ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A police officer who exchanged shots with the gunman who killed two volunteer firefighters and wounded two others on Christmas Eve has been named New York's police officer of the year.
Mark Reed, a seven-year veteran of that town's police department, received the award Thursday in Webster.
"Officer Reed's rapid evaluation of the scene and decisive action to immediately engage the gunman altered the course of events," Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering said. "His actions undoubtedly prevented further loss of life on that tragic morning."
According to authorities, Reed shot at William Spengler, who ambushed Webster volunteer firefighters responding to the blaze he started at his own lakeside home that morning. Soon after the shootout, Spengler committed suicide.
Reed, the first police officer on the scene, had been sent on a report of a vehicle fire. He retrieved his patrol rifle from his vehicle, advised other responding police what was happening, then fired at the concealed gunman, drawing return fire and drawing Spengler's attention away from the firefighters and other officers.
The recipient of the Officer of the Year Award is determined by a committee of New York law enforcement officials.
Reed said he wasn't aware he'd been nominated. Reed grew up on a dairy farm in Morrisville and is the married father of an infant daughter. He is a graduate of Utica College and previously worked for the Cazenovia and Oneida police departments in Madison County.
He was among officers from seven departments statewide nominated for the 2012 award.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office SWAT Team was nominated for its actions in the same encounter. They removed injured firefighters and helped evacuate nearby residents fleeing the spreading fire and the shooting. Authorities say none of the 33 residents was hurt.