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Police, suspect duel with words

May 30, 1998

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

As he talked with police negotiators from the front steps of Dave & Pat's Bar & Grill Friday afternoon, Donald "Don-Don" Carlton Norris' moods swung wildly - from calmly chatting with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in another, to tearfully threatening suicide and raking broken glass across his wrist.

"I'm not coming out of here. I'm not going out alive," he announced minutes before police rushed the 24-year-old Hagerstown man and placed him in custody.

For much of the previous two hours, Norris, wearing blue shorts, a white T-shirt and a Nike baseball hat, sat alone on the bar's front stoop while he spoke with police across the street.

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He talked about his parents, his girlfriend, three current children and a set of twins he said are on the way. He complained about the charges against him and said others are guilty of worse. He also talked defiantly of the consequences he was facing, while surrounded by police armed "like Fort Knox."

"I ain't scared. I ain't scared of nothing," he said.

Across Madison Avenue from the bar, police negotiators, guarded by two parked cars in the hot afternoon sun, repeatedly told Norris to show he was not armed, so the standoff could end peacefully.

"You can sit there and talk until you're blue in the face, but I'm not leaving," said Sgt. Mark Knight of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Norris said he was not getting rid of a concealed weapon, which he said was a loaded Smith & Wesson 9 mm, until he could see his girlfriend. Police later said no weapon was recovered from Norris.

But Knight said Norris could not see the girlfriend until the weapon was put away.

"You're no dummy. You know I can't bring her here if you have the gun," Knight said.

Similar exchanges took place numerous times, and the resulting standoff often left Norris laughing.

"You're mad at me, aren't you?" Norris said to Knight, smiling.

"Yeah, I'm getting mad because you aren't trusting me," Knight said.

Knight and Hagerstown City Police Sgt. Rick Johnson made numerous appeals for Norris to surrender on behalf of his children, saying they would grow up without a father if he ended his life.

"They're going to want to know who Don Norris is," Knight said.

But Norris said he isn't going to get to know his children very well from inside prison.

"Look at the ... life I'm going to live," he said.

Several times Norris walked back into the bar and came back out with a beer in hand. Between sips of beer, he often peeled the labels off the bottles and puffed cigarettes from a box of Marlboros.

At one point he removed two necklaces he was wearing and tossed them into the street, saying through tears that they came from his girlfriend.

More than once he smashed a bottle into the concrete steps, picking up pieces of the broken glass to cut his wrist. His left hand was left bloodied when he slammed it into the broken glass on the stoop.

He said he wanted to use the gun to end his own life.

"It's going to go the way I want it to go, because you have no choice in it," Norris told police.

Police continued to plead with Norris, but he held his ground, telling the officers that he felt good and wasn't giving up the gun.

"Why?" Johnson asked.

"Because I don't want to live," Norris said.

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