"This is a safe community, so to have tragedy befall us like this is just horrendous."
Those are the words of Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering after two West Webster firefighters were fatally shot when responding to a house fire early this morning. Two other firefighters were injured.
Officials say it appears the alleged shooter, 62-year old William Spengler, set "a trap" for first responders. Spengler was arrested by Webster police in 1980 and convicted of first-degree manslaughter for killing his grandmother. He was released and on parole from 1998 until 2006.
Pickering says Spengler was also found dead on the scene of the fire. He says it appears Spengler shot himself in the head.
One of the deceased firefighters, Michael Chiapperini, was also a Webster police lieutenant. Visibly choked up, Pickering said Chiapperini was a 20-year veteran of the police department. FirefighterTomasz Kaczowka was also killed.
The other two firefighters are in guarded condition at Strong Memorial Hospital.
The firefighters were responding to a report of a house and car fire at 191 Lake Road in Webster. When they arrived on the scene, they were assaulted with gunshots. Firefighters retreated from the scene, which allowed the fire to continue to spread.
Seven homes were destroyed by fire. At least one additional home suffered damage. Residents in those homes were contacted by 911 and originally told to stay inside. When the fire started to spread, they were forced out of their homes while shots were still being fired outside. An armored vehicle was used to help with the evacuation.
Fire investigators are going into the homes to confirm all residents are accounted for.
"God I am hoping everyone was able to escape from the inferno," says Pickering.
The Red Cross is offering assistance to those who have been displaced. To seek help or contribute support, call 585-241-4472.
The suspect's sister is reported missing.