April 6, 2009

Tragedy in Binghamton: 14 Killed; Four Injured

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The small City of Binghamton, located approximately 50 miles south-east of Cornell, received national and international attention over the weekend as it became the scene of a tragic shooting on Friday that left 14 people dead.
Jiverly Wong, a 41-year old Vietnamese immigrant, shot and killed 13 people and critically injured four before killing himself at the American Civic Association building in downtown Binghamton. Wong also held at least 41 people hostage in the Association’s building for almost three and a half hours before police arrived, according to the Associated Press.
“There were roadblocks set up and the bus routes were altered for several hours,” Sonja Ng, a Binghamton University senior who witnessed the incident, said. “The environment was very tense. There were a lot of police cars around, and [many public buildings such as the Binghamton High School] were locked down,”
On Saturday, Pakistan’s most wanted Taliban leaders openly claimed responsibility for the shooting, according to the New York Daily News. The Binghamton Police Department told The Sun yesterday that those claims were not true and the shooting was unrelated to any terrorist groups.
“It’s definitely safe for Binghamton students to come back from spring break, and Cornell students shouldn’t be too concerned either,” a Binghamton police officer, who declined to give her name, said. “The shooter is dead, and this [was] a one time random incident,” she added.
“So far it doesn’t appear that [anyone from] Cornell is involved,” Blaine Friedlander, assistant director of Cornell Press Relations, said last night.
“We will work to touch base with the students regularly to see if any needs arise,” said Kathy Zoner, deputy chief of the Cornell University Police Department.
“We [will] work with counseling [services], college deans, Gannet Health Services, Residential and Campus Life and other departments to get students the appropriate help they need,” Zoner added.
Zoner said that it is “reasonable to be concerned” that a similar event may happen in Ithaca, simply because tragic events can happen anytime and anywhere.
When asked about what changes the CUPD will be making as a result of the Binghamton shootings, Zoner said that increasing the number of patrolling officers is not a possibility due to vacancies on the police force that remain unfilled due to budget cuts. However, she said that officers will be “extra vigilant” and make every effort to make themselves more visible and available.
“The best we can do is pay more attention to what human[s] are doing,” said Zoner.
Wong was laid off in November, and his insufficient unemployment benefits may have contributed to his motivations for the shooting, according to the Associated Press.
The CUPD has not observed any correlations between economic decline and a rise in crime rates. Although it’s “never easy”, the University as well as the community are doing their best to provide support for laid-off workers and those in economic distress, Zoner said.
The Ithaca Police Department maintains that Cornell students should not be concerned for their safety due to this specific incident.
“The University is obviously extra sad for all the family and relatives in Binghamton. We wish them all the best in trying to recover this event,” said Tommy Bruce, the Vice President of Cornell University Communications.
The hostages in the Civic Association included immigrants from nine countries and two consulates, according to the Associated Press. Funeral services for the victims began yesterday, USA Today reported.