Webster Police Officer Mark Reed / Provided by Webster Police
By Victoria Freile, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering Monday commended officers for their quick-thinking and heroic actions on Lake Road Christmas Eve morning.
Volunteer firefighters Michael Chiapperini, 43, who was also a lieutenant in the Webster Police Department, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19, were killed in an ambush by gunman William Spengler Jr. while responding to a fire on Lake Road early Dec. 24. Spengler later shot himself.
West Webster Firefighters Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino suffered serious injuries. An off-duty Greece police officer at the scene, John Ritter, was hit by shrapnel and suffered minor injuries.
Officer Mark Reed and Sgt. Kevin Hall were among the first officers to arrive. Reed, the first emergency responder to arrive outside 191 Lake Road about 5:35 a.m., witnessed the shooting. Hall arrived a short time later.
Reed "exited his patrol car and saw two firefighters fall to the ground," Pickering said. Reed contacted 911 dispatchers, telling them firefighters were being shot at or tires were exploding.
He returned to his patrol car and retrieved a service rifle. Reed saw multiple muzzle flashes coming from the north side of the road, Pickering said.
Reed took cover behind the northwest corner of a house, told dispatchers that first responders were being fired upon and returned fire, Pickering said. Reed fired six shots in all.
Though he didn't hit Spengler, Pickering said Reed's actions on Christmas Eve "directly impacted the actions of the shooter."
Spengler was armed with three guns and more than 400 rounds of ammunition on him.
"He never expected police to return fire," Pickering said.
Reed, a three-year Webster Police veteran, was dispatched to Lake Road along with West Webster firefighters, which is protocol requiring police to respond with all fire and EMT calls within Webster.
Five or six minutes passed between when Spengler fired the first of 58 shots and when he took his own life, Pickering said.
As Reed returned fire, Hall hid behind a ballistic shield and ran into Lake Road to help Kaczowka, who was laying on the ground.
"I initially thought he was covering himself from the shots," Hall said. "I thought when I ran up, I'd put my hand on his back, he'd get up and we'd run away. As as I put my hand on him, I realized it wasn't going to happen."
Hall retreated, retrieved his patrol rifle and later set up a perimeter with Webster police officer Shaun Welch and Irondequoit police officer Doug Pollock.
All four officers risked their lives and saved others' lives, Pickering said.
"It's my belief that he intended to take far more lives," Pickering said of Spengler. Once someone returned fire, Spengler had three options - be apprehended, die in a shootout with police or kill himself, Pickering said.
He ran west, about 200 or 300 feet along a berm by Lake Ontario, before he headed towards the rocks and shot himself.
"What happened was terrible," Pickering said. "But it was also a blessing," because it could have been far worse.
"We have to regroup," Pickering said of the 25-member police department. "We're broken, but we're strong. We'll pull together and move forward."
That's what Chiapperini would have wanted, Hall said.