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Eric Robert Rudolph
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives
Eric rudolph.jpg
Eric Robert Rudolph
Born: September 19, 1966 (1966-09-19) (age 43)
Merritt Island, Florida
Charges: Terrorist bombing
Added: May 5, 1998
Caught: May 31, 2003[1]
Number: 454

Eric Robert Rudolph (born September 19, 1966), also known as the Olympic Park Bomber, is an American far-right radical described by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a terrorist.[2] Between 1996 and 1998, Rudolph committed a series of bombings across the southern United States which killed two people and injured at least 150 others.

Rudolph declared that his bombings were part of a guerrilla campaign against abortion and the "homosexual agenda". He spent years on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives until he was caught in 2003. In 2005, as part of a plea bargain, Rudolph pled guilty to numerous federal and state homicide charges and accepted five consecutive life sentences in exchange for avoiding a trial and a potential death sentence.

Rudolph was connected with the white supremacist Christian Identity movement.[3] Although he has denied that his crimes were religiously or racially motivated,[4] Rudolph has also called himself a Roman Catholic in "the war to end this holocaust" (in reference to abortion).[5]


Early life

Rudolph was born in Merritt Island, Florida. After his father, Robert, died in 1981, he moved with his mother and siblings to Nantahala, Macon County, in western North Carolina. He attended ninth grade at the Nantahala School but dropped out after that year and worked as a carpenter with his older brother Daniel. His mother believed in the racist Christian Identity movement and instilled its ideology in him.[citation needed]

After Rudolph received his GED, he attended Western Carolina University in Cullowhee for two semesters in 1985 and 1986.[3] In August 1987, Rudolph enlisted in the U.S. Army, undergoing basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He was discharged in January 1989 while serving with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, due to marijuana use.[6] In 1988, the year before his discharge, Rudolph had attended the Air Assault School at Fort Campbell. He attained the rank of Specialist/E-4.


Rudolph is most well known as the perpetrator of Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta which occurred on July 27, 1996, during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The blast killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others. Melih Uzunyol, a Turkish cameraman who ran to the scene following the blast, died of a heart attack. Rudolph's motive for the bombings, according to his April 13, 2005 statement, was political:

In the summer of 1996, the world converged upon Atlanta for the Olympic Games. Multinational corporations spent billions of dollars, and Washington organized an army of security to protect these best of all games. The plan was to force the cancellation of the Games, or at least create a state of insecurity to empty the streets around the venues and thereby eat into the vast amounts of money invested.

Rudolph's statement authoritatively cleared Richard Jewell, a Centennial Olympic Park security guard, of any involvement in the bombing. Jewell fell under suspicion of participating in the bombing a few days after the incident, after having been initially hailed as a hero for being the first one to spot Rudolph's explosive device and helping to clear the area. When he came under FBI suspicion for involvement in the crime, Jewell became the prime suspect, and an international news story.

Rudolph has also confessed to the bombings of an abortion clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs on January 16, 1997; the Otherside Lounge of Atlanta lesbian bar in Atlanta on February 21, 1997, injuring five; and an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 29, 1998, killing part-time security guard Robert Sanderson and critically injuring nurse Emily Lyons. Rudolph's bombs were made of dynamite surrounded by nails which acted as shrapnel.


Rudolph was first identified as a suspect in the Alabama bombing by the Department of Justice on February 14, 1998. He was named as a suspect in the three Atlanta incidents on October 14, 1998.

On May 5, 1998, he became the 454th fugitive listed by the FBI on the Ten Most Wanted list. The FBI considered him to be armed and extremely dangerous, and offered a $1 million reward for information leading directly to his arrest. He spent more than five years in the Appalachian wilderness as a fugitive, during which federal and amateur search teams scoured the area without success.

It is thought that Rudolph had the assistance of sympathizers while evading capture. Some in the area were vocal in support of him. Two country music songs were written about him and a locally top-selling T-shirt read: "Run Rudolph Run." The Anti-Defamation League noted that "extremist chatter on the Internet has praised Rudolph as 'a hero' and some followers of hate groups are calling for further acts of violence to be modeled after the bombings he is accused of committing."[7]

Rudolph's family supported him and believed he was innocent of all charges,[8] but found themselves under intense questioning and surveillance.[9] On March 7, 1998, Rudolph's older brother, Daniel, videotaped himself cutting off one of his own hands with a radial arm saw in order to, in his words, "send a message to the FBI and the media."[10] The hand was successfully reattached.

