Nov. 30, 2007 — -- Sen. Hillary Clinton said Friday night she was grateful and relieved that a five-hour hostage standoff that took place at one of her campaign offices in New Hampshire ended peacefully with the safe release of five volunteers and the arrest of a mentally unstable man.
Police in Rochester, N.H., arrested a local man with a history of mental illness who had entered the Main Street storefront office around 12:45 p.m. with what appeared to be a bomb strapped to his chest, and took five people hostage, including one infant.
Late Friday night in New Hampshire, Clinton held a press conference with the officers involved in resolving the standoff successfully arrayed behind her. She thanked the officers for their efforts and also met with campaign staffers from the Rochester office.
The hostage taker, identified by local law enforcement officials as Leeland Eisenberg, 47, of Somersworth, N.H., claimed he wanted to contact the presidential candidate to complain about his mental-health treatment.
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.
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.
"I am very grateful that this difficult day has ended so well. All of my campaign staff and volunteers are safe. I want to thank them for their extraordinary courage and coolness under some very difficult pressures and dangerous situations," Clinton said, adding, "I also want to thank all of law enforcement. We were in touch from the moment this began with local, county, state, federal law enforcement. I am so grateful to them for their response which brought this hostage situation to such a good ending."
Over the course of the standoff, in which local and state police surrounded the office, called in SWAT teams and posted snipers on nearby rooftops, the five hostages were slowly released.
"This is a hostage situation," said Paul Callaghan, a spokesman for the Rochester Police, in the midst of the standoff. He said 54 officers were on the scene and that state bomb squad officials had cordoned off a five-square-block area. No one was injured in the incident.
Local police and witnesses confirmed that a woman who first alerted police was released with her baby around 1 p.m., soon after the man, described as being in his 40s with salt-and-pepper colored hair, entered the building.
Around 3:20 p.m. two more female hostages were released. The fifth hostage, a man, was released as Eisenberg was arrested.
Eisenberg walked into the campaign 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 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 is a well-known locally with a history of mental-health problems, who told his son to "watch the news today."
Chelsea Coull, an employee at the town's Governor's Inn, told WMUR-TV that a young man identifying himself as Eisenberg's stepson told her that his father had been drinking heavily for 72 hours, and hadn't been in a right state of mind for three months.
Coull also said the stepson told her his father had asked where to buy roadside flares.
Witnesses at the scene said a women and her baby ran from the building and called police at around 1 p.m.
"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,'" witness Lettie Tzizik told WMUR-TV.
"This is a very serious ongoing situation. Law enforcement officials are coordinating closely and we are all hopeful for a quick, safe resolution," New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said before Eisenberg was apprehended.
The Rochester offices of Clinton's Democratic presidential contenders John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama were closed and evacuated, and a local school was on lockdown.
Clinton's campaign offices in Iowa were also shut down.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.