|“||Because I believe that abortion is murder, I also believe that force is justified in an attempt to stop it.||”|
— Rudolph about justifying his bombing
Eric Robert Rudolph, a.k.a. "The Olympic Park Bomber", is a serial bomber and homegrown terrorist most infamous for the Central Olympic Park Bombing, which on July 27th 1996 killed three people and wounded over 100 others.
Rudolph was born and raised in Merritt Island, Florida in 1966. In 1981, his father, Robert Rudolph, died and his mother, Patricia Murphy, moved to Nantahala, Nacon County, North Carolina with him and his older brother, Daniel. He dropped out of school after finishing ninth grade and became a carpenter. At the age of 18, he spent some time at a Christian Identity compound in Missouri with his mother, though he stated after his arrest that he was not a follower of it, but identifies as Roman Catholic. After getting his General Education Diploma, he studied at the Western Carolina University for two separate semesters. In August 1987, he enlisted with the U.S. Army and underwent basic training. In 1988, he went to the Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. While serving in the 101st Airborne Division in 1989, he was discharged for smoking marijuana.
Bombings, Capture and Incarceration
"In the summer of 1996, the world converged upon Atlanta for the Olympic Games. Under the protection and auspices of the regime in Washington millions of people came to celebrate the ideals of global socialism. Multinational corporations spent billions of dollars, and Washington organized an army of security to protect these best of all games. Even though the conception and the purpose of the so-called Olympic movement is to promote the values of global socialism as perfectly expressed in the song "Imagine" by John Lennon, which was the theme of the 1996 Games—even though the purpose of the Olympics is to promote these ideals, the purpose of the attack on July 27 was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand. 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 explaining his motive for the Centennial Olympic Park bombing
On July 27, 1996, Rudolph carried out the bombing for which he became most infamous, planting an explosive device at the Centennial Olympic Park on the eighth day of the 1996 Summer Olympics. He later stated in his confession that he targeted the event because it promoted socialism and that he wanted to embarrass the U.S. government. He also said that the plan was to force the games to cancel and in doing so, ensure that the money spent on arranging the event were spent on something else. On that day, a Jack Mack and the Heart Attack concert was being held. At 12:30 a.m., a security guard, Richard Jewell, spotted the green bag near the sound tower in which Rudolph had placed his bomb and contacted an attending Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent and his supervisor and told them about the package.
When a federal bomb squad spotted wires on the backpack, it was ordered that area be evacuated. While security guards escorted crowd members out of the area, Jewell cleared the sound tower of personnel. At 12:58 a.m., an anonymous 911 call stating that a bomb would go off at the park was made. At 1:20 a.m., the device exploded. In no small part thanks to Jewell's sounding the alarm, several lives were saved. Only two people died in the bombing: the first was Alicia Hawthorne, who was killed by the blast when a nail used for shrapnel hit her in the head; the second was Melih Uzunyol, a Turkish cameraman who suffered a fatal heart attack when he rushed to the scene to film it. 111 other people were injured, but survived. For a few days, Jewell was hailed as a hero. Then The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article which revealed that he was being treated by the FBI as a "person of interest" and he suffered a trial by media.
After the Olympic Park bombing, Rudolph carried out two more bombings in Atlanta, one at a gay bar called the Otherside Lounge and one at an office building (though a nearby abortion clinic is believed to have been the real target). Nobody was killed in either bombing, though a total of 11 people were injured. In 1998, he bombed an abortion clinic in Birmingham in the neighboring state, Alabama, killing Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who moonlighted as a security guard, and severely injuring Emily Lyon, a nurse and counselor at the facility. Fortunately, Rudolph was seen taking off a blonde wig by a witness who also saw his car and its license plates.
While everything was traced back to him, Rudolph went on the run and became a fugitive. Being a rather excellent survivalist, he spent five years in the wilderness of the Appalachian Mountains near North Carolina. On May 5, 1998, he was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list and they issued a $1 million reward for him. At the turn of the millennium, he was No. 7 on the list, above mob kingpin James J. "Whitey" Bulger, international terrorist Osama bin Laden, and James Charles Kopp, another anti-abortion terrorist who shot and killed a gynecologist with a rifle. Finally, on October 14, Rudolph was charged with the Olympic Park bombing as well as the two bombings in Georgia when it was discovered that the explosive devices were of similar design. By then, he was already on the run.While Rudolph was a fugitive, some extremist groups praised him as a hero. Some hate groups not only hoped he would never be caught (it is suspected that he was given shelter by some of his supporters), but urged others to commit more similar bombings. T-shirts reading "Run Rudolph Run" were produced as well as signs and bumper stickers about him. A restaurant jokingly put up a sign reading "Rudolph eats here". It wasn't until 2003 that Rudolph was finally arrested. On May 31, he was spotted by Officer Jeffrey Scott Postell outside a Save-a-Lot store in Murphy, North Carolina and arrested, initially believed to be a burglar. He identified himself as "Jerry Wilson" and was taken to the police station, where another officer recognized him from the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.
