Patience paid off

Hostages: Three captives' safety a result of Baltimore Co. police strategy to wait out Palczynski

March 23, 2000

JOSEPH C. PALCZYNSKI'S troubled life is over. Lynn Whitehead and Andrew and Bradley McCord are alive and can return to their lives and families. Order is returning to Lange Street, after 97 surreal hours of terror, frustration and helplessness in Dundalk. Other families have to bury loved ones and comfort wounded relatives.

The police strategy of waiting produced this outcome.

From the beginning of the standoff, police had two goals: talk Palczynski into surrendering or wait for the opportunity to attack and rescue his hostages. Despite their best efforts, police could not talk Palczynski out of the house. Baltimore County police deserve a great deal of credit. Their strategy of patience proved to be the correct course of action. By waiting, they prevented the toll of death and injury from growing. They skillfully negotiated with a self-destructive man intent on suicide and taking others with him.

When the opportunity arose to enter the apartment -- after the hostages slipped sleeping pill powder into Palczynski's iced tea -- the tactical officers did so with skill and precision. Knowing that Palczynski had repeatedly threatened to kill his hostages and was heavily armed, the officers had no choice but to shoot him.

Amid the tension of the prolonged standoff, forgotten perhaps were the people Palczynski killed and wounded during the first two days of his 14-day rampage.

George and Gloria Jean Shenk lost their lives simply because they sheltered Tracy Whitehead, Palczynski's ex-girlfriend. David Myers lost his life when he, too, tried to help Ms. Whitehead. Jennifer Lynn McDonel, a mother pregnant with her second child, was killed when Palczynski fired wildly during a carjacking. Two-year-old Gregory Simms has a bullet in his jaw.

Calm is returning to Dundalk, and residents are again free to come and go as they please. But the grieving families will long lament their loved ones ever crossed paths with a deeply troubled Joseph Palczynski.

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