This post has been updated.
Justin Barkley, 38, of Dryden, was charged with murder in the second degree, a class A1 felony, and pleaded not guilty in Ithaca City Court on Thursday afternoon, his attorney said. Barkley is being held at the Tompkins County Jail without bail.
Barkley allegedly fatally shot William Schumacher, 52, a Candor resident, in the Ithaca Walmart parking lot early Thursday before leading officers on a short chase and barricading himself in his home for more than five hours, Ithaca Police said.
Barkley did not know Schumacher prior to the alleged murder, according to Officer Jamie Williamson. Police said Barkley shot Schumacher, a UPS driver, ran over him with his vehicle and later fired at officers before barricading himself in his Dryden home and ultimately surrendering at 9:43 a.m.
Tompkins County Sheriff Ken Lansing said negotiators convinced Barkley to walk out of his front door on the 1200 block of Dryden Road using a robot to communicate with him.
A preliminary hearing is set for 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday before Ithaca City Court Judge Scott A. Miller, according to Lance Salisbury, supervising attorney for Tompkins County Assigned Counsel, who currently represents Barkley.
Police “inserted a robot into the residence and were able to get a dialogue going and as a result of that dialogue,” Barkley surrendered, Ithaca Police Chief John Barber said. Barber called the murder a “senseless loss of life.”
Susan Rosenberg, a spokesperson for UPS, said Schumacher was a seasonal employee who worked during the holiday shipping surge.
“This was his second year, coming back as a seasonal driver,” Rosenberg said, adding that he drove a tractor trailer. “He started a few weeks ago as we ramp up for the busy holiday season and he was on his route taking a break” when he was killed, she said.
Witnesses told The Sun that a man in a UPS uniform had purchased a pack of cigarettes from Walmart before walking to the parking lot, where he was shot and driven over by a man in a black truck, who then peeled out of the Walmart parking lot onto Route 13.
Police said Barkley’s vehicle was spotted heading north on Route 13 shortly after the crime, but when officers attempted to stop him, he continued driving, turned into a driveway and fired a shot at police with “a long gun” as he exited the vehicle. Police did not return fire and were uninjured.
The standoff on Dryden Road began before 4:30 a.m. on Thursday and ended more than five hours later with Barkley in custody, about nine hours after the homicide in the Walmart parking lot. Police turned the Finger Lakes Library System building into a staging room, where they determined how to extract Barkley, according to Sgt. Lansing, who was outside the building later on Thursday.
Heather Farr, who lives on the same block as the suspect, told The Sun she was one of several people who was evacuated by police.
The police “said that they would be here within five to 10 minutes and that we should just collect our things because we were going to have to leave,” Farr said. She said police placed her and others in a SWAT truck and transported them to the nearby Ramada Inn for several hours.
John Thorna, of Newfield, said he was scratching the seal off of a new phone card on the trunk of his sedan in the Walmart parking lot early Thursday when he heard a single gunshot and saw a UPS driver fall to the ground about 200 feet from the supermarket.
“A guy was sitting in his truck, and all I heard was a gunshot and looked up, saw the guy fall, and then the guy in the truck backed up, pulled out, ran him over and took off,” Thorna told The Sun, adding that he hadn’t heard an argument before the shot.
Moments before the murder, Thorna said, the victim had been behind him in the checkout line.
Linda Kemp, 68, told The Sun she was also at Walmart behind Thorna and a man in a UPS uniform — the only three people checking out at the time. The man bought a pack of Marlboros and mentioned that he worked 13-hour days, according to Kemp, who noted that she saw a UPS truck parked in the lot after the shooting.
The victim was “walking out of the store and the other guy seemed like he was in the truck waiting for him,” Thorna said.
Officers and medics responded to the parking lot at 12:52 a.m., Barber said. Bangs medics performed CPR on Schumacher before officers covered him in a white sheet and began taking pictures of the crime scene.
A Walmart employee said the store has surveillance cameras that cover the area of the alleged shooting and that managers were in the process of reviewing the tapes.
“I’ve worked here 11 years and I’ve never seen anything like that,” the employee said of the crime scene.
Asked about several serious crimes — two stabbings and two shootings, including Thursday’s — in the City of Ithaca since August, Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 said these violent crimes were occurring at “a higher rate than normal” and that the recent spike seemed “to just be a poor run of luck.”
“Violence in the City of Ithaca is extremely rare,” Myrick said, noting that the high-profile violent crimes are all unrelated. “We’re one of the safest cities in America.”
Barber lauded the combined work of multiple agencies in capturing the subject and said the choice to use a robot helped keep officers and the public out of harm’s way.
“We’re going to exhaust every avenue we can before we’re ever going to make an entry,” Barber said. “A robot is another tool in our toolbox, if you will.”
Portions of Route 366 were closed as the negotiations carried on into the Thursday morning work hours, but by noon, with the suspect in custody, the road was re-opened and TCAT — which had altered some routes — resumed normal service.
Local police, including Cornell officers, as well as Ithaca’s SWAT team and New York State Police were at the barricaded residence and evacuated the area. County officials said that the Dryden and Ithaca school districts had been notified of the active scene.
“We know that any act of violence and all acts of murder are inherently senseless because they don’t achieve anything,” Myrick told reporters. “This one seems more senseless than most.”