‘Killing people’ was objective of ex-con in firefighter deaths
Note says what he does best is ‘killing people,’ police say.
in Webster, n.Y., an ex-convict killed two firefighters with the same caliber and make military-style rifle used in the newtown, conn., massacre. William spengler, 62, set his house afire on christmas eve, then took a sniper position.
WEBSTER, N.Y. — An excon killed two firefighters with the same caliber and make military-style rifle used in the Connecticut school massacre after typing a note pledging to burn down his neighborhood and “do what I like doing best, killing people,” police said Tuesday as another body, believed to be that of the gunman’s missing sister, was found.
William Spengler, 62, who served 17 years in prison for manslaughter in the 1980 hammer slaying of his grandmother, set his house afire before dawn Christmas Eve, then took a revolver, a shotgun and a semiautomatic rifle to a sniper position outside, Police Chief Gerald Pickering said.
Authorities said Spengler sprayed bullets at the first responders, killing two firefighters and injuring two others, before killing himself. The wounded firefighters remained hospitalized Tuesday in stable condition.
Police recovered a military-style .223-caliber semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle with flash suppression, the same make and caliber weapon used in the Dec. 14 elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26, including 20 young children, Pickering said.
He said it was believed the firefighters were hit with shots from the rifle, but the investigation was incomplete.
“He was equipped to go to war, kill innocent people,” Pickering said.
The two- to three-page typewritten note Spengler left did not reveal what set him off, Pickering said.
He declined to reveal the note’s full content or say where it was found. He read only one chilling line: “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.”
Pickering said it was unclear whether the person believed to be Spengler’s 67-year-old sister, Cheryl, died before or during the fire. Her body was found in the house.
“It was a raging inferno in there,” Pickering said.
Roger Vercruysse, a neighbor, said Spengler hated his sister and that they lived on opposite sides of the house. He said Spengler had loved his mother, Arline, who died in October.
Pickering said Spengler took a position behind a small hill by the house as four firefighters arrived after 5:30 a.m. to extin- guish the fire: two on a fire truck; two in their own vehicles.
He immediately opened fire. Killed were police Lt. Michael Chiapperini, 43, a volunteer firefighter, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, a 911 dispatcher.
An off-duty police officer who was passing by pulled his vehicle alongside firefighters’ truck to try to shield several of them, authorities said. The first police officer who arrived chased Spengler and exchanged shots with him. Pickering portrayed him as a hero who saved many lives.
Spengler had been charged with murder in his grandmother’s death but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, apparently to spare his family a trial. After he was freed from prison, Spengler — a felon who was not allowed to possess weapons — had lived a quiet life.
“I’m not sure we’ll ever know what was going through his mind,” Pickering said.
Authorities from Monroe County and Webster, N.Y., stand by a photo of the dead and injured firefighters during Tuesday’s news conference.
William Spengler served 17 years for killing his grandma.