The police chief in Webster, N.Y., says that four firefighters were shot while responding to a blaze in the town near Rochester and that two are dead.
West Webster firefighters responded about 5:35 a.m. Monday, Christmas Eve, to a report of a car fire and a house fire at 191 Lake Road in Webster. Upon arrival, firefighters reported a car fire with exposure problems to a nearby house. Within minutes of arriving on the scene, firefighters reported they were being attacked by gunfire.
Four firefighters, two onboard a ladder truck and two more in their own personal vehicles, responded to the fire scene. All four were immediately shot at the scene. Two were immediately gunned down and remained motionless. One escaped, and one remained trapped, and was using the cover of a crashed fire truck for safety. The firefighter trapped by the gunman, described his injuries as life-threatening on his fire communications radio. He described the possible location of the gunman near a berm north of the fire scene. Over his radio, he asked for advice — whether it might be safe to escape on his own. He described two firefighters down in the street — motionless. Finally he told dispatch that — in seconds — he would be escaping in his own personal vehicle. Dispatch asked what type of vehicle it is. The firefighter replied it was a Chevy Trailblazer, and included the license plate number. He had no rescue for over 25 minutes and finally headed for safety — driving off to awaiting firefighters and paramedics that were staged away from the shooting area.
Both injured firefighters, Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino, who escaped on their own, were then transported to a nearby hospital. They are in the intensive care unit at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, and both were awake and talking Monday afternoon.
Two firefighters, that were shot down in the street, were killed. They are identified as Lt. Michael Chiapperini, a volunteer firefighter with the West Webster Fire Department, and a 20-year veteran of the Webster Police Department. Also killed was Tomasz Kaczowka, a volunteer firefighter with West Webster Fire Department, who worked as a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
The shooter has been identified as William Spengler, 62. He was found dead at about 11:00 a.m. with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Several guns were found next to his body. Flashback: Spengler was a paroled convict for the death of his grandmother. He was initially charged with second-degree murder for killing his grandmother in 1980, but he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in late 1981. He served time for manslaughter until 1998, when he was paroled. He served only 17 years for beating his 92-year-old grandmother to death with a hammer. It is against the law for convicted felons to possess weapons.
Early reports indicate at least four houses were destroyed and three others were damaged or destroyed. The gunfire delayed firefighting efforts, which allowed the fire to spread. About 33 neighbors were evacuated from their homes by armored vehicles with SWAT personnel.
FIRE RADIO AUDIO: West Webster Fire Department radio communications for fire box 209 for a report of a house fire at 191 Lake Road, in Webster, New York.
Four volunteer firefighters responding to an intense pre-dawn house fire were shot Monday morning, two fatally, leading to a shootout between a suspect and police in suburban Rochester, N.Y., police said.