A security guard was killed yesterday when a gunman opened fire at a federal building in lower Manhattan on Friday afternoon. Shooter Kevin Downing, 68, shot himself in the head after killing guard 53-year-old Idrissa Camara at 201 Varick Street just after 5 p.m. yesterday.
Downing, a Fort Lee resident, has now been identified as a former government worker who was reportedly fired from the U.S. Department of Labor for whistleblowing about "inexcusable taxpayer waste."
"We don’t know if he worked at this building or another location because he left the government some time ago," said John Miller, the top NYPD counter-terrorism official.
Here is the NYPD's statement about Friday's shooting:
At approximately 5:05 PM a male walks into the federal building at 201 Varick Street. As he approached the metal detector in the security screening area, the male immediately pulled out a gun and shot the security guard at close range. He proceeded through the security area and headed towards the elevator where he encountered another employee. At this point, the suspect shot himself in the head. The suspect is dead on the scene. At this point we are working with a tentative identification and are working closely with the federal authorities, including DHS, FBI, and others to determine the suspect’s motive. At this time it appears there were no other suspects on the scene and the building is secure. We are at the very preliminary stages of this investigation based on what we know now. At this point there is no indication of a nexus to terrorism.
Camara, a father of four, was scheduled to leave work at 4 p.m., but he agreed to stay late to work an overtime shift. Officials said that although he was armed, he never had a chance to defend himself: "It looks like [Downing] would shoot whoever was standing there," a source told the News.
"I was speaking with him all day long on the cell phone," his cousin Zongo Yacouba added. "Everything was all right. Now he’s dead at the hospital! He’s a good man."
The motivation for the shooting is still unknown, but Downing, a retired US Army Reserves captain, was apparently angry that he was fired from his government job in 1999. According to National Taxpayers Union, Downing was fired after he raised a red flag "over a project to re-organize the New York City Bureau of Labor Statistics office, including an expensive and superfluous complex in Mountainside New Jersey." After reporting what he believed was an example of pork-barrel spending, Downing was terminated; he claimed his reputation and career-prospects were ruined, with potential employers regularly canceling interviews.
The Record writes that they corresponded with Downing several times, and he was still actively trying to get his position back:
Downing had called The Record numerous times over the years seeking attention for a whistle-blower case against the government. He had expressed concerns about money and said he had lost his job after complaining about wasteful spending at the Labor Department in 1999, according to sources who know about his case.
In his most recent correspondence with The Record, four months ago, he indicated he had hopes of revealing a “local whistle-blower scandal” that would gain widespread public interest. He lamented in an email to Record columnist Mike Kelly that his case may not have received enough attention from some politicians, including U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, because civil servants are not large campaign contributors.
But his case had garnered interest from two area congressmen. In 2012, then-Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Englewood, wrote to then-Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in support of Downing’s attempt to be reinstated. The following year, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, wrote a letter on Downing’s behalf to prospective employers.
In Pascrell's 2013 letter, he said: “There is evidence to indicate that Mr. Downing’s termination was inappropriate because it was in retaliation for his communication with Congressional staff regarding what he believed to be waste and abuse present in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Federal employees should not live in fear that they will be terminated for seeking a more effective and efficient government."