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'No yelling, just silence, shooting,' witness says

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Survivor didn't hear screams, just "shooting, silence, shooting, silence"
  • NEW: Former co-worker describes shooting suspect as "quiet," not violent
  • Law enforcement finds 14 dead in immigration center, 37 survivors
  • Shootings occurred at American Civic Association, which helps immigrants, refugees
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(CNN) -- A receptionist with a gunshot wound in her stomach played dead under her desk and called 911 on Friday after a shooting massacre in a Binghamton, New York, immigration center.

Emergency personnel tend to a person taken from the building where the shootings took place.

Zhanar Tokhtabayeba, who was taking an English class at the center, says she hid in a closet during the rampage.

It is unclear how much time passed from the moment the woman and her colleague were shot until she placed the 911 call, police said.

But by the time law enforcement arrived at the American Civic Association, about two minutes after the 10:31 a.m. call to 911, the shootings had ceased and 14 people were dead in the center, including the suspected gunman, law enforcement officials said.

Four more people were wounded in the attack, in what the city's mayor has called the "most tragic day in Binghamton's history."

The incident has sent shockwaves through Binghamton, a city of about 50,000 about 140 miles northwest of New York City, as police work to confirm the gunman's identity.

A senior law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation identified the suspect as Jiverly Wong, who is believed to be in his early 40s.

Authorities executed a search warrant at Wong's home in Johnson City, near Binghamton, and spoke to the suspect's mother, the source said.

Binghamton police Chief Joseph Zikuski said Wong, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was unemployed at the time of the shooting. He told CNN's Susan Candiotti that Wong had recently worked in a vacuum repair shop.

Christine Guy said she worked with Wong a few years a go at Endicott Interconnect Technologies, a high-tech electronics company in Endicott, New York, where he was an engineer.

He went by the name "Vaughn," which is what co-workers called him, she said. Photo View photos from the scene in Binghamton »

"He was quiet -- not a violent person," said Guy, who now lives in Wellington, Colorado. "I can't believe he would do something like this.

Police are still investigating motives but said the use of a car to block the back door of the building suggested premeditation.

"It is our understanding he had ties to the civic association," Zikuski said. Video Watch Zikuski give a timeline of the shooting »

The shooter, who was carrying a satchel of ammunition, was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot to the head, Zikuski said.

In all, law enforcement removed 14 bodies from the building and 37 survivors, Zikuski said. Video Watch Binghamton's mayor extend his condolences »

Two semi-automatic handguns -- a .45-caliber and a 9-millimeter -- were found at the center, where immigrants were believed to be taking citizenship and language classes.

Most of those who managed to survive the incident hid in a boiler room and storage closets during the rampage.

"I heard shootings, very long time, about five minutes, and I was thinking when it will be stopped, but it was continued. No screaming, yelling, just silence, shooting, silence, shooting, silence," said Zhanar Tokhtabayeba, who was taking an English class.

"It's free English class and it's very good, but now I'm scared to go," she said.

Others in the building also reportedly described lulls between the gunshots.

"They told me they tried to be quiet and run away," Than Huynh, 45, a high school teacher who translated for some of the Vietnamese survivors during police interviews, told the New York Times.

At 10:31 a.m., authorities received a 911 call from the receptionist, who said she'd been shot in the stomach, Zikuski said. Photo View a timeline of recent U.S. shootings »

She told police that a man with a handgun also shot and killed another receptionist before proceeding to a nearby classroom, where he gunned down more victims, Zikuski said.

American Civic Association

• Founded in 1939 by group of immigrants
• Private organization funded by United Way
• Sponsors citizenship education
• Promotes racial, religious, political understanding
• Helps immigrants get visas, green cards
• Hosts everything from tenants' rights seminars to St. Patrick's dinners to polka concerts

While the gunman continued to fire, 26 others in the center hid in a boiler room downstairs, where law enforcement found them.

It took another two hours or so for officers to clear the building. Some men who were led out of the building in plastic handcuffs were not considered suspects, the chief said.

Wilson Medical Center spokeswoman Christina Boyd said the Binghamton hospital was treating two females and one male for gunshot wounds.

Another victim, a male Binghamton University student, was treated and is in stable condition at Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital in Binghamton, hospital spokeswoman Kathy Cramer said.Video Watch store owner describe police 'flooding the streets' »

One man who owns a business across the street said he didn't realize anything was wrong until police cars came rushing to the scene.

"We were thinking that there's some sort of dispute, some disagreement," Richard Griffis told CNN. "But then it became obvious it was more than a disgreement, there must be some sort of gun involved because of the way they were surrounding the building."

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama offered their condolences to the grieving community. Are you there? See submitted images, send your own

"Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the act of senseless violence in Binghamton, New York, today," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and the people of Binghamton."

Vice President Joe Biden, who was in New York on unrelated business, also condemned the acts and called on Americans to stop the cycle of violence.

"I'd ask you to keep all those folks in your prayers," he said. "I think it's time that, we gotta figure a way to deal with this senseless, senseless violence." Video Watch Biden call shootings 'senseless' »

Nearby apartments were evacuated, and Binghamton High School was locked down for most of the afternoon.

The American Civic Association helps immigrants and refugees with a number of issues, including personal counseling, resettlement, citizenship and reunification, and provides interpreters and translators, according to the United Way of Broome County, which is affiliated with the association.


Rashidun Haque, who owns a nearby convenience store, said police had him and his four customers stay inside and away from the windows.

"I'm really shaky, because this kind of thing -- it's a small city, it's a beautiful city, but nothing goes down serious like this," Haque said.

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Marylynn Ryan and Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

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