Photo Courtesy: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
By: Tiffany Lankes
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Lt. Mike Chiapperini was known around Webster for his dedication to the town he lived in.
For his day job, Chiapperini worked for the Webster Police Department, most recently as one of its public information officers.
But his contributions didn't end when his shift did. In his free time, he volunteered with the West Webster Fire Department, including as the adviser for its Explorer program for young people interested in becoming firefighters. He recently took vacation time from his job at the police department to travel with a group of emergency responders to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Chiapperini was volunteering his time Monday morning - Christmas Eve - when a gunman took his life as he responded to a fire on Lake Road.
"He took public service to the Nth degree," said an emotional Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering during a press conference. "He was all about giving back to the community. When he wasn't working as a police officer he was always the first on on the truck."
Pickering described Chiapperini as a great family man and well-respected public servant.
Chiapperini had a decades long career with the Webster Police Department, including time as an investigator working on a number of high-profile cases. In 2001, he was recognized for his role in the arrests of three armed robbery suspects at a convenience store on Christmas Day, 1999. Most recently he served as one of the department's public information officers, regularly becoming the public face of the department.
He also built a respectable resume through his volunteer work with the fire department. Fire department officials said that he held every office, including a stint as chief. In 2006, he ran for the post of fire commissioner, but was defeated. Just two weeks ago he was honored as firefighter of the year.
"Everybody knew him," said Natasha Pitt, who stopped by the department to drop off flowers on Monday. "He gave so much to the community."
"Although everybody knows everybody around here," she said of the tight-knit fire fighting community.
Chiapperini was also the adviser of the department's Explorer program for young men and women between the ages of 14 and 18 interested in firefighting careers. Many of the department's newest volunteers completed the Explorer program, according to the departments web site.
Parents dropping off their children Monday morning said the department reached out to the young people in the program and offered for them to come in for grief counseling. Having heard early rumors that Chiapperini was among those slain in the attack, they said that would be tough news to process for the young Explorers, most of whom developed close bonds with their leader.
"It seems like a real brotherhood," said one father who did not wish to be named.
Firefighters at the department as well as some reached by phone declined to talk about Chiapperini, saying the department requested they decline interviews with the media. Family members at Chiapperini's home declined to comment.
He left behind a wife, two young daughters and a son who also worked with the fire department.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle