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4 firefighters shot, 2 fatally, in western NY

Gunman who trapped and shot the volunteer firefighters is dead; one of the slain is also a police lieutenant

The Associated Press

WEBSTER, N.Y. —The ex-convict who lured two firefighters to their deaths in a blaze of gunfire left a typewritten note saying he wanted to burn down his New York state neighborhood and "do what I like doing best, killing people," police said Tuesday.

Police Chief Gerald Pickering said Tuesday that 62-year-old William Spengler, who served 17 years in prison for the 1980 hammer killing of his grandmother, armed himself with a revolver, a shotgun and a semiautomatic rifle before he set his house on fire to lure first responders into a death trap before dawn on Christmas Eve.

Two firefighters were shot dead and two were hospitalized. Spengler killed himself as seven houses burned around him Monday on a narrow spit of land along Lake Ontario.

One of the weapons recovered was a military-style .223-caliber semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle, the same make and caliber gun used in this month's school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Pickering said.

The two- to three-page note left by Spengler didn't give a motive for the shootings, Pickering said. He declined to divulge the note's full content or say where it was found, but he read one line from it: "I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down and do what I like doing best, killing people."

Pickering said authorities were still looking for Spengler's 67-year-old sister, Cheryl Spengler, who lived with him. Their mother, Arline, also lived there until she died in October.

Spengler fired at the four firefighters when they arrived Monday morning to put out the fire, Pickering said. The first police officer who arrived chased the gunman and exchanged shots.

Authorities said Spengler hadn't done anything to bring himself to their attention since his parole. As a convicted felon, he wasn't allowed to possess weapons. Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said Spengler led a very quiet life after he got out of prison.

A friend said Spengler hated his sister. Roger Vercruysse lived next door and recalled a man who doted on his mother.

"He loved his mama to death," said Vercruysse, who last saw his friend about six months ago.

Vercruysse also said Spengler "couldn't stand his sister" and "stayed on one side of the house and she stayed on the other."

Emergency radio communications captured someone Monday saying he "could see the muzzle flash coming at me" as Spengler carried out his ambush. The audio posted on the website has someone reporting "firefighters are down" and saying "got to be rifle or shotgun _ high powered ... semi or fully auto."

After Spengler fired, one of the wounded men fled, but the other three couldn't because of gunfire.

The police officer who exchanged gunfire with Spengler "in all likelihood saved many lives," Pickering said.

A police armored vehicle was used to recover two men, and eventually it removed 33 people from nearby homes, the police chief said. The gunfire initially kept firefighters from battling the blazes.

The dead men were identified as police Lt. Michael Chiapperini, 43, the Webster Police Department's public information officer; and 19-year-old Tomasz Kaczowka, also an emergency dispatcher.

Pickering described Chiapperini as a "lifetime firefighter" with nearly 20 years in the department, and he called Kaczowka a "tremendous young man."

Kaczowka's brother, reached at the family home Monday night, said he didn't want to talk.

The two wounded firefighters, Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino, were in stable condition Tuesday, the chief said. Both were awake and alert and are expected to recover.

