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Vigil held for Webster, N.Y., firefighters; police find note from shooter

Emergency crews at the scene of a house fire and shooting in Webster, N.Y., Dec. 24, 2012. REUTERS

Friends and neighbors gathered to remember Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka in Webster, N.Y, on Monday night.

A candlelight vigil was held in upstate New York for the two volunteer firefighters, who were shot dead in what police believe was a trap set for first responders.

Chiapperini, 43, was a lieutenant with the Webster Police Department and as acting as a volunteer Monday morning.  Kaczowka was just 19 years old. He worked as an emergency dispatcher.

Dozens of bouquets and handwritten signs were left at the fire station after the vigil.

Police say the men were shot by 62-year-old William Spengler. Spengler deliberately set a fire in his car and home about 20 kilometres northeast of Rochester, just after 5:30 a.m on Monday, and then waited for firefighters to arrive before he started shooting at them.

Two other firefighters were wounded in the attack. Police say Spengler died after shooting himself in the head.

The fire he started destroyed seven homes.

A SWAT team in an armored personnel carrier responded to the scene and removed 33 residents, as police  searched nearby homes.

Chief Gerald L. Pickering said Spengler carried three weapons.

“He was armed. He armed himself with three different weapons, and an arsenal of ammunition. He armed himself with a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, a Mossberg 12 gauge pump shotgun, and a .223 Bushmaster rifle with a flash suppressor,” he explained. “The investigation, and the lineage of the weapons, is continuing. My investigators are working with the ATF, the Sheriff’s Investigators and police criminal investigators.”

There has been no word on a possible motive for the shooting however police say Spengler left behind a three-page typwritten note.

“Just to clarify, there was no motive in the note, it did not speak to motive, there were some ramblings in there, there was intelligence information that we obtained that investigators need to follow up on. It spoke mainly to he intended to burn his neighborhood down and kill as many people as possible before stopping.” said Pickering.

A body, believed to be that of Spengler’s 67-year-old sister, Cheryl Spengler, was found in the burned house she shared with her brother, Monroe County Sheriff Lt. Dave Phelps told CNN Tuesday afternoon. An autopsy will be conducted to determine her exact cause of death.

Spengler, who killed his own grandmother, was released from prison in the 1990s. He was living with his mother and sister, and his mother died this year, authorities said.