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Slain Fireman Laid To Rest

A firefighter slain from ambush while trying to save a burning residence took his last ride on a fire truck Saturday aboard a pumper named for his father, a firefighter who also died on the job.

Lt. Javier Lerma, 41, died along with another firefighter and a Shelby County sheriff's deputy Wednesday when a gunman opened fire on them as they responded to a house fire.

Lerma, 41, was carried to his funeral in a gray, metal casket sitting atop a fire department pumper that bore the name of his late father, Martiniano R. Lerma.

The Memphis Fire Department honors firefighters killed in the line of duty by putting their names on firefighting equipment. The elder Lerma died while fighting a fire in 1977.

More than 1,500 firefighters and other police and emergency workers from around the country lined both sides of the street through which Lerma's casket was driven to St. Francis of Asissi Catholic Church.

Two fire trucks, with ladders raised to make an archway supporting a large American flag, sat at the beginning of the street. Two more trucks, also with ladders raised, sat on a nearby expressway overpass.

As the pumper bearing the coffin passed by, the firefighters in dress uniform, accompanied by a single bagpiper, fell in behind to march to the chapel.

The Rev. Milton Guthrie, who delivered the funeral sermon, said, "Javier was called out to answer the call of love, to care for somebody else."

Lerma left a wife and two small children.

Memphis Police said Friday that firefighter Fredrick Williams confessed to killing his bride, the two firemen and a sheriff's deputy in a fire and gunfight that shocked the city.

Crews said Williams has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder. He also faces other charges, including arson, for setting the house fire that lured the firefighters to their deaths Wednesday.

Williams, a six-year fire department veteran, went on a shooting spree Wednesday after setting fire to the home he shared with his wife of three weeks, Stacey Williams.

Authorities said about noon Wednesday, Mrs. Williams, a letter carrier, left the post office where she worked and arrived home about 12:30 p.m. Williams shot her in the kitchen with a 12-gauge shotgun and then set the house on fire.

Ten minutes later, Shelby County Sheriff's Deputy Rupert Peete, 45, who was on his way to a theft call, was flagged down by Deborah Gatewood who was trying to tell him about the fire and a man with a shotgun.

That's when Williams shot through Peete's windshield, wounding the deputy in the head, Chief Deputy Don Wright said. Peete lost control of his patrol car, crashed through a fence next to the burning house, rolled to a neighbor's yard and died.

Gatewood, 46, was shot in the face, but her injuries were not critical.

One minute later, the first fire truck arrived. They apparently could not see Peete's wrecked squad car in the other yard and did not know he had been shot. They were respondinto reports of a smoky house fire.

When the fire crew arrived, witnesses said, Williams appeared to ambush them, coming out of the garage firing a shotgun and shouting, "Get away! Get away!"

Lerma, 41, and Pvt. William Blakemore, 48, were killed.

According to autopsies, Lerma was shot in the head as he got out of the fire truck and Blakemore was wounded in the head as he sat in the fire truck.

Chief Fire Marshal Jeff Pickett said other firefighters were threatened by Williams when they arrived and tried to help their wounded comrades.

Memphis police then arrived and tried to get the gunman to put down his weapon.

Four or five minutes later, Williams was shot as he "made threatening gestures" at the officers, police inspector Robert G. Wright said.

Williams was shot in the groin and torso almost simultaneously by a deputy armed with a shotgun and a police officer using a pistol, Wright said.

Firefighters then worked to put out the blaze on the right side of the brick home, apparently dragging Mrs. Williams' body to the garage where there was no fire.

Stacey William's 7-year-old son from another marriage lived at the house, and stepped off a schoolbus to witness the aftermath of the fracas.

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.

Hundreds of firefighters and police officers gathered in a Thursday night tribute to the victims.

"My father did not deserve to die, and that's the bottom line," said William Blakemore Jr., son of one of the slain firefighters. "I want to know what happened."

Investigators said they still don't know if Williams set the fire to lure firefighters to the home, or to cover up his wife's death. It was also unclear whether Williams made the initial 911 call.

Police director Walter Crew tells CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers that a domestic dispute likely triggered the murder spree.

The Williams' had married on Valentine's Day and he had moved into the house earlier in the week, Crews said. Williams faced a court hearing next week on a domestic violence charge from October in which he allegedly beat and choked Mrs. Williams, then his fiancée.

Williams, a six-year veteran of the Fire Department, had returned to work Monday from an extended leave for emotional problems. Authorities declined to say exactly why the leave was granted.

The Williams family declined to comment, but longtime friend Freeman Nelson told The Memphis Commercial Appeal that Williams was under psychiatric care and tried to commit suicide in November by ingesting rat poison.

"A year ago he wouldn't harm nobody," Nelson said in broadcast reports. "Something happened to him. I don't know what it is, but he just lost his mind."

Funerals for Peete and Blakemore were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

Services fo Stacy Williams will be on March 18.

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