Authorities kill upstate New York gunman

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 13, 2013 12:01 PM
Authorities kill upstate New York gunman

By Barbara Goldberg

(Reuters) - Authorities on Thursday killed a man suspected of shooting dead four people a day earlier in separate incidents at a barbershop and a car wash in neighboring upstate New York towns, police said.

The suspected gunman, identified as Kurt Myers, 64, was killed in a shootout with police and FBI agents at a building in Herkimer, New York, where he had barricaded himself the previous day, New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said.

As the authorities entered the first floor of the abandoned building, the gunman, described as a loner, opened fire on them, striking and killing an FBI police dog, D'Amico said. The gunman was then shot and killed.

"He engaged them almost immediately," D'Amico said at a press conference. "It all took place shortly before 8 a.m. this morning, and it all unfolded and concluded in a matter of minutes. We know he had the shotgun with him that he used in yesterday's attacks."

Four people were killed and two others critically injured in the shootings on Wednesday in the sleepy New York villages of Herkimer and Mohawk, which face one another across the Mohawk River. The villages are about 220 miles northwest of New York City.

Police said they did not know of a motive behind the shooting sprees.

"The violence that was inflicted yesterday on these victims was horrible," D'Amico said.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Myers drove to John's Barber Shop in Mohawk, and after a brief exchange of words inside the shop, he opened fire with a shotgun, according to police.

Two customers were killed, and the owner and another customer were critically wounded, D'Amico said. They remained in critical condition on Thursday, he said.

"Totally unprovoked, we believe he fired a number of rounds from the shotgun," he said on Wednesday.

Myers then drove to Gaffey's Fast Lube in the neighboring Herkimer, and fired again, D'Amico said, killing two people.

State police in military garb and using an armored vehicle surrounded an abandoned building in the downtown section of Herkimer, a town of 7,700 people, on Wednesday afternoon. Shots were fired from inside the building and police returned fire.

Myers' arrest record includes a drunken driving charge in 1973, police said.

The killings took place shortly after a fire was reported at the Mohawk apartment house where Myers lived, said Mohawk Mayor James Baron.

A search of the apartment turned up a cache of guns and ammunition, according to officials.

In January Cuomo signed into law one of the country's toughest gun control measures, the first enacted in the wake of the mass shooting in December that killed 20 students and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

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The law expands the state's ban on assault weapons, puts limits on ammunition capacity and has new measures to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It also mandates a life sentence without parole for anyone who murders a first responder.

Those killed in the car wash shooting were identified as Thomas Stefka, an employee at Gaffey's, and Michael Renshaw, a 20-year employee of the New York State Corrections Department, state police said.

The barbershop victims were Harry Montgomery, 68, of Mohawk, and Michael Rancier, 57, of Herkimer. The shop owner, John Seymour, and a customer, Dan Haslauer, were rushed to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Utica in critical condition, state police said.

The two towns are located about midway between Albany, the state capital, and Syracuse.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)