The standoff between Baltimore County police and Joseph C. Palczynski entered its third day last night, as the man suspected in four killings held three hostages in a Dundalk rowhouse, punctuating tense negotiations with crackles of gunfire.
Frustrated law enforcement officials could provide few details about the
condition of the hostages, when they might be freed or when the working-class
neighborhood would return to normal.
County police spokesman Bill Toohey said the strategy for police remained
"patience, patience and more patience," as they and FBI special weapons and
tactics officers -- trained in waiting out suspects and military-style
operations -- were stationed near the Lange Street home where Palczynski has
Rifle shots rang out shortly before 7 p.m. when Palczynski, still talking
with police negotiators on the telephone, fired at high-intensity lights put
up by police. He knocked out several, a police spokesman said.
Earlier in the day, Palczynski shot out the tires of a county armored
personnel carrier and fired at police positions.
On Friday night, he shot at the house where he later began holding three
occupants hostage, police said.
Police have not returned fire, and no one has been hit by the fugitive's
gunfire, officials said.
Since March 7, when the manhunt for Palczynski began, police have said
repeatedly that they hope to make an arrest peacefully.
Yesterday, residents cringed at the sound of gunfire, many behind locked
Meanwhile, visitors stood out of range of Palczynski's weapons -- he is
believed to have two rifles and a handgun -- and snapped pictures with their
children riding their shoulders. About a dozen people came from Perry Hall to
pray for the hostages, police and Palczynski.
The latest chapter began Friday when Palczynski -- wanted since March 7 in
four killings and the abduction of his former girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead --
allegedly broke into a home in the 10,200 block of Bevans Lane near Holly Hill
Memorial Gardens Cemetery.
Police say Palczynski tied up Douglas Wilkinson, his wife and son. After
talking with Wilkinson for nearly five hours, Palczynski stole two rifles, a
handgun and the family's pickup truck, police say. He was believed already to
be carrying a .22-caliber revolver stolen in Virginia.
He then drove to the Dundalk home of Whitehead's mother, Lynn; her
boyfriend, Andy McCord; and their 12-year-old son, Bradley McCord.
Negotiations have continued since about 9: 30 p.m. Friday.
The violence and overwhelming presence of heavily armed police in the
Dundalk neighborhood have forced many to flee their homes. Police prevented
others from returning to the area, citing safety concerns.
"We were trying to get out of here since Friday," said Jennifer Forsythe, a
Lange Street resident and mother of two small children, interviewed near the
East View Fire Station yesterday. "Gunshots have been going off, the children
An obviously upset Anna Day, another resident who lives in what the police
called the "kill zone," also fled her home on Berkshire Road after the
gunshots yesterday morning, after running out of baby formula for her
10-month-old son Brett.
"I needed formula, diapers," Day said. "I heard a lot of firing. You're
sleeping on your floor, you can't even go into your kitchen."
As police mulled over their next moves last night, a police team rescued
two baby-sitters who had been trapped inside their house at 7502 Lange St.,
eight houses away from where Palczynski was holed up.
Kristal Huffines and Amber Thompson, both 16, were placed in a county
armored personnel carrier along with Syaria Shell, 5, shortly after gunfire
faded down the street.
Police said the sitters were trapped inside the house because the child's
mother, Melissa, 22, had hired them to watch her child late Friday afternoon
while she attended a St. Patrick's Day celebration.
When it came time to return home, Mrs. Shell could not get past the police
and into the area around the Lange Street house considered vulnerable to
gunfire. The mother kept in constant telephone contact with the two teen-agers
and her daughter until their rescue last night.
Said the youngster after being reunited with her mother: "It wasn't fun.
But it was fun riding in the thing."
Officials, residents and police have marveled at Palczynski's endurance. He
has eluded authorities for nearly two weeks, and for several days has been in
constant touch with police over the phone.
Asked last night the last time the fugitive had slept, Toohey said: "At
this point, we don't know for sure."
Toohey said negotiators are talking to Palczynski in shifts.
Experts warn that sleep deprivation can make a person increasingly
irritable and that judgment fades with energy.
"As it goes over 48 hours, the likelihood [of sleep] is pretty big," said
Morris Bird, a neurologist and co-director of Florida Hospital's sleep
disorder center. "It's just almost impossible to stay awake continuously
beyond 36 or 48 hours without major stimulation.
Palczynski, 31, has eluded police since March 7, when police say he
abducted Tracy Whitehead at the Bowleys Quarters home of Gloria Jean Shenk,
50, and her 49-year-old husband, George Shenk, where Whitehead had gone after
an argument with Palczynski.
Police say Palczynski dragged Whitehead, 22, from the Shenk's apartment at
Town and Country Bowleys Quarters Apartments, and shot and killed the Shenk
couple and David M. Meyers, a neighbor who attempted to assist the struggling
Palczynski also allegedly shot and killed Jennifer McDonel, 37, during an
attempted carjacking the next night.
While authorities fanned out in Baltimore County and southern Harford
County searching for the fugitive, Palczynski had slipped into Virginia,
probably by train, and stole guns and cash from a house and forced a man to
drive him back to eastern Baltimore County, police said.
After officials learned that Palczynski -- who has a history of violence
toward women and suffers from a bi-polar mental condition -- had returned to
Baltimore County, they intensified their search in the Middle River, Chase and
Baltimore County had help from the FBI, Maryland State Police and other
agencies in their hunt for the suspect, a skilled outdoorsman and crack shot.
Hundreds of police used helicopters with infrared capabilities, dogs and a
robot in the search, but could not find him.
He re-emerged Friday, when the Dundalk hostage situation began.
Sun staff writers Laura Barnhardt, Nancy A. Youssef, Tim Craig and Kurt
Streeter and the Orlando Sentinel contributed to this article.
Scattered shots, tense talks
Negotiations enter third day in Dundalk hostage standoff; 'Patience' is watchword; Police lights shot out, armored car's tires flattened
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