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At a news conference on Monday Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering recognized his officers involved in the Christmas Eve ambush that killed West Webster Firefighters Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka and wounded Firefighters Ted Scardino and Joe Hofstetter. The officers’ stories were also shared publicly and the chief talked about William Spengler Jr’s motive.
“After his mother died in October, he was extremely upset that money was donated to the West Webster Fire Department in her memory,” said Pickering, though he added that authorities may never know what triggered Spengler’s actions on Christmas Eve.
Spengler, armed with three guns and more than 400 rounds of ammunition, fired 58 shots in total. But once Reed returned fire, Spengler was left with three options, said Pickering: He could either be apprehended by police, die in a shootout, or take his own life.
Spengler chose the latter option, running about 200 or 300 feet west along a berm by Lake Ontario before heading towards the rocks and shooting himself.
“He never expected police to return fire,” said Pickering.
It was Webster Police Officer Mark Reed who arrived on scene before the first fire truck. Gunman William Spengler did not open fire until that fire truck arrived, and shortly after that Officer Reed returned fire with the assault rifle issued to him in his patrol car.
“He (Reed) saved I can’t tell you how many lives he probably saved because as they said this guy was prepared to keep shooting,” Sgt. Hall said of Reed’s actions. “(We) probably would’ve lost a lot more fireman and then the policemen responding to help the firemen, if we didn’t have the advantage that Mark Reed gave us. We probably would’ve lost some of ours. So he saved a lot of lives.”
Sgt. Kevin Hall, Webster Police Department, said, “You can only imagine the chaos there between the fire and you’re hearing shots, and there are fire personnel on the ground, the fire truck is crashed into the side of the road. It was just absolute chaos.”
When Sergeant Hall arrived to the scene on Lake Road Christmas Eve morning, his colleague, Mark Reed, was already there, shooting at William Spengler.
Sgt. Hall said, “You are surrounded by water. It’s very dark, very cold windy. There was a fireman down and I thought I had an opportunity that while Officer Reed and the suspect were engaged with each other I’d have an opportunity to sneak it and retrieve the fireman.”
That downed firefighter would end up being 19-year-old Tomasz Kaczowka. So Hall grabbed his ballistic shield from his car to try and help the firefighter.
Sgt. Hall said, “I thought that he was initially just laying on the ground kind of covering himself from the shots fired. So I thought when I ran up I would just pat him on the back and say lets get out of here an he’d get up and we’d run away. As soon as I put my hand on him I realized that it was gonna happen.”
Sgt. Hall said, “I realized that I couldn’t help him and I was in a very bad position to begin with and that’s when I retreated back to the vehicle and retrieved my weapon.”