Eric Robert Rudolph (born September 19, 1966) is a suspect in the July 27, 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, which killed Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others. (It also indirectly caused the death of cameraman Melih Uzunyol by heart attack as he rushed to cover the incident.) He is also charged with having bombed a health clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 16, 1997, killing Robert Sanderson and critically injuring Emily Lyons. He is also charged with two bombings at the Sandy Springs Professional Office Building north of Atlanta on January 29, 1998, and setting two bombs at the Otherside Lounge in Atlanta on February 21, 1997 (only one of these detonated). The use of two bombs is a common terrorist tactic: the second bomb is timed to target those responding to the first explosion. He was named 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.
These bombings, allegedly in furtherance of his extremist right-wing ideology, injured more than 150 people. He is said to have targeted the health clinic and office building because abortions were performed there, and targeted the Otherside Lounge because it was a predominantly lesbian nightclub. Rudolph is said to be a follower of the Christian Identity sect of Christianity.
On May 5, 1998, he became one of the FBI ten most wanted fugitives. The FBI considered him to be armed and extremely dangerous, and offered a $1,000,000 reward for information leading directly to his arrest. He spent more than five years in the Appalachian wilderness as a fugitive, and was arrested in Murphy, North Carolina behind a Save-A-Lot store as he scavenged for food in a trash-bin on May 31, 2003. Despite being portrayed as an extreme anti-Semite, Rudolph was defended by a Jewish attorney, Richard S. Jaffe. His attorney said he knew about Rudolph's beliefs but said his client didn't have a problem with his Jewish faith.
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."
Many Christian Identity adherents are outspoken in their support of Rudolph as a "hero". The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, notes 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."
The identification and pursuit of Rudolph was characterized by several bizarre incidents. The Justice Department was forced to apologize to Richard Jewell, whom they first hailed as a hero in the Olympic bombing, and later falsely identified as a suspect. After the Olympic bombing, Eric visited his gay brother Jamie in New York, quoting Rush Limbaugh over dinner. On March 7, 1998, Daniel Rudolph, Eric's older brother, videotaped himself cutting off one of his hands with an electric saw in order to "send a message to the FBI and the media." The hand was successfully reattached.
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