Mere weeks after a Connecticut elementary school massacre and an Oregon mall shooting left a total of 28 people dead, gun violence erupted again on Christmas Eve in Webster, New York, located just east of Rochester.
The seemingly calculated nature of the Webster shooting, which killed two firefighters and left two others wounded, is raising troubling questions and authorities are working fast to piece together the clues.
The gunman, 62-year-old ex-convict William Spengler Jr., is alleged to have ambushed first responders to a blaze he set that engulfed a car and seven homes before killing himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. No motive has been determined, although Spengler did leave a rambling note outlining his intentions.
The note also implicated 24-year-old Dawn Nguyen, a former neighbor of Spengler’s who has been charged for purchasing two of the weapons he used in the ambush. As en ex-convict, Spengler was not permitted to purchase or own firearms and Nguyen will now face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
Nguyen’s lawyer is arguing the weapons were stolen from the defendant, although this runs counter to evidence that Spengler was with her when she bought the firearms in 2010. Federal prosecutors, in what could be described as an attempt to appear tougher on gun laws in the wake of the Newtown massacre, is calling Nguyen a “straw purchaser” with full intent to provide the guns to Spengler.
Spengler had previously spent 17 years in prison for beating his grandmother to death with a hammer and many people questioned how a man with such a violent record could obtain firearms. Of course, it’s hard to say any comfort will come from finding out how easy it was for him to come into possession of not one, but several deadly weapons.