Associated PressCopyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Hofstetter, also a full-timer with the Rochester Fire Department, was hit once in the pelvis, and the bullet lodged in his spine, authorities said. Scardino was hit in the chest and knee.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Matthew Ingmire Matthew Ingmire Monday, December 24, 2012 8:45:21 AM Had an incident like this happen here in St. Louis back in 2008. A gunman pull his truck into the neighbors driveway across the street, set it on fire, and waited for firefighters to arrive. One was shot and killed and the gunman ended up being burned alive after his own house caught on fire. Prayers going up to the families of all involved and the firefighters who so far lost 2.
Joaquin Torres Joaquin Torres Monday, December 24, 2012 9:18:27 AM Really! What do we get armed guards too? Nah, I guess Firefighter need to carry also! Like the wild wild west, everyone shootem up!(Sarcasm) Very sad with all these needless acts. Seems Violence begets more Violence!
Dale R Redin Dale R Redin Monday, December 24, 2012 9:50:58 AM RIP Brothers. Shame people who are there to risk their lives for people had to die in such a manner. Heart goes out to the families who have to endure this pain now.
Les Vandusen Les Vandusen Monday, December 24, 2012 9:52:50 AM sad being a firefighter you don't none what you are going in to.
Greg Loftus Greg Loftus Monday, December 24, 2012 10:08:31 AM unfortunate times there is no reason for this at all and there is a special spot in hell for the shooter.
Robert J. Duncan Sr. Robert J. Duncan Sr. Monday, December 24, 2012 10:10:17 AM As society degrades, these type attacks will get worse over the next several years. It is possible we will see bulletproof turnout gear in our lifetimes, a sad statement on where mankind is headed. Prayers for the comfort to the family of those killed, and Prayers for the 2 who are still in critical condition. "pity this monster, manunkind".
Joey Stinnett Joey Stinnett Monday, December 24, 2012 10:12:03 AM Firefighter Police and EMS needs to start carrying. So they can protect themselves and others...
Robert Norgrove Robert Norgrove Monday, December 24, 2012 10:12:53 AM So close to Christmas it breaks my heart to see that this has happened again, now 2 brothers are dead and 2 criticle, come on America you need to change your gun laws it can't keep happening. My heart goes out to the victims families now there christmas is ruined for the rest of their lives. Rip
Ian Swanson Ian Swanson Monday, December 24, 2012 10:41:29 AM Hard enough job , without some prick shooting at you r.i.p brothers
Tom Kelly Tom Kelly Monday, December 24, 2012 11:46:10 AM this sickens me when we try so hard to do the right we are targeted for doing the good for our fellow man......please everyone be safe.
Robert Lowery Robert Lowery Monday, December 24, 2012 11:53:58 AM meant to share, not like, there is nothing to like about this, thankfully our chief lets us carry now, at least we have a chance to defend ourselves...
Michael Ramsay Michael Ramsay Monday, December 24, 2012 12:00:44 PM On behalf of the clarenceville Nolan Quebec vol fire dept our prayers go out to all involved
Richard Jalomo Richard Jalomo Monday, December 24, 2012 12:22:03 PM You can thank mainsteam media for all the shooting. They are getting what they want
Ricky Ackerly Ricky Ackerly Monday, December 24, 2012 12:22:45 PM I cannot believe this... its so tragic and worse that it's so close to christmas.
Richard Jalomo Richard Jalomo Monday, December 24, 2012 12:23:06 PM And the terrorist you all call a president
Michael Ramsay Michael Ramsay Monday, December 24, 2012 1:29:10 PM Sorry gang my phone spelled noyan wrong
Virginia Sattler Waterson Virginia Sattler Waterson Monday, December 24, 2012 2:41:30 PM Our prayers to the family and friends of lost/injured firefighters.
Christine MacDonald Christine MacDonald Monday, December 24, 2012 8:31:31 PM It all just makes you want to live in your cocoon! Everyday it is another awful story, what is wrong with everyone?
Walter Thomas Little Walter Thomas Little Tuesday, December 25, 2012 8:36:55 AM My prayers are with the families of the firefighters who were killed, as well as the two who were injured. As Greg so well put it, there is a special place in hell for people who kill firefighters and police officers.
Michael Beverly Michael Beverly Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:06:56 AM Changing gun laws won't do anything. Obviously he wasn't allowed to own a gun, yet he still got his hands on one - You can't stop gun crime if you can't stop its millions of sources -.-
Andrew Poulter Andrew Poulter Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:15:37 AM This is something I have said to everyone I know. If you are convicted of murder, it should be mandatory life in prison. No parole EVER. If this happens with this guy, there would be two less firefighters dead and two less lying in hospital beds. RIP fallen brothers. And a speedy recovery for the other two.
