Four volunteer firefighters responding to a pre-dawn house fire were shot Monday morning, two fatally, leading to a shootout in suburban Rochester, N.Y. with the alleged gunman found dead the scene, police said.
A lone gunman, identified as William Spangler, was believed by investigators to have set his home and a car on fire to lure first responders.
Once firefighters arrived, Spangler, under a ‘position of cover’ fired at the firefighters from a distance after they arrived around 5:30 a.m. to battle the blaze near the Lake Ontario shore, just east of Rochester, Town of Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said.
The shooter was found dead hours after a brief shootout with cops according to Pickering. Spangler was found around 11 a.m. near the shore of the lake with a self -inflicted gun shot wound. The first Webster police officer who arrived on the scene exchanged gunfire with the shooter.
“It appears to be a trap that was set for responders,” Pickering said in a press conference on Monday.
“It is a very difficult situation,”He also said during the press conference, holding back tears. “People get up in the middle of the night to fight fires.They don’t expect to be shot and killed.”
Of the four volunteer firefighters, two were fatally shot including Tomasz Kaczowka and Mike Chiapperini, who was also a lieutenant and public information officer for the local police department.
The two volunteers who survived were taken to University of Rochester Medical Center were they were listed in guarded condition in the intensive care unit, according to hospital officials with one suffering severe injuries to his pelvis.
The West Webster Fire District received a report of a car and house on fire on Lake Road, on a narrow peninsula where Irondequoit Bay meets Lake Ontario, Flynn said.
“When they got there, they stated to take on rounds and the initial responders were struck,” the sheriff said.
About 100 people attended an impromptu memorial vigil Monday evening in Webster, a suburb of Rochester. Dozens of bouquets were left at the fire station, along with a handwritten sign that said, “Thanks for protecting us. RIP.”
Investigators believe that Spangler set his family’s home and a car on fire which spread to six other homes,officials said.
The two wounded firefighters were in guarded condition in the intensive care unit at a Rochester hospital. Joseph Hofsetter suffered server injuries to his pelvis, while Theodore Scardino was shot in his shoulder and lung. Both men are stable. An off-duty police officer was on his way to work in the nearby town of Greece when he was driving near the scene and injured by flying shrapnel.
According to police officials, Spangler has a lengthy criminal record, including a manslaughter conviction for murdering his own grandmother, Rose Spangler, when he bludgeoned her to death with a hammer in 1980. Spangler Served 17 years in prison for the his crime.
Spangler’s 67-year-old sister, Cheryl Spengler, who is believed to have lived at the house with him, has not been accounted for according to police officials.
Roger Vercruysse said William Spengler was a good friend when they lived next door in Webster, a Rochester suburb. He said Spengler “couldn’t stand” his sister.
Vercruysse said Spengler “loved his mama to death.” Arline Spengler died in October, and Vercruysse wonders what effect that had on her 62-year-old son. He says he thinks William Spengler “went crazy” after she died.
Over 30 residents were evacuated from the area, located on the shores of Lake Ontario, and kept aboard city buses for warmth.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement saying, “New York’s first responders are true heroes as they time and again selflessly rush toward danger in order to keep our families and communities safe.”
“One behalf of my family and all New Yorkers, I offer my deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed today and pray for the recovery of the injured.”
Webster, a middle-class, lakeside suburb, now is the scene of violence linked to house fires for two Decembers in a row.
Last Dec. 7, authorities say, a 15-year-old boy doused his home with gasoline and set it ablaze, killing his father and two brothers, 16 and 12. His mother and 13-year-old sister escaped with injuries. He is being prosecuted as an adult.
Source: Fox News