Hostage situation at Clinton's campaign HQ ends peacefully

By Dave Wedge, O'Ryan Johnson & Jessica Fargen
The Boston Herald

ROCHESTER, N.H. Three hostages have been released by a distraught man who police say walked into the Hillary Clinton campaign office here today with what appeared to be a bomb strapped to his chest.

The suspect, with salt-and-pepper hair in his 40s, entered the office at about 1 p.m. ordering everyone onto the floor.

Two women and a child were ultimately set free, now police dressed in full riot gear are crouched behind a bomb-squad vehicle outside the Clinton headquarters. Police have reportedly sent a cell phone into the campaign office to communicate with the suspect.

The Clinton presidential campaign released a statement saying, "There is an ongoing situation in our Rochester, N.H., office. We are in close contact with state and local authorities and are acting at their direction. We will release additional details as appropriate."

A waitress at a restaurant next door to the Clinton presidential campaign office tells the Herald the suspect’s son begged police to let him go grab his dad inside.

"He said, ’Can’t I just go in and tackle my dad? He’s harmless,’" said Chelsea Coull, a waitress at the Governor’s Inn.

Cindy Hodge, who owns Shear Wonders hair salon on North Main Street next to the hostage scene, tells the Herald police ordered her to lock up and leave the building right after the suspect seized the Clinton office.

"The town was quiet, business as usual and everything broke loose," said Hodge, who evacuated to a parking lot about six doors down from Clinton’s headquarters. "It’s a little scary for downtown Rochester."

Another Rochester businessman tells the Herald he walked out of work to "screaming" in the downtown area as police cleared out the downtown.

"A lot of people were screaming. Just screaming," said Joe Ferris of Global Wireless next door to the Clinton office.

Restaurant owner Anthony Ejarque said the suspect’s son came into the Governor’s Inn saying his dad "had been drinking for 48 hours and had road flares strapped to him."

Authorities refused to divulge the suspect’s identify, but townspeople at the scene say he known in the community.

One of the hostages called police right after being released. Police rushed to the scene, guns drawn, and crouched behind cruisers across the street from the office, which is at 28 North Main St. in the small Seacoast city.

Authorities sent a tactical bomb unit to assist local police, and the area was evacuated, said Maj. Michael Hambrook of New Hampshire State Police.

Bill Shaheen, chairman of Clinton’s presidential campaign, said someone walked into the satellite office with what appears to be a bomb strapped to his chest. Two staffers, whom he described as volunteers, were held hostage and others were released.

"Hopefully, they’re going to negotiate this so no one gets hurt," Shaheen told WMUR-TV.

Workers for Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign office in Rochester also were evacuated, a campaign spokesman said. The office is four doors away from Clinton’s. John Edwards’ staffers also were evacuated.

A woman and her baby told workers at a neighboring business that she was released by the hostage-taker, witness Lettie Tzizik told WMUR.

"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,’" Tzizik said.

Cassandra Hamilton, who works in an office adjacent to the building, walked into the hubbub.

"I walked out and I immediately started running, and I saw that the road was blocked off. They told me ’run and keep going,’" Hamilton told WMUR.

Area businesses have been evacuated and a nearby school is in lockdown.

Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) was in Washington, D.C. today and was not scheduled to travel to New Hampshire.

Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee tells the Herald the Rochester office is one of many satellite headquarters the senator’s presidential campaign has set up across the Granite State. Her main New Hampshire headquarters are in Manchester.

Elleithee, who was in Iowa, said the campaign had little information on the reported hostage situation.

Clinton aides in New Hampshire could not be immediately reached.

Copyright 2007 The Boston Herald

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