A man wielding a handgun abducted a Vienna man and his wife from a Tysons Corner shopping mall Wednesday, starting a 5 1/2-hour ordeal that ended in a Frederick, Md., motel where the couple was bound, gagged and robbed, Fairfax County police said yesterday.
Police said a nationwide lookout was posted for Paul Dana O'Haire, 29, of San Francisco, following what a police spokesman called " a bizarre set of circumstances" that ended when the couple freed themselves and called police.
The victims, Vienna town official Todd Palmquist and his wife, Margaret, were at home yesterday, "just wanting to put the whole thing to sleep and trying to get back on track," Palmquist said.
According to law enforcement officials, O'Haire left San Francisco on Monday, sharing the driving and expenses with Scott Garland of Twin Falls, Mass., in Garland's blue Chevrolet decorated with Hare Krishna decals. The three-day trip was uneventful until the pair reached the Washington area, Fairfax police spokesman Warren Carmichael said.
Arriving here about noon Wednesday, Garland announced he was going to visit friends and told O'Haire to get out. O'Haire then rummaged in one of his bags and allegedly raised what police said was either a .38-caliber or a .357 blue steel handgun. "Start driving," O'Haire said, according to police accounts.
The two men, unfamiliar with the Washington area, drove around for about 90 minutes, police said, finally coming to a halt in traffic about 1:30 p.m. on Rte. 123 across from the Tysons Corner Center shopping mall.
Witnesses said yesterday that a malfunctioning signal light had traffic piled up for more than a quarter-mile and the din of car horns was growing louder.
Suddenly, according to police, Garland shoved the gear of his van into "park," pulled the keys from the ignition and jumped from the vehicle, running in bare feet toward a service station.
"The guy came running into the station and headed for the back office and laid down on the floor," said Amoco attendant Ralph Cockrill, 32. "He was plenty scared, plenty freaked out, too . . . He yelled, 'call the police.'"
Meanwhile, back on Rte. 123, the van popped out of gear and rolled backward into a station wagon. According to police, O'Haire jumped out of the van, revolver in hand, ran toward the station wagon, said a few words to the female driver and then he, too, ran toward the gas station.
Chris Scheer, another Amoco employe, went to the station wagon to offer help. "The lady looked dazed," Scheer said yesterday. "She said that the guy had said 'Excuse me, but that guy [Garland] just ran away with my keys."
Witnesses said O'Haire reached the station and kept on going, leaping a metal guard rail behind the station and running down a short, grassy slope. Several of the gas station attendants ran after him. At the bottom of the incline, according to the witnesses, O'Haire slowed down to a walk and strolled casually over to the Palmquists' car.
"He stuck his head in the window and then got in the car," said Cockrill. "We didn't know if they were friends or what, but I shouted for somebody to get the license number down."
The Toyota pulled away, heading toward Rte. 7, with station attendant Mike Stientjes running alongside. He looked inside. "The people looked scared," he said of the occupants.
According to police, O'Haire ordered the incredulous Palmquists to drive around, keeping the gun either in a blue sports-type bag or in the belt of his trousers. "Todd evidently thought the guy was very nice, except he had a gun, so he went along with him," said Vienna town spokeswoman Marie Kissner.
Eventually, the three headed north on I-270 and reached Frederick about 4 p.m. They pulled into the I-70 Motor Inn, a four-story, red brick motel nestled behind a truck stop.
An inn employe said Palmquist paid $37 for a room for three, and an additional $1.85 to cover the tax.
According to police, O'Haire bound the Palmquists with adhesive tape and Todd Palmquist's necktie and gagged them both with wash cloths tied in place with a towel. After a 90-minute nap, O'Haire awoke, allegedly robbed the couple of $60 in cash and a gasoline credit card and fled in their car.
By 7 p.m. the Palmquists managed to wriggle free. They called Todd Palmquist's brother, who called police.
Declining yesterday to give extensive comments because "we want to keep our pictures and feelings out of the paper and off the TV," Todd Palmquist did offer one insight:
"We were scared, of course," he said.