N.Y. Firefighter Shot on Christmas Eve Tells His Story

March 13, 2013
A West Webster firefighter injured in a Christmas Eve ambush that killed two colleagues shared his story with a bipartisan House panel Tuesday.

A West Webster firefighter injured in a Christmas Eve ambush that killed two colleagues shared his story with a bipartisan House panel Tuesday.

Ted Scardino, 48, a married father of three, told legislators during a fourm -- "Victims and First Responders: The Critical Need for Gun Trafficking Legislation" -- that lives in his community have been changed forever.

"I am going to tell you how this community was forever changed by a senseless act of violence with a gun that should not have been in the hands of the person who committed the act."

This also is what he told legislators.

"On Christmas Eve 2012 at 5:35 am we received a call for a reported car fire next to a house. I immediately responded to the firehouse, met firefighter Mike Chiapperini and we responded to the scene in pumper 125.

Upon arriving on the scene it appeared as though we had a routine car fire. I exited the truck with my air-pack, at that point I heard 3 pops which I thought were the shocks or tires on the car exploding. Mike (who was also a police officer) immediately recognized it as gunfire, he jumped out the passenger door and I ran to the back of the truck. As I was running I could hear bullets hitting the truck, when I got to the back of the truck I was hit in the back. I fell to the ground and crawled under the truck. I quickly assessed my condition and felt I could survive this if I played dead under the truck until the police arrived. In my mind I thought that the police would be there in 5 minutes and this ordeal would be over quickly.

All that I heard was gunfire as the madman with the assault rifle shot and killed Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka and shot Joe Hofstetter as well fired at the police officers and other fire trucks that responded. Joe was shot in the lower body but was able to crawl to the driver's side door of the truck. Joe was able to reach the radio and communicate with the fire dispatcher...

As I laid there in fear I wondered if I would ever see my family again, would I be shot again, what would happen next. After about five minutes I was shot again in the leg just above the knee. The shooter threw two bottles of gas at the truck and shot at the ground to try to ignite them and set the truck on fire. The bullet ricocheted and hit me, fortunately the gas did not ignite.

After a few more minutes I heard the fire truck go into gear, Joe was driving and was going to attempt to rescue himself. As the truck pulled away there was an eruption of gunfire, the shooter hit the truck 38 times. Joe made it about 150 feet and crashed the truck as he was driving it hanging out the door and giving it gas with his hands. Now I had lost my cover and did not have the protection of the fire truck anymore. As I lay there now I was sure the gunman was going to shoot at me since now he could see me again. [Click Here to View Crime Scene Photos]

I continued to play dead, it was now about 6 am and I had been laying there for 15 minutes. I laid there in fear beyond what anyone can imagine. Little did I know that I would be lying in the road for an hour and a half, time felt like it was an eternity. It was just not safe for the police to clear anyone into the scene given the firepower that the shooter had. Finally the swat team arrived and rescued me.

I was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the back and leg, in the emergency it was determined I had a collapsed lung, 3 broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade, a brachial plexus (nerve bundle) injury and a flesh wound on the leg. I spent 8 days in the intensive care unit, I had two chest tubes inserted in an attempt to re-inflate my lung, at one point the doctor was considering removing a part of it. My heart sank as I heard this, she offered an alternative procedure which fortunately re-inflated the lung.

The good news is I am recovering now, my biggest challenge is the brachial plexus injury. The nerve injury left my arm and hand paralyzed, I have been going to therapy 5 days a week. The therapists state I have a long road ahead of me, months of therapy, my arm has almost full range of motion back, my hand nerves still need more time to come back.

This has been a life changing event for me. As if losing two good friends would not be enough I am dealing with personal disabilities. The loss of function of your arm and hand is hard to comprehend until you experience it. I would never have imagined how hard it is to do simple day to day things or what you cannot do anymore. Simple things like getting dressed, tying your shoes, opening a bottle, jogging, the list goes on and on. I am a very handy person and like to repair and fix things on my own, at this point I cannot do any of this now.

This tragedy also impacted my family. I called my wife from the ambulance to tell I was on the way to the hospital and had been shot. While I couldn't see her face I could hear the fear in her voice. That call led to a chain of events that instilled the same fear in my children and my mother. Over the next two days they spent countless hours sitting in the ICU waiting room praying that I would be OK and then coming to the hospital daily for the next two weeks..."

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