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The car wash in Herkimer where two people were killed Wednesday. Photo: Google street view
The car wash in Herkimer where two people were killed Wednesday. Photo: Google street view

Residents "puzzled" about why Herkimer suspect went on shooting spree

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Update: The AP reported at about 8:40 this morning that police had killed suspect Kurt Myers in a shootout. Details and updates on this story in the Inbox blog.

Residents of southern Herkimer County are puzzled about why a 64-year-old loner allegedly went into a barbershop and opened fire in a burst of violence that would eventually leave four dead and two critically wounded Wednesday.

Hundreds of police are locked in a standoff with suspected gunman Kurt Myers in the village of Herkimer this morning.

David Sommerstein joined us for the latest on the situation.

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David, what’s happening right now in Herkimer?

Police have had a row of shops in downtown Herkimer surrounded since around 1:30 yesterday afternoon. There are snipers on the roofs. Police are using a track-driven robot with a camera on top to try to apprehend the suspect Kurt Myers, who they believe is still alive inside the buildings. That’s according to the Utica Observer-Dispatch. Loud booms, alarms, and a PA system were heard at the site earlier this morning, but reports say the area is quiet now.

At a press conference yesterday, state police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said police were prepared to wait the suspect out.

Todd, I should add at one point yesterday there was an exchange of gunfire between police and the shooter. A radio reporter who was on the scene had to move when police told him he was in the line of fire. The reporter then said he saw bullet holes in nearby cars.

 What do we know about the suspect Kurt Myers?

Not much. He’s 64. He’s white. He has a gray beard.  Other than that, residents tell the Associated Press they barely knew Myers, that he rarely spoke. One person called him ``just an odd little man.''

Local police said they knew of Myers. But his only known previous criminal history is a 1973 arrest for driving while intoxicated in the town of Webb.

Police say they found guns and ammunition in Myers' apartment when they responded to a fire there yesterday morning. Myers allegedly drove from his apartment to John’s  Barber Shop around the corner. He walked in, said some words, and opened fire with a shotgun, killing two and injuring two more.

Myers then allegedly drove to a car wash a mile away in Herkimer and killed two more people.

David, what do we know about the victims?

All six victims are men. Two of the four who were killed were corrections officers.

Michael Renshaw was a 23-year employee of the state corrections
department who worked at Mid-State Correctional Facility near Utica. 57-year-old Michael Ransear was a retired prison
guard.

Also killed were Thomas Stefka, who worked at the car wash and played guitar during services at a local church, and 68-year-old Harry Montgomery, who was a customer at the barber shop. The barber, John Seymour was also shot and is reported in fair condition.

Governor Cuomo was in Herkimer yesterday. He called the situation “inexplicable”:

These are the types of peaceful, quiet communities that one would say, well, this could never happen here. And it’s just another example that there is no community that is beyond the scope of senseless gun violence, and unfortunately we see this more and more.

We’ll be following this story through the day on our news blog, the In Box.

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