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Palczynski standoff continues in Dundalk

Sun Reporter

Baltimore County police continued negotiating early this morning withfugitive Joseph C. Palczynski -- a suspect in four murders -- who barricadedhimself inside a Dundalk home for a second day with at least three hostagesand several high-powered weapons.

Throughout yesterday, a county police negotiator kept steady telephonecontact with Palczynski, who made repeated requests for food and to speak tohis former girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead. Police sent a robot to the house onLange Street last night with food and a cell phone while maintaining theirsiege.

Police said they were aiming for a peaceful end to the standoff. Family andfriends also made several public pleas for Palczyn-ski -- a 31-year-oldBowleys Quarters man who has a history of incarceration, domestic violence andmental illness -- to give himself up.

"We will talk and talk and talk," police spokesman Bill Toohey said. "We'renot in any hurry. We're prepared to wait a long time -- hours, days ifnecessary."

Palczynski's father, Joseph Palczynski Sr., called a television station tourge his son to release the hostages and surrender.

"We all love you and hope that you make the right decision so you can gethelp," his father said in a tape of the call that WBFF-TV aired last night."That's what we all want. Please give yourself up and don't hurt anyone else."

Palczynski surfaced in Dundalk on Friday afternoon, less than a day afterthe police department announced that it would reduce the number of officersactively patrolling the area. After breaking into an Essex house, police said,he entered the Whitehead family home on Lange Street and took hostageWhitehead's mother, Lynn; her stepfather, Andy McCord; and her 12-year oldbrother, Bradley McCord.

County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and the police departmentdefended their actions against criticism from residents who had watchedPalczynski terrorize their community, beginning with the first of a series ofalleged kidnappings. Residents also questioned why police had not watched theWhitehead residence more closely.

"We'll explain it when it is all over, and it will all make sense," Tooheysaid.

Palczynski has been on the run, police said, since March 7, when heallegedly abducted Tracy Whitehead. Friends said the two had a stormyrelationship over the years. Whitehead was staying with 50-year-old GloriaJean Shenk and her 49-year-old husband, George Shenk, after a recent breakup.

Police said that as Palczynski dragged Whitehead from the Town & CountryBowleys Quarters Apartments, he shot to death the Shenks and David M. Meyers,a neighbor who tried to help. Whitehead subsequently escaped.

Police also accuse Palczynski of shooting and killing Jennifer McDonel, 37,a passing motorist, during an attempted carjacking the next night.

Police believe that Palczynski then traveled to Virginia and stole two gunsand cash from a house and forced a man at another house to drive him toeastern Baltimore County.

After Palczynski's return, the search for him intensified, as police canineunits, helicopters, a robot and patrol officers combed the woods andneighborhoods of Middle River, Essex, Bowleys Quarters and Chase.

Describing Palczynski as "skilled and resourceful," police said theybelieve that he had been in the Essex area the entire time after his returnfrom Virginia. But they said they were mystified as to how he managed to eludethe search teams.

"It's almost hard to believe that he's outslicked the police for thislong," said Curt Skouron, 35, a Middle River resident.

But, on Friday afternoon, after police scaled back the search, Palczynskibroke into a house in the 10200 block of Bevans Lane near Holly Hill MemorialGardens Cemetery. He tied up Douglas Wilkinson, his wife and his son afterthey found him there, police said.

After subduing them, Palczynski seemed to become friendlier, homeownerDouglas Wilkinson said yesterday. For the next five hours, Palczynski told thefamily about the slayings, his feelings about what happened and his intentionto continue eluding the police, Wilkinson said.

"I tried to tell him to give himself in," Wilkinson said. "I was justtrying to calm him down, and then my family. I just thank God that he did notkill us."

Police said Palczynski then stole two high-powered long guns, a handgun anda pickup truck from the Wilkinson home, and left behind a duffle bagcontaining a battery-operated TV, and clothing and water bottles. He is alsobelieved to be carrying a .22 caliber handgun that he stole from the Virginiabreak-in.

