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1 Dead As Pa. Hostage Standoff Ends

June 18, 1999

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) _ A hostage standoff at the state’s largest mental institution ended today with a fired employee killing one hostage and critically wounding the other after police broke a window to get a better look at him.

Dennis Czajkowski, a former Norristown State Hospital nurse who had held the hostages _ both nursing supervisors _ since Wednesday, shot and killed Carol Kepner, 52, state police spokesman Robert Whitbeck said.

Czajkowski wounded the second hostage, 37-year-old Maria Jordan, who was flown to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where she was in critical condition.

Czajkowski, 40, was taken away by medical helicopter with unspecified injuries. He also was in critical condition; doctors said his injuries did not include gunshot wounds.

Dr. Robert Neumar, the emergency room physician, said both were expected to survive.

Police said Czajkowski had been angry over being fired from his job two months ago.

``He was terminated and the two women he is holding were part of that decision,″ Whitbeck said today. ``He specifically targeted at least Maria Jordan. We don’t know whether he knew for sure whether Carol Kepner would be there.″

Visibly shaken after the standoff ended badly, Whitbeck said that as of 8:45 a.m. today Czajkowski had become increasingly agitated. Police, who at that point could not see the gunman, decided to break in a window.

``Immediately on breaking one of the windows the subject opened fire,″ Whitbeck said.

The power had been shut down Thursday night and police negotiators worked round the clock talking to Czajkowski. But they said he did respond to conventional hostage-negotiation techniques. By this morning, he had apparently been awake for most if not all of the time since the standoff began about 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, police said.

Czajkowski had held the women in Ms. Jordan’s office. Negotiators were in another room of the building, negotiating by phone.

The families of Ms. Jordan and Ms. Kepner had been brought in Thursday afternoon and were giving information to police. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the families were at the hospital when the shooting broke out this morning. An unidentified man was loaded into an ambulance shortly after standoff ended, but it wasn’t clear what was wrong with him.

The hospital’s 650 patients were moved to safe quarters on Wednesday. Areas away from the nursing offices continued to operate normally Thursday for the most part, with workers showing up for their regular shifts.

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

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

Update hourly