Former DC Officers Recall Night They Responded to Watergate Break-In

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Fifty years after the Watergate break-in that would lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, two D.C. police officers who arrested the five men breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters recalled that night.

Paul Leeper was a sergeant and John Barrett been a cop for two years when they got the dispatch late June 17, 1972, about a possible break-in at the Watergate officer complex.

“My mind’s running a mile a minute,” Leeper said.

“We had our weapons out, then,” he said.

Barrett remembers walking through the dark office when he realized there was someone hiding in a cubicle.

“It was about two inches from my face,” he said. “It startled the hell out of me. I said something to the effect, ‘Get the f--- out! Get your hands up!’”

“I see John in sort of a crouch position with his weapon pointed back towards an area I can’t see, and I think John yelled something like, ‘Hold it,’” Leeper said. “So I run around to the next cubicle and jump up on a desk.”

The two were surprised to find five suspects hiding in that cubicle.

“I was almost ready to squeeze a round off when I said, ‘Drop it,’” Barrett said.

The tension didn’t end there. As Barrett searched the men, one of the suspects reached into his pocket. A third officer, Carl Shoffler, stopped him.

“Carl grabbed him by his jacket and stuck his .38 in his neck and said, ‘Don’t go in there again. I’m gonna shoot you,’” Barrett said.

That night continues to haunt Leeper and Barrett. Leeper is candid about the lack of recognition they received from their own department.

“We received no recognition from our own department for probably the biggest burglary case ever made by the Metropolitan Police Department,” Leeper said.

Both men are frustrated with how their role in history has been portrayed in books and movies

“They don’t care about the truth,” Barrett said.

“Everything is so wrong, but yet people buy this, and people are out there as alleged experts telling all about how the break-in occurred and what happened here, and they know nothing about it,” Leeper said. “They weren’t there.”

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