MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- When the firefighters came to the burning home, they believed they were responding to a routine alarm. Instead, authorities said, a fellow firefighter burst out the garage firing a shotgun and screaming ''Get away! Get away!''
Two firefighters, a sheriff's deputy, and the suspect's wife died during a rampage that stunned Memphis fire officials.
''We don't expect this,'' said Fire Chief H.J. Pickett. ''We're here to fight fires. You want to say it's part of the job, but it's not.''
The suspect, Fred Williams, 41, was wounded in the ambush and was in critical condition early today at a hospital. He was also under arrest.
The body of his wife, Stacey Williams, was found in the garage; investigators said it wasn't clear if she was killed before or after the ambush.
Williams had married Stacey less than a month ago, police said. Citing police records, The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that Williams was arrested in October following a domestic disturbance involving his future wife. A court date had been set for March 16.
The victims were firefighter Lt. Javier Lerma, 41, the son of a Memphis firefighter who died battling a blaze in 1977, and Pvt. William Blakemore, 48, a veteran firefighter who was working for a sick colleague.
Fire Director Chester Anderson called Lerma's mother ''a pillar of strength, to have lost her husband and then 20 years later to have lost her son.
''She was encouraging to us and supportive. We're going to build on each other's strength and get through this,'' he said.
Williams did not work at the same station as the men who were killed, but they probably knew each other, said J.C. Fleming, deputy director of the fire department.
A group of firemen clutched each other in a tight embrace and wept after the fire was put out. One solemnly placed his helmet on top of the body bag of one of his co-workers.
Williams, a six-year veteran, had returned to work this week after taking a leave of absence for ''employee assistance,'' Police Director Walter Crews said. Pickett wouldn't discuss the man's work history or a possible motive.
Neighbors had reported seeing smoke coming from the house and alerted Williams, but he said everything was fine, according to authorities.
''We stopped to see if we could help, and a guy came out and started shouting, 'Everybody go away and leave me alone,''' said Kia Bradley, a passerby. Williams then allegedly ambushed the firemen and deputies as they arrived to help.
''It's a tragic thing for the city and for the families. The firemen, police, they put their lives on the line a lot but they don't expect to be shot at the scene of a burning house,'' President Clinton said.
Sheriff's Deputy Rupert Peete, 45, was shot in his patrol car as he responded to the report of the shooting.
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