Greece, N.Y. — Greece Police Officer John Ritter’s sole plan Monday was to go to work.
Around 5:30 a.m., Ritter drove down Lake Road in Webster when he came across fire trucks on the road’s south side. He described seeing a pickup truck backing up near him then hearing popping sounds.
“I pulled over to the north shoulder of the road to see if the firemen were going to direct me past or have me go back at which time there was a loud explosion,” explained Ritter.
“There was a hole in my windshield, at this point; I didn’t know what it was.”
He realized that someone was shooting at him and the firemen, but didn’t see the shooter.
Authorities say that William Spengler fired shots at West Webster firefighters and presumably Ritter, though he could not clearly see the shooter.
“I don’t have a sense of anything other than something round, something impacts my windshield and then I hear multiple popping sounds.
Ritter reversed his car and told others to stay away from the area.
“I was concerned with people that were farther from me as opposed to me,” said Ritter.
He suffered minor cuts to his chest from the glass that shattered in his car.
Later, he learned about the four firemen injured, two of whom died during the events of that morning.
“This whole incident is a tragedy,” said Ritter. “I am a peripheral part of this. The true heroes in this whole event were the four firefighters Chip (Michael Chiapperini), Tomasz (Kaczowka) and (Joseph) Hofstetter. Those people are the people that get up in the morning and go to someone’s house to help them (and) for some unknown reason some person decides he can do whatever he wants.”
Ritter said he feels both guilt and sadness for his survival in light of those who did not.
“It’s a very difficult and emotional experience for me because I’m trained to help people and at that point I can’t because I don’t have anything,” Ritter said.