Eric Rudolph

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Eric Robert Rudolph
Eric Rudolph (cropped).png
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
AliasBob Randolph, Robert Randolph, Bobby Rudolph
BornEric Robert Rudolph
(1966-09-19) September 19, 1966 (age 53)
Merritt Island, Florida, U.S.
OccupationCarpenter, roofer and handyman
ParentsRobert Rudolph
Patricia Murphy
SiblingsDaniel Rudolph
ConvictionsMaliciously damaged, by means of explosive or incendiary device, buildings and property affecting interstate commerce which resulted in death and injury.
PenaltyLife imprisonment without parole
AddedMay 5, 1998
CaughtMay 31, 2003

Eric Robert Rudolph (born September 19, 1966), also known as the Olympic Park Bomber, is an American terrorist convicted for a series of anti-abortion and anti-gay-motivated bombings across the southern United States between 1996 and 1998, which killed three people and injured 150 others.[1][2] Rudolph spent five years on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list until he was caught in 2003. In 2005, as part of a plea bargain, he pleaded guilty to numerous state and federal homicide charges and accepted four consecutive life sentences in exchange for avoiding a trial and a potential death sentence. He remains incarcerated at the ADX Florence Supermax prison near Florence, Colorado.

Early life[edit]

Rudolph was born in Merritt Island, Florida.[3] After his father, Robert, died in 1981, he moved with his mother and siblings to Nantahala, Macon County, in western North Carolina.[4] He attended ninth grade at the Nantahala School but dropped out after that year and worked as a carpenter with his older brother Daniel. When Rudolph was 18, he spent time with his mother at a Christian Identity compound in Missouri known as the Church of Israel.[5]

After Rudolph received his GED, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, undergoing basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He was discharged due to marijuana use, in January 1989, while serving with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.[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.


At age 29, Rudolph was the perpetrator of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, which occurred on July 27, 1996, during the 1996 Summer Olympics. He made two anonymous 911 calls, warning about the bomb before it detonated.[7] The blast killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others.[8] Melih Uzunyol, a Turkish cameraman, who ran to the scene following the blast, died of a heart attack.[8]

Rudolph's motive for the bombing, according to his April 13, 2005 statement, was political:

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 in order to empty the streets around the venues and thereby eat into the vast amounts of money that had been invested in them.[7]

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

Rudolph has also confessed to three other bombings: the bombing of an abortion clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs on January 16, 1997; the bombing of the Otherside Lounge of Atlanta, a lesbian bar, on February 21, 1997, injuring five;[9] and the bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 29, 1998, killing Birmingham police officer Robert Sanderson who was working off-duty in uniform, and critically injuring nurse Emily Lyons. Rudolph's bombs contained 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, following tips from two witnesses, Jeffrey Tickal and Jermaine Hughes. Tickal and Hughes observed Rudolph departing the scene and noted his appearance and truck license plate.[10] He was named as a suspect in the other Atlanta and Alabama 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 time federal and amateur search teams scoured the area without success.

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."[11]

Rudolph's family supported him and believed he was innocent of all charges.[12] They were questioned and placed under surveillance.[13] On March 7, 1998, Rudolph's older brother, Daniel, videotaped himself cutting off his left hand with a radial arm saw in order to, in his words, "send a message to the FBI and the media."[14] The hand was successfully reattached by surgeons.[15] According to Rudolph's own writings, he survived during his years as a fugitive by camping in the Nantahala National Forest near Cherokee and Graham Counties, in North Carolina, by gathering acorns and salamanders, pilfering vegetables from gardens, stealing grain from a grain silo, and raiding dumpsters in Murphy, North Carolina.[16][17]

Arrest and guilty plea[edit]

Florence ADMAX USP, where Rudolph is incarcerated

Rudolph was arrested in Murphy, North Carolina on May 31, 2003 by rookie police officer Jeffrey Scott Postell of the Murphy Police Department while Rudolph was looking through a dumpster behind a Save-A-Lot store at about 4 a.m. Postell, on routine patrol, had initially suspected a burglary in progress.[18]

Rudolph was unarmed and did not resist arrest. When arrested, he was clean-shaven with a trimmed mustache, had dyed black hair and wore a camouflage jacket, work clothes, and new sneakers.[18][19] Federal authorities charged him on October 14, 2003. Rudolph was initially defended by attorney Richard S. Jaffe. After Jaffe withdrew, he was represented by Judy Clarke.

