Dawn Nguyen, 24, of Greece, allegedly bought two of the three weapons used by William Spengler Jr. to kill two firemen on Christmas Eve in Webster after he picked them out.
Dawn Nguyen once lived next to William Spengler Jr. on Lake Road in Webster, just feet from where Spengler shot four volunteer West Webster firemen, killing two, on Christmas Eve.
Spengler then shot himself, but he left behind a suicide note that police used to help track down how he, a convicted felon, had three guns in his possession.
Two of those weapons - an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun - were traced to his former neighbor, Nguyen. On Friday, she was led out of an Alpine Road home in Greece in handcuffs and was charged in federal and state court with supplying two of the weapons Spengler used in his deadly assault.
According to court papers, Nguyen, 24, and Spengler, 62, went to Gander Mountain in Henrietta on June 6, 2010. There, Nguyen allegedly acted as a "straw purchaser," claiming that she was going to be the owner of the two weapons on the firearm transaction record, but, instead, giving them to Spengler, according U.S. Attorney William J. Hocul.
"This crime specifically alleges that when Dawn Nguyen purchased the guns they were intended for Spengler and he was the true owner and she should have said that on the form," Hochul said. "Now had she said that, the affidavit also makes clear that the transaction would not have been completed since in fact Spengler could not possess the guns."
Hochul said he could not comment on when Spengler became in possession of the weapons, but more than two years after Nguyen's purchase, he used them, along with a .38-caliber revolver, in the ambush. On Dec. 24, Spengler set fire to a vehicle, causing an inferno which destroyed seven homes on a narrow strip of land along the Lake Ontario shore. Then, he took up a sniper's position and opened fire on the first firefighters to arrive at the scene. He struck two more, and wounded off-duty Greece Police Officer John Ritter, who was on his way to work, in the attack just after 5:30 a.m.
Killed in Monday's attack were Michael Chiapperini, who was also a lieutenant with the Webster Police Department, and Tomasz Kaczowka. Firefighters Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino remain hospitalized with their injuries.
"They were specifically targeted, wounded and murdered because they were rushing to help others and while William Spengler may have escaped the criminal justice system, those who provided the firearms to murder and wound the firefighters and the police officer will not escape the criminal justice system," U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul said at a press conference Friday announcing Nguyen's arrest.
A Webster police officer who has not been identified and who had accompanied the firefighters shot back at Spengler with a rifle in a brief exchange of gunfire before the gunman killed himself. In a note believed to have been written by Spengler, he said he wanted to destroy his neighborhood and "do what I like doing best, killing people."
Page 2 of 2 - Spengler spent 17 years in prison for killing his grandmother in 1980 and was barred from possessing weapons as a convicted felon. Court papers filed alledge that Nguyen admitted purchasing the two vehicles while Spengler accompanied her to the store, but she told investigators on Christmas Eve that they had been stolen from her vehicle. The weapons had never been reported stolen to police, however.
A Monroe County Sheriff's deputy reported that, while off-duty, he received text messages and a phone call from Nguyen on Christmas Day in which she claimed that she had purchased the guns "for the guy who was her old neighbor."
Nguyen's charges carry a maximum penatly of 10 years in jail, a fine of $250,000, or both. Phone numbers for David Palmiere, Nguyen's attorney, were disconnected.
Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said Nguyen's arrest does not mean the case is complete.
"It's starting to bring some conclusion to our investigation but truthfully we have a lot of work to do," Pickering said.
Indeed, Hochul and Monroe County District Attorney Doorley said additional charges and arrests could happen. The investigation into how Spengler procured the revolver is ongoing, Hochul said.
Nguyen was arraigned Friday afternoon on the federal charges of knowingly making a false statement in connection with the purchase of the firearms. She also has been charged by New York State Police with first-degree falsifying business records and will appear in Henrietta Town Court on Jan. 8.
Investigators still haven't released the identity of remains found in William Spengler's burned house. They have said they believe the remains are those of his 67-year-old sister, Cheryl Spengler, who also lived in the house near Rochester and has been unaccounted for since the killings. The Spengler siblings had lived in the home with their mother, Arline Spengler, who died in October.
Includes reporting from The Associated Press.