CNN BREAKING NEWS
Eric Robert Rudolph Captured by Police
Aired May 31, 2003 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is just an amazing morning. Something long after has been found. I want to update you on our top story this hour. In a stunning development for law enforcement authorities think they have captured the Olympic Park bomber. An FBI source in Washington tells us Eric Robert Rudolph is now in custody in North Carolina and now also has been confirmed. You heard Kelli Arena reporting that statement from John Ashcroft's office just a short time ago. Authorities say a man who was discovered this morning rooting through some garbage in town of Murphy, that's in the far western of the tar hill state.
The early-morning capture comes nearly seven years after the Centennial Olympic Park bombing here in Atlanta just the across the street from CNN World Headquarters of where we are there now. The explosion killed one woman, and injured more than one people. Authorities link Rudolph to a string of bombings across the south east. He was also charged with the double bombing of a woman's clinic at an office building just north of Atlanta, in January 1997. We were talking to one of the FBI agents who is on the scene who was injured in that blast. One month later, the bombers struck against in a gay nightclub in Atlanta. There were several injuries in those two incidents, but no one was killed.
Then January, 1998, Birmingham, Alabama, a police officer was killed when a bomb went off at a women's health clinic in that city. Rudolph's pickup truck was later found near the scene. We have also been talking to the nurse, Emily Lyons, who was blind and continues to live in pain from that incident. Police discovered the man they believe is Rudolph in the same mountainous region of North Carolina where he spent as a teen and in his adult years as we have been talking about all morning long. At one point, 200 federal agencies combed the woods searching across half a mile -- half a million acres, should say, no success, That is until this morning.
Rudolph is 36 years old. He's listed on the FBI's 10 most wanted list with a $1 million award offered for his capture. And we just checked the FBI most wanted list actually on the computer right here right behind me. It is still listed as an active investigation. They have not yet crossed it off as we have. But confirmation has just come that Rudolph has been captured. We anticipate a press conference. Kelli Arena reported 12:00 noon. Earlier they were saying 1:00, it seem is that have moved that up. So you want to stay tuned for that, 58 minutes from now. We are all going to be listening very, very carefully to hear what investigators have to say.
Let's go to Kelli arena in Washington. Kelli, when any sense who will be that the press conference?
KELLI ARENA, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: You probably have some special agents from the FBI. The will not include obviously the attorney general of the FBI. The directorate who is held in North Carolina. So I'm assuming an assemblage of all of your local enforcement agencies that were involved with your federal agencies. You know, the scope of this -- of this -- this incident, Anderson, sometimes gets lost here. You had obviously two people killed, but you had more than 150 people injured as a result of the various explosions that Eric Rudolph is allegedly responsible for.
And I was just speaking with the Justice Department official, and I said, "Gosh this has got to be a great day for you guys?" And he said, you know what, actually it's got to be a great day for all of those people out there who I cannot even imagine how they were affected that day. I mean, we were all here in Washington on September 11 and know how that felt, obviously from a distance. But those people were right there is an up close. And it just brings it all into sharp focus that there were so many people who were personally touched by those explosions and are finally going to see someone be brought to justice whether or not he's convicted is another story.
And as we heard from -- I spoke with some legal analysts earlier, and they said that time does not work in favor of a -- of an investigation. And I do believe our own legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin made the point earlier today as well that memories fade and evidence sometimes is misplaced or lost. It is a little bit harder to sometimes pull it altogether when so much time has passed but obviously you've got a lot of people who have been working very diligently for a number of years on this case, and there's nothing more than they'd like to see than a conviction in this case -- Anderson.
COOPER: And just talking to the people that we've been talking to this morning, to Emily Lyon, 41-year-old nurse wounded in that clinic bombing. Blinded in one eye. A woman who still has the nails from the blast, still in her body. And Henry Schuster, senior producer here at CNN, who has been with us all morning long. Talking about if you run a magnet over parts of her leg, the skin sticks up because of the metal that's still in her body. Just extraordinary how this thing keeps going on. Has continues to impact on people's lives long after the blast has faded away. For a lot of people it simply will not fade away.
Let's talk about Attorney General John Ashcroft a bit. You read a statement from him, from his office a while ago praising the law enforcement, praising the FBI, as well as all of different agencies involving in the investigation. It's his office whole make the decision most likely about whether or not this becomes a death penalty case, isn't it?
ARENA: Well, that is the expectation. That this will go right to the top in a case that is this well known and this public that tell definitely be Ashcroft that make the final decision and the charges are death eligible charges. Of course never any decision because he was never in custody. And so since he was on the lamb, the case never moved forward. They may expect to get a 21 count indictment by a grand jury, and that's so far as it went. So obviously now that he's in custody -- and also some jurisdictional issues that need to be sorted out as well, because the crimes do span across state.
COOPER: Hey, Kelli, I want you to hold that thought. We will come back to you. Arthel has someone on the phone.
ARTHEL NEVILLE, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, actually Anderson, I have Mike Brooks, CNN's Mike Brooks is actually in Murphy, North Carolina right now.
