In the latest incident of US gun violence, an ex-convict set a house on fire to lure firefighters to the scene, then opening fire and killing two Monday morning. The assailant turned the gun on himself in a shootout with police as the fire raged on.
Police Chief Gerald Pickering of Webster, NY, east of Rochester, says convicted killer William Spengler, the gunman responsible for the fire and the killings, is dead. Pickering believes the shooter had entrapped the firefighters, opening fire as they arrived on the scene to try and extinguish an early morning blaze.
In all, three are dead — the gunman and two firefighters — as a result of a Christmas Eve tragedy that comes amid a rash of mass shootings and rekindled national debate on gun control. Two other firefighters were injured in the incident.
Hours after the event first unfolded, police confirmed that the gunman took his own life.
Police also found a three page note from the shooter, which may shed light on Spengler’s actions.
"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," the note said.
One of the slain firefighters also served as the lieutenant of the local police department. Additionally, an off-duty police officer that was driving by the scene of the crime was injured, but remains in a stable condition.
Seven houses total were destroyed by the time the fire was put out.
“The whole strip’s been evacuated,” Webster resident Michael Damico tells the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Damico says he was alerted to the fire down the street from his home after his son spotted a SWAT team on location.
“I’m not aware of anything like this happening in Webster, obviously not a firefighter being fired upon,” Webster Fire Marshal Rob Boutillier adds to the paper.
Spengler, 62, served 16 years in prison for beating his grandmother to death with a hammer in her home on Lake Road back in 1980. He was released in 1998 after serving two thirds of the maximum term for the crime. Since 2006, when his parole ended, police had no contact with the man, media reported.
The police are looking for possible clues into the tragedy in the obituary written for Spengler's mother, who passed away in October. It asked for memorial donations to be made to the West Webster Fireman's Association Ambulance Fund.
News of the tragedy comes barely one week after 20-year-old Adam Lanza opened fires inside of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Lanza executed 26 people inside of the building, mostly children, before committing suicide.
In the wake of the event, anti-gun advocates have called for new legislation to limit the sale of assault rifles. One ban on the retailing of those weapons, proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), has garnered the support of US President Barack Obama. On the other hand, however, gun enthusiasts and Second Amendment supporters have pointed the finger elsewhere.
On Friday, one week to the day after the Newtown massacre, National Rifle Association Vice President Wayne LaPierre demanded that armed patrolman be stationed in every school across the United States. LaPierre made that remark during a press conference in the nation’s capital where he also insisted on a country-wide database of Americans with documented mental illnesses and assistance from Congress in order to actually keep guns in school.
“Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation or anything else, as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work — and by that I mean armed security,” LaPierre said.
At roughly the same moment the NRA vice president was making those remarks, a gunman in Pennsylvania opened fire on random motorists, killing three people.