According to Rudolph's own writings, he survived during his years as a fugitive by camping in the woods, gathering acorns and salamanders, pilfering vegetable gardens, stealing grain from a grain silo, and raiding dumpsters in a nearby town.[11][12]

Arrest and guilty plea

Florence ADMAX USP, where Rudolph is incarcerated

Rudolph was arrested in Murphy, North Carolina, on May 31, 2003,[13] by police officer Jeffrey Scott Postell of the Murphy Police Department behind a Save-A-Lot store at about 4 a.m.; Postell, on routine patrol, had just joined the department on his 21st birthday less than a year before Rudolph's capture and originally suspected a burglary in progress.[14]

Rudolph was unarmed and did not resist arrest. When arrested, he was clean-shaven, with a trimmed mustache, and wearing new sneakers, potentially indicating that he was harbored by supporters while on the run.[citation needed] Federal authorities charged him on October 14, 2003. Rudolph was defended by attorney Richard S. Jaffe.

On April 8, 2005, the Department of Justice announced that it and Rudolph agreed to a plea bargain under which Rudolph would plead guilty to all charges he was accused of in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. The deal was confirmed after the FBI found 250 pounds (113 kg) of dynamite he hid in the forests of North Carolina. His revealing the hiding places of the dynamite was a condition of his plea agreement. He made his pleas in person in Birmingham and Atlanta courts on April 13.

He also released a statement in which he explained his actions and rationalized them as serving the cause of anti-abortion and anti-gay activism. In his statement, he claimed that he had "deprived the government of its goal of sentencing me to death," and that "the fact that I have entered an agreement with the government is purely a tactical choice on my part and in no way legitimates the moral authority of the government to judge this matter or impute my guilt."[15]

The terms of the plea agreement were that Rudolph would be sentenced to four consecutive life terms. He was officially sentenced July 18, 2005, to two consecutive life terms without parole for the 1998 murder of a police officer.[16] He was sentenced for his various bombings in Atlanta on August 22, 2005, receiving three consecutive life terms. That same day, Rudolph was sent to the ADX Florence Supermax federal prison. Rudolph's inmate number is 18282-058. Like other Supermax inmates, he spends 22½ hours per day alone in his 80 ft² (7.4 m²) concrete cell.[17][18]

Alleged motivations

After Rudolph's arrest for the bombings, The Washington Post reported that the FBI considered Rudolph to have "had a long association with the radical Christian Identity movement, which asserts that North European whites are the direct descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, God's chosen people."[19] Christian Identity is a white supremacist sect that holds that those who are not white Christians will be condemned to Hell.[20] In the same article, the Post reported that some FBI investigators believed Rudolph may have written letters that claimed responsibility for the nightclub and abortion clinic bombings on behalf of the Army of God, a group that sanctions the use of force to combat abortions and is associated with Christian Identity.[21]

In a statement released after he entered a guilty plea, Rudolph denied being a supporter of the Christian Identity movement, claiming that his involvement amounted to a brief association with the daughter of a Christian Identity adherent, later identified as Pastor Daniel Gayman. When asked about his religion he said, "I was born a Catholic, and with forgiveness I hope to die one."[4][22] In other written statements, Rudolph has cited biblical passages and offered religious motives for his militant opposition to abortion.[23]

Some books and media outlets have portrayed Rudolph as a "Christian Identity extremist" or a "Christian terrorist." Harper's Magazine referred to him as a "Christian terrorist."[24] The NPR radio program "On Point" referred to him as a "Christian Identity extremist."[25] The Voice of America reported that Rudolph could be seen as part of an "attempt to try to use a Christian faith to try to forge a kind of racial and social purity."[26] Writing in 2004, authors Michael Shermer and Dennis McFarland saw Rudolph's story as an example of "religious extremism in America," warning that the phenomenon he represented was "particularly potent when gathered together under the umbrella of militia groups,"[27] whom they believe to have protected Rudolph while he was a fugitive.

