HERKIMER, N.Y. (AP) — Police in upstate New York stormed an abandoned building Thursday morning where a man suspected of a deadly shooting rampage at a car wash and barbershop had been holed up, killing him after he fired on an FBI dog.
SWAT teams entered the building around 8 a.m., and sent the dog in first, Trooper Jack Keller said. The 64-year-old suspect, Kurt Myers, had been inside since Wednesday afternoon.
“He was waiting for us,” Keller said. “He kills the dog. They hear shots fired. Our teams returned fire and the suspect gets shot.”
No officers were injured in the basement shootout, he said.
Police say Myers sauntered into a barbershop Wednesday, coolly asked if the man cutting hair remembered him and then opened fire with a shotgun, the first shots in a burst of violence that would leave four dead, two critically wounded and people in this small village aching to find out what set the gunman off.
John Seymour, one of the men wounded in the attacks told his sister, Mary Hornett, the barbershop attack came out of nowhere.
“He just said that the guys were in the barbershop and this guy comes in and he says, ‘Hi John, do you remember me?’ and my brother said, ‘Yes, Kurt, how are you?’ and then he just started shooting,” Hornett said.
Hornett said her brother, who was hospitalized in critical condition, was doing well after being shot in the left hand and right hip.
“My brother couldn’t think of any reason why he would do such a thing,” she said of Myers, a former customer who hadn’t been in the shop for a couple of years.
The shootings shattered the peace and rattled the nerves of Mohawk and Herkimer, two small villages about 170 miles northwest of New York City, separated from each other by the Mohawk River and the New York State Thruway.
Police said Myers’ rampage started with a fire in his apartment in the nearby village of Mohawk at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. He then drove to John’s Barber Shop around the corner and used a shotgun to kill two customers, D’Amico said, identifying them as Harry Montgomery, 68, and Michael Ransear, 57, a retired corrections officer. In addition to Seymour, the shop’s owner, another customer, Dan Haslauer, also was listed in critical condition at a Utica hospital.
The gunman then drove to Gaffy’s Fast Lube in nearby Herkimer and used the shotgun to kill Michael Renshaw and Thomas Stefka. Renshaw was a 23-year employee of the state corrections department who worked at Mid-State Correctional Facility near Utica. Stefka worked at Gaffey’s and attended Mohawk Reform Church, where he played guitar during services.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a press conference in Herkimer, called it “truly an inexplicable situation.”
Neighbors said they barely knew Myers, who rarely spoke, left every morning in his red Jeep and came back.
Traci Randall said the only time she remembers speaking to her next-door neighbor was when he yelled at her son because he thought he had shot an air pellet at his Jeep.
“He would walk by himself. He was kind of a loner. No wife,” she said.
Neighbors said he never had visitors or friends. Gary Urich said Myers wouldn’t even say much as ‘Hi’ to him when walking by his porch.
“I said, ‘How are you doing?’ No response. He just walked by,” he said.
Michele Mlinar, a bartender at Cangee’s Bar and Grille in Herkimer, said Myers frequently went in and had a bottle or two of Coors Light and left without speaking to anyone. She said he was always alone and she didn’t even know his name until police released his mug shot on Wednesday.
Cangee’s owner Candy Rellin called Myers “just an odd little man.”
The two villages are about 65 miles east of Syracuse on opposite sides of the Mohawk River — which connects the Erie Canal to the Hudson River and from there, the sea — in a region known as the Mohawk Valley.
Elizabeth Cirelli was shocked by Stefka’s slaying. He was a neighbor in Herkimer.
“He was a great guy, a really nice person. This is horrific. We really couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Herkimer County Community College lifted a lockdown during the afternoon, and schools near the scene released students. D’Amico said most of the three-block neighborhood around the search scene was evacuated.
Herkimer is a village of 7,700 named for the German immigrant family that settled in the western Mohawk Valley in the 1720s. The economically distressed villages are 2 miles away from Ilion, where a 2-century-old Remington Arms gun plant is a major employer.