Firefighters Shot, Killed, While Fighting Blaze in Upstate N.Y.

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 24 2012 2:45 PM

Two Firefighters Shot and Killed, Two Injured While Fighting Blaze in Upstate N.Y.

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Four firefighters responding to a blaze in Webster, N.Y., were shot and two were killed on Monday morning

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

A Christmas Eve fire in Webster, N.Y., turned deadly after a shooter opened fire on firefighters at the scene on Monday. At least four firefighters were shot in total in the Rochester suburb: Two are dead, and two more are injured.

Police said that the shooter died at the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. On Monday afternoon, Police identified the suspect as William Spengler, 62, who was arrested in 1980 and convicted of killing his grandmother. He was released from jail in 1998. Because Spengler had a connection to the house where the fire originated, and because of his criminal record, there'd been previous speculation by media outlets on Monday that he might be connected to the shooting.

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Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering told reporters that Spengler appeared to have set a trap for the first responders.

After the shooting, firefighters resumed their work. Four homes were destroyed by the fire, and four additional houses were damaged. 

According to the local ABC affiliate, the killed and injured firefighters are members of the West Webster Fire Department. One injured firefighter was able to flee the scene on his own.

At a late morning press briefing, officials identified the deceased as Tomasz Kaczowka, a dispatcher in his early 20s; and Lt. Mike Chiapperini, 43, a fire department volunteer who was also the Webster Police Department's public information officer.

The injured firefighters are at Strong Memorial Hospital in guarded condition. Their names are Theodore Scardino and Joseph Hofsetter.

This post, originally published at 12:23 p.m. has been updated with new information.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.