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Scattered shots, tense talks

The standoff between Baltimore County police and Joseph C. Palczynskientered its third day last night, as the man suspected in four killings heldthree hostages in a Dundalk rowhouse, punctuating tense negotiations withcrackles of gunfire.

Frustrated law enforcement officials could provide few details about thecondition of the hostages, when they might be freed or when the working-classneighborhood 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 andtactics officers -- trained in waiting out suspects and military-styleoperations -- were stationed near the Lange Street home where Palczynski hashis hostages.

Rifle shots rang out shortly before 7 p.m. when Palczynski, still talkingwith police negotiators on the telephone, fired at high-intensity lights putup by police. He knocked out several, a police spokesman said.

Earlier in the day, Palczynski shot out the tires of a county armoredpersonnel carrier and fired at police positions.

On Friday night, he shot at the house where he later began holding threeoccupants hostage, police said.

Police have not returned fire, and no one has been hit by the fugitive'sgunfire, officials said.

Since March 7, when the manhunt for Palczynski began, police have saidrepeatedly that they hope to make an arrest peacefully.

Yesterday, residents cringed at the sound of gunfire, many behind lockeddoors.

Meanwhile, visitors stood out of range of Palczynski's weapons -- he isbelieved to have two rifles and a handgun -- and snapped pictures with theirchildren riding their shoulders. About a dozen people came from Perry Hall topray for the hostages, police and Palczynski.

The latest chapter began Friday when Palczynski -- wanted since March 7 infour 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 HillMemorial Gardens Cemetery.

Police say Palczynski tied up Douglas Wilkinson, his wife and son. Aftertalking with Wilkinson for nearly five hours, Palczynski stole two rifles, ahandgun and the family's pickup truck, police say. He was believed already tobe carrying a .22-caliber revolver stolen in Virginia.

He then drove to the Dundalk home of Whitehead's mother, Lynn; herboyfriend, 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 theDundalk neighborhood have forced many to flee their homes. Police preventedothers from returning to the area, citing safety concerns.

"We were trying to get out of here since Friday," said Jennifer Forsythe, aLange Street resident and mother of two small children, interviewed near theEast View Fire Station yesterday. "Gunshots have been going off, the childrencrying."

An obviously upset Anna Day, another resident who lives in what the policecalled the "kill zone," also fled her home on Berkshire Road after thegunshots yesterday morning, after running out of baby formula for her10-month-old son Brett.

"I needed formula, diapers," Day said. "I heard a lot of firing. You'resleeping on your floor, you can't even go into your kitchen."

As police mulled over their next moves last night, a police team rescuedtwo 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 countyarmored personnel carrier along with Syaria Shell, 5, shortly after gunfirefaded down the street.

Police said the sitters were trapped inside the house because the child'smother, Melissa, 22, had hired them to watch her child late Friday afternoonwhile she attended a St. Patrick's Day celebration.

When it came time to return home, Mrs. Shell could not get past the policeand into the area around the Lange Street house considered vulnerable togunfire. The mother kept in constant telephone contact with the two teen-agersand 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. Hehas eluded authorities for nearly two weeks, and for several days has been inconstant touch with police over the phone.

Asked last night the last time the fugitive had slept, Toohey said: "Atthis 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 increasinglyirritable and that judgment fades with energy.

"As it goes over 48 hours, the likelihood [of sleep] is pretty big," saidMorris Bird, a neurologist and co-director of Florida Hospital's sleepdisorder center. "It's just almost impossible to stay awake continuouslybeyond 36 or 48 hours without major stimulation.

Palczynski, 31, has eluded police since March 7, when police say heabducted Tracy Whitehead at the Bowleys Quarters home of Gloria Jean Shenk,50, and her 49-year-old husband, George Shenk, where Whitehead had gone afteran argument with Palczynski.

Police say Palczynski dragged Whitehead, 22, from the Shenk's apartment atTown and Country Bowleys Quarters Apartments, and shot and killed the Shenkcouple and David M. Meyers, a neighbor who attempted to assist the strugglingWhitehead woman.

Palczynski also allegedly shot and killed Jennifer McDonel, 37, during anattempted carjacking the next night.

While authorities fanned out in Baltimore County and southern HarfordCounty searching for the fugitive, Palczynski had slipped into Virginia,probably by train, and stole guns and cash from a house and forced a man todrive him back to eastern Baltimore County, police said.

After officials learned that Palczynski -- who has a history of violencetoward women and suffers from a bi-polar mental condition -- had returned toBaltimore County, they intensified their search in the Middle River, Chase andEssex areas.

Baltimore County had help from the FBI, Maryland State Police and otheragencies in their hunt for the suspect, a skilled outdoorsman and crack shot.Hundreds of police used helicopters with infrared capabilities, dogs and arobot 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 KurtStreeter and the Orlando Sentinel contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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