Killer of firemen illegally armed with Bushmaster rifle
By USA Today StaffDecember 26, 2012
USA Today - The ex-convict who lured firefighters to his burning home in Webster, N.Y., and then shot and killed them had an arsenal of weapons, Police Chief Gerald Pickering said Tuesday. William Spengler, 62, "was equipped to go to war," Pickering said.
Police on Tuesday found human remains believed to be the gunman's sister Cheryl, 67, in the burned-out home the siblings shared with their mother until her death in October. A medical examiner has not yet confirmed the identity.
Spengler had a stockpile of ammunition and was armed with a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, a semi-automatic Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle, the same type of rifle used to kill 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. The rifle was equipped with a device to mask the gun's flash when firing and better conceal the shooter.
Police who arrived at the scene faced "a combat condition," Pickering said. "They were shooting at muzzle flash."
The gunman, who served 17 years in prison for bludgeoning his grandmother to death with a hammer in 1980, intended a "clear ambush on first responders," Pickering said. It is illegal for convicted felons to possess guns.
It was our Liberal Policies that freed this guy from prison. Had he been eliminated for killing his grandmother or at least kept in prison, this tragedy would never have happened.
Spengler, who fatally shot himself in the head, left a rambling, typewritten note expressing his intention to "see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down and do what I like best: killing people," but he gave little insight into his motive. The full note was not released.
"I'm not sure we'll ever really know what was going through his mind," Pickering said.
While the firefighters took cover and SWAT teams evacuated the neighborhood, the fire spread, eventually consuming seven houses.
Spengler's attack killed firefighters Mike Chiapperini, 43, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, and severely injured firefighters Joseph Hofstetter, 33, and Theodore Scardino, 48, who are in stable condition at Strong Memorial Hospital. An off-duty Greece, N.Y., police officer, John Ritter, was injured by shrapnel while trying to protect the wounded officers. He was treated at a hospital and released.
On Chrismas Eve, Kaczowka's mother went to the West Webster fire station, where people had created a makeshift memorial of flowers, notes, candles, flags and stuffed toys dedicated to her son and Chiapperini, and a second memorial at Kaczowka's car, parked where he left it when he went on duty Monday.
"It meant so much to the family to see what they saw," West Webster Fire District Commissioner William Gross said. "I like to think we have at least two angels among us. Now they're watching down on us."