WEBSTER, N.Y. (TheBlaze/AP) — Four volunteer firefighters responding to an intense pre-dawn house fire were shot Monday morning, two fatally, leading to a shootout between a suspect and police in suburban Rochester, N.Y., police said. It’s a fire that police acknowledge appears to have been a “trap,” and spread to 7 houses by the time the crisis was contained.
“One or more shooters” fired at the firefighters after they arrived shortly after 5:30 a.m. at the blaze near the Lake Ontario shore, just east of Rochester, Town of Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said.
There was no active shooter at the scene later Monday morning, according to Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn. The first Webster police officer who arrived on the scene exchanged gunfire with the shooter, Flynn said, but he had no other information on the shootout.
In a news conference early Monday afternoon, Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said that the shooter is believed to be deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
One of the victims was both a volunteer firefighter and a lieutenant on the local police force. The chief broke down while reading his name: Mike Chiapperini. In fact, Chiapperini was the public information officer and regularly appeared on the news. His most recent appearance was just last week:
Public records show the property where the initial fire started belongs at least in part to 62-year-old William Spengler, who was convicted of manslaughter in the 80s and served time in prison before being released in 1998.
This is the photo of the suspect being displayed on local news outlets:
At a 2:00 ET press briefing, authorities identified Spengler as the suspect and provided more background information. The victim of the manslaughter charge was Spengler’s grandmother, and Fox News Insider relates that he beat her to death. Authorities said he served nearly 18 years in prison and had an “uneventful” parole.
“He laid in wait with armament and shot first responders,” Pickering said, but police haven’t yet determined a motive.
He was not legally allowed to own firearms.
You can watch live video from the scene here.
The local paper The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester has more on the initial incident:
At least two Webster firefighters are dead, and three houses on Lake Road continue to burn after a gunman open fired on firefighters who responded to an early morning fire.There are no active shooters at the scene, according to a news conference held by Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn.
The fire broke out at 5:45 a.m. at 191 Lake Road on the Irondequoit Bay side of the street.
The gunman open fired on the first firefighters to respond, striking one in the backside. Strong Memorial Hospital confirmed another firefighter was being treated, but it is not clear if he was shot or injured in the fire.
Webster Fire Marshal Rob Boutillier said it is not clear how many other firefighters were hit.
One firefighter who was shot managed to get away from the scene and over the outlet bridge to his car. He was taken by ambulance to Strong Memorial Hospital where he is listed in satisfactory condition. His name has not been released.
“We looked out the window and we saw the SWAT team and everyone around,” one local resident told the paper.
This is a breaking story. Updates will be added.