Hostage taker surrenders after nearly 6 hour standoff at Clinton campaign office
After five-and-a-half tense hours Friday, a tense standoff came to an end outside Hillary Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire as a man who claimed to have a bomb strapped to his chest surrendered to authorities.
The man walked into a Hillary Clinton campaign office in Rochester, NH, just after 1 p.m. and took several staffers and volunteers hostage.
WMUR TV reported that the man, believed to be Leeland Eisenberg, surrendered just before 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Earlier in the day, a SWAT team approached the campaign office and secured the release of two female volunteers who were being held hostage in the campaign office in Rochester, NH, WMUR TV reported. The station said those hostages appeared to be the only ones in the campaign office, but the hostage taker remains inside engaged in an "armed standoff" with police, who have not confirmed that all hostages have been released.
Clinton campaign officials told WMUR said two male volunteers remained inside with the hostage-taker.
Capt. Paul Callaghan of the Rochester Police Department would not confirm whether all the hostages had been released when he spoke to reporters just before 5 p.m. Friday, but he said authorities had the area under control.
"We have stabilized the area, we have a secure perimiter that is about four or five blocks," Callaghan said.
"This is still a fluid investigation. ... I'm not going to confirm the number of hostages that were taken or the number that are in there now," he continued.
Several stations reported that the apparent bomb may have just been road flares that he had purchased Thursday night. A witness who worked at a nearby restaurant told WMUR that the suspect's stepson came in and explained that the suspect was unemployed and in the middle of a divorce.
There were conflicting reports on the suspect's identity, but he apparently had "been drinking for 72 hours" and inquired about where to buy roadside flares before telling his stepson to watch the news tonight, according to the witness.
Callaghan would not confirm whether or not the suspect had an actual bomb, although he did say that a State Police bomb squad responded to the scene, nor would he comment on any details about the suspect.
The suspect was well known to local authorities and has a history of emotional problems, ABC News reports from well-placed law enforcement source. The man told his son to "watch the news today." He is described as in his 40s with salt-and-pepper hair.
Details were still emerging about the situation early Friday afternoon, but Clinton was not in New Hampshire Friday. The man walked into the office around 1 p.m. Friday and apparently demanded to speak with the Democratic candidate.
Authorities know of at least two hostages who were being held at the office, and "the potential for harm to those hostages is high," police Maj. Michael Hambrook told WHDH television before authorities secured their release.
Earlier in the day, the hostage take also released a mother and her young child who were being held hostage, according to reports.
According to television reports, authorities surrounded the office, and witnesses reported seeing an armored vehicle nearby. Sharpshooters also are posted on nearby rooftops. Dozens of officers who appear to be part of a SWAT team are setting up a staging area in a nearby parking lot.
The Clinton campaign released the following statement, according to MSNBC:
"There is an ongoing situation in our Rochester, New Hampshire office. We are in close contact with state and local authorities, and are acting at their direction. We will release additional details as appropriate."
Clinton has canceled a scheduled appearance at the Democratic National Committee's annual meeting in Virginia Friday. Bill Clinton also canceled a scheduled appearance in New York Friday night, WMUR reported.
DNC chairman Howard Dean said Clinton was dealing the situation and "she is not going to be able to join us today" at the party's autumn meeting, held just over a month before the first nominating contest in Iowa.
"There are sharp shooters on the roof, and police are negotiating with someone in the building," one witness, who did not want to be identified, told WMUR TV. "The police are notifying all the business owners on the street to evacuate. There are fire trucks behind the Hillary Clinton office."
Authorities appear to have cleared the area around the office, in downtown Rochester, NH. Campaign offices of Barack Obama and John Edwards are on the same block and also were evacuated. Video of the scene broadcast Friday afternoon on MSNBC showed empty streets around the office, with police cars posted outside.
It was not immediately clear what was happening inside the office, and police have asked television stations to stop broadcasting live images of the offices so as not to interfere with their attempts to negotiate with the hostage-taker.
Witness Lettie Tzizik told WMUR that she spoke to a woman shortly after she was released from the office by the hostage-taker.
"A young woman with a 6-month or 8-month-old infant came rushing into the store just in tears, and she said, 'You need to call 911. A man has just walked into the Clinton office, opened his coat and showed us a bomb strapped to his chest with duct tape."
Capt. Paul Callaghan, of the Rochester police department, told MSNBC that police had evacuated a two- to three-square block area around the campaign office, as well as a nearby elementary and middle school.
The New Hampshire State Police bomb squad arrived on the scene shortly before 2 p.m. Friday, Callaghan said. He would not say how many campaign staffers were being held hostage.
More information is available from local TV stations WMUR and WCVB.
This video is from MSNBC, broadcast on November 30, 2007.