HERKIMER, N.Y. — A man neighbors called a loner walked into an upstate barbershop, asked the owner if he remembered him and opened fire with a shotgun, killing two men in the opening salvo of a rampage that left four dead, two wounded and a heavily armed police force hunkered down around an abandoned building, police said.
Police officers were fired on from the building, which used to house a bar, Wednesday while looking for Kurt Myers, 64, State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said. At least one officer returned fire, and it was unknown late Wednesday if Myers was still alive.
“We’re in no rush to bring this to a conclusion,” D’Amico said, adding that the main objective was to make sure no one else was hurt.
Police spokesman Jack Keller said troopers and local police would watch the building all night.
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Police said Myers’ rampage started with a fire in his apartment in the nearby village of Mohawk on Wednesday morning. D’Amico said Myers drove to John’s Barber Shop around the corner and used a shotgun to kill two customers, whom he identified as Harry Montgomery, 68, and Michael Ransear, 57, a retired corrections officer. The shop’s owner, John Seymour, and another customer, Dan Haslauer, were listed in critical condition at a Utica hospital.
D’Amico said the gunman then drove to Gaffy’s Fast Lube in nearby Herkimer and used the shotgun to kill Thomas Stefka, an employee, and Michael Renshaw, a customer who was a 23-year veteran of the state Department of Corrections.
John Seymour 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,” she 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 years.
D’Amico said Myers’ only known police record was a 1973 drunken-driving arrest.
Late into the night, neighbors grew frustrated with the long standoff in the village of Herkimer. Pat Roberts stood shivering on the corner, waiting to get back to his wife and 4-year-old son, who remained trapped in their apartment in the lockdown zone. “He’s scared, she’s upset and I’m getting aggravated,” Roberts said.
Neighbors said they barely knew Myers, who rarely spoke and left every morning in his red Jeep.
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 as much as ‘Hi’ to him when walking by his porch.
“I said, ‘How are you doing?’ No response. He just walked by,” he said.
Mohawk and Herkimer are about 65 miles east of Syracuse, on opposite sides of the Mohawk River in a region known as the Mohawk Valley.