Joseph C. Palczynski

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Joseph Palcynski
Born (1968-11-11)November 11, 1968
Died March 21, 2000(2000-03-21) (aged 31)
Other names "Joby"
Occupation Electrician and bodybuilder
Parent(s) Patricia "Pat" Long (mother)
Killings
Date March 7-8, 2000
Location(s) Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Killed 4
Weapons Gun

Joseph C. "Joe" Palczynski (November 11, 1968 - March 21, 2000) was a spree killer in the suburbs of Baltimore who in March 2000 terrorized residents in the region by killing four people and taking a family of three as hostages in one of the longest one-man standoffs ever known.[1] The saga ended with two of the hostages escaping and a third being rescued, Palczynski being shot to death by Baltimore County Police, and a woman being sentenced to prison for purchasing the weapons for him.

Background[edit]

In the years before his shooting rampage, Palczynski, an electrician and bodybuilder who was unemployed at the time of the shootings, had a lengthy record of domestic violence and related crimes. He had been in and out of prison, mental institutions, and on parole or probation on many occasions.

Palczynski was already wanted for violating his parole at the time of the shootings. Some of his earlier crimes included assault and battery, which one time caused one of his ex-girlfriends to miscarry a child the two had conceived, and a standoff in 1992 in Idaho that lasted 16 hours.[2]

Initial rampage[edit]

First three killings[edit]

The story came to the public's attention on March 7, 2000, when a triple homicide occurred in the quiet community of Bowley's Quarters near Middle River (a suburb to the east of Baltimore), an area not accustomed to violent crime. George and Gloria Shenk, ages 49 and 50, and their neighbor David Meyers, 42, were shot to death as Palczynski kidnapped his estranged girlfriend, Tracy Whitehead, then 20, and made off in his mother's car.[3] The Shenks had been providing a haven for Whitehead, who had been accusing Palczynski of abusing her and had recently left him and planned to move into her own apartment from her parents' house where she had been living.

Police manhunt[edit]

For ten days following the triple shooting, Palczynski was the subject of an intense manhunt involving every available law enforcement unit. The officers, using the latest technology and all available equipment, formed a barrier with roadblocks and other borders, surrounding the area where they believed Palczynski had been. On two separate occasions, Palczynski was able to penetrate the barriers and evade capture. It was believed that he was trying to contact longtime friend Kevin Massengill. Whether he was able to contact either of the two was never proven and neither one would comment if he had.

Fourth killing[edit]

During the evening of Wednesday, March 8, Palczynski killed a fourth victim. Jenifer McDonel, 36, the pregnant mother of a 2-year-old boy, was fatally wounded from a ricochet bullet in front of her family during an unsuccessful carjacking attempt in Chase. While Palczynski was unable to steal a vehicle in this attempt (his target vehicle was not the McDonels' car), he later carjacked an 81-year-old woman, who was not injured.

Following the fourth murder, Palczynski took Whitehead to Room 25 of the El Rich motel on the Pulaski Highway, from which during the night she escaped unharmed. It is possible that she was not held against her will and fled only after spotting a police car. The motel clerk did not notice the man checking in as "John Silver" was Palczynski, but has stated that Whitehead had come out alone on several occasions to buy soda and food, and stated she seemed "chipper" and "happy," not at all scared or frightened. Palczynski saw the story on the news in the motel room, and realized his guns were in the vehicle he had just stolen, which police were looking for. He went outside with Whitehead to retrieve them. As they stepped outside, Whitehead saw a police car, which she ran to, and Palczynski ran into the nearby woods and fled.

Hostage kidnapped in Virginia[edit]

On Friday, March 10, Palczynski fled to Virginia, where he kidnapped William Louis Terrell and ordered him to transport him back to eastern Baltimore County. He was believed by investigators to have hitched a ride on a train, though he told Terrell he paid a woman to transport him there. During the kidnapping, he ordered Terrell to drive to a shopping center that included a Best Buy and a Target, and to purchase food and various survival equipment as well as a battery-operated television with a wad of cash Palczynski provided. He threatened Terrell that he would "shoot whoever was around" if Terrell did not comply. Police found Terrell in his pickup truck at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning after Palczynski released him. Terrell, who relied on his "faith" during his ordeal, had been keeping his promise not to call police.[4]

Terrell was one of several people Palczynski had encountered since the first incident who was not harmed.

