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William H. SPENGLER Jr.





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: A two-to-three-page typewritten letter written by Spengler was found at the scene, but offered no motive for the shooting
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: July 18, 1980 / December 24, 2012
Date of birth: 1950
Victims profile: Rose Spengler, 92 (his grandmother) / Cheryl Spengler, 67 (his sister) / Lieutenant Michael Chiapperini, 43, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19 (firefighters)
Method of murder: Hitting with a hammer / Shooting
Location: Webster, Monroe County, New York, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Served 17 years in prison and was released in 1998. Committed suicide by shooting himself on December 24, 2012

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2012 Webster, New York shooting

In the early morning of December 24, 2012, firefighters responding to a fire in Webster, New York, a suburb of Rochester were fired upon by 62-year-old William H. Spengler, who was believed to have deliberately set the fire. Two firefighters were killed.


According to police, Spengler set his house on 191 Lake Road and the family car on fire in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve, and then armed himself with three guns: a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver, a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, and a .223-caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle.

When firefighters arrived shortly after 5:30 am, he ambushed them from his porch. Two firefighters were killed, and two others were injured. Spengler exchanged shots with police, who arrived with an armored truck to remove the firefighters and 33 nearby civilians. Police say Spengler was then chased on foot, and died when he shot himself in the head. His body was discovered nearly six hours later.

Due to the shooting, fire crews were unable to resume fighting the blaze until 11:30 a.m. By then, six other houses had burned to the ground, and two others had been rendered uninhabitable.

A severely burned body found inside Spengler's house is believed to be Spengler's 67-year-old sister Cheryl, with whom he was living. The shooting was suspected to have followed an argument between Spengler and Cheryl.

A two-to-three-page typewritten letter written by Spengler was found at the scene. It reflected Spengler's intent to ambush first responders, but offered no motive for the shooting. In it he wrote: "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 two firefighters killed in the shooting were 43-year-old Lieutenant Michael Chiapperini, the public information officer for the Webster Police Department, and 19-year-old Tomasz Kaczowka, who also worked as a 911 dispatcher.

The two wounded firefighters were Joseph Hofstetter, who was shot in the pelvis (with the bullet then lodged in his spine), and Theodore Scardino, who was shot in the chest and knee. Both were hospitalized at Strong Memorial Hospital for serious injuries, and were declared to be in stable condition. In addition to the two wounded firefighters, officer John Ritter was slightly injured when a bullet hit the windshield of his car.


Police identified the gunman as 62-year-old local resident William H. Spengler, Jr. Spengler previously spent 17 years in prison for murdering his 92-year-old grandmother with a hammer in 1980.

He had not attracted the attention of police since then. According to Roger Vercruysse, a friend of Spengler's, Spengler "could not stand" his sister Cheryl. Spengler's mother Arline, to whom he was said to be close, had died two months before the shooting.

Investigators immediately began focusing on how Spengler obtained the gun, since as a convicted felon he was barred from buying, owning or possessing a firearm. Before the day was out, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms discovered that the Bushmaster and the shotgun had been purchased in June 2010 at Gander Mountain in Henrietta, another Rochester suburb.

The owner of record was Dawn Nguyen, a neighbor of Spengler's who had recently moved to the suburb of Greece. In an interview with agents that night, Nguyen admitted buying the guns, but claimed they had then been stolen. However, according to investigators, the next day Nguyen texted a Monroe County sheriff's deputy and admitted buying the guns for Spengler in an illegal straw purchase.

On December 28, William Hochul, the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, announced that Nguyen had been arrested and charged with knowingly making a false statement in connection with the purchase of a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensee. She also faces state charges of filing a false business record—the form she filled out stating that she was the owner of the guns.


In a statement, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, "All of our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of those who were killed in this senseless act of violence." New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also said, "The contributions made by the fallen and injured officers in Webster will never be forgotten."


Firefighter ambush gunman had previously killed his gran in hammer horror attack

By David Collins -

December 25, 2012

The 67-year-old lured two firefighters to their death by starting a house fire and then gunning them down.

A gunman who shot dead two firefighters after luring them to a blaze has previously been in prison for killing his grandmother with a hammer.

Crazed shooter William Spengler, 62, spent 17 years in jail after killing the 92-year-old in 1980 in a horrific attack.

He murdered his grandmother at the house next door to where he shot five firemen yesterday - killing two and seriously wounding two others.

His sister Cheryl, 67, who lived with him in Webster, New York State, has not yet been accounted for, according to police.

One friend today claimed Spengler “hated” his sister and “could not stand her”.

Investigators are still trying to work a motive for the killings.

Spengler was paroled in 1998 for the hammer murder and had led an apparently quiet life since.

His victims were named as Police Lt. Michael Chiapperini, 43, the Webster Police Department’s public information officer, and 19-year-old Tomasz Kaczowka, also an emergency dispatcher.

