Standoff snarls traffic on I-70

January 14, 1997


Staff Writers

A former Pennsylvania man, believed to be armed, held police at bay Monday night on Interstate 70 east of Hancock following a 50-mile chase through two counties.

The standoff that began with the pursuit of a stolen car halted traffic on I-70 in both directions for at least four hours, resulting in a backup of about six miles in the Hancock area, police said.

Dozens of troopers, including members of a negotiating team, remained on the scene at 11:15 p.m., trying to convince the man to leave the car.


State police said they believed the man was on the way to his home state of Pennsylvania. They said he was wanted in several states for several violations, none of which involved violent crimes.

The chase, which began near Frederick, Md., at about 4:30 p.m., ended about 6:15 p.m. when the man's car spun onto the median as he attempted to swerve around troopers who were driving their cruisers in a rolling roadblock in the westbound lane.

The man had managed to drive around earlier rolling roadblocks, troopers said.

Maryland State Police in Frederick and Hagerstown said the chase began in Frederick County on westbound I-70 near U.S. Alternate 40 after a trooper became suspicious of the car. A computer check of the tags showed that the late-model Oldsmobile had been reported stolen in Florida, police said.

Troopers from the Hagerstown barracks picked up the chase in Washington County.

Finally, just east of Md. 615 near Hancock, the man, believed to be in his 20s, lost control of the car and spun into the median when he failed an attempt to pass yet another rolling roadblock, police said.

The chase ended in a standoff when the man allegedly pulled what authorities believed was a gun and threatened to harm himself, police said.

At about 6:30 p.m., police located the man's father by telephone, said Trooper 1st Class D.C. Bittinger, who was trying to turn traffic around at the spot where U.S. 40 meets I-70 at Hancock. Since that portion of Washington County is a "dead" area, cellular phones do not work, and troopers had to relay pleas from the father to his son, Bittinger said.

As traffic continued to back up, police tried to detour it onto U.S. 40, around the scene.

"We were getting a lot of calls from motorists in their cars telling us they were running out of fuel," Sgt. Tom Woodward said. "We were concerned about that, plus the cold temperature out there."

Some motorists were able to turn into Hancock to take other routes, witnesses said.

"We could see traffic trying to come through here to find better routes," said Tonya Strait, shift manager of Pizza Hut in Hancock.

At the Hancock Truck Stop business was brisk.

"We've had lots of people coming in to get something to eat," said Tamara Wilson, truck stop cashier. "They can't get around the road block, so they're stopping in here."

The Herald-Mail Articles