A month has passed since the tragedy in Webster. Police Chief Gerald Pickering is revealing new details to News 8 about threats firefighters are receiving, the gunman and why he believes we need to do a better job helping people who are mentally ill.
We asked Chief Gerald Pickering to return to the scene of the crime with us. Every time he drives through the Lake Road neighborhood he's taken back to Christmas Eve morning. "I still look at it tactically, you know thinking about how did the officers contain the situation?"
Snow covers up what's left of the burned out homes. Right in the middle, the home William Spengler set on fire. He then waited to kill first responders with an assault rifle. Pickering says they're tracking the other gun. "We're closing up a lot of loose ends at this time but truthfully we're still working with ATF to try and track the 38 handgun that Spengler had with him which is also the weapon we believe he took his life with."
Investigators think that's the gun Spengler shot his sister with. And they're checking reports she slept with the 38 by her pillow because she was afraid of him.
Pickering says one lesson he's learned is we need to do more to help the mentally ill. He believes that's what's behind recent threats that have come in since the Christmas Eve shootings. "One individual made threats, and again this is copy cats you know, if you think that was bad wait til you see what I'm gonna do. But again you know we take those in stride because it's not that uncommon for us to hear those threats in the law enforcement circles. Now for the Firefighters and ambulance people to hear those threats that's very disconcerting."
Pickering says more attention should have been paid to Spengler after he was released from prison for killing his grandmother with a hammer. "For some reason there wasn't a mechanism for us to continue watching him and monitoring him. And obviously he must have struggled with some mental illness and was a danger to himself and others and for the last 6 or 7 years no one was watching him. And that's something we definitely have to correct."
As for the Spengler house, the Webster Fire Association is working to obtain the site and turn it into memorial. "People don't want to forget. they want a permanent memorial. And whether this is the right location or not I know that is the direction the fire commissioners are looking at."
People from all over the world HAVEN'T forgotten either. Cards and letters line the walls of the police station. Pickering just got a note from the daughter of an FBI agent murdered more than 30 years ago. "Her message is don't forget the families."
The Chief says we can't forget and must learn from what happened, so it doesn't happen again.
And let us not forget that Firefighters Joe Hofstetter and Ted Scardino were shot and injured. And Firefighter Tomasz Kaczowka and Webster Police Lieutenant and and Firefighter Mike Chiapperini were killed on Christmas Eve.