Manhunt follows slayings in Herkimer County
HERKIMER, N.Y. (AP) – Multiple gunshots rang out as police on foot and in a helicopter swarmed two upstate New York villages in search of a 64-year-old man they say opened fire at a car wash and a barbershop this morning, killing four people and wounding at least two others.
SWAT teams eventually zeroed in on a row of shops where they believe the gunman may be hiding.
The students and staff at Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School and other schools in the Herkimer BOCES region are under a security lockdown today while police search for the suspect, O-E Business Administrator Karen Mettler told The Leader-Herald today. She said classes were being conducted as normal, but as a safety precaution, no one is being allowed to enter or leave the school without being cleared by authorities.
Authorities were looking for Kurt Meyers, said Joseph Malone, the police chief for Herkimer and Mohawk. A college and schools were locked down and people were being told to stay indoors as Meyers remained at large this afternoon.
A news release from Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES this afternoon said students were dismissed as usual from Dolgeville and Oppenheim-Ephratah.
The gunshots were heard at about 1:30 p.m. as SWAT and other police surrounded a block of businesses in the village of Herkimer.
Myles Smith, who lives nearby, tells The Associated Press by cellphone he’s heard police trying to talk Meyers into coming out of another building. He says there are snipers on the roof.
Guns and ammunition were found inside Meyers’ Mohawk apartment after emergency crews were sent to put out a fire there this morning.
Soon after, two people were fatally shot and two others wounded at John’s Barber Shop, around the corner from the apartment, police said. The second shooting happened about a mile away in Herkimer, where two people were killed at Gaffey’s Fast Lube and Car Wash, authorities said.
James Baron, the 29-year-old mayor of Mohawk, said he doesn’t know Meyers 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.'”
The fire at Meyers’ building was reported at about 9:30 a.m., followed soon after by reports of shootings in the two villages, Baron said.
The Utica Observer-Dispatch reported that police were focusing on Freddy’s Jewelers on Main Street in Herkimer, near the car wash and oil change business.
Herkimer County Community College and local schools were on lockdown. The college sent an automated cellphone alert around 10:40 a.m., telling students and staff that there was an “active shooter” in the area. The message identified the gunman as a man in his 60s, with a white beard and driving a red Jeep Cherokee. A text alert a few minutes later said the campus was on lockdown. Another alert advised people to remain inside buildings until further notice.
Amanda Viscomi, Herkimer’s acting clerk-treasurer for the village of 7,700, told The Associated Press the shooting at Gaffey’s happened a few blocks from village hall. She said she was told the shooter was at large and that state police, sheriff’s deputies and other police were swarming the area.
“Everybody’s on lockdown, all the schools, the college, the village,” Viscomi said. “It’s very, very scary.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the head of the state police arrived in the area this afternoon and were expected to brief the media later in the day.
Herkimer is named for the German immigrant family that settled in the western Mohawk Valley in the 1720s. The economically distressed villages are two miles away from Ilion, where a 2-century-old Remington Arms gun plant is a major employer.
(Editor’s note: This story is breaking and will be updated in Thursday’s edition. Leader-Herald reporter Michael Anich and Associated Press writers Chris Carola and Mary Esch in Albany contributed to this report.)