Colleagues described Chiapperini as a “lifetime firefighter” with nearly 20 years with the department, and called Kaczowka a “tremendous young man”.

Two other firefighters who were also shot and wounded - Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino - are thought to be stable in hospital.

Hofstetter was hit once in the pelvis, and the bullet lodged in his spine, authorities said, while Scardino was hit in the chest and knee.

Spengler traded shots with police officers who arrived with an armored truck they used to remove the injured, as well as people living nearby.

He was chased on foot from his perch, then killed himself before he could be subdued, cops said.

Spengler’s mother, Arline, died in October.

In her obituary, donations are understood to have been directed to the “West Webster Firemen’s Association (Ambulance Fund).’’

A police source said: “We are aware of it and are trying to figure out a connection.”

Roger Vercruysse, who lived next door to Spengler, said he doted on his mother and “hated” his sister.

He said: “He loved his mama to death” adding he: “couldn’t stand his sister” and “stayed on one side of the house and she stayed on the other.”

The incident, which comes as debate rages in the United States about gun control following the Newtown school massacre earlier this month, happened shortly before 6:00 am in a small lakefront residential community.

Police chief Gerald Pickering said: “It does appear that it was a trap that was set for our first responders.

“The neighbourhood is popular with recreational boaters but is normally quiet this time of year.

“People who get up in the middle of the night to fight fires, they don’t expect to get shot and killed.

“We are a safe community, a tragedy like this is just horrendous.”

The firefighters were shot as they approached the scene of the blaze - a car and a house engulfed in a fire that they now believe was set intentionally by Spengler.

Mr Pickering said: “Four of the firefighters were shot. Two are deceased, two were transported to area hospitals.”

A fifth off-duty police officer who responded was also shot and wounded.

One of the injured firefighters - all volunteers - was able to escape and call for help.

The injured man was heard on a police scanner shouting: “We are being shot at. Multiple firemen down.

"Multiple firemen are shot. I am shot. I think he is using an assault rifle. We have multiple firemen down. Working fire.”

A security cordon was put up around the scene and residents were evacuated.

Seven homes were destroyed in the blaze, as the shooting thwarted initial efforts to douse the flames.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said state police and the Office of Emergency Management were working with local law enforcement to respond to the scene.

He also offered his condolences to the families of the victims of the “horrific shooting” and “senseless act of violence.”

Mr Cuomo said: “New York’s first responders are true heroes as they time and again selflessly rush toward danger in order to keep our families and communities safe.

“We as the community of New York mourn their loss as now two more families must spend the holidays without their loved ones.”

The incident in Webster came 10 days after a shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut that saw a disturbed young man gun down 20 children, aged six and seven, and six adults.

The shooter, Adam Lanza, had killed his mother at their home before heading to the school, where he eventually took his own life.

The Newtown shooting has revived debate in the United States on the country’s gun laws, which are far more lax than in most other developed nations.

President Barack Obama said he would support a new bill to ban assault rifles, and has put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of a panel looking at a wide range of other measures, from school security to mental health.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has pledged to introduce a bill in January that would ban at least 100 military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, and would curb the transfer, importation and possession of such arms.

But the nation’s most powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, strongly opposes any new restraints in gun sales, with the group’s executive vice president Wayne LaPierre calling Feinstein’s proposal “phony.”

The United States has suffered an explosion of gun violence over the last three decades, including 62 mass shooting incidents since 1982.


'What I like doing best, killing': The chilling note left by gunman who lured firefighters to their deaths as it is revealed he used same assault rifle as Adam Lanza

  • Four firefighters were shot, two of them killed while responding to a house fire in West Webster, New York early Monday

  • An assault rifle, the same type of weapon used in the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting 11 days ago, was reportedly the murder weapon

  • Gunman William Spengler lived with his sister and 'couldn't stand her'

  • Charred remains found in Spengler's house, a third potential murder victim, are believed to be her sister Cheryl, 67

By James Nye and Michael Zennie -

December 25, 2012

The man who callously lured firefighters to their deaths in a blaze of gunfire left a typed up note saying that he wanted to burn down the neighbourhood and 'do what I like doing best, killing people.'

William Spengler, 62, armed himself with three weapons, including a Bushmaster assault rifle - the same type of weapon used by Sandy Hook Elementary shooter Adam Lanza - and set his house afire to lure first responders into a death trap.

Two firefighters were shot dead and two others are hospitalized. Spengler killed himself as seven houses burned around him Monday.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that a body - believed to be his sister Cheryl Spengler - was found in the charred rubble of his home.

Cheryl, 67, lived with William at the home he burned down early Monday in Webster, New York.

A family friend of William Spengler says he 'couldn't stand' his sister and said the two had a difficult relationship.

Police have not confirmed for certain that the charred remains are Cheryl's, but it is believed she died in the house.

Police are investigating whether a fight with her sparked the shocking violence - which took place just ten days after the elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

William Spengler has a history of brutality against his family. In July 1980, he beat his 92-year-old grandmother Rose Spengler to death with a hammer. He served 17 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter. He was released in 1998.

