A man with a criminal history shot and killed two West Webster, N.Y. firefighters and seriously injured two others as they responded to a fire at his home, police say.
William H. Spengler, Jr., 62, apparently started a 5:35 a.m. fire at his home on Lake Road and then waited with an armament of weapons for first responders to arrive, Webster N.Y. Police Chief Gerald Pickering said at an afternoon news conference.
“He was shooting from high ground or a berm," Pickering said. "He was barricaded with weapons to shoot first responders."
After a brief exchange of gunfire with police, Spengler then shot and killed himself at the scene, Pickering said.
Spengler was convicted in 1981 in the death of his 92-year-old grandmother a year earlier. He served time in prison and was released in 1998, Pickering said.
Spengler beat Rose Spengler to death with a hammer 1980, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported. Rose Spengler had lived in the home next to William Spengler on Lake Road at the time of her death.
Local police had not noted any criminal activity in his recent past, Pickering said.
Pickering said they are looking into the apparent disappearance of Spengler's sister who is unaccounted for at this time.
Police and fire officials are continuing to gather evidence and will inspect the seven homes that were destroyed in the fire that spread to nearby houses in the small lakeside town located 10 miles east of Rochester.
The victims in the shooting are Mike Chiapperini, also a lieutenant and public information officer with the local police department, and Tomasz Kaczowka, Pickering said.
"These people get up in the middle of the night to fight fires. They don't expect to be shot and killed," a tearful Pickering said at the press conference.
Chiapperini was described by Pickering as a lifelong firefighter who started with the department's explorer program and had about 20 years of experience. Kaczowka was a younger firefighter who was on the force for about two years and was also a 911 dispatcher, he said.
West Webster firefighters Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino were seriously injured and are at Strong Memorial Hospital with gunshot wounds, a hospital spokeswoman said. Scardino has injuries to his chest and lungs. Hofsetter was injured in the pelvis, the spokeswoman said at a media briefing. Both are in guarded condition, she said.
An off-duty police officer from nearby Greece, N.Y., John Ritter was also injured by shrapnel during the shooting, Pickering said.
Pickering said that one of the firefighters who survived made his way across a bridge to safety. The other three did not make it across, Pickering said. Police arrived and rescued the other three firefighters, but two were fatally shot, Pickering said.
The morning scene was described as chaotic as police and firefighters dealt with an immense blaze as well as gunshots, local news station WHAM-TV reports.
“I’m not aware of anything like this happening in Webster, obviously not a firefighter being fired upon,” Webster Fire Marshal Rob Boutillier told the Democrat and Chronicle. Pickering described Webster as resort lakeside community that is quiet and usually peaceful.
WHAM reported that an outpouring of support has come through the Webster community. Black flags reportedly have been draped at some homes and offices to honor those killed and injured.