Firefighters looking to combat an upstate New York house and vehicle fire earlier Monday (Dec. 24) were unsuspecting victims of a gunman who shot four of the first responders, fatally wounding two of them.
According to Webster Police Chief Gerald L. Pickering, the firefighters may have stumbled upon a trap, reports ABC News.
Upon their arrival, 62-year-old ex-convict William Spengler opened fire on the men with one victim narrowly escaping with his life. The responding firefighters, all volunteers, including one fireman who doubled as a lieutenant for the police department, were looking to extinguish the blaze set by Spengler, who set fire to a vehicle and neighboring home prompting a threat to other residences in the area. Chief Pickering tearfully addressed the situation at a press conference, saying, “It does appear that it was a trap that was set for first responders.”
Spengler, who served 17 years in the bludgeoning death by hammer of his elderly grandmother, shot at the firefighters from a raised mound of land with what investigators say was a rifle. The 62-year-old Spengler then ended his own life after engaging officers in a shootout.
Local Rochester station YNN has been extensively covering the blaze and shooting, releasing the names of the victims along with continuous updates regarding the case. Lt. Michael Chiapperini, 43, the Webster Police Department's public information officer and Tomasz Kaczowka, a 911 dispatcher, were the two men killed by Spengler.
SWAT teams responded as well, and 33 homes were evacuated. In total, seven homes were destroyed as a result of the blaze.
Just 10 days after the Newtown tragedy in Connecticut, this latest incidence of gun violence will surely ramp up the gun rights debate which hit a fever pitch last Friday with the NRA stepping forward in favor of more arms in the hands of citizens in order to combat shooting sprees.
Photo ABC News