In a note found by police at the scene of the shooting, 62-year-old William Spengler wrote:
“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 reportedly set his own house on fire on Christmas Eve, with police saying he hoped to burn down his entire neighborhood. When emergency workers arrived at Webster’s home, two volunteer firemen were ambushed by Spengler and shot with a Bushmaster .223 caliber semi-automatic assault rifle, the same weapon used in the Sandy Hook shootings earlier this month.
An off-duty officer, the first person to confront the alleged gunman, was also hit but is expected to make a full recovery.
The alleged killer left a chilling note that Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said contained “some ramblings” but which offered no obvious motivation for Spengler’s actions. Pickering declined to share further excerpts of the two- or three-page typewritten letter.
Spengler had previously been incarcerated for 18 years after being found guilty of murdering his 92-year old grandmother. After searching the charred remains of Spengler’s home, emergency workers discovered human remains that are believed to be those of Spengler’s 67-year old sister, Cheryl Spengler. It is unclear whether she died prior to or during the blaze, which ended up destroying seven houses in the neighborhood.
SWAT members were called upon to help evacuate nearby neighbors with armored vehicles as Spengler battled police from a ditch close to his home.
Spengler’s past conviction for manslaughter meant it was illegal for him to own any firearms, and authorities are currently investigating how he obtained the weapons for his Christmas Eve attack. Police Chief Pickering told reporters:
“He was equipped to go to war.”
Spengler’s victims included firefighters Tomasz Kaczowka (below, left), a 19-year-old 911 dispatcher, and Lt. Michael Chiapperini, a 43-year-old volunteer firefighter (below, right) who was named Firefighter of the Year earlier this month. Both men died at the scene.
As well as the off-duty police officer who first confronted Spengler, two other firemen were injured in the confrontation. Rochester resident Mark Tyman told the New York Daily News:
“This is becoming too commonplace. This happened last week (in Newtown), this happened here today, probably will happen again somewhere else next week. This insanity has got to stop.”