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Friday, March 15, 2013

Kurt Myers' Upstate New York Killing Spree

     Over the past few years there have been several spree-shootings involving elderly white men. Generally, this is not a demographic associated with criminal homicide. Are these cases an anomaly, or is there something driving older men to mass murder?

     At nine-thirty in the morning of Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 64-year-old Kurt Myers started a fire in his apartment building in the upstate New York village of Mohawk 65 miles east of Syracuse. The tense, jittery loner with the full white beard was not married, and seldom spoke to his neighbors. Other than an old DUI arrest, he did not have a history with the police.

     After starting the fire, Myers walked around the corner to John's Barber Shop. He entered the place carrying a shotgun. Speaking to the  owner, John Seymour, Myers said, "Hi John, do you remember me?"

     Yes, Kurt, how are you?"

     Without saying more, Myers raised his shotgun and shot the barber, wounding him severely but not killing him. Myers then fired on the three customers in the shop. Harry Montgomery, 68, and Michael Ransear, 57, were killed on the spot. Ransear had been a retired corrections officer. Dan Haslauer, the third customer, was shot in the hand and hip. He survived the shotgun blasts.

     Having murdered two men and injuring two others, Myers climbed into his red Jeep and drove to Herkimer, a town of 7,770 one mile from Mohawk. At Gaffey's Fast Lube, he shot and killed employee Thomas Stefka, and a 23-year veteran of the state Department of Corrections named Michael Renshaw. All of the shootings appeared random.

     By Wednesday afternoon, a small army of police officers had Myers trapped inside an abandoned building in downtown Herkimer. At one point Myers fired at the police from a window. The stand-off dragged on through Wednesday and into Thursday. Joseph Malone, the chief of police of both Mohawk Valley towns, told reporters that Myers "...had come out of nowhere. He was not on our radar and hasn't caused any problems." A woman who for the past ten years has waited on Myers at a local bar said that "He wasn't a people person, and he would never talk to anyone."

     Myers worked as a machine operator in the early 1980s at Waterbury Felt, a manufacturer of industrial textiles. The Waterbury Felt executive who had hired him, Steve Copperwheat, ran into Myers three months ago in a Walmart parking lot. The two men had not seen each other in ten years. Copperwheat described the encounter to a reporter with The Washington Post: "I yelled over to him, and he looked at me and said my name, said he was retired and just went booking away. It was almost like he didn't want anybody to know where he was. He was trying to be very distant, which surprised me." According to Copperwheat, Myers, who had never married, had been an exemplary employee who worked twice as fast as he fellow workers.

    Late Thursday morning, March 14, police officers stormed the abandoned building on Main Street. As the SWAT team entered the structure, Myers fired on the officers. The police returned fire, killing the 64-year-old mass murderer. An FBI dog was shot and killed in the exchange.

     While things are quiet again in Herkimer and Mohawk, citizens of these communities are left with six shooting victims, and the mystery of what turned Kurt Myers into a mass murderer at the age of sixty-four.
     

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