ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A company acted negligently in selling the weapon used in a Christmas Eve shooting that left two New York volunteer firefighters dead, a lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges.
The semi-automatic rifle used by William Spengler Jr. on Dec. 24, 2012, during a pre-dawn ambush in which he killed two West Webster firefighters and wounded two others was purchased at a Gander Mountain store by his neighbor Dawn Nguyen. Spengler couldn't buy the gun because he was a felon.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence says in the lawsuit filed on behalf of the four shooting victims that Gander Mountain should have realized Nguyen was making a "straw purchase" for Spengler. Spengler accompanied her into the store to buy multiple firearms with cash, all indicators of a possible straw purchase, the suit says.
"The facts suggest that the loss we have endured could have been avoided, if only the store had acted responsibly," the families of the victims said in a statement.
A spokesman for St. Paul, Minnesota-based Gander Mountain said the firearms were purchased with all the proper documentation and that the individual who bought the weapons "intentionally deceived" the company.
"Gander Mountain, as a member of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, is renowned for its commitment to safety, its respect for the law and its good standing in the outdoor sporting community," Gander spokesman Jess Myers said. "We will vigorously defend ourselves in this matter."
Nguyen and Spengler's estate also are named in the lawsuit.
Spengler set fire to his home on Lake Ontario before ambushing the responders. Firefighters Michael Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka were killed; Joseph Hofstetter and Ted Scardino were wounded. Spengler then killed himself.
The remains of Spengler's sister were found in the burned-out home. She had been shot in the head.
Nguyen, 25, was sentenced Monday to a maximum term of 1 1/3 to four years in state prison on convictions that she lied on forms when she bought the guns. She faces additional federal charges.
The lawsuit seeks to compel Gander Mountain to take steps to guard against straw purchases. It also asks for unspecified damages.