Authorities believe he used an assault rifle to kill Webster police Lieutenant Mike Chiapperini, 42, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, a rookie 911 dispatcher who was best friends with Lt Chiapperini's son.

Spengler, who shot himself dead after a brief firefight with police, is a convicted felon and cannot legally own a gun in New York.

However, somehow, he was able to obtain an assault rifle - the same type of weapon that was used to murder 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14. Police say Spengler also had a handgun.

Roger Vercruysse, who claims Spengler was a good friend when they lived next door in Webster, a Rochester suburb, said Spengler 'couldn't stand' his sister, Cheryl Spengler. Police were unable to locate her since the home she shared with William Spengler was burned down.

Mr Vercruysse said Spengler 'loved his mama to death.' Arline Spengler died in October, and Mr Vercruysse wonders what effect that had on her 62-year-old son. He says he thinks William Spengler 'went crazy' after she died.

Police say they don't have a motive for the killings on the shore of Lake Ontario.

However, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports that detectives believe a fight between William Spengler and his sister Cheryl, whom he lived with, could have sparked the horrific violence.

The victims, Lt Chiapperini and Kaczowka, were public servants who bravely volunteered to be firefighters in their off-hours.

Lt Chiapperini was a community leader who was heavily involved as a volunteer firefighter and had held nearly every post at the fire house. He even trained Mr Kaczowka, who spent three years of high school training in the department's Explorer program.

In addition, two full time fire men, Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino were shot and wounded by the gunman and are currently in nearby Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, along with John Ritter, an off duty police officer who was hit by shrapnel from the volley of bullets.

Mr Hofsetter, who is also a full-time firefighter with the Rochester Fire Department, was hit once in the pelvis and the bullet lodged in his spine, authorities said. Mr Scardino was hit in the chest and knee.

All three men are in a guarded condition according to West Webster fire Chief Gerald Pickering, who confirmed that there was only one gunman and that it appears the fire was started as a trap.

'It does appear it was a trap set for first responders,' said a visibly emotional Pickering at a press conference this morning.

'These people wake up in the middle of the night to fight fires, they don't expect to get shot.'

Police say Spengler set fire to a car and house to lure firefighters to his house on the shore of Lake Ontario about 5.30am.

When firefighters arrived, he ambushed them and opened fire.

The West Webster Fire District learned of the fire early Monday after a report of a car and house on fire on Lake Road, on a narrow peninsula where Irondequoit Bay meets Lake Ontario, Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn said.

The fire appeared from a distance as a pulsating ball of flame glowing against the early morning sky, flames licking into treetops and reflecting on the water, with huge bursts of smoke billowing away in a brisk wind.

Two of the firefighters arrived on a fire engine and two in their own vehicles, Pickering said. After the gunman fired, one of the wounded men managed to flee, but the other three couldn't because of flying gunfire.

A police armored vehicle was used to recover two of the men, and eventually it evacuated 33 people from nearby homes, the police chief said.

Monday's shooting and fires were in a neighborhood of seasonal and year-round homes set close together across the road from the lakeshore. The area is popular with recreational boaters but is normally quiet this time of year.

'We have very few calls for service in that location,' Pickering said. 'Webster is a tremendous community. We are a safe community, and to have a tragedy befall us like this is just horrendous.'

O'Flynn lamented the violence, which comes on the heels of other shootings including the massacre of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

'It's sad to see that that this is becoming more commonplace in communities across the nation,' O'Flynn said.

Webster, a middle-class suburb, now is the scene of violence linked to house fires for two Decembers in a row.

In the aftermath of the burning fire, 33 residents were evacuated from the picturesque lakeside community as fire chief's allowed the fire to burn unchecked destroying four homes and damaging 4 others.

'All of our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of those who were killed in this senseless act of violence,' New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

'The contributions made by the fallen and injured officers in Webster will never be forgotten,' said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

'As this investigation unfolds, we stand with our partners in law enforcement to ensure that lethal weapons are out of the hands of dangerous people, so that the brave New Yorkers who risk their lives every day to protect us are not exposed to additional danger,' he added.

'There's a heightened awareness to this kind of violence in light of what happened in Connecticut,' said Maggie Brooks, leader of the local administration in Monroe County, the area which includes Webster.

'We have first responders and we have families who are in pain and crisis today and we need to, as a community, keep them in our thoughts and prayers,' Mrs Brooks said, adding that it was a 'very, very difficult day.'

One neighbour who was walking her dog at the time of the shooing said that she saw a car driving away from the scene at around 90 miles an hour.

She said the car was being driven erratically by a male driver and it is believed that the occupant was fleeing the incident.

'It's just a miserable thing to happen this time of year, any time,' Assemblyman Mark Johns, who represents the district and said he was friends with at least one of the victims, told WHEC.

'People who volunteer to come down and help others, to be shot at, wounded, killed. It's terrible.'



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