WEBSTER, N.Y. — An ex-con killed two firefighters with the same caliber and make military-style rifle used in the Connecticut school massacre after typing a note pledging to burn down his neighborhood and "do what I like doing best, killing people," police said Tuesday as another body, believed to be the gunman's missing sister, was found.
William Spengler, 62, who served 17 years in prison for manslaughter in the 1980 hammer slaying of his grandmother, set his house afire before dawn Christmas Eve before taking a revolver, a shotgun and a semiautomatic rifle to a sniper position outside, Police Chief Gerald Pickering said.
The death toll rose to three as police revealed that a body believed to be the killer's 67-year-old sister, Cheryl Spengler, was found in his fire-ravaged home.
Authorities say he sprayed bullets at the first responders, killing two firefighters and injuring two others who remained hospitalized Tuesday in stable condition, awake and alert and expected to survive. He then killed himself as seven houses burned on a sliver of land along Lake Ontario.
Police recovered a military-style .223-caliber semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle with flash suppression, the same make and caliber weapon used in the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26, including 20 young children, Pickering said.
The chief said it was believed the firefighters were hit with shots from the rifle given the distance but the investigation was incomplete.
"He was equipped to go to war, kill innocent people," the chief said.
The two- to three-page typewritten rambling note left by Spengler did not reveal what set off the killer or provide a motive for the shootings, Pickering said. He called the attack a "clear ambush on first responders."
He declined to reveal the note's full content or say where it was found. He read only one chilling line: "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 it was unclear whether the person believed to be Spengler's sister died before or during the fire.
"It was a raging inferno in there," Pickering said.
A next-door neighbor said Spengler hated his sister and they lived on opposite sides of the house.
Roger Vercruysse said Spengler loved his mother, Arline, who died in October after living with her son and daughter in the house in a neighborhood of seasonal and year-round homes across the road from a lakeshore popular with recreational boaters.
As Pickering described it and as emergency radio communications on the scene showed, the heavily armed Spengler took a position behind a small hill by the house as four firefighters arrived after 5:30 a.m. to extinguish the fire: two on a fire truck; two in their own vehicles.
They were immediately greeted by bullets from Spengler, who wore dark clothing. Volunteer firefighter and police Lt. Michael Chiapperini, 43, driving the truck, was killed by gunfire as the windshield before him was shattered. Also killed was Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, who worked as a 911 dispatcher.
Several firefighters went beneath the truck to shield themselves as an off-duty police officer who was passing by pulled his vehicle alongside the truck to try to shield them, authorities said.
The first police officer who arrived chased and exchanged shots with Spengler, recounting it later over his police radio.
"I could see the muzzle blasts comin' at me. ... I fired four shots at him. I thought he went down," the officer said.
At another point, he said: "I don't know if I hit him or not. He's by a tree. ... He was movin' eastbound on the berm when I was firing shots." Pickering portrayed him as a hero who saved many lives.
The audio posted on the website RadioReference.com also has someone reporting "firefighters are down" and saying "got to be rifle or shotgun — high-powered ... semi or fully auto."
Spengler had been charged with murder in his grandmother's death but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, apparently to spare his family a trial. After he was freed from prison, Spengler — a felon who wasn't allowed to possess weapons — had lived a quiet life on Lake Road on a narrow peninsula where Irondequoit Bay meets Lake Ontario.
That ended when he left his burning home Monday morning, armed with his three weapons and a lot of ammunition.
"I'm not sure we'll ever know what was going through his mind," Pickering said.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Esch reported from Albany. Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister in New York City also contributed to this report.
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Dave RossWednesday, December 26, 2012 10:39:41 AMWhat is this world coming to when someone is so sick that he wants to kill innocent people that volunteer to help others. My heart goes to the families of the victims and to all brother firefighters involved in this tragedy.
Kevin ClarkWednesday, December 26, 2012 2:31:00 PMBad shit.
Brad DammWednesday, December 26, 2012 3:22:39 PMWHY IN THE HELL WAS HE OUT OF PRISON. This should beem jn for life what a system we have.
Brad DammWednesday, December 26, 2012 3:27:49 PMMY HEART GOES TO ALL OUR 1st RESPONDERS. I am having a hard time dealing with this bullshit to good people.
Kevin ClarkWednesday, December 26, 2012 3:50:13 PMEverybody should listen to the audio.
Walter Thomas LittleWednesday, December 26, 2012 5:47:37 PMListening to the audio hurts but, I agree with Kevin, everyone should listen to it.
Joe DeLongWednesday, December 26, 2012 10:33:01 PMWhen his mother died she left an inharitance to the fire dept that responded, they guy was pissed and wanted revenge
Kyle TatroThursday, December 27, 2012 5:04:26 PMI pray for those affected that God may bless them in there time of need. I joined FR1 as I am working to become a firefighter, but I'm disgusted at this biased fear mongering report they choose. The ATF requires flash suppressor on AR style rifles, they are designed to resemble military rifles but are not military rifles. Trust me you can still see the breath of an AR at night and during the day it doesn't make a difference. A modern AR has the same abilities as WWII rifles nowhere near a modern military weapon. Blaming the Bushmaster for a psychos actions is rediculous, honest men and women are employed there and it supports an American economy. The media makes people fear the guns which causes psychos to use them. Leave his name out, leave out the style gun and report if I wanna read about a Bushmaster I will go to there website. I don't condone his actions at all but I must say this is just anti gun fear mongering, why don't they talk about the EastWing hammer or his mental illness or how he should of been spending life in prison if not the needle.
Donald RussellMonday, December 31, 2012 6:48:50 AMKyle Tarto I agree and dis agree with your post.The type of gun that was used has no place in society.It should be a target rifle or Military rifle.I am a Firefighter and can't understand why you have a problem with what the news reported.People need to know the facts.