More details have emerged in the horrific and cowardly shooting near Rochester, New York, in which two firemen were killed and two more wounded. And they're not pretty.
The gunman has been identified as 62-year-old William Spengler. It turns out that the guy deliberately started the fire in order to set a trap for the firefighters--and opened up when they arrived.
“These people get up in the middle of the night to fight fires. They don’t expect to be shot and killed,” Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said at a news conference just before noon.There have been some reports that it was an assault rifle, but so far there hasn't been any confirmation of that. However, that isn't the most disturbing part of the story. Nope, not by a longshot. It turns out Spengler had no business having a gun in the first place.
Pickering said it appeared the shooter set a trap for first responders, setting the blaze and opening fire when they arrived to extinguish it. He had several weapons, including a rifle that was used to shoot the firefighters.
Spengler served 17 years in prison for beating his 92-year-old grandmother, Rose Spengler, to death with a hammer. He was released in 1998. The killing happened on July 18, 1980, inside 193 Lake Road. At the time, Spengler lived at 191 Lake Road, the home where firefighters were responding Monday when they were shot.According to an article the Democrat and Chronicle dug out of its archives, Spengler admitted to beating his grandmother to death with a hammer. And even without that to consider, according to Pickering, the guy had some pretty serious mental health issues. So here's the $64,000 question--how in the world did this guy get his hands on a gun?
Based on what we know so far, it sounds like Spengler did this just for kicks. If that's the case, his joke resulted in six families getting burned out of their houses on Christmas Eve. After he opened fire, fire crews couldn't attack the blaze until police decided it was safe. That took six hours--and in that time, six more houses were engulfed in flames. According to CNN, it took fire crews another four hours to get the blaze under control--and they still don't know if everyone escaped.
I have a feeling that a lot of people are going to have a lot of explaining to do when all is said and done.
4:32 PM PT: Patriot Daily News Clearninghouse mentions another possibility for how Spengler could have gotten a gun, besides the obvious one--the gun show loophole. The FBI's database of prohibited purchasers is missing millions of names because since a 1997 Supreme Court decision, the states aren't required to turn over information on prohibited purchasers in their states. Also, if a background check takes more than three days, the dealer can go ahead and make the sale.
5:24 PM PT: Lost in all of the justifiable outrage over how this happened--is there any word on how the families who got burned out of their houses are doing? I haven't been able to find anything on Rochester media.
7:17 PM PT: 1BQ mentions in the comments that police have a theory how Spengler started the fire. According to WHEC-TV in Rochester, police found a flare gun and four whiskey bottles full of gasoline.
Today’s violence is an unthinkable tragedy that has taken the lives of our friends, neighbors and loved ones. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the public servants who died today and the families of those wounded. Our nation must address out-of-control gun violence and I am firmly committed to doing my part. Congress must pass comprehensive legislation as soon as possible and bring an end to the senseless gun violence that has taken too many innocent lives.
8:12 PM PT: And with that, I'm off to bed. Prayers going up for those families who got burned out earlier today ... looks like the best way to help is to donate to the Red Cross disaster relief fund here. I'll probably put up a diary tomorrow to organize a donation drive.