Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 16, 1974 · Page 130
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June 16, 1974

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 130

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Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 16, 1974
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Page 130
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Page 130 article text (OCR)

tithe C« Mi Arrested WKerateS? by Fred Blumenthal WASHINGTON, D.C. I n the two incredible years since five burglars were arrested in the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in the Watergate Office Building, hundreds of lives have been irrevocably changed by that seemingly small event. Men of power and prestige have been disgraced; some have gone to jail, others may well follow. Some men have become rich--lawyers for example, and the folk who sell things like Watergate Bourbon, or bumper stickers reading "Free the Watergate 500." But for the key man life has gone on unchanged. That man is Sgt. Paul Leeper of the Washington Police Department. It was Leeper who, in the line of duty, pushed the rock that tipped the boulders that started the avalanche that filled the valley. With two officers under his command, John B. Barrett and Carl M. Shoffler, he searched the Watergate Building at 2 a.m., June 17,1972, after a night watchman became suspicious of a taped door latch. Beyond expectations At the command, "Put up your hands and lean against the wall," Leeper and his comrades expected to see two grubby hands attached to a burglar in search of a typewriter or adding machine he might peddle for $150 or so. What they got were 10 hands, gloved in rubber, and attached to men in expensive suits with rolls of $100 bills in their pockets. 'They were also carrying notebooks that connected them to men in the White House and the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, to be known ever after as CREEP. The revelations that fpl lowed shook the White House, the Republican Party, both Houses of Congress, the country as a whole. As the avalanche grew, it ground down men who had been at the pinnacle of power: Haldeman, Ehrlichman. It brought notoriety to heretofore nameless toilers in the White House back corridors--E. Howard Hunt, Egil Krogh and the rest. It threw up an instant folk hero (Senator Ervin), created overnight a Presidential possibility (Sen- Po//ce Sgt. Paul Leeper in front of Watergate. This is how he was dressed when with two other officers of'the "bum squad" he made the five arrests. It was the old clothes and the unmarked car that put the lookout off guard. atorBaker). But the man who started it all goes on as before, like a catalyst in a chemical reaction--a chemical entirely necessary to the reaction, but entirely unchanged by it. Same as before Leeper is still a:sergeant, still second in command of the old clothes detail, or "bum squad," in Northwest Washington, going about in a beat-up car, wearing his old jacket with "George Washington University" written across it, and his go-to-hell golf hat, still protecting the lives and property of the citizens. .- ,, . ... L . . . - . - . - - , - . Here is the car / which-three-officers answered the Watergate burglary call This current photo shows two of them: Leeper at the wheel and John B. Barrett. It was this very un-copish look, coupled with a very copish dedication to doing things right, that insured that Watergate would become a crucial event in American history. A point in time from which other events can be dated. "That was before Watergate, of course," someone will say, or "Well, since Watergate the political situation ; , . · . ; /., · . , Leeper is 35 years old, a 12-year veteran of-the D.C. Police who served as a scout-car man and detective before moving over to the tactical squad. There, by the nature Of his assignment, his speciality has been street robberies, muggings and burglaries. "Our old clothes and ordinary cars make us blend into the background," Leeper told PARADE. "When somebody's about to pull off a crime, he generally takes a last look around. If he sees us he doesn't see anyone he's particularly afraid of; it gives us that extra step on him. We have a very high percentage of arrests." One of the very first "victims of Watergate" was Leeper's wife Donna. She missed her birthday celebration. At 2 a.m., June 17; 1972, Leeper had already put in two hours of overtime and was about to call it'a night. His plan was to go home, get some sleep, and then celebrate Donna's birthday by taking her out to dinner. A baby-sitter had already been hired to care for the three ' Leeper daughters, Stephanie, 7; Tracy, continued

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