Praise, criticism after standoff

Neighbors disagree on police behavior

March 26, 2000|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

As residents of the Dundalk-area neighborhood where Joseph C. Palczynski held three people hostage continued to clean up yesterday, they told conflicting stories of police behavior.

Some complained of broken furniture and missing belongings from apartments commandeered by Baltimore County police during Palczynski's four-day standoff, but others had nothing but praise for the officers.

Meanwhile, police confirmed that one of the hostages, Andy McCord, contacted homicide detectives to try to claim the $10,000 reward offered for information leading to Palczynski's arrest. McCord had called 911 as the suspect was barging into his home March 17, setting the final stage in Palczynski's two weeks of crime, which included four killings.

Baltimore County police spokesman Bill Toohey said McCord is not eligible for the reward because Palczynski was killed before he was arrested and because McCord never contacted Metro Crime Stoppers, the unit that oversees the reward and a tip line.

"He did not convey the information according to Metro Crime Stoppers rules, and it did not lead to the arrest of Mr. Palczynski," Toohey said.

In the neighborhood yesterday, Carol Beall was among those who praised police behavior during the standoff. Police were in her Dalton Street house across the alley behind the site of the siege for the entire 97 hours.

"They were here by themselves and could have done anything they wanted to," she said. "As my husband left, he told them there was soda and snacks they could have, but they didn't touch any of it.

"When I heard other people saying that police had taken food from freezers, I went and checked mine. Everything was there," Beall said. "They washed the dishes. They fed my cat. I even think they emptied her litter box."

Sandra McGainey, who lives directly across Lange Street from the apartment where Palczynski was shot by police Tuesday night, told a different story about the five days her apartment was occupied by police.

"They sat back here and played Nintendo," she said of her 9-year-old son's room.

McGainey, who was host of a picnic for residents of Lange Street yesterday afternoon, said much of her food was missing when she returned Wednesday.

She said Baltimore County officials had bought her a new couch to replace the one damaged by police, but that it was too big and did not go with the rest of her furniture. Her apartment was damaged when it was delivered, she said.

Beall said there was some minor damage to her house -- a broken stairway railing support, a scratched chair -- but that county insurance adjusters had promised to take care of any problems.

Beall's appreciation was echoed by neighbor Victoria Lykes, who said she was in her home during the standoff while two officers stayed in her house and used her back yard for surveillance.

"I never even heard a curse word," she said. "God bless them all."

Residents of the neighborhood of narrow one-way streets near North Point Road and Merritt Boulevard agreed that they are tired of cars full of sightseers turning their usually quiet community into an automotive nightmare.

Early yesterday afternoon, Alisha Swigger, 25, was not going to take it anymore. With her friend Denise Dietch, 25, she stood in the middle of Lange Street and directed traffic to turn elsewhere.

"There are too many children on this street, and we've been having trouble," Swigger said as she tried to distinguish locals from visitors. "There's nothing to see here but a house."

"Move it," a resident yelled at passing cars from his truck as he waited to pull out into the stream of traffic. "Get out of here."

Longtime resident Joe Byrd surveyed Lange Street, where he lives a half block from where hostages Andy McCord, Lynn Whitehead and their 12-year-old son Bradley McCord were held. "It's busier out here than on Merritt Boulevard," he said.

McGainey agreed. "It used to be that nobody knew how to get to this neighborhood. You couldn't even give people directions to get here," she said. "Now, everybody seems to know where it is."

Many of the visitors asked residents about their ordeal and about which window was used for two hostages' escapes.

Tony Parrish, 32, drove from his Medfield home in North Baltimore to Lange Street and stopped in front of the crime scene.

"I just wanted to see where it all happened," he said. "It was a terrible thing. I know I wouldn't want to live here."

Sun staff writer Tim Craig contributed to this article.

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