2012-12-27 17:36:37 UTC
Those firemen would be alive today if Democrats had simply
enforced the law.
One of the weapons recovered was a .233-caliber semiautomatic
Bushmaster rifle with flash suppression, the same make and
caliber gun used in the Newtown, Conn., shootings.
WEBSTER, N.Y. -- Investigators combing the scene Tuesday of a
Christmas Eve ambush that killed two firefighters and injured
two others made a grisly discovery: another victim.
The body is believed to be that of Cheryl Spengler, 67, of
Webster. Police say her brother, William Spengler Jr., set a
deadly trap for first responders -- a plan he detailed in a
chilling note found at the scene.
The remains found the home were taken to the Medical Examiner's
Office for an autopsy. The cause of death was not immediately
known, Pickering said.
Armed with a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle the same
weapon used in the Dec. 14 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. a
Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun and a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson
revolver and a stockpile of ammunition, Spengler Jr. set a
"clear ambush on first responders," Webster Police Chief Gerald
Pickering said at a news conference Tuesday.
Spengler used that arsenal to follow through on threats he made
in a typewritten note discovered not far from where police found
"I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I
can burn down and do what I like doing best: killing people,"
Spengler wrote in the note, which Pickering described as
rambling, two to three pages long, and did not address motive.
Spengler died Monday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the
The full note was not released by police.
"Motive is always the burning question," Pickering said at an
afternoon news conference. "I'm not sure we'll ever really know
what was going through his mind."
Spengler's attack killed volunteer firefighters Mike
Chiapperini, 43, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, and severely injured
firefighters Joseph Hofstetter, 33, and Theodore Scardino, 48,
who are in stable condition at Strong Memorial Hospital. An off-
duty Greece, N.Y., police officer, John Ritter, was injured by
shrapnel while attempting to protect the fallen firefighters
with his car. He was treated and has been released from an area
hospital. Pickering described his actions as heroic.
Roger Vercruysse of Rochester, N.Y., said he lived next door to
William and Cheryl Spengler, in 2005 and 2006.
He said Spengler was "nice," and was never in trouble while
Vercruysse knew him. But, he said, Spengler and his sister
clearly had a strained relationship.
"They never got along. He told me he did not care for her. And
when I asked him why, he got angry."
He loved his mother, and took her to the store and doctors."
Vercruysse also said Spengler "couldn't stand his sister" and
"stayed on one side of the house and she stayed on the other."
Pickering said it was not known which weapon Spengler used to
shoot the four firefighters.
"We're assuming it was the rifle, because of the distance." That
rifle, he said, was equipped with a flash suppressor, intended
to reduce the visibility of a shooter during firing.
Once police arrived near the scene, shortly after the 5:35 a.m.
fire call, "it was a combat condition," Pickering said. "They
were shooting at muzzle flash."
He also said it was not clear how many bullets were fired during
the predawn attack. But what was clear, Pickering said, was that
the first responding police officer exchanged gunfire with
Spengler and that officer's actions "saved many lives."
A portion of Lake Road on Tuesday afternoon remained closed to
traffic, though most residents are being allowed back into their
homes, and power has been largely restored.
Officials said they hope to reopen Lake Road to traffic late
Tuesday. They also plan to block off the burned homes with a
About a dozen investigators Tuesday sifted through the debris of
the seven houses destroyed by fire. Firefighters on Tuesday also
extinguished hotspots at two homes.
Pickering cautioned that people returning to their homes after
being evacuated by SWAT teams Monday may find that their doors
were kicked in. Locked homes in the area were searched for the
shooter during the chaos.
Monroe County Fire Coordinator Sam DeRosa said it was unclear
how long the fire investigation would take.
DeRosa also said officials "are working against the weather" and
a pending snowstorm.
Fire investigators are working to determine the cause and origin
of the blaze, which they said appeared to be intentionally set
by Spengler as a trap, he said.
"There were some brave actions by a lot of people yesterday,
both firefighters and individual police officers," said State
Police Maj. Mark Koss. "We'll do our best to see what motivated
this guy to do the things he did."
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."
Authorities said Spengler hadn't done anything to bring himself
to their attention since his parole. As a convicted felon, he
wasn't allowed to possess weapons. Monroe County District
Attorney Sandra Doorley said Spengler led a very quiet life
after he got out of prison.
A friend said Spengler hated his sister. Roger Vercruysse lived
next door to Spengler and recalled a man who doted on his
mother, whose obituary suggested contributions to the West
Webster Fire Department.
STORY: 4 firefighters shot, 2 killed at Webster, N.Y., fire
The West Webster Fire District learned of the fire after a
report of a car and house on fire on Lake Road, on a narrow
peninsula where Irondequoit Bay meets Lake Ontario, Monroe
County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn said.
Emergency radio communications capture someone saying he "could
see the muzzle flash coming at me" as Spengler carried out his
ambush. The audio posted on the website RadioReference.com has
someone reporting "firefighters are down" and saying "got to be
rifle or shotgun - high powered semi or fully auto."
Two of the firefighters arrived on a fire engine and two in
their own vehicles, Pickering said. After Spengler fired, one of
the wounded men fled, but the other three couldn't because of
The police officer who exchanged gunfire with Spengler "in all
likelihood saved many lives," Pickering said.
A police armored vehicle was used to recover two men, and
eventually it removed 33 people from nearby homes, the police
chief said. The gunfire initially kept firefighters from
battling the blazes.
The dead men were identified as police Lt. Michael Chiapperini,
43, the Webster Police Department's public information officer;
and 19-year-old Tomasz Kaczowka, also a 911 dispatcher.
Pickering described Chiapperini as a "lifetime firefighter" with
nearly 20 years in the department, and he called Kaczowka a
"tremendous young man."
Kaczowka's brother, reached at the family home Monday night,
said he didn't want to talk.
Hofstetter, also a full-timer with the Rochester Fire
Department, was hit once in the pelvis, and the bullet lodged in
his spine, authorities said. Scardino was hit in the chest and
Cathy Bartlett was at a vigil Monday night with her teenage son,
who was good friends with Kaczowka. Bartlett's husband, Mark
Bartlett, has been a firefighter there for 25 years but missed
the call this morning.
"Thank God my husband slept through the first alarm and didn't
get up until the second one went off," she said.
The shooting and fires were in a neighborhood of seasonal and
year-round homes set close together across the road from the
lakeshore. The area is popular with recreational boaters but is
normally quiet this time of year.
"We have very few calls for service in that location," Pickering
said. "Webster is a tremendous community. We are a safe
community, and to have a tragedy befall us like this is just
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the State Police and Office of Emergency
Management were working with local authorities.
"Volunteer firefighters and police officers were injured and two
were taken from us as they once again answered the call of
duty," Cuomo said in a statement. "We as the community of New
York mourn their loss as now two more families must spend the
holidays without their loved ones."
Webster, a middle-class 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.