Police Believe Man Sets Trap, Kills Two Firefighters

December 24, 2012 Updated Dec 24, 2012 at 8:41 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

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December 24, 2012 Updated Dec 24, 2012 at 8:41 PM EDT

Webster, NY (WKBW) - A gunman ambushes firefighters in the Town of Webster, east of Rochester, killing two and injuring two before taking his own life.

The sniper, who served prison time for killing his grandmother in 1980, lured first responders to a massive blaze and then went on a deadly shooting rampage.

Chief Gerald Pickering with the Webster Police Department became emotional during a news conference, telling reporters "it's a very difficult situation."

Webster firefighters responded to a car and house on fire 191 Lake Road shortly after 5:30 on Monday morning.

Police say 62-year-old William Spengler shot at the first responders. He lived at 191 Lake Road.

Pickering says, "He had barricaded or set himself up with his weapons."

The shooting killed firefighter Mike Chiapperini, who worked with the Webster Police Department. Chiapperini served as the media liaison and was eager to help others. He had recently traveled to Suffolk County to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Chiapperini had just been named firefighter of the year.

Also killed -- Thomasz Kaczowka, a 9-1-1 dispatcher.

Theodore Scardino and Joseph Hofsetter were shot too. They were taken to Strong Hospital and are in guarded and stable condition.

A fifth person got caught in the gunfight -- off-duty Greece police officer John Ritter. Authorities say he was driving by and got out to help. Shrapnel injured him.

With a gunman on the run, police had to do the unthinkable -- let the fire spread. Using armored vehicles, authorities evacuated more than 30 residents. Seven homes were destroyed.

Pickering explains, "They were calling, saying that they had to leave their homes when they still had an active gunman out there." Police now have to go home to home to make sure everyone made it out safely.

After a firefight and a manhunt, Spengler was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police has not accounted for Spengler’s sister, whose last known address was at the crime scene.

Spengler is no stranger to law enforcement. He was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, in the 1980 death of his grandmother. He spent nearly two decades behind bars. Spengler was released from prison in 1998 and finished parole in 2006.

A convicted felon, Spengler could not legally own a gun.