"There's something wrong here, the police getting their information from the guy who's shooting at them," Haffler said.

The shooting inside highlighted the on-again, off-again talks with police by the unpredictable Palczynski, who apparently has demanded that his ex-girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead, be brought to the scene.

On four other occasions yesterday, police said the fugitive fired bursts of shots out the apartment window and, in one volley, flattened a tire on a police armored personnel carrier.

Police said no one was injured by those shots aimed outside the house.

Palczynski has been on the run, police said, since March 7 when he allegedly abducted Tracy Whitehead. Friends said their relationship had been stormy.

Whitehead was staying with 50-year-old Gloria Jean Shenk and her husband, George Shenk, 49, after her most recent split with Palczynski.

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

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

Palczynski, police said, then traveled, probably by train, to Virginia and stole two guns and cash from a house. They believe he forced a man at gunpoint to drive him back to eastern Baltimore County.

After eluding a massive manhunt through woods and marshes, Palczynski reappeared Friday night, police said, when he shot at the rowhouse in the 7500 block of Lange St. and took the three hostages while armed with two "long guns," a .22-caliber pistol and perhaps another handgun.

Police insisted yesterday that they offered adequate protection to the family eventually grabbed by Palczynski as hostages, even though a relative said Tracy Whitehead's family had asked for police protection the day before the suspect allegedly took over the Dundalk apartment.

"We offered security inside and outside that property and were turned down" by the family, said Toohey. "I'm confident we did a responsible job watching that house."

Police said the Whitehead family had been taken to a "secure location" the day after Tracy Whitehead escaped from Palczynski at a Pulaski Highway motel, the El-Rich. Toohey would not describe the location or protective measures used by police, but he said "they were in no harm and in no danger, in fact, a week went by without any threat to them."

Then, he said, on Thursday family members said they wanted to move back to their home. "Authorities told them that was a very bad idea. But they moved back in against police advice," Toohey said.

According to the spokesman, police wanted to station at least one officer inside the Whitehead home, with others outside.

Instead, Toohey said, the police and family agreed on "selective enforcement" -- police patrolling the street in front of their house. He said a patrol car apparently passed the house about three hours before Palczynski's arrival.

Asked whether police could have guarded the outside of the house to prevent Palczynski's attack, Toohey said, "From a practical point of view, one officer standing outside or sitting outside isn't likely to have stopped something like this. You would have needed to totally secure the house with people inside and outside. People inside is the key issue here."

In all, police estimated 20 sites were considered potential targets for Palczynski after he returned from Virginia. Toohey said the Dundalk apartment was not considered one of the fugitive's "priority targets."

Yesterday, Palczynski fired his weapons several times, beginning about 12:45 p.m., when he squeezed off about four rounds.

He fired a rapid volley several minutes later and again about 1:20 p.m. Police and neighbors heard the single shot fired inside the house about 3 p.m., and he shot out the armored vehicle's tire about 3:35 p.m. when an officer with a bullhorn tried to bring in the ambulance.

Sun staff writers Nancy A. Youssef and Dan Thanh Dang contributed to this article.