Rudolph himself has written "Many good people continue to send me money and books. Most of them have, of course, an agenda; mostly born-again Christians looking to save my soul. I suppose the assumption is made that because I'm in here I must be a 'sinner' in need of salvation, and they would be glad to sell me a ticket to heaven, hawking this salvation like peanuts at a ballgame. I do appreciate their charity, but I could really do without the condescension. They have been so nice I would hate to break it to them that I really prefer Nietzsche to the Bible."[28]

Anti-crime activist and TV host, John Walsh stated that he believed Rudolph to be a "psychopath" whilst his former sister in law, Debra Rudolph asserted that his motivation was based on white supremacist and anti-abortion beliefs.[29]

Writings from prison

Federal Bureau of Prisons regulations give wardens the right to restrict or reject correspondence by an inmate for "the protection of the public, or if it might facilitate criminal activity," including material "which may lead to the use of physical violence." Nevertheless, essays written by Rudolph, who is incarcerated in the most secure part of ADX Florence in Colorado, and which condone violence and militant action, are being published on an internet website by an Army of God anti-abortion activist.[30] While victims maintain that Rudolph's messages are harassment and could incite violence, according to Alice Martin, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama when Rudolph was prosecuted for the Alabama bombing, the prison can do little to restrict their publication. "An inmate does not lose his freedom of speech," she said.[31] However, the Department of Justice in 2006 criticized the same prison for not properly screening the mail of three inmates convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing after determining the men sent letters from the prison to suspected terrorists overseas.

See also


  1. ^ Press Release, John Ashcroft, FBI National Press Office, May 31, 2003
  2. ^ Eric Rudolph charged in Centennial Olympic Park bombing, FBI release, October 14, 1998.
  3. ^ a b "Eric Robert Rudolph: Loner and survivalist". CNN. 2003-12-11. Retrieved 2006-11-26. "Rudolph and his family were connected with the Christian Identity movement, a militant, racist and anti-Semitic organization that believes whites are God's chosen people." 
  4. ^ a b Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press (2005). "Eric Rudolph, proud killer". Newspaper online version. Associated Press/The Decatur Daily. Retrieved 2006-12-11. 
  5. ^ Gross, Doug (2005-04-15). "Eric Rudolph lays out the arguments that fueled his two-year bomb attacks". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2006-06-29. "Rudolph called himself a Roman Catholic at war over abortion." 
  6. ^ Jeffrey Gettleman with David M. Halbfinger, The New York Times, "Suspect in '96 Olympic Bombing And 3 Other Attacks Is Caught", June 1, 2003. Retrieved Oct 9, 2007.
  7. ^ Anti-Defamation League, "Extremist Chatter Praises Eric Rudolph as 'Hero.'", June 3, 2003. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  8. ^ Henry Schuster, CNN, "Why did Rudolph do it?", April 15, 2005. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  9. ^ Jeff Stein,, "A twisted tale of two brothers", January 29, 1999. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  10. ^ CNN, "Bombing suspect's brother cuts hand off with saw", March 9, 1998. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  11. ^ Lick the Floor January 27, 2004
  12. ^ Lil
  13. ^ ""Statement of Attorney General John Ashcroft regarding the arrest of Eric Robert Rudolph." Federal Bureau of Investigation May 31, 2003. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  14. ^ "Atlanta Olympic bombing suspect arrested." CNN. May 31, 2003.
  15. ^ Excerpts from Eric Rudolph's statement April 13, 2005
  16. ^ Associated Press, "Eric Rudolph Gets Life Without Parole", July 18, 2005. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  17. ^ Rappold, R. Scott. "Olympic bomber Rudolph calls Supermax home." Colorado Springs Gazette. September 14, 2005. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  18. ^ "Eric Robert Rudolph." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 5, 2010.
  19. ^ Cooperman, Alan. "Is Terrorism Tied To Christian Sect?" Washington Post. June 2, 2003. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  20. ^ Quarles, Chester L. (2004). Christian Identity: The Aryan American Bloodline Religion. McFarland & Company. pp. 68. ISBN 978-0786418923. 
  21. ^ "The Second Defensive Action Statement". Retrieved 2007-05-14. 
  22. ^ Morrison, Blake. "Special report: Eric Rudolph writes home." USA Today. July 6, 2005. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  23. ^ Full text of Eric Rudolph's written statement Army of God website
  24. ^ Harpers Magazine Terrorism
  25. ^ Most Wanted Extremist, Eric Rudolph, Caught June 3, 2003
  26. ^ Arrest of Accused Olympic Park Bomber Sparks Debate on 'Christian Terrorism', Jun 5, 2003, VOANews
  27. ^ The Science of Good and Evil
  28. ^ Special report: Eric Rudolph writes home July 5, 2005
  29. ^ CNN LIVE SATURDAY - Rudolph Caught
  30. ^ Army of God's homepage for Rudolph December 18, 2007
  31. ^ Extremist Taunts His Victims From Prison May 14, 2007


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