And Mike, apparently this press conference is going to start in about 40 minutes. If you could tell us what you have been able to pick up there on the scene.
MIKE BROOKS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Arthel.
Apparently the press conference are saying to be at 1:00 and that's what we are hearing. But I just spoke with Mayor Bill Hughes he's the mayor of Murphy, North Carolina, and he just saw Eric Rudolph just a few moments ago. Said he looked very thin. Had a short haircut, a mustache, a dark t-shirt, blue jeans, sitting in the jail here at Murphy, North Carolina.
Now, he said that the way that it all occurred this morning was about prior to 4:00 a.m., an officer, J.S. Postell from the Murphy Police department was on routine patrol. And he was doing his normal business checks in a shopping center just east of town. And he saw this man, he approached him, he took off running. Officer Postell chased him, drew his weapon, told him to stop. He did stop. Postell started questioning him, he used a fictitious name. Took him into custody and that's, all started. And he's now custody here in the jail in Murphy, North Carolina. Officer Postell is a 22-year-old officer. He has only been with the police department here in Murphy a little over a year. And the mayor said for an officer with that short of tenure, that he's very proud of his people here in Murphy, North Carolina.
NEVILLE: Absolutely, Mike.
And you mentioned that Rudolph took off running when the officer approached him.
But considering that this man had been considered armed and dangerous, he sort of went without incident?
BROOKS: For the most part, he did. He was not armed at the time of his arrest. We know for the crimes that he's allegedly been accused of involve explosives. He allegedly had a weapon during one of the bombings, and they -- has used weapons in the past for hunting and an avid outdoorsman. But, Arthel, apparently, he is sitting in jail, was very, very docile, but they have positively identified him through his fingerprints and we are awaiting a 1:00 press conference. NEVILLE: Mike, have you described him, or authorities are describing Rudolph as docile. With your experience in law enforcement, what happens in a case like this in terms of the mindset of someone at this point who has been under the lamp for so many years and who is finally in custody?
BROOKS: He's been on the run for over five years. And I think someone like him, when they know they are caught, they are caught. Apparently nowhere for him to go. The police officer had the upper hand. And he knew he was caught and went ahead and gave himself up. But again he tried to use a fictitious name hoping that the officer would let him go. But he did a good job.
And talk about a department, Murphy, North Carolina, is a department of seven officers and one investigator. And the mayor said it took our one 22-year-old officer -- it took him to catch him and it took what the federal officers couldn't. But it's been a joint effort over the years of the FBI, the ATF, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Alabama authorities who have been relentless and have never stopped looking for him.
COOPER: Mike, you mentioned seven officer, one investigator, a small department.
Where is he being held now, and what sort of facility is it, do you know?
BROOKS: It's the city and county jail which is here in the center of Murphy, right in downtown Murphy. Again, a very small North Carolina town here in the mountains. And he's being held here. It's unsure right now whether he is -- how long he'll be held here for and if they will take him to the closest federal facility. The closest federal facility and court would be Bryson City, North Carolina. But they don't know if they will take him there or to Alabama or Georgia, that has not been determined as of yet.
COOPER: I know you talked to the mayor of Murphy and described him I think you said thin, short hair, had mustache, wearing blue jeans.
Did he describe at all sort of his feelings upon seeing Eric Robert Rudolph for the first time?
I ask this because just as you were speaking, as you were describing what he looked like, Henry Schuster, CNN producer over at CNN has been with us morning, his eyes sort of rose, his eyebrows raised. And just the notion that someone has seen him, it's sort of startling. This is a man who has not been seen since 1998.
Did the mayor talk about that at all?
BROOKS: Well, I asked him. I said, did he look at all of pictures that we've seen or any of the...
COOPER: It looks like we have lost Mike Brooks. Mike Brooks is in Murphy, North Carolina.
But Henry, let me talk to you about that. When you first heard that the mayor had seen him and describing him, what went through your mind?
HENRY SCHUSTER, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, I have got this wanted poster here in right front of me, and I was looking at these photos and I had seen some various family photos. And that last picture of him is the sketch. I don't think you will be able to see it from here, but maybe pull can put that graphic up. That was the sketch, the artist rendition. He had a mustache, he had a ponytail, he had a beard. You would think he would want to change appearance. I mean, obviously he cut his hair himself. Who knows scissors or a knife.
But they were just doing extraordinary -- at one time doing just such extraordinary measures to catch him. We had Art Harris on earlier and some of the investigators. They had brought in helicopter, with what they call FWIR, forward working infrared radar. They were flying over, but the type of forest sort of frustrated that. But some of the other things they were doing. They would put listening device out on trails in the Appalachian Trails. They also -- we talked about some of these break-ins that occurred in cabins.
There was even one incident where something seemed to have happened where it looked like someone might have been stealing trout from a local trout farm. So they put out thermal imaging camera's out there to try to catch -- to see if that was Eric Rudolph. So they were really going to every extent possible with the technology available but then it just dried up and then they just laid back. They waited for leads. They focused on friends. And they did remain confident even when other people questioned that. They did remain confident that Eric Rudolph was in a five-mile diameter of Murphy, North Carolina.
