Residents keep each other informed by walkie-talkie

Neighbors swap messages over 2-way radios during the Palczynski standoff

March 21, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Inside Dundalk's Berkshire community, where Joseph C. Palczynski continued to hold three hostages yesterday, two teams monitored the standoff by radio -- the police and an informal group of walkie-talkie-equipped residents.

Both swapped radio messages, both had rotating shifts and both were keeping track of every change in the standoff.

"I am looking out my window now, the armored car is moving again -- I got to get out of the bathroom now, this echo is giving me a headache," barked David White, 34, of the 7600 block of Berkshire Road, into his $69.95 walkie-talkie from Radio Shack.

A woman's voice crackled in response: "I haven't seen a helicopter for a while."

Residents still stuck inside their homes by the hostage standoff that began Friday night have discovered a new use for two-way radios that some bought to keep in touch with their children or for hunting trips.

"When this thing began, I was just hollering out of Channel 1," said White, referring to one of the radio's 14 talk groups. "And when I got to 7, there they were."

It is unclear how many are listening to the situation unfold via walkie-talkie. Some tune in to get the latest update, while others contribute their opinions about the matter.

When shots rang out at 12: 46 p.m. yesterday, there was a rapid exchange of radio traffic.

A man's voice: "I heard a gunshot."

Another man's voice: "We have gunfire -- seven shots, now."

A woman's voice: "Cover!"

Those in the informal network have learned who their radio-linked neighbors are and where they are stationed.

Some have been in contact with residents stuck on Lange Street, within the zone considered vulnerable to gunfire from the house where the hostages are being held.

Their conversations also include the more mundane: stories about their lives, schedules for the week, and strategies for getting out to go grocery shopping.

At one point, in the midst of talk about gunshots, the mother of 14-year-old Brandon Wentker used her radio for its original purpose: "I need you to come home now," she said.

Judging by the tone of their conversations, the radio-toting residents seem to share frustrations of their situation.

"I can't take this much longer," a man said over the airwaves yesterday afternoon. "My kids are cooped up. I want to get out. I just hope this all ends soon."

"Me too, buddy," a woman responded.

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