Residents return home after NY firefighter killings

An ex-convict apparently lured firefighters to a blaze in upstate New York before opening fire on them. Police say a note from the killer indicated he planned to "do what I like doing best, killing people."

WEBSTER, N.Y. — Residents of a suburban Rochester, N.Y., neighborhood gutted by a fire set by a man who gunned down four volunteer firefighters have been allowed to return to their homes.

Local media outlets report that authorities began letting homeowners return to their properties in Webster on Tuesday, a day after 62-year-old William Spengler shot four firefighters, killing two, after setting the pre-dawn blaze that destroyed seven homes along Lake Ontario and damaged two others.

Some of Spengler's neighbors described how they were awoken early Monday morning by gunfire nearby, followed by the arrival of police SWAT team members who used an armored vehicle to evacuate more than 30 residents.

Police say Spengler's body later was found near his home. Authorities say the ex-convict died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Meanwhile, human remains also were found in the burned-out home Spengler shared with his 67-year-old sister, Cheryl, according to Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering at a news conference on Tuesday. A medical examiner will need to determine the identity.

Police say Spengler armed himself with a revolver, shotgun and military-style rifle before he set his house afire to lure first responders into a predawn death trap on Christmas Eve.

Pickering says Spengler "was equipped to go to war."

Spengler left a typewritten note declaring his plan to burn down his neighborhood and start "killing people," Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said at a news conference on Tuesday.

William Spengler

 

"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," Pickering said Tuesday.

Spengler had spent 17 years in prison for beating his 92-year-old grandmother to death with a hammer in 1981, authorities said.

Video: Police say man who shot firemen had killing plan

Video: Two NY firefighters shot dead in ambush

Spengler started shooting at arriving firefighters before they got out of their fire truck, Pickering said. He shot out the truck's windshield as they tried to drive away.

"This was a clear ambush on first responders," Pickering said.

Police fired back at the gunman, he said.

"It was a combat condition. They were shooting at muzzle flash," Pickering said.

Spengler was in a natural depression in an embankment near a tree when he opened fire, he said.

Spengler's motive for attacking firefighters remained unknown, Pickering said. It may have been related to contributions his mother had made to the local fire department, he said.

Firefighters shot in Webster, N.Y.: Map of Webster, N.Y. IMAGEMSN News

Pickering said he was not sure what the victims were shot with but said Spengler had an "arsenal of ammunition" and three weapons — a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, a pump-action Mossberg shotgun and a Bushmaster .223 rifle with a flash suppressor.

Authorities with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were checking on the origin of the weapons, he said.

As a convicted felon, Spengler could not legally own guns, but The New York Times reported there had been recent gun thefts in the county, citing local authorities.

A Bushmaster rifle was used in the killing of 20 students and six teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14.

The firefighters killed in the attack were Lieutenant Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka, authorities said.

The injured firefighters were identified as Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino. Both men were listed in guarded condition on Tuesday at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

An off-duty police officer was wounded by shrapnel as he drove past the scene. The officer was treated at a local hospital and released, the Times said.

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