On April 8, 2005, the Department of Justice announced that Rudolph had agreed to a plea bargain under which he 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 (110 kg) of dynamite he had hidden in the forests of North Carolina. His revealing the hiding places of the dynamite was a condition of his plea agreement.[20] He made his pleas in person in Birmingham and Atlanta courts on April 13.[21]

Rudolph released a statement explaining his actions; he rationalized the bombings as serving the cause of anti-abortion and anti-gay terrorism. 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."[22] The terms of the plea agreement were that Rudolph would be sentenced to four consecutive life terms. He was sentenced July 18, 2005, to two consecutive life terms without parole for the 1998 murder of a police officer.[23] He was sentenced for his bombings in Atlanta on August 22, 2005, receiving two consecutive life terms. That same day, Rudolph was sent to the ADX Florence Supermax federal prison. Like other Supermax inmates, he spends 22½ hours per day alone in his 80 square foot (7.4 m2) concrete cell.[24][25]


Rudolph has made it clear in his written statement and elsewhere that the purpose of the bombings was to fight against abortion and the "homosexual agenda." He considered abortion to be murder, the product of a "rotten feast of materialism and self-indulgence"; accordingly, he believed that its perpetrators deserved death, and that the United States government had lost its legitimacy by sanctioning it. He also considered it essential to resist by force "the concerted effort to legitimize the practice of homosexuality" in order to protect "the integrity of American society" and "the very existence of our culture", whose foundation is the "family hearth."[7]

After Rudolph's arrest for the bombings, The Washington Post reported that the FBI considered Rudolph to have "had a long association with the Christian Identity movement, which asserts that Northern European whites are the direct descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, God's chosen people."[26] Christian Identity is a white supremacist religion which holds the view that those who are not white Christians cannot be saved.[27] In the same article, the Post reported that some FBI investigators believed that Rudolph may have written letters in which he 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.[28]

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."[29][30] In other written statements, Rudolph has cited biblical passages and offered religious motives for his militant opposition to abortion.[7]

Some books and media outlets have portrayed Rudolph as a "Christian Identity extremist"; Harper's Magazine referred to him as a "Christian terrorist."[31] The NPR radio program On Point referred to him as a "Christian Identity extremist."[32] 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."[33] 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,"[34] whom they believe to have protected Rudolph while he was a fugitive. Rudolph rejects all suggestions that he is a racist or has racial motivations.

In a letter to his mother from prison, Rudolph 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. 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."[35] In spite of this, Eric Rudolph does state, "The truth is I am a Christian".[36] Rudolph remained unrepentant for his actions and, in a statement before the court, called his acts against abortion providers a “moral duty.” “As I go to a prison cell for a lifetime, I know that ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith,’” Rudolph said, quoting scripture.[37]

Writings from prison[edit]

Essays written by Rudolph that condone violence and militant action have been published on the Internet by an Army of God anti-abortion activist.[38] 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.[39]

