Standoff Ends With Surrender At Clinton Office

By Alec MacGillis and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, December 1, 2007

ROCHESTER, N.H., Nov. 30 -- A man who claimed he had a bomb strapped to his chest seized four workers in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign office here Friday afternoon, police said, holding them for more than five hours and demanding to speak to Clinton before surrendering to police.

The suspect, identified as Leeland Eisenberg, 47, a gadfly well known to local police for his erratic behavior, gave himself up to a SWAT team around 6:15 p.m., lying flat on the pavement and being handcuffed. The capture ended a drama that interrupted the political chaos that normally engulfs New Hampshire as the presidential primary approaches.

No one was injured, and police said the alleged bomb turned out to be road flares. Clinton (N.Y.), the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, was in the Washington, D.C., area during the incident. She canceled a planned speech to the Democratic National Committee on Friday.

In a brief statement to reporters after Eisenberg was arrested, Clinton praised law enforcement officers for bringing a peaceful end to "a very hard day," and thanking the young volunteers and paid staffers who are toiling in New Hampshire on behalf of her campaign.

"Every four years, extraordinary young people come to places like New Hampshire because they want to change our country," Clinton said in Washington before heading to the Granite State. "I want to commend every one of them from every campaign. I'm so grateful for them every single day."

Eisenberg demanded cigarettes, alcohol and Pepsi throughout the tense afternoon, police said late Friday. They said Clinton had been willing to talk to the suspect but was discouraged from doing so by tactical officers who did not want to meet that demand too quickly.

She suspended campaigning for the afternoon, 34 days before the first voting takes place on Jan. 3 in Iowa. "Everything stopped," she said. "We had nothing on our minds besides the safety of these young people." Aides to rival Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said he suspended campaigning for the day, as well. Former North Carolina senator John Edwards issued a statement expressing thanks that no one was hurt.

Police said Eisenberg entered the small, storefront Clinton office about 12:45 p.m. Friday and promptly let a mother leave with her baby, police said. The office was quickly surrounded by police and SWAT units while TV helicopters captured the response from the air.

A Manchester, N.H., television station reported Friday night that Eisenberg was scheduled to be in court in nearby Dover about an hour after entering the Clinton office, on a domestic violence hearing.

Witnesses said an armored truck containing a Dover SWAT team approached the Clinton storefront about 3 p.m., and police used the vehicle's loudspeaker to communicate with the hostage-taker. Several witnesses said they heard police promising that they would not storm the facility and that they wanted to talk.

Anderson Cooper, an anchor with CNN, later revealed that Eisenberg had also been communicating by phone with the network's reporters throughout the afternoon. Cooper said that the suspect called CNN offices several times to complain that he had "mental problems and couldn't get anyone to help him."

About 2:45 p.m., a young woman ran out of the office and was escorted to the nearby command post by a SWAT officer. Police said later that she had dashed out of the office without the suspect's permission.

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