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The Centennial Olympic Park Bomber

The Largest Manhunt Ever


One of the Largest Manhunts in History

Posted Tuesday October 3rd 2023

FBI Eric Rudolph
Centennial Olympic Park Bomber
Eric Rudolph

From 1996-1998, Eric Robert Rudolph detonated four bombs in Atlanta, GA, and Birmingham, AL: one left in a backpack in Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics, two at abortion clinics, and one at a gay nightclub. His bombs killed two and injured hundreds. His crimes brought more attention to the problem of domestic terrorism. Once he was identified, FBI and law enforcement agents of the Southeast Bomb Task Force created а personality profile studying the region's geography the survivalist was hiding in. Rudolph ultimately spent five years living in the mountains of western North Carolina, and the search for him resulting in one of the largest manhunts in history.

The Top Ten Fugitive was arrested by police officer J.S. Postell on May 31, 2003, while Rudolph was rummaging through a garbage can in Murphy, NC. He had buried stashes of hundreds of pounds of dynamite, but law enforcement pressure and patrols made it difficult for him to access them. By not letting up on the investigation, agents prevented more bombs from being set. Rudolph plead guilty and was sentenced to multiple life sentences without parole. Attorney General John Asheroft said of his arrest, "This sends a clear message that we will never cease in our efforts to hunt down all terrorists, foreign or domestic, and stop them from harming the innocent."

Centennial Olympic Park Bombing

WIKIPEDIAThe Centennial Olympic Park Bombing was a domestic terrorist pipe bombing attack on Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 27, 1996, during the Summer Olympics. The blast directly killed one person and injured 111 others; another person later died of a heart attack. It was the first of four bombings committed by Eric Rudolph in a terrorism campaign against what he called "the ideals of global socialism" and against "abortion on demand". Security guard Richard Jewell along with (Supervisor) Richard Del Pozo, discovered the bomb during a media shoot with NBC prior to detonation. Del Pozo contacted his command post and lead the FBI to the package Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers, and began clearing spectators out of the park along with other security guards.

After the bombing, Jewell was initially investigated as a suspect by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and news media aggressively focused on him as the presumed culprit when he was actually innocent. In October 1996, the FBI declared Jewell was no longer a person of interest. Following three more bombings in 1997 and 1998, Rudolph was identified by the FBI as the suspect. In 2003, Rudolph was finally captured and arrested, and in 2005 he agreed to plead guilty to avoid a potential death sentence. Rudolph was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for his crimes.

The Bombing
Centennial Olympic Park was designed as the "town square" of the Olympics, and thousands of spectators had gathered for a late concert by the band Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. Sometime after midnight, Rudolph planted a green U.S. military ALICE pack (field pack) containing three pipe bombs filled with smokeless powder surrounded by three-inch-long (7.6 cm) masonry nails, which caused most of the human injuries, underneath a bench near the base of a concert sound tower. He then left the area.

The pack had a directed charge and could have done more damage but it was slightly moved at some point. It used a steel plate as a directional device. Investigators later tied the Sandy Springs and Otherside Lounge bombs together with this first device because all were propelled by nitroglycerin dynamite, used an alarm clock and Rubbermaid containers, and contained steel plates.

FBI Agent David (Woody) Johnson received notice that a call to 911 was placed about 18 minutes before the bomb detonated warning that a bomb would go off at the park within 30 minutes by "a white male with an indistinguishable American accent".

Security guard Richard Jewell discovered the bag underneath a bench and alerted Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers. Tom Davis, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, called in a bomb squad, including members of the ATF and FBI to investigate the suspicious bag, which was leaning against the 40-ft NBC sound tower. Jewell and other security guards began clearing the immediate area so that the bomb squad could investigate the suspicious package. The bomb detonated two to three minutes into the evacuation, before all spectators could leave the area.

Alice Hawthorne, 44, of Albany, Georgia, was killed in the explosion when a nail from the bomb penetrated her skull. A cameraman with Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, Melih Uzunyol, 40, who had "survived coverage of wars in Azerbaijan, Bosnia and the Persian Gulf," suffered a fatal heart attack while running to the scene. The bomb wounded 111 others.

Conviction of Eric Robert Rudolph
The investigation made little progress until early 1997, when two more bombings took place, at an abortion clinic and a lesbian nightclub, both in the Atlanta area. Similarities in the bomb design allowed investigators to conclude that this was the work of the same perpetrator. One more bombing of an abortion clinic, this time in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed a policeman working as a security guard and seriously injured nurse Emily Lyons, gave the FBI crucial clues including a partial license plate.

The plate and other clues led the FBI to identify Eric Robert Rudolph, a carpenter and handyman, as a suspect. Rudolph eluded capture and became a fugitive; officials believed he had disappeared into the rugged southern Appalachian Mountains, familiar from his youth. On May 5, 1998, the FBI named him as one of its ten most wanted fugitives and offered a $1 million reward for information leading directly to his arrest. On October 14, 1998, the Department of Justice formally named Rudolph as its suspect in all four bombings.

After more than five years on the run, Rudolph was arrested on May 31, 2003, in Murphy, North Carolina, by a rookie 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 originally suspected a burglary in progress. On April 8, 2005, the government announced Rudolph would plead guilty to all four bombings, including the Centennial Olympic Park attack. Rudolph is serving four life terms without the possibility of parole at ADX Florence supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

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

Eric RudolphIn 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 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.

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