Policemen outside the immigration services centre in Binghamton. (AP)
New York, April 3 (Agencies): A gunman opened fire at an immigration services centre in the New York state town of Binghamton today, killing as many as 13 people before authorities found him dead.
Governor David Paterson told a news conference that 12 or 13 people had been killed.
A law enforcement official said the body of the man believed to be the gunman was found in an office of the American Civic Association building. It wasnt clear whether the gunman was included in the number of dead provided by the governor.
Indications were that the shooter was a young male. Some reports suggested he was Asian, and a Vietnamese translator had been called to the site by police.
The shooting occurred in a mixed neighbourhood of homes and small businesses in the centre of Binghamton, a city of about 47,000 located 225km northwest of New York City. The area — recognised as the birthplace of IBM — is not known to have a concentration of Indian immigrants.
The building is used to teach English to new immigrants who are preparing for US citizenship. The centre also helps immigrants and refugees with counselling, resettlement, citizenship, family reunification and translators. It intervenes in emergencies, including fighting, hunger and homelessness.
Mayor Matthew Ryan told the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin that the gunman had a high-powered rifle.
The gunman barricaded the rear door of the American Civic Association with his car before entering through the front door, firing his weapon, the official said.
We do know that a gunman entered the American Civic Association in Binghamton this morning and that there are fatalities, governor David Paterson said in a statement.
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. Quite a few people got out but I hear theres more (inside), she said.
Television coverage showed police armed with rifles, some carrying shields, deployed around the building. The police closed surrounding streets and locked down a high school, WBNG said.
As many as 41 people were inside the building when a man entered and started shooting, WBNG said, citing police scanners.
It said some fled to a basement and more than a dozen were hiding in a closet, adding that emergency despatchers had been in contact with people inside. Late tonight, television reports said the building has been evacuated.
College student Leslie Shrager told the AP that she and her five housemates were sleeping when the police pounded on the front door of their house next door to the shooting scene.
Officers escorted the six Binghamton University students outside, she said, and that was when they learned of the shooting.
One of our housemates thought they heard banging of some kind. But when youre living in downtown Binghamton, its always noisy, said Shrager. Literally two minutes later, the cops came and got us out.