2 Firefighters Shot & Killed, 2 Others Wounded At Scene Of Webster Fire
Updated: Friday, July 12 2013, 05:40 PM EDT
Webster, N.Y. - Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering has identified the gunman who shot and killed two firefighters early Monday morning, and injured two more.
Pickering said it appears William Spengler, 62, set a fire at his home as a trap to ambush first responders. Spengler was later found deceased near the scene.
The fire started around 5:30 a.m. at 191 Lake Rd. near Bay Rd.
Pickering said the first 911 call is believed to have been made by a neighbor. The caller reported a car and a house on fire.
Police and firefighters were on scene within minutes, and that's when the first shots were fired. Police say it appears that Spengler had positioned himself in a higher area where he could fire down on first responders.
A Webster Police officer responding to the scene exchanged gunfire with Spengler, and is credited with saving lives by keeping others back.
Pickering said one of the firefighters was able to escape in his private vehicle, while the others remained pinned down for around an hour.
Firefighters Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were shot and died at the scene. Chiapperini was also a member of the Webster Police Department, and had been named a Webster firefighter of the year two weeks ago. Kaczowka was a member of the fire department and a 911 dispatcher who had been with the department for a little more than a year. He previously was part of the explorer program.
The other two firefighters that were shot are Theodore Scardino and Joseph Hofstetter. They were transported to Strong Memorial Hospital. Doctors at Strong Hospital said Scardino was shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the knee. Hofsetter was shot in the pelvis. Both are in guarded condition.
A fifth individual, off-duty Greece police officer John Ritter, was injured by shrapnel. He was driving to work and passed the scene when rounds were fired into his car.
Pickering says that Spengler was found dead near the property where the fire began at approximately 11:00 am, and that there is no longer a threat to the area.
Spengler was found with multiple guns, which were not legal for him to possess because of a manslaughter conviction from 1981. He spent 17 years in prison for the death his grandmother. He killed her with a hammer.
We're told seven homes were destroyed as a result of the fire. Thirty-three neighbors in the immediate area were evacuated from their homes by armored people transporters. Firefighters were not allowed in to fight the fire for several hours until it was determined there was no longer a threat.
The fire was out by early evening. The investigation will continue Christmas morning.
The Red Cross is assisting displaced residents, including those who lost their home. Any residents impacted that need help can reach the Red Cross at 585-241-4472.
Police are searching the debris of the destroyed homes to see if there are anymore victims. Pickering says Spengler's sister is believed to have lived with him, and that she is unaccounted for. It is not clear whether she was home at the time of the fire.
The Monroe County Fire Bureau is now providing fire and ambulance service for the West Webster Fire District while the district's firefighters are debriefed. Counseling is also being provided.