WCBS-TV becomes player in hostage story

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Not long after he'd sent a news chopper and crews to cover a hostage standoff
early Tuesday evening at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., WCBS-TV
managing editor Richard Bamberger was pulled into the story when the station got
a call from one of the hostages.

Suspect Patrick Arbelo -- a legally blind recent graduate of the school,
described by a former roommate as a hermit -- is accused of taking 28 people
hostage in a classroom, claiming to have a bomb.

After the assignment desk directed the call to him, Bamberger used
information he'd collected on the story to confirm that the woman on the phone was a hostage.
Bamberger passed a note to the desk, which alerted police.

In more than one-dozen calls over the next several hours, Bamberger and Arbelo
communicated through the student hostage, named Julie.

At one point, Arbelo had dictated a statement described as rambling and
anti-Semitic that he wanted read over the air.

Station management -- WCBS news director Joel Cheatwood, assistant news director
Michelle Murray and general manager Tony Pettiti -- decided not to air the
statement, while Bamberger was able to put Arbelo off whenever he brought it
up.

"It was the most intense thing," Bamberger said. "I had no idea if something
I said would cause him to hurt someone. I couldn't even tell you what
was happening around me in the newsroom."

The crisis ended with no one hurt. The bomb turned out to be fake.

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