There are many barbers around, but for years and years, Alex Shields of Richfield Springs said he has been going to the same man for his haircuts: John Seymour of the Herkimer County community of Mohawk.
In fact, Shields said Wednesday, he had been there one day earlier — 24 hours before police say a man armed with a shotgun went on a rampage, killing two customers and wounding Seymour and a third customer inside John’s Barber Shop. Within minutes, the same gunman, identified by police as Kurt Myers of Mohawk, would kill two more people at a car wash in nearby Herkimer.
“This is just a terrible, terrible tragedy,” said Shields, a former member of the Otsego County Board of Representatives. “It’s just a coincidence I got my haircut yesterday instead of today.”
He described Seymour as a jovial man with a strong community spirit, considered by many as “an easy touch” for donations to charitable causes.
Seymour was listed in fair condition Wednesday night at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center.
Shields recalled that as Seymour trimmed his hair, several customers waiting to take his spot in the cutting chair were exchanging light banter over their displeasure with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legislation. The law, known as the SAFE Act, redefined assault weapons and puts strict new limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines.
“The people in the shop weren’t happy with the way Cuomo put this bill through,” said Shields, who noted the Remington Arms plant in nearby Ilion, a major employer in the region, is “a big economic driver” for Herkimer County.
Also getting a haircut from Seymour Tuesday was another Richfield Springs resident, Larry Jouben, operator of the Ames Insurance office in the village.
“I could tell by talking to John that he is just a fantastic person,” said Jouben. “My Dad was a barber, too, and I was impressed with John.”
Jouben said he also disagrees with the Cuomo gun law. “It’s just more government, more government,” he said.
Anthony Casale of Cooperstown, a former state assemblyman and a native of Herkimer, said he was praying for the Seymour’s recovery.
“John is just the nicest guy,” Casale said. “He’s a very religious guy who does a lot of work for charities.”
Casale noted that his daughter-in-law is a teacher at a Mohawk school locked down during the manhunt for the suspected shooter. He said one of his grandchildren was at a day care center also locked down, and another grandchild was at an elementary school where the protective measures were also taken.
He said he frequents the car wash at Gaffey’s Fast Lube in Herkimer, where two employees were killed Wednesday by the same gunman involved in the killings at the barber shop.
“For me, this is much too close to home,” Casale said. “This just shows you can’t predict where the next crime will occur, or where the next bad person is going to come from.”