Officer Jon Ritter, a former Ontario County Sheriff's deputy, has been credited for preventing more carnage in the Dec. 24 ambush in Webster.
Jon Ritter was just on his way to work that fateful Christmas Eve morning when he encountered gunfire raining down on his car.
As he traveled Lake Road in Webster just after dawn on Dec. 24 to his job as a Greece Police officer, Ritter happened upon a scene that he still finds unexplainable nearly a month later.
That day, Ritter found himself in his personal vehicle with no equipment that could match the attack brought upon by William Spengler Jr., who authorities say set a fire to lure first responders to his Lake Road home, then shot four firemen, killing two.
Ritter used the only equipment he had - his car - as bullets pelted it, causing him minor injuries, as he tried to make sense of the scene in front of him. Ritter backed up, blocking the roadway so other first responders and members of the public would be forced to avoid the area. He alerted the firemen he encountered to the situation, a move that has been praised by law enforcement officials as heroic.
On Tuesday, Ritter, flanked by his wife and four children, was recognized with a proclamation by the Greece Town Board.
"The chaos and tragedy that ensued is something our community will never forget," Supervisor John Auberger said. "If it were not for Officer Ritter's imminent action, many more deaths and injuries could have occurred."
He was also given the Distinguished Service Award, an honor rarely bestowed, according to Capt. Brian Uhrmacher. Ritter, he noted, has received it two other times - a fact that underscores the type of officer he is, the captain said.
"He does a very good job," Uhrmacher said.
It was important to recognize Ritter for his actions on Dec. 24, he added.
"He's been very humble about the whole experience," Uhrmacher said.
Chief Todd Baxter, in a letter commending Ritter, said "thank you hardly seems enough to express the sentiments" of the Webster Police Department, West Webster Fire Department, and the entire community for his "heroic actions."
Ritter, in his brief remarks, praised the people - firefighters - who "get up in the middle of the night to help people" and encounter something for which they never could have prepared.
"Obviously this was a very tragic incident," he said.
He also thanked the communities of Webster, where he lives, and Greece, where he works.
"I have two families and two communities that have shown an outpouring of support through this incident," he said.
Ritter has been a Greece Police officer for 19 years; he spent four years before that as an Ontario County Sheriff's deputy. He also served in the U.S. Army National Guard.
Page 2 of 2 - "All of those years of training came together for Jon on Christmas Eve morning," Uhrmacher said.