Intelligent, fond of trivia, a World War II buff. An exemplary employee who seemed to work twice as fast as his peers, got along with people and didn’t cause problems.
That was how his former boss described the 1980s Kurt Myers.
Spooky, a loner, odd and a ghost in the tightknit, upstate New York hometown his family had lived in for generations. That’s the updated version of the man police said killed four people, apparently randomly, then holed up for nearly a day in an abandoned bar called Glory Days before dying in a gunfight with police who tried to root him out.
Authorities were still trying to piece together what drove the 64-year-old Myers to set fire to his apartment, casually stroll into a barbershop and open fire, killing two and injuring two others, then drive a mile up the road and work his shotgun again, killing two more at a car-care shop on the main drag in the village next door.
The superintendent of New York’s state police, Joseph D’Amico, said at a briefing Thursday the information they’ve gotten so far hasn’t helped draw a complete picture of Myers.
“He’s apparently a loner,” D’Amico said. “He didn’t have a lot of contact with his family. The few people we did find that were relatives — we interviewed some neighbors — nobody could offer any explanation.”
Steve Copperwheat, who hired Myers as a machine operator in the early 1980s at Waterbury Felt, a manufacturer of industrial textiles, said he encountered him in a Walmart parking lot three months ago after not seeing him in about 10 years.
“I yelled over to him, and he looked at me, said my name, said he was retired and just went booking away,” Copperwheat said. “It was almost like he didn’t want anybody to know where he was. He was trying to be very distant, which surprised me. The whole conversation was really spooky.”
Myers, whose final killing was of an FBI dog, apparently left no clues as to why he chose the locations or victims. Two of the men were corrections officers but Myers had never done prison time. His brother, Lance Myers, died in prison after an embezzlement conviction. Myers didn’t appear to be close to his remaining family and police interviews with relatives and neighbors have produced little.
About the only clue is his cryptic query before he opened fire on customers in a barbershop where he used to get his hair cut: “Do you remember me?”
Never married, Myers rarely spoke, neighbors said. The barkeeps who served him several times a week for a decade didn’t even know his name.
Copperwheat, now the owner of Environmental Composites in Herkimer, said the Myers he worked with for two decades had “always seemed to be in a rush. Walking, talking — everything he did was fast.”
Page 2 of 2 - Myers seemed to be quite intelligent and was fond of World War II trivia. “He was really a buff on dates,” Copperwheat said. “Once he got upset because one of the girls in the office didn’t know when Pearl Harbor was.”
When the business moved to Dover, N.H., in 2003, Myers shared an apartment for a while with several other workers.
“I never had a problem with him arguing with anybody or fighting with anybody,” Copperwheat said.
The shootings rattled Herkimer and neighboring Mohawk, villages about 170 miles northwest of New York City. Utica, 13 miles down the New York State Thruway, is the nearest sizeable city, with about 60,000 residents.
Myers’ sister lives with her family in Barneveld, just a short drive away. There was no car in the driveway on Thursday, and nobody answered the door or phone.
Myers’ rampage started with a fire in his apartment in Mohawk on Wednesday morning. He then drove around the corner to John’s Barber Shop and used a shotgun to kill two customers, Harry Montgomery, 68, and Michael Ransear, 57, a retired correction officer.
The barbershop’s owner, John Seymour, and another customer, Dan Haslauer, were wounded and hospitalized.
Myers then drove to Gaffey’s Fast Lube in Herkimer and used the shotgun to kill Michael Renshaw and Thomas Stefka. Renshaw was a 23-year employee of the state correction department, and Stefka worked at Gaffey’s and played guitar at Mohawk Reform Church.
D’Amico called Myers’ attacks “unprovoked and random.”
Seymour, the owner, told his sister that Myers, who used to be a customer but hadn’t visited for a couple of years, walked in and said, “Hi, John, do you remember me?”
Seymour replied, “’Yes, Kurt, how are you?’” his sister Mary Hornett said. “And then he just started shooting.”
State police and FBI tactical teams entered the first floor of the abandoned building around 8 a.m. Thursday to end the standoff, D’Amico said. Myers opened fire, killing an FBI dog that was behind a door, D’Amico said. Police returned fire, killing Myers. No officers were injured.
The FBI tactical dog, a 2-year-old Czech German shepherd named Ape, had just completed its training a month ago and was on its second mission.
Michele Mlinar, bartender at Cangee’s Bar and Grille in Herkimer, said Myers used to come at night on weekends and listen to karaoke but stopped showing up last summer.
She said he always wore a flannel shirt tucked neatly into his jeans and sat alone at the bar.
“He just listened,” she said. “He never sang.”