Four men were killed on Wednesday in separate shootings at a barbershop and a car wash in neighboring upstate New York towns, and police surrounded a building where the suspected gunman was believed to be barricaded.
Authorities said the gunman drove to John's Barber Shop in the village of Mohawk at about 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and after a brief exchange of words opened fire with a shotgun, killing two customers and critically wounding the owner and another customer, New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said at a news conference.
"Totally unprovoked, we believe he fired a number of rounds from the shotgun," he said.
The shooter then drove to Gaffy's Jiffy Lube in the neighboring town of Herkimer and fired again, D'Amico said, striking and killing two customers.
The lone suspect was identified by state police as Kurt Myers, 64, of Mohawk, although local police had previously spelled his last name as Meyers.
State police in military garb and using an armored vehicle surrounded an abandoned building in the downtown section of Herkimer, a town of 7,700 people, on Wednesday afternoon. Shots were fired from inside the building and police returned fire.
Local and state police, assisted by the FBI, teamed up in an attempt to apprehend Myers, whose arrest record includes a drunken driving charge in 1973, police said.
The killings took place shortly after a fire was reported at the Mohawk apartment house where Myers lived, said Mohawk Mayor James Baron.
A subsequent search of the apartment turned up a cache of guns and ammunition, said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who joined police at the press conference.
"This is a truly inexplicable situation. There was no apparent rational motive to the best of our knowledge at this time to provoke these attacks," Cuomo said.
Cuomo in January signed into law one of the country's toughest gun-control measures, the first enacted in the wake of the mass shooting in December that killed 20 students and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
The law expands the state's ban on assault weapons, puts limits on ammunition capacity and has new measures to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It also mandates a life sentence without parole for anyone who murders a first responder.
Mohawk's mayor said a crime of similar magnitude has never occurred in his sleepy town of 2,700 people.
"It's just another example that there is no community that is beyond the scope of senseless gun violence," Cuomo said.
As a result of the shooting, schools in the area were placed on lockdown.
Those killed in the car wash shooting were identified as Thomas Stefka, an employee at Gaffy's, and Michael Renshaw, a 20-year employee of the New York State Corrections Department, state police said.
The barbershop victims were Harry Montgomery, 68, of Mohawk and Michael Rancier, 57, of Herkimer. The shop owner, John Seymour, and a customer Dan Haslauer, were rushed to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Utica in critical condition, state police said.
The two towns, which face each other across the Mohawk River, are located about midway between Albany, the state's capital, and the city of Syracuse.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg, editing by G Crosse)