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Police: N.Y. gunman set 'trap' for firefighters

  • This image taken from video provided by WHAM13-TV, shows a wide view of homes on fire in an area where a gunman ambushed four volunteer firefighters responding to an intense pre-dawn house fire early Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, in Webster, N.Y., killing two before ending up dead himself, authorities said. Police used an armored vehicle to evacuate more than 30 nearby residents. (AP Photo/WHAM13-TV via AP video)

WEBSTER, N.Y. — An ex-con set a car and a house ablaze in his lakeside neighborhood to lure firefighters, then opened fire on them, killing two, engaging in a shootout with police and committing suicide while several houses burned. Authorities used an armored vehicle to evacuate the area.

The gunman fired at the four firefighters when they arrived shortly after 5:30 a.m. at the blaze in Webster, a suburb of Rochester on Lake Ontario, town Police Chief Gerald Pickering said. The first police officer who arrived chased the suspect and exchanged gunfire, authorities said.

"It does appear it was a trap" for the first responders to the fire, Pickering said at a midday news conference. His motive wasn't clear.

The gunman, William Spengler, had served more than 17 years in prison for beating his 92-year-old grandmother to death in 1980 at the house next to where Monday's attack happened, Pickering said at a briefing later in the afternoon. Spengler, 62, was paroled in 1998 and had led a quiet life since, authorities said. Convicted felons are not allowed to possess weapons.

Police say lay in wait for the firefighters' arrival, then opened fire from outdoors, probably with a rifle and from atop an earthen berm.


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