Hostages safe

fugitive killed

4-day siege ends

adults jump to flee sleeping captor

Police raid home, shoot Palczynski, rescue boy hostage

Window escape stuns police

March 22, 2000|By Dan Thanh Dang and Nancy A. Youssef | Dan Thanh Dang and Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Three hostages being held by suspected killer Joseph C. Palczynski were free last night and Palczynski was killed when a Baltimore County police SWAT team stormed the Dundalk apartment where they had been held for four days.

Lynn Whitehead jumped out the front window of the first-floor apartment in the 7500 block of Lange St. about 10: 20 p.m. and her boyfriend, Andy McCord, followed about 20 minutes later. Police broke through a window and shot Palczynski, who had been asleep on a couch. They then escorted 12-year-old Bradley McCord, who had been asleep on the kitchen floor, out of the apartment.

Palczynski was heavily armed with two rifles, a .22-caliber handgun and another handgun. No officers were injured.

"They have Joe. They have Joe," residents screamed.

County police spokeswoman Vickie Warehime said, "All three of the hostages are safe. There were some shots fired by the police."

The hostages were freed four days after Palczynski shot his way into the apartment. He had been on the run since March 7, when police say he abducted his former girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead, and fatally shot the couple she was living with and a neighbor who tried to come to her aid.

A day later, he allegedly shot and killed a passing motorist in an attempted carjacking.

Last night's developments took police commanders by surprise. Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan and his command staff were in a meeting about the hostage-taking when Lynn Whitehead made a run for it.

"I am here to report that we had a successful operation," Sheridan said to a crowd of reporters at the command center in Dundalk as residents and police officers hugged each other. "Three hostages are safe because we had a successful operation."

Responding to angry criticism that police were slow to resolve the situation, Sheridan said, "Patience is what counted."

Thankful family members praised God yesterday for answering their prayers over the 97-hour ordeal.

"I had a feeling Lynn would do something," said Jean Jones, 47, who called her cousin, Lynn, "a fighter. She just probably had enough of it."

Jones rushed to the scene when she heard of the escape and ran to embrace her sister, Debbie Hands, 48, of Armistead Gardens, who said, "I thought he would kill them."

Lynn Whitehead's son, Bobby, 14, said: "We drove here as fast as we could. We are just so relieved."

Earlier yesterday, police had speculated about the condition of one of the hostages injured by a gunshot in the apartment Monday.

"We had some indication [Monday] that someone may have been hurt," said Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department. "The information that we're getting out of there is sometimes not as clear and accurate as we would like, though we believe no one is in any imminent peril."

Neighbors had said that Palczynski, the suspect in four killings, had placed Bradley McCord in front of an apartment window on more than one occasion. A source close to the investigation confirmed that people in the house were being used as shields.

Police also had tightened security and made two arrests in a restricted four-block zone circling the Lange Street rowhouse, where Palczynski took his ex-girlfriend's mother and two others hostage in a first-floor apartment Friday.

As the standoff dragged on, police negotiators continued talking with the suspected killer in "on-again, off-again conversations."

On the two previous days, Palczynski had fired out an apartment window at least nine times, once flattening tires on a police armored personnel carrier.

But it was one gunshot inside the house about 3 p.m. Monday that worried police. The shot was fired after negotiations between police and Palczynski resumed after six hours of silence.

However, police expressed fears that the shot in the house apparently moved the situation to a new level.

Yesterday, with a heavy rain falling, there were few bystanders at the scene. Police had become increasingly concerned about people congregating in the area, including those seeking to take advantage of free media attention. Some tried to pose as reporters.

Police arrested Charles Ryan of the 7300 block of Berkshire Road and charged him with disorderly conduct and trespassing at the Berkshire Elementary School shelter about 1: 30 a.m. yesterday. Police said Ryan, who was released on his own recognizance, was arguing and trying to cross into the restricted zone near Lange Street.

A second man, who police said identified himself as a free-lance photographer, was arrested about 1: 30 a.m. at Dalton and Berkshire avenues when officers found him in the so-called "kill zone."

A third person was taken into custody at about 4: 30 a.m. yesterday. The man, who described himself as a former producer for a local television station, was dressed in shorts and camouflage on a 30-degree night and his face was smeared with syrup, police said.

The man was taken into custody for psychiatric evaluation. Police said the man voiced "a plan to end this."

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