March 9, 1998 in Nation/World

Man Surrenders 14 Hours After Storming Va Office Area Evacuated After Veteran Crashes Through The Front Door

Associated Press

A veteran armed with a rifle and what he said were explosives crashed his car through the front door at a Veterans Affairs office Sunday and held police off for 14 hours before giving up.

Jason Leigh, 48, who police said was upset over problems with his veterans benefits, walked out of the office located in the same town as the Branch Davidian siege about 9 p.m.

He walked out shirtless and with his hands up, ending a daylong standoff with police that forced hundreds of residents out of homes near the Veterans Affairs Regional Center.

Leigh, a Vietnam veteran according to family members, broke into the center around 6:45 a.m., Waco Police Department spokeswoman Marcia Bourque said.

The building, in a neighborhood of homes and businesses, was largely empty at the time of the break-in except for security personnel. He never took hostages and was believed to have been armed with explosives, but later denied it, police said.

Patrick Swanton, a negotiator with the Waco Police Department, said Leigh appeared to be lucid and sober during negotiations.

“He was very concerned about everybody’s welfare. He didn’t want to hurt anybody,” Swanton said. “He was just concerned about a problem he was having with some veterans benefits.”

A caller to Fort Worth television station KXAS identified himself as the gunman and had a grudge.

“When the trouble started, my files got lost. My appeals got lost in the madness of the VA bureaucracy,” the caller told the station.

“I, Jason Leigh, do hereby defend this, my vested interest in the form of this building, to the death or until such time as Congress and or the U.S. Senate pass a law protecting our fallen, disabled and homeless veterans by depositing $1 million in the stated name of ‘SOS,’ Save Our Soldiers,” he said.

Officers evacuated residents in a six-block area around the building and police were negotiating with the suspect, spokesman Larry Murphy said.

Federal and local law officers had surrounded the building and command posts were established at a nearby church and convention center. An Army bomb disposal team arrived as well.

© Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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