"This guy has an uncanny knack for finding guns," Toohey said. "It'sremarkable."

Police said Palczynski then went about 10 miles southwest to the Whiteheadhome in Dundalk.

There, he began banging on a door at the home of Tracy Whitehead's mother,Lynn.

At about 9:30 p.m., neighbors said shots were fired, and someone from thehome called 911. When a dispatcher called the Whitehead residence to confirmthe address, Palczynski picked up the telephone, police said.

Negotiations have not stopped since then. Police described Palczynski ascalm, except when asking to speak to Tracy Whitehead. At one point in thenegotiations, police radios came alive after Palczynski threatened to attach apipe bomb to one of the hostages.

Attorney and friend David Henninger, who has represented Palczynski invarious cases since the mid-1980s, spoke frequently with him by telephone andasked him to surrender. Officers backed by staff members from the Sheppard andEnoch Pratt Hospital, a psychiatric institution, were also negotiating withPalczynski, Toohey said.

Police believe that Palczynski has remained awake throughout the ordeal.

Last night, dozens of police cruisers surrounded the Berkshire community.Reporters and satellite trucks were also posted near by waiting for theoutcome.

The normally active community was a ghost town, as many residents followedpolice orders and stayed inside their homes or left the area.

"I'm locked in," said Jack Beal, 29, who was watching a movie at home withhis 6-year-old son a couple of blocks away from the standoff. "I can't believethe police were not here. Everybody knew he was coming except for the police.What's the best way to get to Tracy [Whitehead]? Her family."

According to Donald Green, a friend of the family, the Whiteheads moved outof the Lange Street house temporarily for their safety. Palczynski hadrecently threatened the Whiteheads, and one of their young sons was so afraidthat he had not been to school in several days, according to two people whoknow the family. But, Green said, Lynn Whitehead was anxious to return home.Residents said the family returned Thursday or early Friday morning.

"[Lynn Whitehead] just wanted to go home. She was getting sick of it," saidGreen. "I figured they said, 'We'll give her protection. Let her go home.'"

It was unclear where Tracy Whitehead was yesterday, but residents said shewas under police protection.

Said Anna Woolsey, 38, of Dundalk, who watched the ordeal from behindyellow police tape, "It's common sense. You go to the main source, you protectthe family. This should have never happened."

But police officers insisted they increased patrols after the family'sreturn.

And on Friday morning, a police sergeant visited the Whitehead home tocheck on the residents' safety.

"The issue is now the health and safety of these hostages," Ruppersbergersaid after a brief visit to the barricade scene yesterday. "Our policedepartment has done everything possible. I can tell you we took everyprecaution possible.

"They have done a good job on this issue."

Yesterday, law enforcement experts said the situation was extremelydifficult to manage.

Former Lt. Joe Key, a retired officer who wrote the procedures forBaltimore City's SWAT team, said it's no surprise that Palczynski was able toslip back into a neighborhood saturated with police.

"You can throw 1,000 police into a fairly small area, but the reality isthat somebody who really knows the area and knows how to get in and out alwayshas an advantage," Key said. "Unless you shut the neighborhood down and standshoulder to shoulder but even then, we've done searches of buildings, usedcanines and still missed [fugitives]."

County police have described Palczynski, who grew up in the area, as anexperienced outdoors man familiar with the terrain. Police also believe thatPalczynski has had help in slipping away from teams of county police, Marylandstate troopers and FBI agents.

Police were preparing themselves for another long night.

"There's no sense forcing anybody's hand when you don't have to," saidformer Col. Joseph R. Bolesta, who helped set up Baltimore's quick responseteam. "You're not dealing with the most stable personality in the world, andyou can't speculate on what he's going to do."

Sun staff writers Tim Craig, Greg Garland, Diana Sugg and Jonathan Bor contributed to this article.

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