State police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico Thursday said the actions taken by a state police tactical unit that shot and killed shooting suspect Kurt Myers were “nothing short of heroic.”
D’Amico made the remarks at a news conference shortly after 10 a.m.
He said law enforcement will continue to have a noticable presence in Herkimer Thursday as they process active crime scenes from Wednesday’s shootings as well as the scene where Myers was shot shortly after 8 a.m.
Meanwhile, police continue to investigate what may have motivated Myers, 64, of Mohawk, to shoot six people Wednesday, killing four. Anyone who may have information on Myers is asked to call state police at 866-7275.
A 19-hour standoff with Myers came to an end shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday, when a tactical team consisting of FBI agents and state police entered a vacant building at 248 N. Main St. in Herkimer to look for him.
Myers reportedly opened fire from a small room on the first floor, killing an FBI police dog. Officers returned fire, shooting and killing Myers, officials said.
Myers is believed to have shot six people at two businesses in Herkimer and Mohawk early Wednesday, killing four and wounding two others. State police Thursday said the injured men remained in critical and serious condition; however, St. Elizabeth Medical Center said one was in fair condition and information on the other wasn’t available.
After the initial shootings, police tracked Myers to the former Glory Days building in Herkimer after his vehicle was found in the area, and he later exchanged fire with police officers from the building at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, starting the standoff. Law enforcement from multiple agencies maintained a perimeter around the building throughout the night, but said they had no further contact with Myers between when the first shots were fired and when he was killed.
“They did very good work from the initial response to multiple incident yesterday to the vigil overnight and finally to the entry this morning,” D’Amico said.
Police said they have no information to indicate Myers had a history of mental illness, and no known motive at this time.
“We don’t know the reason for his actions. We would hope that somewhere in the course of the investigation we learn more about him or what motivated him,” D’Amico said.
Herkimer Police Chief Joseph Malone used the news conference to express gratitude for the community’s support during the standoff.
“I also want to thank the businesses and residents that provided food and assistance to what seemed like a small army here in the village,” he sasid. “Again, thank you for all that you’ve done for us.”
The breach of the vacant building came shortly after the sun came up, and more than 15 hours after law enforcement last had contact with the suspect.
Page 2 of 4 - In the early morning hours, before dawn, loud bangs, alarms and a PA system were heard at the barricade station outside the building. But police this morning said officers had not entered the building at anytime overnight.
Herkimer and Mohawk schools closed as a precaution as the effort to apprehend Myers continued.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement shortly after this morning’s police action commending law enforcement for the way they handled the situation.
“We commend the courage and extraordinary efforts of the state police, the FBI, and local law enforcement officials in finding the suspect and ending this horrific spree of violence and bloodshed,” Cuomo said. “It is now time for mourning those who we lost in this senseless act of violence. In the darkest of times, the bravery, kindness, and the spirit of community of New Yorkers shines the brightest, and that is what we saw yesterday in Herkimer and Mohawk as the community came together during this difficult time. The thoughts and prayers of my family and of all New Yorkers are with the friends and loved ones of the victims.”
The series of events leading up to the current standoff started early Wednesday with a fire in Mohawk shortly before 9:30 a.m.
Then after an exchange of words with people inside nearby John’s Barbershop, Myers opened fire with a shotgun, killing two and injuring two more, in a “totally unprovoked” attack, authorities said.
Minutes later, two more people were shot dead at Gaffey’s Fast Lube about a mile away in Herkimer.
Police believe Myers then took refuge in an abandoned hotel above the former Glory Days bar at 248 N. Main St. just around the corner from the Herkimer village police station.
It was there that Myers rained gunfire at about 1:30 p.m. on the armed officers swarmed below, before disappearing again as officers possibly returned fire, police said.
And then, there was silence throughout the day and night until around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, when alarms, sirens and a loud bang were heard as police floodlights remained pointed at the brick building. Shortly after, police over a PA system were asking for a peaceful surrender.
Another blast of police sound horns was heard shortly after 3 a.m., then again at 4 a.m., but still no results.
Herkimer County Community College delayed opening until 10 a.m. Thursday due to the ongoing situation.
Earlier in the night, a police robot was sent into the building, and later on tactical units could be seen entering and exiting the building. Police helicopters also were used throughout the day.
Repeated attempts to reach Myers on a cell phone went unanswered, police said.
Some of the nearby residents who were evacuated earlier in the day were being escorted by police back to their homes late Wednesday night.
Page 3 of 4 - Others spent the night at an emergency shelter in the Herkimer County Community College gym. HCCC spokeswoman Rebecca Ruffing said the shelter opened at about 8 p.m. Wednesday and was staffed by volunteers from the Red Cross.
Schools and some businesses in the Mohawk Valley remained in lockdown throughout the day as police waited for Myers’ next move. And bit by bit, troopers told the gawking onlookers to keep backing further and further away as they watched to see how it would all end.
The rampage added Herkimer County to the list of communities nationwide turned upside down by mass shootings.
As the community anxiously awaited answers to explain why this happened, no one could offer a motive.
“It’s just another example where I don’t think anyone anywhere can say: ‘It can’t happen here,’” Malone said. “It can happen anywhere.”
It was a point echoed by Cuomo, who flew by helicopter to the area to make sure all the resources and manpower were available to bring the alleged killer to justice.
“There is no community beyond the scope of senseless gun violence,” Cuomo said during a news conference at the New York State Police barracks on the outskirts of Herkimer.
“The day is not done, and it will not be done until Mr. Myers is apprehended,” said the governor, who pushed for new state gun control legislation in the weeks after the Sandy Hook school massacre last year.
Harry Montgomery Sr., 68, of Mohawk and Michael Ransear, 57, of Herkimer, were customers killed at the Mohawk barber shop at 17 West Main St., while the shop’s owner, John Seymour, and customer Dan Haslauer were injured, police said. Renshaw was a correction officer at Mid-State.
Hospital officials said Seymour was listed in fair condition Thursday morning, but information on Haslauer was not available.
Seymour’s sister Mary Hornett has spoken with her brother about the shooting.
“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 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.
At Gaffey’s lube shop and car wash at 320 Mohawk St. in Herkimer, one of the employees, Thomas Stefka, was killed, along with a customer, Michael Renshaw, who was a longtime state correction officer at the Midstate prison facility.
State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Brian Fischer issued a statement Thursday offering “his deepest condolences” for the deaths of Renshaw and Ransear.
Page 4 of 4 - “Both individuals will be remembered for their dedication and daily contributions made throughout their long careers,” he said in the statement.
Police still aren’t sure whether the firearms removed from Myers’ apartment building at 32 South Washington St. belonged to him or another tenant.
Either way, many of the bystanders believe the shooter was trying to make a point that will seal his fate.
“I hope they just finish this guy off and take him away in a bag, or he goes in front of a judge to face what he did and spend the rest of his life in prison,” said Don Heath Jr., whose daughter was among those students in lockdown at Mohawk High School. “What is going on today in the Mohawk Valley is very intense,” he said.
Michele Mlinar, a bartender 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.”