Jeff Masson Jr. Jeff Masson Jr. Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:15:57 AM Gun laws had nothing to do with this. This guy was a convicted felon, he got his weapons illegally, so our gun laws had nothing to do with this one. Criminals will keep getting their guns illegally gun laws be damned!
Jeff Masson Jr. Jeff Masson Jr. Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:17:51 AM Or have a couple patrol cars go to the scene of a fire as well. For their protection.
Jose Antonio Robalino Santillan Jose Antonio Robalino Santillan Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:20:44 AM Que lamentable la perdida de dos valiosas vidas....
Jeff Masson Jr. Jeff Masson Jr. Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:22:17 AM Was that really necessary? Always someone turning shit into a political statement. Sad.
Jon Garland Jon Garland Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:27:03 AM Robrt, What state are you in .....i.e.Chief lets you carry private message me if you like
Jarrett Gay Jarrett Gay Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:30:47 AM patrol is notified at the same time, it's not there fault if they get there a min late. i'm from the south and been up here since the storm. maybe if you had a little respect for drivers and emergency vehicles youd quit running into each other blocking people that need to respond to thi type of situation. but that guy was gonna kill people any way. no matter who got there
Jeremy Freeman Jeremy Freeman Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:36:17 AM I see the problem, He killed his family with a hammer and went to jail, and then GOT OUT OF JAIL so he could kill others. So it is the systems fault for letting the scumbag out of jail. BLAME THE SYSTEM!
Walter Waganka Walter Waganka Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:38:53 AM Pure evil at Christmas. Lets stand together as emergency workers for the good that we do for strangers who are hurting at their worst, especially at this festive time of the year.
Myles Baker Jr. Myles Baker Jr. Tuesday, December 25, 2012 11:48:49 AM All I am going to say is, RIP brothers. This is not time for politics or opinions. Lives were lost and these brothers deserve our respect.
Denny Steinman Denny Steinman Tuesday, December 25, 2012 12:01:31 PM As a retired volunteer firefighter and a Fire Commissioner for several years I can see that the guys were just setting ducks for this crazy man. My prayers go out to the family and friends of these heros and God be with them. When is this crazyness going to end!
Janet Gillespie Pratt Janet Gillespie Pratt Tuesday, December 25, 2012 12:07:09 PM My "better half" is a retired from Toledo FD. It's difficult enough fighting the fires without having to worry about some crazy person extinguishing the firefighters. Thanks to you and my Sam and all firemen and policemen for protecting us here at home.
Scott Reeves Scott Reeves Tuesday, December 25, 2012 12:07:28 PM Just sick.
Zackary Morris Brisby Zackary Morris Brisby Tuesday, December 25, 2012 1:02:56 PM this shit pisses me off so much.
Douglas Banks Douglas Banks Tuesday, December 25, 2012 2:33:52 PM It's sad but the reality is we as First Responders need to be more aware of our surroundings and potential dangers when first on scene, unfortunately this situation was not something they could see coming. There is no training that can prepare you for this.
Robert Lowery Robert Lowery Tuesday, December 25, 2012 4:49:25 PM Jon Garland Hey Jon, East Tennessee, Your Chief may have to get permission from your County Sheriff, depends on protocol... but if you've got your concealed carry, you carry, medical calls especially....mva's, structure fires, they're in the engine anyway....can't count the times a "difficulty breathing" ended up an assault, hence, nobody staged....
Caleb Madison Caleb Madison Tuesday, December 25, 2012 6:18:18 PM Why shoot firemen? All that they try to do is protect their community.
Jim Hensel Jim Hensel Tuesday, December 25, 2012 7:18:55 PM While liberals on Twitter pointed at the shooting of four firefighters in upstate New York as evidence that more gun control is necessary, NBC News reports that the gunman, one William Spengler, was already banned from owning guns. Spengler served 17 years in prison for killing his grandmother with a hammer in 1980. He was convicted only of manslaughter, and was paroled in 1998. It seems that stronger sentencing for convicted murderers might be a more worthwhile goal of liberals seeking to prevent gun violence. Read more:
Evan Shaw Evan Shaw Saturday, December 29, 2012 3:47:41 PM Memorial Services for these brothers was unbelievable. The amount of people was incredible. Thank You to all those who paid their last respects, in whatever way they could.
Theresa Kunerth Kudla Ikels Theresa Kunerth Kudla Ikels Tuesday, December 24, 2013 6:56:33 PM The Firefighters are there to protect you. Why, in Gods Name would you want to hurt them???? May my Heroes R.I.P. My deepest sympathy to their families, during this most difficult time. One year, I'm so sorry

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