Police kill Woodbine man in standoff He held firefighters at bay while parents' house burned down

'No verbal communications'

After nine hours, he advanced, fired shotgun at troopers

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 used 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., James advanced on a group of four troopers stationed in trees near the house and wordlessly raised and fired a shotgun at them, Shipley said.

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 carried a 24-inch machete and a large survival knife with brass knuckles forming the 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 the police. They returned to Maryland yesterday.

The James house, Idyllic Knolls Plantation, sits alone on a hill, surrounded by trees on several acres at the end of Day View Drive, a long and winding dirt road near the Carroll-Howard county line.

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 residents who saw the house ablaze and fire, police and helicopters at the James house about half a mile away on the long private road wondered all night what was going on.

Yesterday, she wondered why 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."

Day View Road becomes a dirt road before reaching the James house. The road is not listed on some commercial maps, and many of the residents also have a mailing address and mailbox on Gillis Falls Road, where Day View starts.

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.

Dorsey said she had known the family for about 25 years, and that James' father had retired from a federal government job several years ago. She said James had lived there for years, and worked around the family property but apparently had no other job.

Dorsey said her husband, Thomas, was a classmate of James', who graduated in 1982 from South Carroll High School. James joined the military right after high school, then returned to live with his parents, she said.

The yearbook entry for Danny James when he was a senior at the Woodbine school said, "Future plans: Undecided."

Dorsey's husband sometimes did carpentry work with his former classmate at the Jameses' home, she said, but the two men apparently talked very little.

"Danny was really quiet. He never caused any trouble, but he was just very quiet," Dorsey said. "I don't know -- I just don't know, I can't imagine what could have caused that."

One of several helicopters that had been used throughout the night to illuminate the property flew James to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where 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 hostage-recovery team took positions around the isolated house as helicopters shone lights on the area, Shipley said. The hostage team made repeated attempts to talk to James, but failed, Shipley said.

Shipley said 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.

Mike Weaver and Matt Bender arrived about 8: 15 a.m. yesterday from Ehrhart Stained Glass in York, Pa., to work on windows at Morgan Chapel, at Woodbine and Gillis Falls roads, about two miles from the Jameses' home.

The men found the church parking lot and social hall turned into a state police command station, with 16 cruisers, two canine units, and an armored vehicle.

Contributing writer Ellie Baublitz provided information for this article.

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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