Hillary Offers Thanks In New Hampshire

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., speaks at a news conference, Nov. 30, 2007, in Portsmouth, N.H.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
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 during a hostage drama that dragged on for nearly six hours before he peacefully surrendered.

Shortly after releasing the last of at least four hostages unharmed, 46-year-old Leeland Eisenberg walked out of the storefront office.

Eisenberg came out with his hands up, fell to his knees, and removed something that was strapped to his stomach, CBS station WBZ's Paul Burton reports.

Eisenberg 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.

CBS station WBZ Radio's Lana Jones learned that Eisenberg's stepson reported to police that his stepfather had been drinking for two days. The son said Eisenberg had strapped two road flares to his chest and told his son Friday morning that he was going to the Clinton campaign office. He reportedly told his stepson "to watch the news."

Clinton was in the Washington area the whole time, but the confrontation brought her 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.

"Everything stopped, and it had to because we had nothing on our minds except the safety of these young people who work for me," Clinton told reporters shortly after the standoff ended. She said she was "just relieved to have this situation end so peacefully," and that she was headed to New Hampshire to thank law enforcement officials.

"He was someone that was not known to my campaign headquarters until he walked in the door today," Clinton said later, 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."

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.

A man who said he was Mrs. Eisenberg's son declined comment Friday night.

It was just after 1 p.m. when Eisenberg walked into the storefront office, opened his coat and revealed what appeared to be an explosive device, reports Burton. He allowed a woman carrying a baby to leave but then ordered a small number of other to the floor. About two hours later police tossed a phone into the office.

Seconds before he surrendered, shortly after 6 p.m., the last hostage walked from the office. The hostage then ran down the street toward the police roadblocks surrounding Clinton's office.

Not long after the surrender, police maneuvered a robot to the hostage-taker's package and triggered an explosion to destroy it.

Witness Lettie Tzizik told television station WMUR of Manchester that she spoke to the woman who was released first and that she was crying, holding the infant.

"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," Tzizik said.

Heavily armed SWAT team members, protecting themselves with shields, called to the man over bullhorns and attempted to hand a phone into the office.

CNN reported after Eisenberg surrendered that a woman had called the network from the office and put Eisenberg on the phone. He told CNN he had mental problems and couldn't get anyone to help him, and called the network several times during the standoff.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer said the network called police after hearing from Eisenberg, but did not air those details until Eisenberg surrendered out of concern for the hostages' safety.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Eisenberg was known around the town to be mentally unstable. The official declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

The official said the man walked into the campaign office and opened his jacket, revealing what appeared to be a pipe bomb, and that he demanded to speak with Clinton. Authorities did not know what Eisenberg wanted to talk to Clinton about.

They believe the device strapped to the man's chest was made with road flares, not a bomb, the official said.

The office, in a town of 30,000, is one of many Clinton has around New Hampshire. The campaign said the people taken hostage were volunteers for the campaign.

Eisenberg walked into 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.

Divorce papers filed Tuesday indicated Eisenberg was arrested and charged with criminal mischief, domestic related, and violation of a protective order. In the papers, Eisenberg's wife said the divorce was a result irreconcilable differences and complained that he suffered from "severe alcohol and drug abuse, several verbal abuse and threats."

Eisenberg also was arrested at least twice earlier this year, once for allegedly driving under the influence and once on two counts of stalking. The status of those cases was not immediately clear.

Diane Wiffin, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Correction, said a Leeland E. Eisenberg with the same 1961 birthday as the suspect was released from the state prison in Concord, Mass., in March 2005 when he completed his sentence. She would not give details about the nature of his offense or length of his sentence.

Eisenberg made local headlines in March when he held a news conference on the steps of Rochester City Hall to complain about a police policy of placing fliers in unlocked cars warning motorists to lock their doors.

"This is nothing more than a gimmick to get around the Constitution and go around in the middle of the night upon unsuspecting citizens in their own yard and search their vehicles," Eisenberg said.

Police, who said they were just trying to reduce theft from motor vehicles, changed the policy in response.