Skip to main content

Man who shot firefighters died of self-inflicted wound, coroner says

By CNN Staff
updated 2:52 PM EST, Thu December 27, 2012
  • Autopsy shows that William Spengler took his own life with a gunshot to the head
  • He killed two firefighters as they arrived to put out a raging inferno in upstate New York
  • Authorities say they don't know how Spengler, 62, obtained the weapon or weapons he used

New York (CNN) -- A man who ambushed firefighters Monday, fatally shooting two of them as they arrived to put out a raging inferno in upstate New York, took his own life with gunshot to the head, according to an autopsy conducted by the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office.

Two other volunteer firefighters were wounded in the attack in the Rochester-area town of Webster.

Firefighters honor fallen comrades
Hear firefighters' calls after shooting

Authorities do not know how William Spengler, 62, who was found dead hours after the four firefighters were shot, obtained the weapon or weapons he used or why he opened fire.

Shooter who ambushed firefighters left note showing intent to burn, kill

As a convicted felon, Spengler could not legally possess guns, but he had "several different types of weapons," Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said. Spengler was convicted in 1981 of first-degree manslaughter in the death of his grandmother and had been released on supervised parole.

"It appears that it was a trap," Pickering said. "There was a car and a house that were involved in flames, probably set by Mr. Spengler, who laid in wait in armament and then shot the first responders."

In audio heard over a scanner, a West Webster Fire Department firefighter reported "multiple firemen shot" -- including himself, with wounds to his lower back and lower leg -- and "shots still being fired."

'Brother, hang tight,' wounded New York firefighter told as two colleagues lay dead

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.