Eric Rudolph is an anti-government extremist, Rudolph who was convicted of the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics. What’s the real story?
Security guard Richard Jewell was falsely accused of being the bomber when a news media frenzy erupted after it was reported that he was under FBI investigation. He would later be exonerated but not until his reputation was left in tatters. Jewell had started out as a hero because he discovered the suspicious backpack before Rudolph’s bomb exploded and ushered people to safety. The case was featured in a movie by Clint Eastwood called, Richard Jewell. Jewell died in 2007 of natural causes. The story of the search for Rudolph and the investigation into Jewell is featured in a new Netflix series called Manhunt: Deadly Games. The series first ran on CBS.
The Netflix show is gaining the story new views. It also has a lot of people wondering: Where is Eric Rudolph now? Today, he is serving a life prison term at Florence ADMAX USP. That’s a federal prison in Colorado. He is 54 years old today. He’s played by Jack Huston on Netflix.
Rudolph was responsible for a series of bombings. According to the FBI, “He pled guilty and is currently serving multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Rudolph Remained Defiant Even Though He Pleaded Guilty & Harbored Anti-Government Ideologies
What was Rudolph’s motive? He was an anti-government extremist, but he borrowed his ideologies from different places.
Former FBI executive Chris Swecker explained on an FBI website devoted to Rudolph’s capture: “He had borrowed ideas from a lot of different places and formed his own personal ideology. He clearly was anti-government and anti-abortion, anti-gay, ‘anti’ a lot of things. The bombings really sprang from his own unique biases and prejudices. He had his own way of looking at the world and didn’t get along with a lot of people.”
When he pleaded guilty, a “defiant Rudolph said he had no remorse or regrets,” the FBI wrote. When he was captured, though, said Swecker, Rudolph was “actually pretty compliant and subdued. Almost relieved in a sense. His attitude was, ‘You got me…’ Later, when they put him on the plane to go to Atlanta, he had tears in his eyes. As he saw those mountains receding in the background, he probably realized he would never see them again. I think at that point, it wasn’t defiance. It was defeat. He knew he was defeated.”
In part, Rudolph was motivated by his opposition to abortion.
Rudolph ultimately confessed. You can read his full confession here. “Abortion is murder. And when the regime in Washington legalized, sanctioned and legitimized this practice, they forfeited their legitimacy and moral authority to govern,” it says in part.
Rudolph Was a Survivalist Who Stayed on the Run for Years
It took years for the FBI to catch up to Eric Rudolph, and he left a trail of dead and wounded in his wake.
According to the FBI, between 1996 to 1998, “bombs exploded four times in Atlanta and Birmingham, killing two and injuring hundreds and setting off what turned out to be a five-year manhunt for the suspected bomber Eric Robert Rudolph.”
The law caught up with Rudolph in 2003. On May 31, 2003, former FBI Top Ten Fugitive Eric Robert Rudolph “was arrested by police officer J.S. Postell while rummaging through a trash bin behind a rural grocery story in Murphy, North Carolina,” the FBI explains.
“A skilled outdoorsman, Rudolph had managed to elude law enforcement officials for five years while hiding out in the mountains after bombing four sites in Georgia and Alabama. Rudolph began his violent attacks on July 27, 1996, when he planted a backpack containing a bomb in crowded Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia.”
According to the FBI, a woman who traveled with her daughter to watch the 1996 Summer Olympics “was killed and more than 100 others were injured in the blast. Shortly after, Rudolph bombed two more locations in Georgia and one in Birmingham, Alabama, resulting several more injuries and the death of a police officer. Rudolph ultimately told authorities where he’d stashed an additional 250 pounds of dynamite.”
Swecker described what the FBI called the “relentless pursuit and capture of the survivalist bomber.” Although some people thought Rudolph was dead as the years past, some agents on a task force insisted on focusing on western North Carolina. That paid off.
“Rudolph is such a loner that we strongly believed he simply wouldn’t have trusted anybody. He had access to news; he had newspaper articles in his camp. He knew he was being pursued. I don’t think he would have made himself vulnerable to being compromised or betrayed by letting anyone know where he was,” he said.
When he was caught, Swecker said, Rudolph “was thin, much thinner than when he first went into the mountains, but in very good shape. He talked about being very sick in the first winter, malnourished. After that, things kind of steadied for him. Rudolph was finally caught foraging for food at a grocery store dumpster.”
He had other ways to get food and storage at his campsite. “He had a bunch of 55-gallon barrels buried in the ground, full of grain, soy, and oats. There was a granary about four miles from there, and he would go there at night,” Swecker explained.
READ NEXT: How Richard Jewell Died.