Institutions in Otsego County were on alert Wednesday after four people were shot dead and two wounded in Mohawk and Herkimer, a little more than 10 miles from Richfield Springs.
Schools there were locked down about 10:45 a.m.
The suspect in the shootings, Kurt Myers, 64, of Mohawk, was thought to be holed up in an abandoned Main Street building in Herkimer on Wednesday evening, surrounded by SWAT teams, state police said.
State police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said officers were fired on from the building Wednesday afternoon while looking for Myers. D’Amico said at least one officer returned fire, but Myers’ status was uncertain.
“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 said Myers’ rampage started with a fire in his apartment in Mohawk at about 9:30 a.m. D’Amico said Myers then drove to John’s Barber Shop around the corner and used a shotgun shot to kill two customers, whom he identified as Harry Montgomery, 68, and Michael Rancier, 57.
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 20-year veteran of the state Department of Corrections.
Otsego County Undersheriff Cameron S. Allison said Wednesday afternoon that deputies were continuing their normal patrols.
“We’re business as usual, out on patrol, waiting word if anybody needs anything,” he 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.
Myers’ only known police record was a 1973 drunken driving arrest.
Police positioned in front of Glory Days Food and Spirits in the village of Herkimer were looking for Myers on Wednesday afternoon. Myles Smith, who lives in one of the apartments above the shops, said by cellphone he had heard police trying to talk to Myers.
“The snipers on the roof are sitting there,” Smith said. “I ain’t seen a whole lot of movement. I heard about five gunshots. I keep hearing them trying to talk him out, but I don’t think he’s coming out.”
D’Amico said police had had no communication with Myers.
Michele Mlinar, who tends bar 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.”
Guns and ammunition were found inside an apartment at Myers’ building, but it was unclear whether they were from his apartment.
The Bassett Healthcare Network, which has several units in the Mohawk Valley, immediately went into heightened security, spokewoman Karen Huxtable-Hooker said.
“Herkimer Health Center and Valley Health Services are in lockdown, which means all entrances and exits are locked and individuals questioned if asking to enter the building,” she wrote in a late-afternoon email. “Patients who choose to leave are advised of the situation and that if they leave, they do so at their own risk.”
Little Falls Hospital also was in lockdown, she said, with all staff and visitors required to use the emergency department exit and entrance.
Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown notified staff of the situation and raised security. Huxtable-Hooker said it would remain on alert until law enforcement apprehended the shooting suspect.
James Baron, the mayor of Mohawk, said he didn’t Myers but knew several of the people who were shot, including at least two of the barbershop victims. The mayor described his village as close-knit and friendly, “the kind of place where you’d say, ‘Oh, it would never happen here.’”
Herkimer is 2 miles from Ilion, where a Remington Arms gun plant is a major employer.