Skip to main content

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.

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.

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.
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.

7:30 PM PT: A chilling update--the Democrat and Chronicle reports that Spengler's sister, Cheryl, who apparently roomed with her brother, is "unaccounted for."

8:04 PM PT: Reaction from Congresswoman Louise Slaughter:

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.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Louise, Chi, filkertom, Radiowalla, murphy, MarkC, Pandora, Powered Grace, PeterHug, Emerson, Shockwave, liz, xynz, devtob, exNYinTX, jancw, RubDMC, eyeswideopen, concernedamerican, wonkydonkey, PeteZerria, kitebro, Iberian, wader, Lilyvt, Texknight, NYC Sophia, jaywillie, Sychotic1, liberte, riverlover, zerelda, Steven D, vacantlook, eve, Sassy, davidkc, ExStr8, historys mysteries, marina, Tinfoil Hat, boji, ichibon, OpherGopher, Erik the Red, ChemBob, Brooke In Seattle, J Rae, Dobber, fixxit, Annalize5, majcmb1, aaraujo, Ice Blue, blue jersey mom, markdd, PinHole, Shotput8, FindingMyVoice, sodalis, peacestpete, Alan Arizona, Jim R, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, 417els, Mr Bojangles, ruleoflaw, Naniboujou, arlene, hideinplainsight, Terminus, JVolvo, middleagedhousewife, Cenobyte, doingbusinessas, fiddlingnero, bstotts, Temmoku, ipsos, Aaa T Tudeattack, Reel Woman, bear83, Cat Whisperer, gloriana, HeartlandLiberal, Matt Z, operculum, Dave in Northridge, joedemocrat, HCKAD, SeaTurtle, millwood, RudiB, uciguy30, GeorgeXVIII, sable, Assaf, rogerdaddy, JayC, gzodik, HappyinNM, NewDealer, Cat Servant, CDH in Brooklyn, Its any one guess, Lujane, boatjones, Jeff Y, mofembot, petulans, HarpboyAK, jlms qkw, Celtic Merlin, Rhysling, McGahee220, BennyToothpick, litoralis, ceebee7, greengemini, WakeUpNeo, DefendOurConstitution, jmknapp53, papahaha, johnosahon, Munchkn, stevenwag, mahakali overdrive, astral66, ruscle, Just Bob, brentbent, elijah311, The Jester, NJpeach, pixxer, nirbama, ericlewis0, Actbriniel, Onomastic, Jasel, slowbutsure, Mistral Wind, Nicci August, CoExistNow, mrsgoo, sethtriggs, slooterdam, Grandma Susie, corvaire, Marihilda, Hayate Yagami, SteelerGrrl, stlsophos, Mentatmark, Southern Lib, quill, stormicats, anodnhajo, Siri, EclecticCrafter, S F Hippie, FloridaSNMOM, jan4insight, Buckeye54, sexgenderbody, Glen The Plumber, dotdash2u, DarkLadyNyara, nuclear winter solstice, Lily O Lady, Chaddiwicker, Eric Stratton, Panama Pete, broths, Yo Bubba, howabout, Demeter Rising, RUNDOWN, CA wildwoman

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site