As reported in an April 8, 2013 Alabama blog article,[40] in February 2013, with help by his brother, published Rudolph's book Between the Lines of Drift: The Memoirs of a Militant, and in April 2013, the U.S. Attorney General seized $200 to help pay off the $1 million that Rudolph owes in restitution to the state of Alabama. The book has since been republished and has been made available through the Army of God website.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Eric Rudolph charged in Centennial Olympic Park bombing". Viceland News. Archived from the original on June 18, 2003. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  2. ^ Schuster, Henry (April 12, 2005). "Rudolph agrees to plea agreement". Cable News Network LP, LLLP. Archived from the original on April 9, 2005. Retrieved January 8, 2016. "The many victims of Eric Rudolph's terrorist attacks in Atlanta and Birmingham can rest assured that Rudolph will spend the rest of his life behind bars," [U.S. Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales said in press release.
  3. ^ Noe, Denise. "Eric Rudolph: Serial Bomber". TruTV. Archived from the original on March 5, 2011. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  4. ^ "Tim and Sarah Gayman Discuss Growing Up in the Anti-Semitic Christian Identity Movement", Intelligence Report (Summer 2001 ed.), Southern Poverty Law Center (102), 2001, archived from the original on July 12, 2011, retrieved August 16, 2012
  5. ^ "Rudolph's mother: Son not a 'monster'". CNN. April 4, 2005. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  6. ^ Jeffrey Gettleman with David M. Halbfinger, The New York Times, "Suspect in '96 Olympic Bombing And 3 Other Attacks Is Caught" Archived February 4, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, June 1, 2003. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d Full text of Eric Rudolph's written statement Archived October 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Army of God website
  8. ^ a b Crystal Bonvillian, "Serial bomber Eric Rudolph targeted Olympics, gay club, abortion clinics", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 19, 2018.
  9. ^ Eric Robert Rudolph To Plead Guilty To Serial Bombing Attacks In Atlanta And Birmingham; Will Receive Life Sentences April 8, 2005
  10. ^ Ellen Barry; Jenny Jarvie (April 15, 2005). "They Didn't Catch Rudolph, but They Stopped Him Cold". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 27, 2014. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  11. ^ Anti-Defamation League, "Extremist Chatter Praises Eric Rudolph as 'Hero.' Archived November 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine", June 3, 2003. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  12. ^ Henry Schuster, CNN, "Why did Rudolph do it? Archived June 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine", April 15, 2005. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  13. ^ Jeff Stein,, "A twisted tale of two brothers" Archived September 11, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, January 29, 1999. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  14. ^ "Bombing suspect's brother cuts hand off with saw". CNN. March 9, 1998. Archived from the original on October 11, 2000. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  15. ^ "Bomb Suspect's Brother Mutilates Himself". The New York Times. March 11, 1998. Archived from the original on February 4, 2017. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  16. ^ Lick the Floor Archived April 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine January 27, 2004
  17. ^ "Lil". Archived from the original on June 27, 2005. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  18. ^ a b "Atlanta Olympic bombing suspect arrested". CNN. May 31, 2003. Archived from the original on June 21, 2003.
  19. ^ Torpy, Bill; Plummer, Don (June 1, 2003). "Finally caught: 5 year hunt for Eric Rudolph ends". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on June 5, 2003. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  20. ^ Eggen, Dan (April 9, 2005). "Rudolph To Plead Guilty to Bombings". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 30, 2014. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  21. ^ Lohr, Kathy (April 13, 2005). "Rudolph Pleads Guilty, Admits Little Remorse". NPR. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  22. ^ "Excerpts from Eric Rudolph's statement". USA Today. April 13, 2005. Archived from the original on February 11, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  23. ^ Associated Press, "Eric Rudolph Gets Life Without Parole Archived August 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine", July 18, 2005. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  24. ^ Rappold, R. Scott. "Olympic bomber Rudolph calls Supermax home." Archived October 23, 2005, at the Wayback Machine Colorado Springs Gazette. September 14, 2005. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  25. ^ "Eric Robert Rudolph Archived June 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 5, 2010.
  26. ^ Cooperman, Alan. "Is Terrorism Tied To Christian Sect?" Archived October 16, 2018, at the Wayback Machine The Washington Post. June 2, 2003. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  27. ^ Quarles, Chester L. (2004). Christian Identity: The Aryan American Bloodline Religion. McFarland & Company. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-7864-1892-3. Archived from the original on April 24, 2017. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  28. ^ "The Second Defensive Action Statement". Archived from the original on October 6, 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2007.
  29. ^ Kristen Wyatt (2005). "Eric Rudolph, proud killer". The Decatur Daily. Associated Press. Archived from the original on April 21, 2008. Retrieved December 11, 2006.
  30. ^ Morrison, Blake. "Special report: Eric Rudolph writes home." Archived May 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine USA Today. July 6, 2005. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
  31. ^ "Week In Review". Harpers Magazine. Archived from the original on September 29, 2015. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
  32. ^ Most Wanted Extremist, Eric Rudolph, Caught Archived October 2, 2006, at the Wayback Machine June 3, 2003
  33. ^ Arrest of Accused Olympic Park Bomber Sparks Debate on 'Christian Terrorism', Jun 5, 2003, VOANews
  34. ^ The Science of Good and Evil
  35. ^ "Special report: Eric Rudolph writes home" Archived May 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine July 5, 2005
  36. ^ "Eric Rudolph Racism "The truth is I am a Christian"". Archived from the original on December 22, 2017. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  37. ^ "Serial bomber Eric Rudolph targeted Olympics, gay club, abortion clinics". Archived from the original on April 14, 2018. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  38. ^ Army of God's homepage for Rudolph Archived May 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine December 18, 2007
  39. ^ Extremist Taunts His Victims From Prison Archived May 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine May 14, 2007
  40. ^ "Birmingham abortion clinic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph fights to get profits from his book". April 9, 2013. Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
  41. ^ Eric's book on the Army of God website Archived December 22, 2013, at the Wayback Machine December 2013