Hostage drama plays out at Clinton office
Vail, CO Colorado
ROCHESTER, N.H. ” A distraught man wearing what appeared to be a bomb walked into a Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign office Friday and demanded to speak to the candidate about access to mental health care. A hostage drama dragged on for nearly six hours until he peacefully surrendered.
Shortly after releasing the last of at least five hostages unharmed, a man whom police identified as Leeland Eisenberg, 46, walked out of the storefront office, put down a homemade bomb-like package and was immediately surrounded by SWAT team with guns drawn. Clad in gray slacks, white dress shirt and a red tie, he was put on the ground and handcuffed.
Authorities said Eisenberg was strapped with what turned out to be road flares and demanded to speak to Clinton, who was in Washington during the day but traveled to New Hampshire Friday night to meet with the hostages, their families and police.
The confrontation brought Clinton’s campaign to a standstill just five weeks before the New Hampshire primary, one of the first tests of the presidential campaign season. She canceled all appearances, as did her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and the security around her was increased as a precaution. Clinton has Secret Service protection.
“He was someone that was not known to my campaign headquarters until he walked in the door today,” Clinton said at a late-night news conference in Portsmouth. “It appears that he is someone who is in need of help and sought attention in absolutely the wrong way.”
A man who said he was Mrs. Eisenberg’s son declined comment Friday night.
Rochester police Chief David DuBois said Eisenberg was being held on state charges of kidnapping and reckless conduct, and that federal charges were being considered.
According to police, Eisenberg walked into the office around 1 p.m. and peeled back his jacket to reveal what appeared to be a bomb duct-taped to his chest. He took several hostages, but immediately let a woman with an infant go.
Armed SWAT team members, protecting themselves with shields, called to the man over bullhorns and attempted to hand a phone into the office.
Eisenberg had a hostage call CNN three times, and he spoke to network staffers during the standoff, CNN reported after the ordeal was over and all the hostages were safe. Eisenberg said he wanted help getting psychiatric care, but had been turned away because he didn’t have the money.
“I need to speak to Hillary Clinton,” CNN quoted him as saying. “Something’s got to change. Ordinary people need help” with their insurance.
The network described Eisenberg as “well-spoken, articulate and impassioned about his cause” but increasingly agitated. His third phone call was laced with profanities, CNN said.
About two hours after Eisenberg let the woman and baby go, at least one other woman escaped from the office; two other hostages made it out later, the last about half an hour before Eisenberg surrendered, police said.
Not long after the surrender, which occurred shortly after 6 p.m., police maneuvered a robot to the Eisenberg’s package and triggered an explosion to destroy it.
Eisenberg entered the office about a half-hour before he was scheduled to appear in Strafford County court with his wife for a domestic violence hearing, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat in Dover.
Associated Press writers Glen Johnson in Rochester and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.