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Md. Hostages Safe, Suspect Killed

March 22, 2000

DUNDALK, Md. (AP) _ Police stormed an apartment Tuesday night and fatally shot a murder suspect who had been holding three people hostage since Friday. Two captives had slipped out to safety and a third, a 12-year-old boy, was rescued by police.

``All of the hostages are safe,″ police spokeswoman Vickie Warehime said. ``Nobody was injured.″

Joseph Palczynski, an unemployed electrician with a history of mental illness, was shot to death by police, Warehime said. The only shots fired at the end of the standoff came from police, Warehime said. Police believed he had four weapons.

The standoff began Friday when Palczynski, 31, forced his way into the apartment and took three people hostage, including the mother of his former girlfriend. He is accused of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend on March 7, killing four people and leading police on a manhunt for more than a week.

The girlfriend’s mother, Lynn Whitehead and her boyfriend, Andy McCord, escaped from a first-floor bedroom window Tuesday night.

``God was really with us,″ said Laura Whitehead, Lynn’s daughter. ``We can live a normal life now. No fear. And we’re just thanking God,″ she told WJZ-TV.

Palczynski was asleep on a sofa with a gun on his lap under a blanket when police burst in through a living room window, police spokesman Bill Toohey said. He woke up and started to stand when police shot him, Toohey said. Police rescued Bradley McCord, who had been asleep on the kitchen floor.

``They broke through the window, encountered Mr. Palczynski in the family room, and shot him,″ Toohey said.

After days of sporadic gunfire at police vehicles and other targets outside the apartment, a single shot was fired inside the apartment Monday afternoon, police said.

A Whitehead cousin, Judy Gronke, said Andy McCord’s leg was grazed by a bullet Monday. Lynn Whitehead treated the wound with the help of paramedics who advised her over the phone, Gronke said.

Newspaper and broadcast reports have said Palczynski’s main demand during the hostage drama was to speak to his former girlfriend. Police have not said where she is or if she has played any role in the negotiations police had with him.

In a phone call to WJZ-TV on Sunday that the station aired for the first time Tuesday night, Palczynski said police wouldn’t let him talk to her.

``I love her dearly. I did not mean to kill those people,″ Palczynski said. ``I’ve been begging for them to just allow me to talk to Tracy. I will surrender peacefully. I won’t kill anybody else, I won’t hurt anybody else. I did not mean to do any of this.″

Palczynski was arrested March 4 on assault charges for allegedly beating his girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead, when she tried to move out of their apartment. He was released the next day on $7,500 bond despite a lengthy criminal record and a history of mental illness involving several attacks on former girlfriends.

The killings began March 7, when police say Palczynski abducted Whitehead at gunpoint while fatally shooting George and Gloria Shenk, the couple who had sheltered her. Outside the Shenk home, he allegedly shot and killed David Meyers, 42, a neighbor who tried to help Whitehead during the struggle.

Whitehead escaped the next day by running to a police officer who happened to be at a motel where Palczynski took her.

Also that day, police said, Jennifer McDonel was fatally shot and a 2-year-old boy was wounded when they drove by as Palczynski fired shots during an attempted carjacking.

Palczynski then led police on a manhunt for more than a week, surfacing in this Baltimore suburb Friday.

That’s when police say he broke into a home and stole guns, then shot his way into the home of Whitehead’s relatives and took them hostage.

During the hostage drama, relatives and friends pleaded for Palczynski to come out. The emotional appeals were aired live on television stations in hopes he would be watching.

Palczynski has been in a similar situation before. In 1992, he kept police in Idaho at bay for 16 hours following a domestic violence complaint by a girlfriend. He was finally forced out with tear gas.

The latest standoff had been wearing down the patience of residents in the four-block area surrounding the home where Palczynski was holed up. Police cordoned off the area and did not allow people in or out of the neighborhood until Sunday.

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