A man walked into a Hillary Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire saying he was armed with explosives. It turned out it was only road flares.
“A man has just walked into the Clinton office, opened his coat and showed us a bomb strapped to his chest with duct tape,” said Lettie Tzizik, who witnessed the release of a woman, accompanied by her child, from the storefront campaign office of Sen. Hillary Clinton in Rochester, N.H.
It was the site of the suspense that lasted all Friday afternoon, as Leeland Eisenberg held those in the building hostage with a bomb threat.
The episode began a little after 1 p.m. on November 30, when Eisenberg entered the office and said that he wanted to speak with Clinton, according to The Associated Press.
He took off his jacket and revealed what he then claimed was a bomb, and then detained hostages by ordering them onto the floor. He released a woman with a baby.
The FBI and the Secret Service, as well as several police forces and SWAT teams, came onto the scene, according to The Associated Press.
Sharpshooters and a tactical bomb squad unit were also placed near the office, and buildings within close range such as businesses, other campaign offices, and even an elementary school, were evacuated.
More hostages were released as time went on and finally, right after the last one was allowed to walk out, Eisenberg surrendered. He came out of the building, turned over the device that he had said was a bomb, and was immediately surrounded by the SWAT teams and handcuffed, according to The AP.
The “bomb” turned out to be a device made of road flares procured from a hardware store at the direction of his 20-year-old stepson, Benjamin Warren. Eisenberg, having been prohibited from driving due to a previous DUI offense, took a cab to get the flares the same day that he held up the campaign office.
“He never talked about building any kind of bomb or anything like that,” said Warren. “All he said to me was he was feeling depressed, and he was going to do something the next day to ensure he would be in the hospital by Friday night.”
The suspect reportedly did the crime as a way to get into the hospital. Eisenberg, who suffers from schizophrenia, had been seeking care from a local hospital in the time that led up to the incident. Having been turned away, Eisenberg later saw a campaign advertisement and thought that Clinton could help him.
According to his ex-wife, Eisenberg, who has assumed a series of aliases in the past, has long suffered delusions that there is a chip implanted in his head.
The Boston Globe identified Eisenberg as a recipient of payments from the 2003 settlement with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston for being a victim of sexual abuse from the clergy. In 1999 and 2000, he was treated as a sex offender at Bridgewater State Hospital.
Having been previously charged with counts of stalking and drunk driving, Eisenberg now has bigger charges to face.
He is being held at the Stratford Correctional Center awaiting a court date for the charges of kidnapping, the use of false explosives, and criminal threatening. Conviction of these may result in up to 42 years in prison.
Sen. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton cancelled all public appearances upon hearing news of the hostage holdup.
Security measures for both were increased, and when Sen. Clinton met with all the released hostages and their families in Portsmouth on Friday night, she was surrounded by local police.
“I want to thank them for their professionalism and their extraordinary work today,” said Clinton. “We’re immensely relieved that this has ended peacefully.”
Although the hostages were safely evacuated, concerns have arisen over the state of security in campaign offices. The issue over whether small-town campaigning will be restricted from here on in remains, given the limited security that has allowed voters to have access to information through campaign offices.
Sen. Clinton, being the former First Lady of the United States, has lifelong protection from the Secret Service.
“They [the candidates] need to balance opposites. They want to be accessible to the people, but they want to be protected,” said Sara Schiavoni, a political science professor at John Carroll University. “The question is, if one candidate has Secret Service protection, should all?”
Sen. Barack Obama, another Democrat hopeful, also has Secret Service protection. Although assaults on campaign offices are rare, this is not the first that has ever happened.
Attacks have occurred on the campaign offices for other politicians, including Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Loretta Sanchez and Jesse Ventura, according to The AP.