Dawn Nguyen walked into a store four years ago and bought a 12-gauge shotgun and a .223-caliber rifle. She was given a $200 discount on the rifle and paid $319.00 for the shotgun. The man who accompanied her to the store stood quietly as Nguyen answered the clerk’s questions. She completed the form the salesman slid across the counter-top and slid it back when she had signed her name. Normal business. Another day at a sporting goods store.
Two-and-a-half years later the man who went with Nguyen to buy the rifles — her brother — set his car on fire in the community of Webster in New York. Lying in wait, he ambushed the volunteer fireman who responded to the call. William Spengler, Jr., Nguyen’s brother, killed two West Webster Fire Department volunteers. Michael Chiapperini, 43, was the first to go down. When 19-year-old Tomasz Kaczowka went to aid his fallen friend, Kaczowka was gunned down also. Two other firefighters were injured during the Christmas Eve murder. Spengler would turn a handgun on himself before the day was over.
Nguyen goes on trial this week for the purchase of the firearms used in the slayings. The trial turns on the allegation that it is a white collar crime. Nguyen hasn’t been charged with the slayings. She faces just one count of first-degree falsification of an official record. Prosecutors say she lied on the form she filled out when she bought the guns. While Nguyen claims she bought them for her own protection, authorities say she bought them for Spengler. If convicted, Nguyen could receive no time in jail, or she could get the maximum of four years.
Nguyen’s attorney, Matthew Parrinello told reporters that he is not their to represent Nguyen for the West Webster shooting.
“It’s really not pertinent to our case,” he said.
Separating the allegations surrounding the firearms purchase and the ambush two years later might be difficult. Court records indicate that the fire will be a part of the testimony. Investigators will testify about the recovery of the guns, which were found beside Spengler’s body.
Spengler had beaten his grandmother to death in 1980 and spent 17 years in prison. As a convicted felon he could not legally possess firearms. The evidence against Nguyen is the document she completed at the sporting good store, her talks with investigators and statements from former friends who say she admitted the guns were bought by her on behalf of her brother.
Nichole Springer, a friend of Nguyen’s, said the accused to her in a 2010 that she had purchased the weapons for Spengler. Nguyen had also told her former friend that Spengler had been in prison for murdering his grandmother.
Spengler left a note in a plastic sleeve nailed to the fence around his home. In the note he claimed that he had approached Dawn Welsher, Nguyen’s mother, to purchase the guns for him. Accepting Spengler’s offer of $1,000 to buy the guns, Welsher sent Nguyen to do Spengler the favor. Welsher, who was questions by the police, but has not been charged has been silent about the letter.
Nguyen also faces federal charges for the purchase and no trial date has been set for her to have her day in federal court.
Three people dead. Firearms purchased illegally. Many questions and not a lot of answers. New York will be watching this case closely.