Officer Injured by Webster Gunman Tells Story

3:04 PM, Dec 27, 2012   |    comments
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Webster, NY - For the first time, the people of Webster were able to see during daylight the destruction left behind by the Webster gunman.

The small town, located northeast of Rochester, endured a Christmas Eve tragedy few will forget. A gunman set fire to his home and then shot four firefighters, killing two of them, as they pulled up to the scene.

Footage recorded from inside a helicopter Wednesday showed the extent of the damage. On the small strip of land along Lake Ontario, the fire spread to and destroyed seven homes, all of which burned to the ground.

Police said that's exactly what the gunman, 62-year-old William Spengler, wanted. After torching his own home, Spengler waited on a nearby berm, taking cover as firefighters arrived.

In addition to the firefighters he shot, Spengler is also a fired at this off-duty police officer from Greece, NY. The officer, John Ritter, was driving by the scene and used his car to protect the firefighters before he was injured by debris.

"A round or something impacts my windshield, and then I hear multiple popping sounds after that in addition to the ones I heard before. And at that point, I determined someone is shooting," Ritter said Wednesday. "Words can't describe that. I can't - to this point. I can't even describe what emotions I'm feeling. It's very difficult (choking up)."

Spengler, who eventually shot himself, had a semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle, which is the same rifle used by the gunman in Newtown, Connecticut. Governor Cuomo is now expected to push for even tighter state gun laws next month.

"I think this is a very complicated issue," Assemblyman Michael Kearns (D-South Buffalo) said. "We're talking about gun control. I think it has to begin at the federal level."

Kearns fears that, no matter what laws New York passes, a gunman can still buy the weapons in neighboring states.

Local Congressman Tom Reed, a pro-gun Republican, says he welcomes a gun control debate if it addresses mental health issues and violence in our culture.

REPORTER: If any kind of bill or measure seems to be sufficiently broad for you, would you consider supporting it even if it does involve some kind of weapons control or weapons ban?
REED: It depends on what the details are, but I am willing to consider that as part of that broad debate.

The two firefighters who were shot and survived issued the following statement Wednesday: "We wish to thank the community - and the nation - for the heartwarming response to Monday's tragic incident. We are humbled and a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of well wishes for us and our families."

Doctors have upgraded their condition from guarded to satisfactory.

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