Siege[edit]

On Friday, March 17, Palczynski once again surprised investigators when he penetrated a barrier and fled to nearby Dundalk to the home of Tracy Whitehead's mother Lynn, her boyfriend Andrew McCord, and their 12-year-old son, Bradley McCord. He was let into their home by Bradley, who did not understand the danger Palczynski posed. For the following 97 hours, Palczynski held the family hostage in their home, ignoring the requests of law enforcement and negotiators and occasionally firing shots.

During the standoff, no one was permitted to enter the neighborhood of the hostage situation, an area that police called an "inner perimeter". All area residents were asked to stay at a shelter that was set up at a nearby elementary school. Several people who violated the perimeter set up by police were arrested. The Baltimore County Tactical Squad requisitioned a nearby house in which there was a barking dog. The Baltimore County Tactical Squad shot and killed the dog.

Palczynski presented one demand to officers throughout the ordeal: to speak with Tracy. Police denied him this request. Afterwards, they justified this denial by stating it was his only request, and had they granted it he might have killed Whitehead's mother and other hostages while Tracy listened on the phone. Also, it was later said that he also wanted to speak with Pat Long, his mother, and Contrino. During this time, Tracy was kept at an undisclosed location, revealed after the standoff to be a room at a Holiday Inn that was kept under 24-hour police guard.

End of siege[edit]

On the evening of Tuesday, March 21, the adult hostages took matters into their own hands. Having laced a glass of iced tea with Xanax, they put Palczynski to sleep. Andrew McCord then fled out the front window, alone. He made a lot of noise by tumbling out the window in a panic, but didn't wake Palczynski. They left Bradley, who was sleeping on the kitchen floor, behind with the expectations that police would rescue him. Officers, fearing for the boy's life, burst into the home. There have been many discussions on why the parents would leave the child behind. A documentary aired on British TV station More 4 on April 7, 2010, stated that they believed, as he was a child, if they woke him up he might be upset, make noise, and wake up Palczynski, who would likely kill them all. They thought it best for the adults to escape and let the police rescue the boy.

According to officers, Palczynski, who had last been seen lying on top of his weapons, had sat up and reached for a weapon. This led officers to fire numerous rounds into Palczynski, killing him. While the events unfolded live on television, viewers did not see the actual killing of Palczynski.

Aftermath of Palczynski's death[edit]

Following the death of Palczynski, an investigation revealed that he had been shot 27 times by officers.[5] An autopsy found no traces of any drugs or alcohol other than the Xanax used to knock him out. While some doubts lingered in the minds of a few members of the public on shooting an unarmed man, the shooting was determined by police to be justified.[6]

Shortly after the shootings a woman was charged with illegally purchasing firearms for a convicted felon. The woman had no prior criminal record, and was paid by Palczynski a day before the triple shooting for a shotgun that she was selling.[7] She was also ordered in a civil lawsuit to pay $450,000 to the families of the victims.[8]

Reward collection attempt in Palczynski's apprehension[edit]

After the siege, McCord attempted to collect a $10,000 reward offered in the apprehension of Palczynski, claiming he was the first to call 911, resulting in a capture of the suspect. He was turned down, however, because he did not call Metro Crime Stoppers, the tipline that offers the rewards.[9] Calling this hotline is required in order to collect any rewards being offered in the capture of a fugitive. Tracy Whitehead won $100,000 in a contest on the Howard Stern show.[10]

Hostages' lawsuit against police[edit]

The former hostages also filed a lawsuit against police, alleging that the department failed to protect them.[11] Police stated they had offered various forms of protection to the family, which they all turned down. These included having an officer stay in their house, having a police unit parked in front of their house, and increasing patrols to their neighborhood during the crisis.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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