NEW YORK — A gunman who killed two volunteer firefighters and wounded two others in a Christmas Eve ambush in upstate New York left a typewritten note declaring his plan to burn down his neighborhood and start “killing people,” authorities said on Tuesday.
The gunman opened fire on volunteer firefighters who responded to a house fire he deliberately set early on Monday morning in Webster, New York, a suburb of Rochester, authorities said.
The gunman, William Spengler, 62, shot and killed himself in an ensuing gunfight with police. He had spent 17 years in prison for beating his 92-year-old grandmother to death with a hammer in 1981, authorities said.
Police said Spengler set the fire, laying a trap for the firefighters, and opened fire when they arrived.
He left a typewritten note describing his intent, Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said at a news conference on Tuesday.
“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,” Pickering read from the gunman’s statement.
Pickering said investigators are looking for Spengler’s sister Cheryl, 67, who is missing and unaccounted for.
Spengler started shooting at arriving firefighters before they got out of their fire truck, Pickering said. He shot out the truck’s windshield as they tried to drive away, he said.
“This was a clear ambush on first responders,” Pickering said.
Police fired back at the gunman, he said.
“It was a combat condition. They were shooting at muzzle flash,” Pickering said.
Spengler was in a natural depression in an embankment near a tree when he opened fire, he said.
Spengler’s motive for attacking firefighters remained unknown, Pickering said. It may have been related to contributions his mother had made to the local fire department, he said.
Pickering said he was not sure what the victims were shot with but said Spengler had an “arsenal of ammunition” and three weapons — a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, a pump action Mossberg shotgun, and a .223 Bushmaster rifle with a flash suppressor.
Authorities with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were checking on the origin of the weapons, he said.
As a convicted felon, Spengler could not legally own guns, but The New York Times reported there had been recent gun thefts in the county, citing local authorities.
A Bushmaster rifle was used in the killing of 20 students and six teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14.
The firefighters killed in the attack were Lieutenant Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka, authorities said.
The injured firefighters were identified as Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino. Both men were listed in guarded condition on Tuesday at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
An off-duty police officer was wounded by shrapnel as he drove past the scene. The officer was treated at a local hospital and released, the Times said.
Seven homes in the neighborhood were destroyed by the fire, and two were uninhabitable, authorities said.
Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Dan Grebler and Steve Orlofsky.