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Man calls police, then shoots self

December 04, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

An hourlong standoff between three Hagerstown City Police officers and a distraught man threatening to shoot himself ended Thursday morning in the 700 block of Washington Avenue when the man put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

The 45-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 1:18 a.m. by Dr. Arthur Horn, a Washington County medical examiner.

"For more than 45 minutes we talked to him but he just kept saying he wanted us to shoot him," said Sgt. Mark Holtzman.

The drama began just after midnight when police received a telephone call from the man. He told dispatchers he had a gun and was going to shoot himself, Holtzman said.

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Officers Casey Yonkers and Dwayne Freeman went to the double home on U.S. 40 in the West End of Hagerstown.

"When they arrived, the man came out and greeted them ... holding a handgun," Holtzman said. The officers immediately took cover.

For some time, the man stood on the sidewalk outside his home with the gun to his head while Freeman tried to talk to him, police said.

"At one point, he fired one round into the air," Holtzman said. "Then he put the gun down to his side."

The man began challenging the police to shoot him again. He went into the house briefly and then went back outside, and sat on the stoop with the gun in his hand, Holtzman said.

"We talked for a long time and then he just put the gun to his head and fired one shot," Holtzman said.

The episode didn't draw a lot of attention in the neighborhood, Holtzman said.

"We evacuated the resident in the other half of the double house but otherwise, no neighbors came out to see what was going on," Holtzman said.

A teenager sleeping upstairs in the same side of the double did not wake up, Holtzman said.

Hagerstown Fire Police stopped traffic above the site so cars wouldn't be passing while police tried to talk the man into giving up the weapon.

Holtzman had pieced together some clues Thursday morning in an effort to understand what drove the man to take his life.

"There was not enough alcohol involved here to be a factor," Holtzman said. "We do know he was on medication for depression."

In addition, the man, who was a machinist, had been off work because of an injury and recently had wrecked his vehicle, Holtzman said.

Members of the Hagerstown City Police victim/witness advocate group went to police headquarters to be with the surviving family members and help with arrangements, Holtzman said.

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