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4 Firefighters Shot, 2 Fatally, in New York; Gunman Dead

The New York Times Wrote:WEBSTER, N.Y. — It was a simple call to put out a car fire, the sort of routine job that firefighters tackle all the time. The fire truck hurtled to the assignment early Monday in this drowsy town on the shores of Lake Ontario that was preparing for the joys of Christmas.

But it apparently was a trap, the authorities said. There were a house and a car burning. There was also a waiting killer, who had stationed himself like a sniper on a berm above the firefighters.

Before they could begin to extinguish the fire, the firefighters were met by a burst of gunfire. Four were hit by the volley of bullets, and two died. An off-duty police officer from nearby Greece, N.Y., who was on his way to work, was wounded when he and his car were hit by shrapnel.

For a few hours, the scene was chaotic: flames ignited adjacent houses as the police frantically searched for the gunman. They would find him dead near the beach, with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. He was identified as William Spengler, 62, a man with a lengthy criminal record, who lived in the burning house. In 1981, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter for bludgeoning his 92-year-old grandmother to death with a hammer. He was imprisoned until 1998.

He remained on supervised parole until 2006, and the Webster police said they had not had recent brushes with him. His mother, Arline, who lived in the same house, died in October.

The police said they found Mr. Spengler with three weapons by his side, including the rifle used in the shootings. Authorities said that they did not know where he got the weapons, but that there had been recent gun thefts in Monroe County, where Webster is. As a felon, Mr. Spengler was prohibited from owning guns.

Authorities said they were unaware of a motive, but Gerald L. Pickering, the police chief in Webster, suggested that “there were certainly mental health issues involved.”

The episode comes a little over a week after the Newtown, Conn., attack, and with the country engaged in an intense debate over gun control and care of the mentally ill. A grieving Chief Pickering said in an interview: “We know that people are slipping through the cracks, not getting the help they need. And I suspect that this gentleman slipped through the cracks. Maybe he should have been under more intense supervision, maybe he should not have been in the public, maybe he should have been institutionalized, having his problems dealt with.”

The ambush shook residents of Webster, a town 12 miles northeast of Rochester.

“These people get up in the middle of the night to go put out fires,” Chief Pickering said of his lost firefighters. “They don’t expect to be shot and killed.”

At a news conference, he choked up repeatedly when giving the names of the crew members. The two men killed were Michael J. Chiapperini, 43, a local police lieutenant who owned a window-tinting business, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, a 911 dispatcher for Monroe County.

The two wounded firefighters, Theodore Scardino and Joseph Hofstetter, were listed in guarded to stable condition at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. Mr. Hofstetter suffered an injury to his pelvis. Mr. Scardino was shot twice and had shoulder and lung wounds. The wounded off-duty officer, John Ritter, was treated and released from another hospital.

The firefighters belonged to the West Webster Fire Department, a volunteer force whose firehouse is around four miles from where the presumed ambush occurred on Lakeside Road. By afternoon, people had left bouquets and a wreath at the firehouse, and two candles burned in memory of the dead crew members. Purple and black bunting flags hung over each of the garage bays.

It was just over a year since another shocking crime in Webster involving a house fire. On Dec. 7, 2011, the police said, a 15-year-old named Michael Pilato deliberately set fire to his home, killing his father and two brothers. His mother and sister survived. Mr. Pilato’s murder and arson trial is scheduled to begin in a few weeks.

Webster is a middle-class community of around 43,000 named after the statesman Daniel Webster. The area where the shooting took place perches on a skinny strip sandwiched between Irondequoit Bay and Lake Ontario. Most of the tightly packed wood-frame houses are summer residences, though there are some full-time occupants.

Chief Pickering called it a “little vacation nest” and said calls for help from there were rare.

“Nothing like this happens in Webster,” said Roberta Gammons, 52, a town resident. “It’s a small town and everybody knows each other. My phone has been ringing all morning. All the neighbors have been calling and saying, ‘What can we do?’ Everybody just wants to reach out and offer support.”

After receiving a 911 call from a resident of the neighborhood, firefighters responded to the fire at 191 Lake Road shortly after 5:30 a.m. When the gunfire began, they retreated to safety. One of the wounded firefighters fled the scene in his car to seek help, while the others were pinned.

Police SWAT teams arrived and, according to the local police, some three dozen neighbors were evacuated on a bus.

“We heard gunshots before 6 o’clock, but we thought it was duck hunters,” said Connie Gisel, who lives across the bay from the shooting. Shortly afterward, she said, she received an automated phone call from authorities urging residents to stay indoors and away from windows.

