The ex-convict who set his house on fire and ambushed firefighters in northeastern New York state, killing two, left a chilling note for authorities, saying he was doing what he liked best, killing people.
Police Chief Gerald Pickering, of the town of Webster, said the two- to three-page typewritten note did not shed any light on what motivated 62-year-old William Spengler. But he left no doubt as to his intent.
Quoting the note, Pickering said, ‘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 said the shooting was a clear ambush and that Spengler was heavily armed. “He had taken up an area of cover in a natural depression on a bank near a tree, and immediately started firing upon first responders,” he said.
Officials said they recovered a revolver, a shotgun and a semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle, which was used to fire the fatal shots. The military-style assault rifle is the same make as the one used December 14 to massacre six teachers and 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Police said Spengler shot himself after police arrived and returned fire.
As a convicted felon, Spengler was not allowed to own firearms. Officials say they are still trying to determine how he got the weapons.
Two firefighters were shot but survived the shooting. They were evacuated with the help of an armored personnel carrier.
Spengler served 17 years in prison after being convicted for the beating death of his 92-year-old grandmother. Officials say he shared the house with his sister, who is still missing. Some neighbors have said Spengler did not get along with his sister and that ongoing strife with her might have helped set him off.
Residents of Webster have been marking Christmas with a sense of sadness.
Many gathered at a local firehouse on Christmas Eve to pay tribute to the dead firefighters. The Associated Press quoted a fire department spokesman who thanked participants and then asked them to go home and spend the holiday with their families.
The deadly shooting in New York state was just one of several that made national headlines Monday.
A police officer in Houston, in the southern state of)Texas was shot and killed in a shootout early Monday and a police officer in a suburb of Milwaukee, in the midwestern state of Wisconsin was found dead Monday. Officials say she had been shot several times.
The rash of shootings slightly more than a week after 20 children and six teachers were killed in Connecticut jolted the nation as many were preparing to celebrate the Christmas holiday.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement Monday calling the shooting in Webster “horrific,” adding that “We as the community of New York mourn their loss as now two more families must spend the holidays without their loved ones.”
The Connecticut shooting already had sparked an intense national debate over laws to regulate guns, and an examination of the U.S. approach to mental health issues. Some gun control advocates say Monday’s shootings give the issue added urgency.