An armed man who held four of presidential-hopeful Hillary Clinton’s young campaign staffers hostage at the senator’s office in Rochester, New Hampshire, on Friday afternoon (November 30) surrendered and is in police custody, according to CNN. Leeland Eisenberg of Somersworth, New Hampshire, who is described as in his 40s, had appeared to be wearing a bomb strapped to his chest. The situation was reportedly resolved peacefully.
Four hostages, including a woman and a child, had been held inside Clinton’s office and were released after police snipers and cruisers negotiated with Eisenberg, who was previously familiar with police and had expressed discontent with the mental-health care system in the U.S., CNN said. Eisenberg had reportedly been drinking heavily prior to the incident, is facing divorce and had told his stepson to watch the news on Friday.
Clinton had been in the Washington, D.C., area at the time of the incident but announced at a press conference held later in the day that she would be traveling to New Hampshire to visit campaign staff members, and to thank law-enforcement officials for helping to bring the situation to a peaceful conclusion.
“I am very grateful that this difficult day has ended so well,” said Clinton, who revealed that she had been in touch with the families of those who had been held hostage. “All of my campaign staff and volunteers are safe. I want to thank them for their extraordinary courage and coolness under very difficult circumstances. This has been a very hard day for all of us in our campaign, but beyond that, extraordinary young people come to places like New Hampshire because they want to help our country … I want to commend every one of them, from every campaign, for making a commitment. I’m … especially just relieved to have this situation end so peacefully, with no one being injured.”
Clinton also thanked New Hampshire Governor John Lynch for marshalling resources to Rochester and said Social Security and the FBI were also involved. She added that it turned out to be a “very gratifying day, the way it worked out.”
According to CNN, Eisenberg demanded to speak with Clinton while he was holding the hostages. SWAT teams outside the offices sent in a cell phone to establish contact with Eisenberg telling him they would not enter the premises. He was reportedly taken into custody outside the office after the hostages were released.
After the matter was apparently resolved, CNN revealed that it had spoken with Eisenberg and one of his hostages during the incident. Eisenberg reportedly said he had mental problems and couldn’t get anyone to help him.
CNN reports that police were called to the office at about 1 p.m. and surrounded the offices by 2 p.m. The Associated Press reports that authorities had sent a tactical bomb unit to the area, which was evacauated. A woman and her baby were said to have been released prior to the other hostages, and one witness, Lettie Tzizik, told the news outlet she had spoken with the woman soon after she was released and fled for cover in a nearby store.
“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,’ ” Tzizik said. ” ’A man has just walked into the Clinton office, opened his coat and showed us a bomb strapped to his chest with duct tape.’ ”
Clinton, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, was set to deliver a speech at 3 p.m. during a Democratic National Committee event in Vienna, Virginia. She canceled that appearance because of the hostage situation.
“Unfortunately as some of you know, there is a hostage situation in New Hampshire involving a Clinton campaign staff person,” DNC Chairman Howard Dean told those who were in attendance for the event. “The details are sketchy at this time, but understandably Senator Clinton is now dealing with this very difficult problem and she is not going to be able to join us today. And we will keep them in our prayers and hope for a resolution to this situation in New Hampshire.”
Clinton’s fellow Democratic presidential contenders Senator Joe Biden and Representative Dennis Kucinich weighed in on the incident later Friday. “I’m sure like everyone here I pray to God that it works out right,” Biden said. “We’re in solidarity with Hillary at this moment,” Kucinich said.
According to CNN, the nearby campaign office of Senator Barack Obama, another Democrat seeking his party’s nomination, was locked down as a precautionary measure. The offices of former senator and Democratic candidate John Edwards were also closed.
[This story was originally published at 3 p.m. ET on 11.30.2007]