Palczynski hit 27 times, autopsy concludes

A state autopsy has concluded that police shot Joseph C. Palczynski 27 times the night they stormed the Dundalk apartment where he had been holding three hostages.

The 23-page report, issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, found that Palczynski was killed by 23 "penetrating" gunshot wounds. He was grazed by four other bullets.

Palczynski, a 31-year-old unemployed electrician, had been holding three hostages -- his ex-girlfriend's mother, the mother's boyfriend and the couple's 12-year-old son -- for four days before he was fatally shot.

The autopsy found that Palczynski had traces of Xanax -- an anti-anxiety drug that can cause drowsiness -- in his urine. That supports an account by one of the hostages, Lynn Whitehead, that she placed the drug in his iced tea and escaped 20 minutes later after he fell asleep.

No other trace of drugs or alcohol were found in his body, the report said.

Officials at the medical examiners office ruled the cause of death homicide. Most of the entry wounds were in the right front areas of Palczynski's body. The report said he was hit in the chest, face, arms, knees and legs.

County police said two tactical officers -- Frank D. Barile, 36, and Robert O. Jones, 37 -- shot Palczynski as he was rising from a couch. He had a .357-caliber Magnum resting on his stomach and other weapons nearby, police said.

"It is my understanding that [Palczynski] sat up and articulated a sound of surprise," Michael Marshall, an attorney representing Barile and Jones, said yesterday. "They were authorized to shoot him. The fact they hit that many times tells me they were well trained."

The report did not indicate whether Palczynski was sitting up or lying down when he was shot. The officers shot him with MP 5 submachine guns, which are capable of firing 800 rounds a minute.

"I think they responded adequately and professionally," said Sgt. Cole Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 4.

Palczynski was accused of killing four people and kidnapping two others between March 7 and March 17, when he broke into the Dundalk apartment and took the hostages.

Police said that on the night of March 21, Whitehead spiked Palczynski's iced tea with Xanax and slipped out a bedroom window as he slept. She was followed a few minutes later by her boyfriend, Andy McCord, but the couple's son, 12-year-old Bradley McCord, remained in the apartment. A team of police officers, including tactical officers, rushed into the apartment, shot Palczynski and rescued the boy.

Xanax usually takes from one to two hours to take effect, said Dr. David Mays, director of drug information services at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. However, because Palczynski had little sleep the drug might have affected him faster.

"He was very susceptible to sleep and I think Xanax enhanced his sleep," Mays said.

Police declined to comment on specific findings in the report. "All of the information we have developed so far -- including the autopsy report -- supports the version of events we released immediately following the shooting," said Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman.

An official in the Baltimore County state's attorney's office said recently that police apparently acted within legal guidelines in shooting and killing Palczynski.

Deputy State's Attorney Sue A. Schenning, who reviews police shootings for the office, said yesterday that no information has surfaced to alter that preliminary assessment. Baltimore County homicide detectives have not compiled their final report on the department internal investigation into the shooting. Toohey said the report could be completed in about two weeks.

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