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N.J. man sought in Wiesel attack
Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, February 17, 2007
An arrest warrant was issued Friday for a New Jersey man accused of cornering and trying to kidnap Holocaust author and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel in a San Francisco hotel elevator Feb. 1.
San Francisco police say 22-year-old Eric Hunt of Sussex County, New Jersey, confronted the 78-year-old Wiesel in an elevator at the Argent Hotel and pulled him out on the sixth floor before Wiesel began screaming. A man identifying himself as Hunt later wrote in an online posting that he wanted to force Wiesel to deny that the Holocaust happened.
Hunt is being sought on a $500,000 arrest warrant on charges of attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, elder abuse, stalking, battery and the commission of a hate crime.
Police said they had found Hunt's car in the hotel's parking garage.
Wiesel, in an interview this week with The Chronicle, said his assailant had fled so quickly that he left his wallet and driver's license in his car.
Wiesel had come to San Francisco for an interfaith conference called "Facing Violence: Justice, Religion and Conflict Resolution."
On Feb. 6, a man named Eric Hunt posted a detailed account of the attack on several anti-Semitic and anti-Israel Web sites. Hunt's account matched a description of the attack released by police days later.
Hunt said on the Web site that he had cornered Wiesel, the author of more than 40 books based on his Holocaust experiences, to admit that the Holocaust had never happened.
"I was convinced that if he took me to his room, he would do me harm," Wiesel, a survivor of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, said in the interview. "Since 1945, I've never felt so threatened."
The father of a 22-year-old Eric Hunt from Sussex County said his son, whom he had not seen in 11 years, called Feb. 9 and asked to be picked up from a bus station in Scranton, Pa., explaining that his car was in the shop. San Francisco police refused to confirm whether the man was the Eric Hunt they are looking for.
Frank Hunt, 49, who lives in Archbald, Pa., said his son had been acting strangely.
"He was kind of disheveled-looking," he said. "He's got no bag with him, no toothpaste or underwear. He was constantly pacing."
His son mentioned nothing about Wiesel, the Holocaust or anti-Semitism in the two days he stayed with him, Frank Hunt said.
"I hope there's nothing wrong with him," he said. "It's the last thing I want, after not seeing your own son for so many years."
He said his son ate only four McDonald's chicken nuggets from that Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, when he drove him to Sussex. His son asked to be dropped 5 miles from an uncle's house and said he would walk the rest of the way in 9-degree weather, Frank Hunt said.
"It just seemed to me that there was something deep, deep, deep going on," said Frank Hunt, a prison guard. "I really have been worried about him." He said San Francisco police have not called him.
"I gave him $150 in an envelope with a note," Frank Hunt said. The note read, "I hope we can see you."
E-mail Matthai Chakko Kuruvila at email@example.com.