HERKIMER, N.Y. — The man killed by police after a shooting rampage that left four people dead was a mystery in a small town, a stranger to his neighbors and a man of few words, even at a bar where he regularly drank Coors Light and listened to, but never sang, karaoke.
A former boss who worked with gunman Kurt Myers for 20 years described him as a quiet and nervous but intelligent and congenial man who was a fan of World War II trivia. But a recent encounter with his old employee left him unsettled.
Myers, 64, died early Thursday in a gunfight with officers in an abandoned tavern where he holed up 19 hours earlier after walking into a barber shop and a car-care shop and shooting six men, four fatally.
The gunman was a loner, never married. Neighbors in this poor upstate New York town say he rarely spoke. The barkeeps who served him several times a week for a decade did not even know his name.
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 Wal-Mart 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.’’
Police do not know how Myers chose his victims. The gunman did not appear to be close to his family, even though it has lived in the area for generations. Police interviews with relatives and neighbors have produced little information.
About the only clue is his cryptic query before he opened fire on customers in a barber shop where he used to get his hair cut: ‘‘Do you remember me?’’
Copperwheat, now the owner of Environmental Composites in Herkimer, said Myers had always seemed to be in a rush.
“Walking, talking — everything he did was fast,’’ Copperwheat said.
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.’’
The business was sold and moved several times, with Myers and other workers moving with it to several locations in central New York and eventually Dover, N.H., in 2003, Copperwheat said. There, 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. ‘‘He just kind of kept to himself.’’
The shootings rattled Herkimer and neighboring Mohawk, two villages about 170 miles northwest of New York City.