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April 22, 2013

Area saw its own armed standoffs 30 years ago

This past Friday, we watched how the Boston area went into a lockdown during a tense search for the last suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Had I still been living and working in that area, as I was in the early 1990s, I would have had a day off from work Friday, as police scoured the city of Waltham.

Back in 1983, two of our local communities, Norwich and Stamford, similarly held their collective breaths for some short but tense periods of time. Each endured hostage situations at local government buildings.

On Monday, April 25, a heavily armed Preston couple surrendered to police after holding 17 hostages at gunpoint for nearly eight hours on the second floor of the Chenango County Office Building in Norwich.

Lawrence B. Gladstone, then 49, and his wife, Christine, then 31, entered the building around 9:30 a.m., demanding the return of 43 dogs taken from them about two years earlier. The couple had been charged with cruelty to animals in December 1981.

After the Gladstones took over the office, they released one couple, instructing them to take a list of 15 demands to the nearby Chenango County Sheriff’s office. The county office building was surrounded by police, and a state police negotiating team set up a phone contact with the Gladstones.

As the day went on, a few more of the hostages were released. While the loss of the dogs appeared to be the cause of the Gladstones action, dogs were also the key to the release of the remainder of the hostages and ending the standoff. One of their former dogs, a copper-colored husky, was brought into the building around 3 p.m., and four hostages were released. Another dog was brought in about a half hour later, and the last five hostages were let go. There were some gunshots fired before the surrender, but no one was hit.

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