Police corner armed fugitive

Police say Palczynski holds hostages at home in Dundalk

March 18, 2000|By Nancy Youssef and Jay Apperson | Nancy Youssef and Jay Apperson,Sun Staff

Joseph Palczynski -- the Bowleys Quarters man suspected of killing four people, wounding a young boy and kidnapping two people in a violent rampage that began March 7 -- was barricaded in the Dundalk house of his ex-girlfriend's mother early this morning with at least three hostages and weapons, police said.

At 2:15 a.m., Palczynski said he would not come out until he could talk to his former girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead, an officer said over police radio.

Palczynski, who has a history of incarceration, domestic violence and mental illness, broke into a house in southeastern Baltimore County about 9 p.m. and stole a handgun and two rifles before breaking into the Whitehead home in the 7500 block of Lange St. near Berkshire Elementary School, authorities said.

Early this morning, attorney David Henninger, who has represented Palczynski in various cases since the mid-1980s, appealed to Palczynski to surrender:

"Joe, this is Dave. Joe, look I'm here for you. ... I need you to release the hostages and come out. I'm here for you. I'm waiting for you outside, Joe."

Police said they asked Henninger to make the statement and local television stations to carry it live because they believe Palczynski was watching TV.

At 2 a.m. Palczynski and his lawyer were talking by telephone. At the same time, police were sketching out a scenario for Palczynski's possible surrender, but the suspect was balking.

By 2:45 p.m., no one was reported hurt.

For hours last night, a five-block area of the Berkshire neighborhood in Dundalk was paralyzed by the stand-off. Police fanned out across the area and ordered residents to stay in their houses. Some who ventured out were stopped and frisked.

About 9 p.m., police said, Palczynski broke into a house in the Berkshire neighborhood near Oaklawn Cemetery and stole at least three high-powered weapons, including two rifles.

The suspect was on foot, police believe. Neighbors in the area reported hearing shots fired.

He then went to Lange Street, police said, and entered the house at 7520 -- the residence of Lynn Whitehead, the mother of Palczynski's ex-girlfriend.

There, according to police, Palczynski took at least three people hostage, including children.

Someone in a neighboring house dialed 911, and hostage negotiations with Palczynski began by phone in the Lange Street house.

Initially police reported that Palczynski had called 911. But when Palczynski saw that report on television, he told police he had not made the call, said Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman.

As police poured into the neighborhood, residents took refuge in a local school. Some questioned why police had not been watching Whitehead's house more closely.

Nancy Forsythe, whose daughter lives in the 7500 block of Lange St., was on her way into the neighborhood after hearing about the standoff at a St. Patrick's Day party at a local tavern.

Police would not let her near her daughter's house on Lange Street, where the daughter, her two children and Forsyth's son were gathered.

Police sent Forsythe and her boyfriend, Dennis Murphy, to the Berkshire school cafeteria.

Murphy kept telling Forsythe to remain calm, and she replied: "When I see my kids and grandkids, I'll be relaxed."

Moments later, a phone rang at the school. It was Forsythe's daughter calling to tell her mother what was happening.

Forsythe ended the conversation by saying, "I love you. Just stay down."

Next to her in the cafeteria was a woman who identified herself as a cousin of Lynn Whitehead. The woman said the house on Lange Street was "supposed" to be under police guard, but wasn't. Other neighbors wondered why the house wasn't being watched.

Cpl. Vickie Wareheim, a county police spokeswoman, denied that police were under orders to guard the house. "It is not true," she said.

"I was walking down the street, coming toward [the Whitehead] house when I heard five to six shots. I headed toward the corner and heard three more shots," said 19-year-old Sonny Collins, who identified himself as Tracy Whitehead's first cousin and said he sometimes lived with Lynn Whitehead.

"Then the police pulled guns out on me, threw me to the ground and treated me like a suspect -- real ignorant-like.

"I tried to tell them who I was, and they told me to get into my other aunt's house. I stay with her sometimes, too."

Neighbors on Lange Street said the area had been on virtual lockdown since 9:30. Several neighbors reported that police were stopping people as they came out of their houses and asking for identification.

Gordon Tyler, who lives at 7529 Lange St., said when he went outside at about 9:30 to grab his son's basketball, police surrounded him.

"It was like, 'Back in the house, sir, we have firearms,' and I

thought 'Oh, my goodness gracious,'" Tyler said.

When his neighbor emerged to take out the trash, police frisked him.

"I seen him throw his hands up and they frisked him real quick," Tyler said. Police "are everywhere. I didn't think there was this many cops in the state of Maryland."

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