Monday, December 24, 2012
The gunman who ambushed four volunteer firefighters, killing two, in upstate New
York had spent 17 years in prison for beating his grandmother to death with a
hammer in 1980. William Spengler opened fire on the volunteers
as they responded to a blaze just before 6 a.m. ET in a small cluster of homes
along Lake Ontario in Webster, N.Y.
The 62-year-old convicted felon had apparently set a trap, luring
in first responders and then firing on them from atop an earthen berm. "It
does appear that it was a trap that was set," said Webster Police Chief Gerald
Pickering, his voice breaking at times. “People who get up in the middle of the
night to fight fires, they don’t expect to get shot and killed."
lost a colleague in the incident: Police Lieutenant Michael Chiapperini, who was
a volunteer firefighter. The other firefighter killed by Spengler was Tomasz
Kaczowka. Despite being shot, one of the injured firefighters was able to
flee from scene under his own power. But the others remained pinned down on the
narrow strip of land between Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay until a SWAT team
As police closed in,
Spengler took his own life with a gunshot wound to the head, Pickering said. He
was convicted of manslaughter in 1981 after the death of his grandmother, Rose
Spengler, and was paroled in 1998. Spengler's 67-year-old sister Cheryl
Spengler is unaccounted for, Pickering said. Spengler lived in the house with
his sister and mother, Arline, who died in October.
Prior to Monday's
shooting, Webster police had not had any run-ins with Spengler since he was
paroled, they said. Police would not say what kinds of guns Spengler used,
but as a convicted felon, he could not legally own firearms.
The two injured firefighters, Theodore
Scardino and Joseph Hofstetter, were being treated for "significant injuries,"
according to Dr. Nicole Stassen, a surgeon at the University of Rochester
Medical Center. She said both were awake and alert and not on ventilators. An
off-duty police officer was also injured when he was hit by shrapnel after his
car took bullets to the windshield and engine block. His condition is unclear at this time.
shooting, the fire grew to engulf at seven homes and one motor vehicle.
“These firemen are part of our family. You go into a fire with these guys.
To see them go down with something like this is totally unexpected. We are in
shock,” Billy Gross, fire commissioner for West Webster stated
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement after the shooting,
offering his "deepest condolences." All of our thoughts and prayers go to
the families and friends of those who were killed in this senseless act of
violence," Cuomo said. “New York's first responders are true heroes as they time
and again selflessly rush toward danger in order to keep our families and