Loner holds victim

A Police Tactical Assistance Response Unit gets ready for action. Over 20 special task vehicles including armored trucks were requested. Photo by Victor Chu

A wild stand-off between police and a man who barricaded himself in his Eastchester Road apartment played out on Tuesday, November 18, as hostage negotiators tried to convince him to throw down his gun and come out of the house.

Joe Principe, who neighbors said is in his forties and a former Army Ranger, barricaded himself, and apparently also his mother in the house that they share at 2410 Eastchester Road.

The standoff apparently began around noon, with a neighbor reporting that it had been a visit from a probation officer that prompted Principe to say that he wanted to commit suicide. That report is unconfirmed as of press time.

“I was riding my bike and all of a sudden I saw cop cars surrounding the house,” said Linda Rivera, who lives nearby. “From seeing him around the neighborhood, I can tell you he wasn’t wrapped too tight. This is a quiet area. Things like this don’t happen here.”

Neighbors describe him as an introverted man who never said hello, but who grew up in the neighborhood and was frequently seen out with his mother.

There were also allusions from a conversation over a two-way radiophone police had set up to talk to Principe about a history of being in law enforcement, but it was not clear as of press time if this was based in fact or a negotiating tactic.

A police negotiator urged Principe to come out of the house numerous times, but Principe said over the radiophone that he wanted the media to talk with him inside the house before he surrendered. He felt he was being misrepresented by police in the media, and was very concerned about his reputation in the community.

Beginning at approximately noon with four police officers, the standoff that closed Eastchester Road between Astor and Mace avenues quickly escalated, bringing hundreds of cops, including Borough Commander and Assistant Chief of Police Thomas Purtell and SWAT teams, to the scene.

As of press time, the man had not come out of the house, and a police negotiator continued to talk with him over the radiophone, going so far as to tell him that he could return home safely after being taken to a hospital.

“He doesn’t talk to anybody, he is quite a loner,” said next-door neighbor Oscar Lopez, who lives in one of the three buildings evacuated by police on Eastchester Road. “He is sort of like a biker guy – only he doesn’t have a bike.”

More from Around NYC