The hostage situation at the Clinton campaign office in Rochester, N.H. came to a safe end shortly after 6 p.m. this evening “when a man later identified as Leeland Eisenberg was taken into police custody after holding at least four people hostage.”
Mr. Eisenberg was described by friends and relatives as despondent, with his wife recently asking for a divorce. One person said he had been drinking for 72 hours before he entered the campaign office. Mr. Eisenberg also called CNN to rant about the state of the nation’s mental health system, the network reported.
Once the situation was resolved, Mrs. Clinton said, “I am very grateful that this difficult day has ended so well.”
Mrs. Clinton praised the “courage” of both the hostages and their families, who she said she spoke to throughout the day and then left to fly to New Hampshire to join them.
Mrs. Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, was preparing to give a speech in suburban Virginia at a Democratic National Committee forum, but immediately canceled it upon hearing the news of the unfolding events. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, also canceled an event scheduled for tonight in New York City.
“Everything stopped,” Mrs. Clinton said, “We had nothing on our minds except the safety of these young people.”
For a few hours today, “the usually serene town of Rochester was transformed into a garrison, with bomb squad teams, heavily armed officers with their weapons drawn and armored vehicles encircling to office, located in a storefront of small red-brick building at 28 Main Street.”
Inside, Mr. Eisenberg ordered everyone to the floor, demanded to speak to Mrs. Clinton, and then allowed the woman to take her child and leave. Ms. Tzizik said the woman who had been released told her there were four paid staff members and two volunteers in the office when the man entered.
The campaign workers were frightened for their lives despite assurances by Mr. Eisenberg that he would not harm them.A man identified only as Daniel, an office volunteer for the Clinton campaign who was not in the office at the time, told WMUR that when he heard the news, he called a friend being held hostage on her cell phone.
She was “very hysterical,” he said, but she also told him that Mr. Eisneberg said his intention was not to hurt them, only to talk to Mrs. Clinton.
Daniel said he called the woman back four or five times. “He let her answer her cell phone, which was nice,” Daniel said. “It gave me some kind of peace of mind.”
Daniel said the woman told him that the suspect, Mr. Eisenberg, had a device strapped to his chest and that it “looked like a bomb.”
Mr. Eisenberg did not have a gun, the girl in the office said.
About an hour after he entered the office, Mr. Eisenberg released another hostage in one of the more dramatic moments of the stand-off.
Six heavily armed law enforcement officers were shown on television making their way slowly to the office around 2 p.m., forming a human shield. When they got to the door, they tossed in a package.The officers, weapons drawn, then backed slowly away a few yards from the entrance of the office. Moments later, the woman in the green sweater emerged.
She walked slowly at first and then ran, with an officer by her side, to safety behind an armored vehicle. On the video, she looked distraught.
Shortly after 6:15, a young man, presumably one of the last hostages, was led out of the office.
Moments later, Mr. Eisenberg was led out of the office — an older man, wearing a white shirt, dress pants and a tie. He unwrapped a large piece of clear plastic from around his body and held his hands in the air. He then lay down spread eagle on the street and was patted down by police. A state police explosives unit moved into the office.
Thank goodness this is over and everyone is safe. I’m glad to hear that Hillary Clinton is going to N.H. to be with the members of her staff after this horrible ordeal. The N.Y. Times has more on Eisenberg’s arrest and Foster’s Daily Democrat has more here.
The media and the blogosphere have been abuzz on this all day. There’s discussion at the Nation on the wingnuts mockery of the situation and there’s more at Newshoggers, The Liberal Journal and The Impolitic. See Memeorandum for all the buzz.