In another holiday horror story at the hands of at least one gunman, four firefighters responding to a call in upstate New York were shot. Two died on the scene.
Early Monday morning, firefighters were called to a house and car fire in a small neighborhood on Lake Ontario. As they exited cars and a firetruck, they came under fire. Three were pinned down as they took cover and a fourth was able to escape in his own vehicle, about an hour after being shot. An off-duty policeman was also hit by shrapnel. The two wounded firemen are in guarded condition at a Rochester, New York hospital.
Police think the first responders were the victims of a trap. Continuing gunfire prevented anyone from battling the fire for hours. Four homes and a car burned, while four other homes sustained damage. Thirty-three residents were eventually evacuated, and two of the firemen were recovered by a police armored vehicle.
An alleged gunman was pursued by police and died of a gunshot wound, though it’s unclear whether the shot was self-inflicted or came at the hands of the police. It’s also unclear whether there was more than one shooter. Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn told reporters:
“We have different individuals that were possible people with knowledge, but at this point I can’t really comment.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement of condolence, saying in part:
“All of our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of those who were killed in this senseless act of violence. New York’s first responders are true heroes as they time and again selflessly rush toward danger in order to keep our families and communities safe.”
Gov. Cuomo had already joined the push for additional gun control, recently talking to state legislators about adopting some of the country’s strictest gun measures. Republicans in the state Senate have indicated that they are open to new limits after the recent massacre of elementary school students in Connecticut. The deaths of first responders by gunfire is expected to intensify the debate.
The volunteer firemen who died have been identified as Police Lt. Michael Chiapperini, 43, of the Webster, NY Police Department, and Tomasz Kaczowka, a 911 dispatcher. The wounded are Joseph Hofsetter and Theodore Scardino. Both are expected to recover. A county executive, Maggie Brooks, voiced sentiments for the entire community in saying:
“I just want everyone to remember: It’s Christmas Eve. We have first responders, and we have families who are in pain and crisis today and we need to as a community keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Here’s the video: