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Hostage Standoff Continues in Pa.

June 17, 1999

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) _ Two nursing supervisors at the state’s largest mental hospital were taken hostage by a fired employee, and remained hostage this morning more than 20 hours after their ordeal began.

Police were negotiating by phone with Dennis Czajkowski, 40, a nurse who told authorities his dismissal from Norristown State Hospital in this Philadelphia suburb was unjust, Capt. Thomas LaCrosse said today.

LaCrosse said police had no plans to storm the building; instead, the plan was to wait him out. Police were working in shifts to do that.

``As time wears on, it plays in our favor,″ LaCrosse said. ``We don’t want him to do something rash.″

State police spokesman Robert Whitbeck said Czajkowski walked into Norristown State Hospital’s Building 2, which houses nursing administration offices, at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday and fired his gun once into the ceiling.

When three guards approached him, he fired four more rounds into the air, Whitbeck said. No one was hurt by any of the shots, but nursing supervisors Maria Jordan and Carol Kepner were taken hostage. They were in good shape and had not been physically abused, Whitbeck said.

The area is not near any patients in the sprawling hospital complex. Areas away from the nursing offices continued to operate normally today, with workers showing up for their regular shifts.

LaCrosse said the man had ordered pizza overnight. The power remained on in the building.

Authorities said he was fired two months ago but did not say why.

The Philadelphia Inquirer today quoted unidentified law-enforcement officials as saying Czajkowski has an extensive history of mental illness and drug use, and was upset over a recent breakup with a girlfriend. There is a warrant for his arrest in Upper Merion Township, the newspaper reported, but police would not comment about that.

The 118-year-old hospital, situated on 233 acres, has a locked area where the worst of the criminally insane are kept, and also serves the chronically mentally ill. It has about 650 patients.

Neighbors have sought tighter security after dozens of patients walked away from the hospital without permission in the past two years.

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