William Spengler.Photo by Reuters
The upstate New York felon who set a Christmas Eve trap
for firefighters left a note saying he wanted to burn down the
neighborhood and "do what I do best: killing people".
Investigators found human remains in the burned-out home of
William Spengler, 62, a day after his rampage in Webster, a
Rochester suburb. Officials said the remains probably were
those of Spengler's missing sister, Cheryl, 67.
Spengler apparently set the fire in or near his home and lay
in wait, killing two firefighters and seriously wounding two
more before killing himself, officials said.
In his note, Spengler wrote: "I still have to get ready to
see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down and do what
I do best: killing people," police said at a Christmas Day
Officers said the note did not include a motive. They
declined to release more excerpts.
"Motive is always the burning question, and I'm not sure
we'll ever really know what was going through his mind,"
Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said at a news
Spengler appeared to have led an uneventful life for the last
14 years, but had a violent history. In 1980, he beat his
grandmother to death with a hammer and spent 18 years in
prison. He was released in 1998.
Monday's fire - which officials think may have started as a
vehicle fire - consumed seven homes and damaged two more in
Webster, a community on the shores of Lake Ontario and
Police think Spengler used a military-style Bushmaster
.223-caliber rifle with a flash suppressor in his rampage.
They recovered the weapon along with a Smith and Wesson
.38-caliber revolver and a Mossberg pump-action 12-gauge
As a felon, Spengler was barred from owning guns. Officials
were unsure how he had obtained them, but said he was armed
to the teeth.
"He was equipped to go to war and kill innocent people,"
Spengler's attack was the third in two weeks in which a
gunman has killed multiple victims with with an assault
On December 14, Adam Lanza killed 20 grade-school students
and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown,
Conn., using a military-style Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle.
Lanza also killed his mother and himself. On December 11,
Jacob Tyler Roberts opened fire in a Clackamas, Oregon, mall
with an AR-15-style rifle, killing two and wounding one
before taking his own life.
The discovery that Spengler had a Bushmaster is likely to
intensify the outcry for tighter gun controls that followed
the Newtown massacre. The gun, which looks like a military
assault rifle, also was used in the 2002 sniper attacks that
left 10 dead and three wounded in the Washington, D.C., area.
President Barack Obama is expected to begin pushing for
specific gun control measures, including bans on assault
weapons and high-capacity magazines, after he receives
recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden in January. The
National Rifle Association, the nation's most powerful gun
lobby, has said it would fight any attempts to curtail gun
In Webster, during the first of two news conferences Tuesday,
officials described Monday's chaotic "combat situation."
Firefighters were targeted before getting out of their
trucks, police said, and a Webster police officer used his
duty rifle to trade fire with Spengler.
Rounds shattered the windshield of the firetruck that two of
the firefighters were in; the wounded driver crashed trying
to get away.
"Had that police officer not been there, more people would
have been killed, because he immediately engaged the
shooter," Pickering said of the officer, who has not been
A police officer from nearby Greece, N.Y., Jon Ritter, was
driving behind the firetruck when he also came under fire. He
was wounded by shrapnel from the bullets that struck his
windshield and engine block, police said.
Ritter "tried to shelter some of the fallen firemen with his
car when the other firefighters-that we later extracted from
the location with the armored personnel carrier-had taken
cover under the firetruck to try to escape further harm from
the ongoing gunfire," Pickering said.
The two wounded firefighters remained in intensive care.
Officials said 33 neighborhood residents had been displaced
by the blaze and the investigation and that hotels had
offered them places to stay.
"We all have been inundated from citizens, police agencies
across the nation and really across the world, wanting to
provide donations," Pickering said. The outpouring "has been