WEBSTER, N.Y. (AP) — The ex-con who lured firefighters to their deaths in a blaze of gunfire left a typewritten note saying he wanted to burn down the neighborhood and "do what I like doing best, killing people," police said Tuesday.
Police Chief Gerald Pickering said Tuesday that 62-year-old William Spengler, who served 17 years in prison for the 1980 hammer slaying of his grandmother, armed himself with a revolver, a shotgun and a semiautomatic rifle before he set his house afire to lure first responders into a death trap before dawn on Christmas Eve.
Two firefighters were shot dead and two others are hospitalized. Spengler killed himself as seven houses burned around him Monday on a narrow spit of land along Lake Ontario.
One of the weapons recovered was a .233-caliber semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle with flash suppression, the same make and caliber gun used in the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., Pickering said.
The chief said police believe the firefighters were hit with shots from the rifle given the distance but the investigation was incomplete.
The two- to three-page typewritten note left by Spengler didn't give a motive for the shootings, Pickering said. He declined to divulge the note's full content or say where it was found, but read one line from it: "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 authorities were still looking for Spengler's 67-year-old sister, Cheryl Spengler, who lived in the house with him. Their mother, Arline, also lived there until she died in October.
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."
Spengler fired at the four firefighters when they arrived shortly after 5:30 a.m. Monday to put out the fire, Pickering said. The first police officer who arrived chased the gunman and exchanged shots.
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.
"He loved his mama to death," said Vercruysse, who last saw his friend about six months ago.
Vercruysse also said Spengler "couldn't stand his sister" and "stayed on one side of the house and she stayed on the other."
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 flying gunfire.
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.
WEBSTER, N.Y. (AP) - Two volunteer firefighters are dead, and two others are hospitalized in critical condition, after someone opened fire on them this morning as they responded to a pre-dawn house fire near Rochester, N.Y.
There's no word on what happened to the shooter or shooters -- but the sheriff says there is currently no active shooter at the scene.
Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn says the first Webster police officer who arrived on the scene exchanged gunfire with a shooter.
The sheriff says the fire department received a report of a car and house on fire early today, and when firefighters responded, they were hit by gunfire. Officials say the fire started in one home and spread to two others and a car.
Webster is now the scene of violence linked to house fires for two Decembers in a row. Last year, authorities say, a 15-year-old boy doused his home with gasoline and set it on fire, killing his father and two brothers. He's being prosecuted as an adult.
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