The police said they suspected that Mr. Spengler had started the fire to draw first responders whom he meant to kill.

The first Webster officer on the scene chased Mr. Spengler and exchanged fire with him briefly. Chief Pickering praised the officer for potentially saving many lives. The police then flooded the area and hunted for the gunman for hours before he was found dead around 11 a.m., the authorities said.

Not until the police deemed the area secure did firefighters resume putting out the blaze. By then, it had spread to neighboring houses. Ultimately, authorities said, seven houses were destroyed. As of Monday evening, firefighters had not been able to enter the burned homes to check for victims of the fire. However, the police said that a sister of Mr. Spengler’s was unaccounted for and that her last address was also that of Mr. Spengler.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the State Police and the Office of Emergency Management were collaborating with local officials on the case.

“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,” the governor said in a statement.

Chief Pickering said he that in his small force, he always had a left-hand and right-hand lieutenant, and Lieutenant Chiapperini was his left hand. “When he wasn’t working as a police officer, he was always on the first truck at any scene,” he said. “We kidded him all the time: Which hat are you wearing today, lieutenant?”

He said the lieutenant, who was the fire chief from 2001 to 2002, had been to New York to help in the recovery after Hurricane Sandy. Just weeks ago, he was named firefighter of the year. His son, Nicholas, 19, is a volunteer firefighter as well, though he was not part of the crew that responded because he was just getting off work as a dispatcher for the Monroe Ambulance company. The son is also Mr. Kaczowka’s best friend.

Lieutenant Chiapperini also had two young daughters.

Mr. Kaczowka joined the volunteer force only a year ago. Ms. Gammons, a neighbor, said he was the youngest of three boys from a “lovely nice Catholic family.”

“He absolutely loved his job,” she said. “It didn’t surprise me in the least bit to know that he was one of the first ones on the scene. I know he was always glued to the fire-police radio.”

Ms. Gisel, who lives near Mr. Scardino, described him as a “dedicated son, dedicated husband, dedicated father,” for whom volunteering at the fire department was a kind of passion.

Mr. Hofstetter was a full-time Rochester firefighter who also belonged to the West Webster department. His mother teaches in the Webster school district, and his father is a retired teacher.

Vince DiPrima, an assistant manager at Bill Gray’s, a diner across the bridge from the fires, was overwhelmed by the morning’s tragedy. “The stuff that happened in Connecticut the other day, and then this — it’s a weird feeling,” he said. “It’s Christmas Eve.”

As evening drew close, the vigil at the West Webster firehouse grew. Mike Auger, 60, knew Lieutenant Chiapperini for 20 years, calling him “Chip,” as many of his friends did.

“How ironic that as a policeman he faces this stuff all the time and he gets shot answering a fire call,” Mr. Auger said. “If it had been a police call he would have had the body armor on. A fire call, you think you’re helping people and saving their house.”

Liz Robbins reported from Webster, N.Y., and N. R. Kleinfield from New York. Reporting was contributed by Matt Flegenheimer, J. David Goodman, Andy Newman, Michael D. Regan and Wendy Ruderman.Liz Robbins reported from Webster, N.Y., and N. R. Kleinfield from New York. Reporting was contributed by Matt Flegenheimer, J. David Goodman, Andy Newman, Michael D. Regan and Wendy Ruderman.

I am very saddened by this event. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by this terrible crime.
so sad....why must people be so cruel and kill people on the day before christmas....
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Christmas ruined. Thank you Lamb. >.>
Your life just got better. 

You're welcome.

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Christmas to much whack people what have American got themselves into?
wt in christmas thats really a sad news
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So sad....why must individuals be so evil and kill people on Christmas Eve....
you can have civil arguments. Just don't let the arguments blow out of proportion to where the Staff will have to make a move. Control yourselves and keep it clean.
The incident in Webster, New York, shocked the community as firefighters responded to what appeared to be a routine car fire but turned out to be a deadly ambush. William Spengler, a man with a criminal history, set his own home ablaze and opened fire on the firefighters, killing two and injuring two others, along with an off-duty police officer. Spengler's motives remain unclear, but authorities suspect mental health issues may have been involved. The tragedy, occurring just days after the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, reignited debates about gun control and mental health care. The loss deeply impacted the tight-knit community of Webster, where firefighters and residents rallied to support the victims and their families. The incident serves as a reminder of the risks faced by first responders and the challenges of addressing mental health issues and gun violence in society.

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