Rudolph made a plea bargain to receive four life sentences for his crimes and to avoid the death penalty in exchange for a full confession. He also helped the investigators find a supply of 250 pounds (113 kg) of dynamite he had hidden in Birmingham and made a formal statement in which he talked about his motivations. He also admitted to having planned another bombing, the intended target having been an abortion clinic in Asheville, North Carolina, shortly before the presidential election. On July 18, 2005, he was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the Birmingham bombing. On August 22, he was sentenced for his other bombings. He is currently incarcerated at the ADX Florence Supermax prison in Colorado, where Theodore Kaczynski, a.k.a. The Unabomber, terrorist Richard Reid, spy Robert Hanssen, and co-conspirators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are also incarcerated. Though he spends 22-and-a-half hours in confinement, he still writes essays about his beliefs. They are published on a website hosted by the Army of God, an American anti-abortion movement, which, according to the Global Terrorism Database, is responsible for over twenty acts of terrorism in the U.S. between 1982 and 1998, including the Olympic Park bombing. In 2013, Rudolph, with the help of his brother and the self-publishing website Lulu.com, published his memoirs Between the Lines of Drift: The Memoirs of a Militant, in which he describes how he survived in the wilderness. The Army of God has also published it on their website.
Rudolph usually targeted abortion clinics or gay bars. His bombs were made of nitroglycerin dynamite, used nails for shrapnel, contained steel plates and Rubbermaid containers, and used alarm clocks for timers. The bomb planted at the Centennial Olympic Park also included pipe bombs and was concealed in a green military-style backpack. It also had a steel plate that functioned as a directional device, sending shrapnel in whatever direction Rudolph wanted it to go.
Rudolph has been described as a terrorist of the "lone wolf" type. As the name implies, they operate alone and act without a leader or group, though they may adhere to a specific ideology or religion of another movement or organization. Their beliefs are often rooted in extreme right-wing ideologies. Rudolph personally was extremely pro-life and also anti-gay.
Rudolph's design of his Olympic Park bomb included a steel plate that functioned as a directional device, similar to a Claymore mine. This told investigators that the suspect was either in the military or had previously served in the military.
- July 27, 1996, Atlanta, Georgia: Two killed, and 111 more injured, in the Olympic Park bombing. Known victims are:
- Alice Hawthorne, 44 (killed by a piece of shrapnel)
- Melih Uzunyol (cameraman; indirectly killed; died of a heart attack when he ran to film the explosion's aftermath)
- Calvin Thorbourne (injured; wounded in the leg by shrapnel)
- January 6, Sandy Springs, Georgia: Six unnamed people in an office building (all injured by a bombing)
- February 26, Atlanta, Georgia: Five unnamed people in the Otherside Lounge (all injured by a bombing)
- January 29, 1998, Birmingham, Alabama: One killed, and one injured, in the abortion clinic bombing. The victims are:
- Robert Sanderson (security guard; killed)
- Emily Lyons (nurse and counselor; injured)
- The term "lone wolf" has also been applied to Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, and Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing (McVeigh had two accomplices, but they did not participate in the actual bombing itself). It was also more recently applied to Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of the bombing in Oslo and the following massacre on Utøya in Norway.
- Rudolph displays some similarities to Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the perpetrators of the twin bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. The three were all homegrown terrorists who targeted sporting events and used improvised explosive devices in the attacks.
On Criminal Minds
Though Rudolph was first mentioned on Criminal Minds in the Season Three episode Doubt, his mugshot and also video footage of one of his bombings are shown in the Season One episode Won't Get Fooled Again. In Doubt, the Jewell fiasco is specifically brought up when Gideon wants to keep the suspect in custody, believing their profile is accurate, and Morgan brings up how Jewell, who fit the profile of the Olympic Park Bomber but was innocent, was publicly disgraced in the media. Rudolph also has some similarities to the suspect in question, Nathan Tubbs; even though their motives, M.O., and pathology highly differed, both Rudolph and Nathan were the subjects of a large investigation by the FBI, in which several murders were committed and nicknames were given to the killers. These investigations initially centered on a security guard as the prime suspect (Jewell in Rudolph's case, Nathan in his own, though Jewell was innocent whereas Nathan was indeed the actual perpetrator).
Rudolph's most notable mention was in Tabula Rasa during the trial of Brian Matloff, when his lawyer tries to discredit offender profiling by bringing up the way Jewell was falsely implicated in the Olympic Park bombing. Hotch rebutts by saying that Jewell was indeed not the perpetrator, but that the FBI's profile matched the actual bomber, Rudolph, perfectly. Rudolph was also mentioned in the Suspect Behavior episode Here is the Fire alongside George Metesky, Theodore Kaczynski, and Timothy McVeigh as examples of bombers. Rudolph was most recently mentioned in the Season Twelve episode Keeper, when Alvez recounts how he was able to evade authorities for five years by hiding along the Appalachian Trail.
- TruTV Crime Library articles on Rudolph
- Rudolph's confession transcribed in an NPR online page
- USA Today online article on Rudolph
- The Age online article about "lone wolves"
- FOX News timeline of Rudolph's bombings
- ESPN Sports article on bombing survivor Calvin Thorbourne