As Pickering described it and as emergency radio communications on the scene showed, the heavily armed Spengler took a position behind a small hill by the house as four firefighters arrived after 5:30 a.m. to extinguish the fire: two on a fire truck; two in their own vehicles.
They were immediately greeted by bullets from Spengler, who wore dark clothing. Volunteer firefighter and police Lt. Michael Chiapperini, 43, driving the truck, was killed by gunfire as the windshield before him was shattered. Also killed was Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, who worked as a 911 dispatcher.
Several firefighters went beneath the truck to shield themselves as an off-duty police officer who was passing by pulled his vehicle alongside the truck to try to shield them, authorities said.
The first police officer who arrived chased and exchanged shots with Spengler, recounting it later over his police radio.
“I could see the muzzle blasts comin’ at me. … I fired four shots at him. I thought he went down,” the officer said.
At another point, he said: “I don’t know if I hit him or not. He’s by a tree. … He was movin’ eastbound on the berm when I was firing shots.” Pickering portrayed him as a hero who saved many lives.
The audio posted on the website RadioReference.com also has someone reporting “firefighters are down” and saying “got to be rifle or shotgun — high-powered … semi or fully auto.”
Spengler had been charged with murder in his grandmother’s death but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, apparently to spare his family a trial. After he was freed from prison, Spengler — a felon who wasn’t allowed to possess weapons — had lived a quiet life on Lake Road on a narrow peninsula where Irondequoit Bay meets Lake Ontario.
That ended when he left his burning home Monday morning, armed with his three weapons and a lot of ammunition.
“I’m not sure we’ll ever know what was going through his mind,” Pickering said.