With Palczynski still in neighborhood, many remain hostages in their homes

Residents within range of gunfire discouraged from going to work, school

March 20, 2000|By Lynn Anderson and Liz Atwood | Lynn Anderson and Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Dundalk residents caught in what Baltimore County police call the "kill zone" between them and Joseph C. Palczynski are unlikely to be allowed to return to work or school today -- even if they beg, plead or cry.

"If they call us and ask if they can leave, we'll have to tell them, `Sorry,' " Baltimore County Police Capt. Roger L. Sheets said of the zone considered vulnerable to gunfire from the house where Palczynski was holding three hostages yesterday. "People who just need to leave for work or school are a low priority right now."

That wasn't good news for residents such as Dottie Cook, 33, who works as an administrative director at a local technical training center.

Cook, who lives on Berkshire Road just south of the Lange Street house where Palczynski was barricaded, was hopeful yesterday that she wouldn't have to miss a day of work. Cook's boss was being sympathetic.

"He called me and told me to just keep him posted," Cook said.

Although those in the immediate vicinity of Lange Street were under tight police restrictions, neighbors farther away were able to use alleys to go to and from their homes -- despite police warnings not to do so.

Some in the neighborhood were almost eager for an excuse to take a sick day today.

"I'll probably sneak out to play tennis tonight but I won't go to work," said Robert Morris, 34, an electrician, whose identical twin brother, Richard, drove from Catonsville to Dundalk yesterday to watch police activity.

"It's just amazing that something this tragic could happen here," said Robert Morris.

Rather than worry about residents' work schedules, police focused yesterday on rescuing those in need along Lange Street, Dalton Avenue, Elton Avenue and sections of Berkshire Road. Their highest priority was to remove those suffering from medical problems and families who were low on food or with children.

Others were virtually stranded in their homes for a second day by police barricades. Children spent a lot of time in front of the television set while parents tried to catch up on indoor chores. Some paced, prisoners of a man they've never met but whom they call "Joe."

"I'm not scared. If Joe was out and about, then I'd be scared," said Melissa Herman, 24, a resident of Kirtley Road, a few blocks south of the 7500 block of Lange St.

Up the street, at Berkshire Elementary School, police set up a command center and the Red Cross ran a temporary shelter for those unable to return to their homes.

Sheets and other police officials spoke to troubled residents by telephone, and volunteers helped about 15 neighbors unable to get into their houses Saturday.

Most of the 15 spent Saturday night at Berkshire Elementary, sleeping on cots in the gymnasium. They ate their meals in the cafeteria and spent most of yesterday playing solitaire and doing jigsaw puzzles.

Kelly Rye, who lives on Berkshire Road, one street from where the hostages were being held, went to get groceries Friday night, leaving her husband and two daughters. She said police would not let her return.

"They're missing me," said Rye, who was happy to talk to television news crews so her daughters could see her on the television. "I hate the fact that I have to explain this to a child that we have to live like this."

About 75 residents had come to the shelter since it opened Friday night, said Linnea Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross. "There has been a great outpouring from the community," she said, adding that local restaurants had sent food to the shelter, and about 40 Red Cross volunteers were helping.

"This is a real disaster," Anderson said.

By late afternoon yesterday, residents in the affected area were low on food, including staples such as milk and bread. Neighbors on Kirtly Road joked about having to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Lynn Hinton was discouraged by police from leaving her home. But police allowed her boss to take milk, diet Coke, bread and eggs for her and her three children.

When Larry Nalls, 33, arrived at her front door yesterday, she greeted him with open arms and a burning question: "Did you bring toilet paper?"

Unfortunately, Nalls, who works with Hinton at the AMF Eastpoint Lanes bowling alley, had all the makings for breakfast, but no toilet paper. "Oh, well," said Hinton, 33. "I feel like I'm preparing for a snowstorm but this time we had no warning."

Hinton, at home with three young boys, said the wait was getting to her. "It's been very trying," she said. "I just want this to end. I just want this to be over."

Police echoed that sentiment yesterday but were adamant that residents in the area immediately surrounding Lange Street stay indoors and out of harm's way.

Still, some residents in the surrounding area kept to their routines, jogging, fixing fences and working in their yards.

Dozens of children on bicycles cruised alleys, some of them getting as close as one block south of the Lange Street house -- a place that one officer warned could be vulnerable to ricocheting bullets.

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