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Rampage kills 4, shatters peace in 2 NY villages

By Michael Hill

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 14 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Law enforcement officers take cover along Main Street when shots were fired while searching for a suspect in two shootings that killed four and injured at least two on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, in Herkimer, N.Y. Authorities were looking for 64-year-old Kurt Meyers, said Herkimer Police Chief Joseph Malone. Officials say guns and ammunition were found inside his Mohawk apartment after emergency crews were sent to a fire there Wednesday morning.

Mike Groll, Associated Press

HERKIMER, N.Y. — A 64-year-old loner sauntered into a barbershop in upstate New York, 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.

New York state police vowed to wait out Kurt Myers, the man suspected of gunning down four people then holing up in an abandoned building. Police kept vigilant watch there into Thursday morning, periodically blaring sirens in an apparent attempt to encourage Myers to surrender, if alive. Booms also were heard.

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.

Officers were fired on from the abandoned building on Wednesday afternoon while looking for Myers, state police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said. At least one officer returned fire.

"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.

Late Wednesday, state police spokesman Jack Keller said police were working under the assumption Myers was alive and said the heavily armed troopers and local police were ready to wait out the suspected gunman.

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, the New York State Thruway and just a mile. Police snipers waited on rooftops on a block of small businesses in Herkimer as they waited for Myers to emerge.

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 Thomas Stefka, an employee, and Michael Renshaw, a customer who was a 23-year veteran of the state Department of Corrections, D'Amico said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a press conference in Herkimer, called it "truly an inexplicable situation."

"There's no apparent motive to the best of our knowledge at this time to provoke these attacks," he said.

Police had not had any communication with Myers, whose only known police record was a 1973 drunken-driving arrest, D'Amico said.

Police were positioned in front of a block of small businesses topped with apartments in the village of Herkimer on Wednesday evening.

A local businessman, jeweler Fred Weisser, said police were trying to get people out while Myers was believed to be in a building next door.

"They're sending in a robot to check the place out," he said by telephone. "I guess we're stuck. We're between him and the cops. I don't want to step out and get clipped by a sniper."

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