Webster, New York — A gunman opened fire this morning upon a group of firefighters responding to the scene of a house fire in upstate New York.
William Spengler, 62, is believed to have set fire to a house and car near Rochester, and then waited for emergency personnel to arrive so that he could gun them down.
“It was a trap,” stated Police Chief Gerald L. Pickering at a press conference today, “set by Mr. Spengler who laid in wait and shot first responders.”
Reports from local news outlet WHEC-TV outline that two of the volunteer firefighters that responded to the blaze were killed in the shooting, and two others are hospitalized and listed in guarded condition. One of the firefighters was shot in the pelvis and another in his lung.
The house fire, which began between 5:30 and 6 a.m. on Lake Road in Webster, spread to three neighboring dwellings. For a time, firefighters had to let the houses burn because it was unsafe to attend to the area. It is unknown whether anyone was inside of the homes.
“I’m not aware of anything like this happening in Webster, obviously not a firefighter being fired upon,” said Webster Fire Marshall Rob Boutillier.
Police evacuated residents from the area this morning, and reports state that Spengler is dead following a shootout with the officers. He is believed to have committed suicide.
Spengler had previously been imprisoned for 18 years for killing his grandmother.
The incident follows a string of violent occurrences across the nation since the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. As previously reported, last Friday, 44-year-old Jeffrey Michael walked into Juniata Valley Gospel Church in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania and opened fire on one of the women inside. He also shot and killed a man at another location while the individual stood in his driveway. A third person died when the gunman fired upon him after crashing into his vehicle.
After leading police on a chase, Michael was shot and killed.
One week prior, on a Sunday evening, 19-year-old Jesus Garcia opened fire at the China Garden Restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, and then ran across the street to the Santikos Mayan 14 Palace Theater. A female off-duty deputy followed Garcia into the building, where she fired upon and injured the gunman. He was reportedly angry about a break-up with a co-worker.
The day before, at approximately 4 a.m., 38-year old Jason Letts was shot dead by police at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama after it was reported that he was walking the hospital with gun. He shot at police and others as they made their way off of the elevator to the fifth floor.
Just 75 miles away, another shooting took place on Saturday morning as shots rang out at a mobile home park in Heflin. Police arrived to find three people dead in one of the trailers. A young child less than two years of age was also discovered wounded and was transported to a local hospital.
The unnamed suspect then led police on a chase, where he crashed his car on a busy highway, shooting at police as he exited the vehicle.
Police state that the man then carjacked another vehicle and took off down the road again, where he eventually crashed and was shot dead by police as he reached for the assault weapon inside the car.
There was also a major scare at a mall in Newport Beach, California earlier this month as a man fired at least fifty shots outside of the Fashion Island Mall. No one was hurt in the incident, and bike police took into custody 42-year-old Marcos Sarinana Gurrola of Garden Grove.
“I saw a bunch of people coming and I thought it was a flash mob,” shopper Robert Escatel told station KTLA. “Then [people began] screaming ‘Shooting at Macy’s! Shooting at Macy’s!’ and I was really scared. I’ve never been in a crisis this big before.”
The mall went into lockdown for a time until it felt safe to reopen its doors.
Reports state that violent acts are on the rise in America, with a string of rampages plaguing much of 2012.