Fifty years after the Watergate robbery that would lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, two DC police officers who arrested the five men breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters are reminiscing that night.
Paul Leeper was a sergeant and John Barrett had been a cop for two years when they received the dispatch late June 17, 1972, regarding a possible break-in at the Watergate officers’ compound.
“My mind is spinning at a mile a minute,” Leeper said.
“We then drew our weapons,” 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. “That startled me. I said something to the effect, ‘Get out the f—! Raise your hand!’
“I see John in a sort of crouched position with his gun pointed at an area that I can’t see, and I think John yelled something like ‘Hold it,'” Leeper said. “So I run to the next cabin and jump on a desk.”
The two were surprised to find five suspects hiding in this cabin.
“I was almost ready to take a ride when I said, ‘Forget 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, arrested him.
“Carl grabbed him by his jacket and rammed his .38 into his neck and said, ‘Don’t go back there again. I’m going to 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 have received no acknowledgment from our own department for possibly the largest case of burglary ever committed by the Metropolitan Police Department,” Leeper said.
Both men are frustrated with the way their role in the story has been portrayed in books and movies
“They don’t care about the truth,” Barrett said.
“It’s all so bad, but yet people are buying this, and people are out there as presumptive experts telling all about how the break-in happened and what happened here, and they don’t know anything about it,” Leeper said. “They weren’t there.”