The violence that started with a fire and escalated with four men being shot at a local barbershop may have shocked Mohawk residents, but it hasn't kept them from reaching out to help each other.
Plans are already under way for a benefit to aid the families affected by the shootings. Shawn McGraw, of Envision Event Management, and Ed View were busy the day after the shootings soliciting contributions of food and other items for a benefit scheduled for March 24 from noon to 8 p.m. at Crowley-Barnum American Legion Post No. 25 in Mohawk. Tickets will be $10.
The event will include a silent auction, food, entertainment and 50-50 drawings. McGraw said he hoped the event could be a brighter spot at a difficult time.
When asked if the Village Market, which is directly across West Main Street from John's Barber Shop, closed Wednesday after the shooting, employee Linda Lamanna said it had not. “We stayed open,” she said. “We hosted people who were waiting — there were family members and concerned citizens — and let them get out of the cold. We stayed open until about 5:30 p.m.” That was about the time the bodies of the two men who were killed were being removed from the scene.
“These are close-knit towns,” she said. “Everybody knows somebody concerned with this.”
Lamanna said they heard the fire alarm and later saw the smoke from the fire on South Washington Street, but didn't realize what had happened at the barbershop right away.
“John's is always busy with people coming and people waiting,” she said.
When she walked next door to send a fax, Lamanna said, she saw the smoke and saw police cars pulling up in front of the barbershop and knew something was going on.
She said she knows Seymour and knew shooting victim Harry Montgomery, who was a regular customer at the store.
At the Mohawk Municipal Building, on Columbia Street with South Washington Street running behind the building, people displaced by the fire at 32 S. Washington St. were given shelter for the day and an opportunity to meet with American Red Cross representatives, according to Village Clerk Judy Bray, who said she was told there were a total of three apartments in the building including the one where the shooter, Kurt Myers, was living.
Village Trustee and Mohawk firefighter Carmen Tubia said he was wearing two hats on Wednesday. “It was a tough day,” he said. While he said firefighters knocked the fire on South Washington Street down in about an hour and a half, they had to secure the scene for the state police investigation. Hearing talk Myers might return to the scene raised the anxiety level as well, said Tubia.
He said shooting victim Harry Montgomery was a member of the Mohawk Fire Corps, a group that assists the department. “We lost a good man,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - “My heart goes out to the families of the victims in both communities,” he said, adding he used to coach Pop Warner Football with Michael Renshaw, who was killed at the shooting at Gaffey's Fast Lube in Herkimer.
On the positive side, he said, “We all worked together — firefighters, village police, troopers — with no qualms.” Tubia added the community showed its spirit. “We all came together,” he said.
Mayor Jim Baron echoed those thoughts. “Obviously everybody in the village's hearts go out to the victims. They're shocked this could happen in a small close-knit community. On the happier side, I'm extremely pleased with the way our first responders handled the scene and worked with family members of the victims. All in all, it was a test of will and relations and Mohawk held up pretty well and it's those feelings that will get us through,” he said. He also posted a message on the village's Facebook page.
Weller Library in Mohawk was closed Wednesday. “We don't open until 2 p.m. anyway,” said Librarian Marie Marrone. By then she had heard about the shootings and decided not to open. “We put a sign on the door,” she said. The library reopened Thursday as usual.
A memorial service was held Wednesday evening at the Mohawk Reformed Church.
“Between 80 and 100 folks from a few different churches attended,” said Rev. Brian Engle, of the Mohawk Reformed Church. While there wasn't much time to notify people, Engle said he put a sign out front and a posting on Facebook and people came. Among them were people from the Baptist, Episcopal and Catholic churches as well as the Reformed Church. “We were able to make a big circle in the sanctuary,” said Engle, who co-officiated the service with Fr. John Bassett.
“We were able to make a big circle around the sanctuary,” he said.
A candlelight vigil was scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Weller Park gazebo in memory of the shooting victims.