Firefighters shot, killed in suspected ambush

NEED TO KNOW
  • Four firefighters shot after responding to a car fire
  • Police: Fire apparently a 'trap' to lure first responders
  • One of the firemen killed was an off-duty police officer
Firefighters shot responding to Webster, New York car fire

N.Y. firefighters shot, killed responding to blaze

N.Y. firefighters shot, killed responding to blaze

Two firefighters were shot and killed early Christmas Eve morning when they arrived to extinguish a car fire in western New York in what the police chief suggested was a "trap" set to lure the first responders.

Two other firemen were also shot after emerging from their vehicles and have been hospitalized.

The gunman's bullets prevented firefighters from extinguishing the flames for hours, allowing them to spread from the car to four nearby homes, at least three of which are a complete loss.

The blazes served as the startling backdrop for an early morning shootout between officers and the gunman. Webster, New York, police chief Gerald Pickering says the shooter was later found dead at the scene.

Once the all-clear was given, firefighters were finally able to begin putting out the flames.

Lt. Mike Chiapperini, 43, was one of the victims in the apparent ambush. Chiapperini was the Webster Police Department's chief information officer as well as a 20-year volunteer firefighter.

The other man killed was Tomasz Kaczowka, who graduated high school in 2011.  Kaczowka was also a 911 dispatcher and is wearing his West Webster Fire Department uniform in his Facebook profile photo.

Pickering said the gunshots began after the firefighters left their vehicles. Of the two that were wounded, one was able to drive himself to the hospital about an hour after being shot, according to Webster's fire marshal. The injured firefighters are in guarded condition.

A reporter for WHAM tweeted that he spoke with relatives of one of the men:

Thirty-three homes were evacuated from the neighborhood, which sits on an inlet along Lake Ontario. All residents have been allowed to return to their homes.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the first responders "true heroes" in a statement released on the shootings.

"They time and again selflessly rush toward danger in order to keep our families and communities safe. Volunteer firefighters and police officers were injured and two were taken from us as they once again answered the call of duty," Cuomo said.

"We as the community of New York mourn their loss as now two more families must spend the holidays without their loved ones."

Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter @JonFromHLN
 

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