui Cho as an exotic Korean in the Virginia Tech Massacre. Though Wong was the citizen, Cho was practically a fluent, if not affluent English speaking American. There have only been hints that not only the perpetrator, but the bulk of victims appear to be Vietnamese or Asian Americans. Video shown on CNN and photos show what appear to be some shaken Asian women walking out the door, and an Asian man being taken out on a stretcher. Immigrants from other nations such as from Kazakhstan were also interviewed by reporters. While I saw comments on the web blaming America’s gun culture, it seems that Asian Americans too have been caught in the trend of mass gun killings. Short of expecting most Americans to carry their own weapons for self-defence, or eradicating all firearms completely, it would be difficult to completely protect against such attacks unless society can prevent individuals from ever falling so far into desperation. What is unfortunate is that it is likely that in this case, as well as in the Virginia Tech incident, we will probably not see any Asian American pundits such as Ron Takaki telling America of the significance of this terrible crime to the Asian and the larger American community.