Police kill man who shot at them during standoff

February 19, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons and Anne Haddad | Sheridan Lyons and Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

State police shot and killed a 33-year-old Woodbine man yesterday after a standoff of more than nine hours during which his parents' home burned to the ground as firefighters watched -- unable to approach.

Daniel Edward James, wearing camouflage gear and carrying a rifle and shotgun, paced through the night -- silhouetted by flames or revealed in helicopter spotlights -- around the house in the 6500 block of Day View Drive, according to police.

James never spoke to police negotiators, who were using a public-address system to try to begin a dialogue, said Capt. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman who had been at the scene since 1: 30 a.m.

"He only briefly acknowledged them," Shipley said. "It was physical motions -- no verbal communications. I don't know of any contact, really."

About 8: 30 a.m., Shipley said, James advanced on a group of four troopers stationed in some trees at the perimeter of the house -- and wordlessly raised and fired a shotgun at them.

None of the four was struck by the blast, but when James refused to drop the weapon and surrender, two troopers returned fire from their 40-caliber pistols, striking him in the chest, Shipley said.

In addition to the the rifle and shotgun, James was carrying a 24-inch machete and a large survival knife with a brass-knuckle handle, along with dozens of rounds of shotgun and rifle ammunition, Shipley said.

The man's parents, Arthur and Ila Nelle James, were at their winter home in Florida, where another son lives, according to neighbors and police. They returned to Maryland yesterday.

Neighbors said the family was well-regarded, though few knew Daniel James very well.

Francine Dorsey, a neighbor on Day View Drive and a friend of the family, said nearby residents were wondering all night what was going on -- seeing the house ablaze and police and helicopters at the Jameses' house about a half-mile away on the long, private road.

Yesterday, she was wondering why the police had to shoot.

"It's so hard. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I just can't believe they had to do what they did," Dorsey said. "He didn't have any house to go to -- nowhere to go to the bathroom, to get anything to eat. He must have been tired. His parents were coming there, and maybe if they could have waited, let his parents talk to him. I don't know."

The Jameses' house was reduced to a brick chimney rising above a pile of ash and rubble. The collapsed remains were still smoldering yesterday afternoon.

One of several helicopters that had been used throughout the night to illuminate the property flew James to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. He was pronounced dead at 9: 40 a.m.

Authorities said the incident began about 11 p.m. Monday, when four teens driving on Woodbine Road spotted the fire and drove to the house. After seeing a man in camouflage gear standing in the driveway holding one gun with another slung over his shoulder, they called 911.

The state police Special Tactical Assault Team Element (STATE) and the hostage-recovery team took up positions around the isolated house as helicopters shone lights on the area, Shipley said. The hostage team made repeated attempts to talk to James, Shipley said.

Shipley said that investigators from the state fire marshal's office have not determined how the fire started or whether it was arson. The state police internal affairs unit will review the shooting.

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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