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World

NY firemen lured into 'arson trap', shot dead

A house burns after a man deliberately set it on fire and then shot and killed a responding off-duty police officer and a firefighter while injuring two other firefighters in Webster, New York, December 24, 2012. REUTERS/Jamie Germano/Democrat and Chronicle/Handout

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

NEW YORK - A gunman who spent 17 years in prison for murder ambushed and killed two volunteer firefighters and wounded two others on Monday near Rochester, New York, as they responded to a house fire he deliberately set, police said.

William Spangler, 62, shot and killed himself after a gunfight with a police officer in Webster, a Rochester suburb, Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said.

"It was a trap set by Mr. Spangler, who laid in wait and shot first responders," Pickering told a news conference.

Separately, a police officer in Wisconsin and another in Texas were shot and killed on Monday, according to police and media reports.

The attacks on first responders came 10 days after one of the worst mass shootings in US history that left 20 students and six adults dead at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and intensified the debate about gun control in the United States.

Spangler was convicted of manslaughter in 1981 for beating his 92-year-old grandmother to death with a hammer, according to New York State Department of Corrections records, and after prison he spent eight years on parole.

"People who get up in the middle of the night to fight fires, they don't expect to get shot and killed," Pickering said.

"We are a safe community, a tragedy like this is just horrendous."

"We don't have an easy reason" for the attack on the firefighters, Pickering said, "but just looking at the history ... obviously this was an individual with a lot of problems."

Spangler opened fire around 5:45 a.m. after two of the firefighters arrived at the house in a fire truck and two others responded in their own cars, Pickering said.

One of the injured firefighters, all volunteers in the small suburb of Rochester, was able to escape and call for help.

"We are being shot at. Multiple firemen down. Multiple firemen are shot. I am shot. I think he is using an assault rifle. We have multiple firemen down. Working fire," said the injured man, according to a police scanner recording broadcast by Fox News.

Pickering appeared to wipe tears from his eyes at a news conference earlier on Monday when he identified the dead firefighters as Lieutenant Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka. Chiapperini was also a police lieutenant.

The injured firefighters, one of whom was in critical condition, were identified as Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino. Off-duty Police Officer John Ritter was hit by gunfire as he drove past the scene.

Pickering said police had found several types of weapons, including a rifle used to shoot the firefighters. As a convicted felon it was illegal for Spangler to own guns.

Police had not had any contact with Spangler in the "recent past," Pickering said.

Four houses were destroyed by the fire and four were damaged, Pickering said.

New York state governor Andrew Cuomo called the incident a "horrific shooting" and offered his condolences to the families of the victims.

"New York's first responders are true heroes as they time and again selflessly rush toward danger in order to keep our families and communities safe," Cuomo said in a statement.

"We as the community of New York mourn their loss as now two more families must spend the holidays without their loved ones."

Cops targeted

Police Officer Jennifer Sebena, 30, was found dead on Monday in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, suburb of Wauwatosa, police said.

Sebena was on patrol between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. and wearing body armor when she was shot several times, police said. She was found by another officer after she did not respond to calls from the police dispatcher.

In Houston, Texas, an officer with the Bellaire Police Department died after a shootout at around 9 a.m. and a bystander was also killed, according to local media reports.

A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department was not immediately available for comment. A police officer answering the telephone confirmed media reports but declined further comment. A suspect was in the hospital, according to reports.

The incident in Webster comes 10 days after the shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children, aged six and seven, and six adults were killed.

The shooter, Adam Lanza, killed his mother at their home before heading to the school, where he eventually took his own life.

The Newtown shooting has revived debate in the United States on the country's gun laws, which are far more lax than in most other developed nations.

Gun control debate

President Barack Obama said he would support a new bill to ban assault rifles, and has put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of a panel looking at a wide range of other measures, from school security to mental health.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has pledged to introduce a bill in January that would ban at least 100 military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, and would curb the transfer, importation and the possession of such arms.

But the nation's most powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, strongly opposes any new restraints in gun sales, with the group's executive vice president Wayne LaPierre calling Feinstein's proposal "phony".

The United States has suffered an explosion of gun violence over the last three decades, including 62 mass shooting incidents since 1982.

Before Monday's killings, the Washington-based National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 125 federal, state and local officers had died in the line of duty this year.

Forty-seven deaths were firearms-related, 50 were from traffic-related incidents, and 28 were from other causes, it said.

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