US firefighters shot dead at blaze in Webster, New York
Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering on the shootings
24 December 2012 Last updated at 18:14 GMT
Two volunteer firefighters have been shot dead and two injured while responding to an emergency call in the town of Webster in New York state.
It appears the four were fired upon as they arrived at the scene of a fire early on Monday morning.
The blaze broke out just before 06:00 local time (11:00 GMT) and the shooting reportedly prevented firefighters putting it out for several hours.
A gunman has been found dead at the scene, local police say.
“Upon arrival of the first… engine company and some firefighters in their personal vehicles, they underwent gunfire from a location unknown,” Webster’s Fire Marshal Rob Boutillier told reporters.
The two dead firefighters were named by police as Tomasz Kaczowka and Mike Chiapperini.
An off-duty policeman who was driving by the scene at the time received shrapnel wounds and was also being treated, Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering told reporters.
Police spokesmen said the area was “an active crime scene” but that no more shooters were believed to be present.
Police teams moved in to evacuate residents after the shooting.
Firefighters were then able to return to the scene and are now tackling the blaze.
“All of our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of those who were killed in this senseless act of violence,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
“The contributions made by the fallen and injured officers in Webster will never be forgotten,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
“As this investigation unfolds, we stand with our partners in law enforcement to ensure that lethal weapons are out of the hands of dangerous people, so that the brave New Yorkers who risk their lives every day to protect us are not exposed to additional danger,” he added.
Also on Monday, a policeman was shot dead in the city of Houston, Texas after the driver of a car he pulled over opened fire on him.
The debate on gun violence in the US was rekindled earlier this month by the shootings at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
It was one of the worst mass shootings in American history.
“There’s a heightened awareness to this kind of violence in light of what happened in Connecticut,” said Maggie Brooks, leader of the local administration in Monroe County, the area which includes Webster.
“We have first responders and we have families who are in pain and crisis today and we need to, as a community, keep them in our thoughts and prayers,” Mrs Brooks said, adding that it was a “very, very difficult day”.
President Obama has promised to push for action on gun control while the National Rifle Association (NRA) has called for armed security in all American schools.
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