As I type I do not know how hostage situation will turn out; obviously I hope that it ends peaceably with no one hurt [Wish granted, see UPDATE] [E&P identifies the perpetrator as Leeland Eisenberg; a Leeland Eisenberg of Rochester, NH was cited for stalking and DUI in 2007. See "IN THE NEWS" below.]
ROCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - A man claiming to have a bomb strapped to his chest seized several hostages at Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire campaign office on Friday before releasing two in a tense standoff with police.
It was unclear whether there were any hostages remaining in the campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire and police were still surrounding the building.
Local media described the hostage-taker as a mentally unstable man in his 40s who had apparently strapped highway flares to his body and had told his son earlier to "watch the news."
Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, was not in New Hampshire and canceled a speaking date in Virginia immediately after news of the incident broke.
"She's in Washington D.C.," said Secret Service spokesman Darrin Blackford, who had no further information on her whereabouts. "We're monitoring the situation in New Hampshire but its being treated as a local police matter," he said.
Setting aside the human toll, my instant guess is that the political impact of this will be bad for Hillary in a way that would not be true for another candidate. This may all change when we get the perpetrator's story but right now Ms. Clinton carries the heavy baggage of a huge unfavorable rating and this incident will remind people that she is the candidate that enrages a sizable slice of the public.
UPDATE: The Times:
A tense standoff at a presidential campaign office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Rochester, N.H., ended shortly after 6 p.m. Friday, as an unidentified man who had held at least four people hostage was taken into police custody. There were no apparent injuries.
....[Officials] also would not comment on the suspect, but witnesses who spoke to a relative of the man they believe to be the suspect said he was despondent and had been drinking for several days.
At 5 p.m., there had been no reports of injuries.
While authorities said nothing about the identity of the hostage taker, several residents provided a description of the man they believe to be involved in the hostage taking.
Herman Ejarque, the co-owner and manager of the nearby Governor’s Inn, said in a telephone interview that a relative of the suspect had come into the inn at about 2 p.m. after being interviewed by police. The man’s relationship to the suspect was not clear — he is either the son, step-son or son-in-law. He talked with the inn’s front-desk receptionist, Chelsea Coul, telling her he was cold and looking for a cup of coffee but that the town had been evacuated and everything was shut down.
The man told Ms. Coul that the suspect’s wife had sought a divorce a few months ago and that he was unemployed and “hasn’t been in the right state of mind” for three months. Ms. Coul said the man told her that the suspect had been drinking for 72 hours and that he needed help and quoted the suspect as saying, “I don’t know what to do with my life.”
He also said he believed the suspect was “harmless.”
...It was unclear what political fallout, if any, the incident might have.
It's bad for Hillary.
MORE: Apparently the hostage-taker called CNN:
NEW YORK Leeland Eisenberg, who held several campaign workers hostage all afternoon at a Hillary Clinton storefront in Rochester, N.H., surrendered to police at 6:15 this evening. Cable news caught the arrest as it happened, with Lee Eisenberg, in a white shirt and tie, emerging, going to his knees, getting handcuffed and taken to a police car.
No one was hurt in the entire affair. Three or four hostages had been released over time. Sen. Clinton was in Virginia.
Minutes later, Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Situation Room revealed that the man had called the CNN bureau in Washington during the crisis and talked to staffers -- not Blitzer. The CNN anchor also said that Eisenberg had called another CNN office, which he did not identify, as well.
He said the cable news network decided not to reveal this before so it would not interfere with any negotiations.
He was probably irate that his You-Tube question had been overlooked for the Republican debate.
As to his motivation:
Police and the media have suggested that the man who took the hostages has had "issues" with local law enforcement. E&P has found one specific case involving the local man, who reputedly has some mental problems.
Back on March 16 this year, local media reported on
Rochester police coming up with a novel idea for fighting auto theft. But some residents -- including Eisenberg -- were outraged at their plan.
The plan: checking car doors, and if unlocked, leaving behind a warning flyer.
"It's an outrage, it's an absolute outrage," said Eisenberg in one report. He claimed the intrusion into his Chevy violates the Fourth Amendment, and raised such a fuss that his picture appeared in a local newspaper.
"That's a crime. They violated my civil rights and the rights of many citizens in this city that are not even aware of it," said Eisenberg, who was now asking state and federal authorities to investigate the Rochester police.
Eisenberg said he thinks police searched his car illegally, because it was clean when he parked it for the night and dirty with ash from the ashtray the next morning, when he found the flier.
He said he complained to the state attorney general, the governor and the U.S. attorney. Police later said they were re-thinking the idea.
IN THE NEWS: A Leeland Eisenberg of Rochester, NH made the local police blotter twice this year:
7:51 p.m. --Leeland Eisenberg, 46, of Milton Road, 16, is charged with two counts of stalking.
With the help of a resident who called to report a suspected drunken driver on Washington Street, police charged Leeland Eisenberg, 46, of 182 Milton Road, Apartment 16, Rochester with driving while intoxicated.
AP COVERAGE: Glen Johnson of the AP fawns on the "calm", "orderly", "regal" Hillary performance. Ann Althouse does not fawn on Glen Johnson; archives of his stories are here and here, and we see that the Romney people have it in for him.
KATHERINE SEELYE OF THE TIMES: "Mrs. Clinton struck just the right grace notes".