COOPER: Mike Brooks, CNN's Mike Brooks is back on the line. And Mike, as you point out the first that we've heard the details of this capture. If you will just reiterate again this young officer, J.S. Postell is his name, 22-year-old police officer on the Murphy Police Department. He's the man of the hour.
BROOKS: He is the man of the hour. And just to recap, shortly before 4:00 this morning, Officer Postell was on routine patrol doing his business checks at a shopping center just on the east side of town. He saw a man. He went to stop him. He ran. He drew his weapon. Officer Postell told the man to stop, he did stop. He questioned this subject, and gave a fictitious name. Took him into the station and they found out in fact after identifying his fingerprints that he was, in fact, Eric Rudolph. And again, just a remarkable turn of events. Some law enforcement officers thought that he might have been in the mountains and may have died. But there has been -- they had been relentless both the local, state, and federal officials had still never thought, never given up hope that he was somewhere out there. He was on the FBI's 10 most wanted.
And I was talking -- as I was talking a little while ago, talking to the mayor, Bill Hughes of Murphy. He said that the one thing that he did notice was a scar on his chin, one mark that they were able to identify him by. But it was just remarkable, remarkable arrest here in Murphy, North Carolina.
COOPER: And Mike, we should point out, looking right now at the FBI fugitive list, they say he has a noticeable scar on his chin. So, as you know, not certainly a new development but definitely one of those identifying the most notable characteristics.
BROOKS: Absolutely. I was on a joint terrorism task force at time and I know I remember working the 800 number and getting the number of lead ins of people who thought they saw him all over North Carolina and Atlanta and Alabama and in working on this case. And when I heard it this morning, I thought it was remarkable too. I was shocked and pleased nonetheless. But again, he's still has allegedly been involved in a number of bombings in Atlanta, Alabama, and in the Centennial Park bombing. But they said allegedly wanted for those. But time will tell, Anderson.
COOPER: And certainly a lot of jurisdictions will be very interested in getting their hands on Mr. Rudolph. As you said, he's been indicted for an awful lot of things, hasn't been convicted at this point. Now Mike, I know that you just got on the scene. I guess it's slow morning in Murphy I imagine. I don't know if you have been able to talk to any locals. If not, at some point we would love to hear what some of them are telling you, whether or not this is -- I imagine, this has got be a big deal. It's a big deal everywhere. It's got to be a huge deal in Murphy. So at some point it will be interesting to here from them.
And also like to know whether authorities are going to be showing a photo of Mr. Rudolph at this press conference that they're going to have. That would be something that would be interesting to know. And also we are trying to get clarification on exactly when this press conference's going to happen. I know you have been saying 1:00, that's the word from local authorities in Murphy. Then the statement from John Ashcroft, Mike, which you may not know about just occurred about 20 minutes or so ago, 30 minutes or so ago. Kelli Arena bringing that to us. And in that statement, it said a press conference at noon. So there is some discrepancy. We will try to get some confirmation one way or another. But just an amazing day. Probably going to let you go, Mike. And just gather more information and we will talk back to you shortly.
BROOKS: Sounds good, Anderson. We will try to clarify this end also.
COOPER: Just extraordinary when you consider...
NEVILLE: A 22-year-old officer.
COOPER: Been on the force about a year, driving around, regular beat and this is how it ends.
SCHUSTER: Simply amazing to me. When I got the call this morning as I think I have said before, I've had calls like this over the years. Most of them we've been able to sort of run through. They've been dismissed. They've been -- Eric Rudolph's in Moscow. Eric Rudolph's in California. Eric Rudolph was spotted in Atlanta. And they have checked each one of these out as they've had to. So for this really to happen, my first thought is, oh, my gosh, what's going to confirm, because we worked so long is we want to be it is first ones to report it.
NEVILLE: Of course someone else who has been reporting this case extensively from the beginning Art Harris who is in Modesto, California right now. And Art, we keep mentioning the name Eric Rudolph this morning. If you would -- if you could give us an idea of this sort of a profile authorities have compiled over the years of who this man is.
ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a loner who is certainly anti-authority. Who is comfortable in the woods, a survivalist, knows herbal medicine, knows how to kill animal and fish and live alone. But also live alone within himself. Doesn't need a lot of people for companionship apparently. Over the years, I've asked agents, how can someone live as we've now seen for five years by himself?
Apparently, just his ability to see people. To go up into the woods and look out almost (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that was believed to be his way of bonding with other people. The capture also I have to say, Arthel, confirms a theory Charles Stone, the lead agent at the time have discussed with me over the years, why he felt Eric Rudolph would always be coming home again. That is because fugitives in his mind always stayed around the areas where they were comfortable. And as we've seen, he has apparently not ventured that far and was picked up at -- in Murphy, North Carolina, where he was last spotted of course five years ago. And they missed him when they found out that his trailer there was shortly after the Birmingham bombing that led them to a license tag and a truck and his address.
He was playing ironically the movie he just rented "Kull the Conqueror." And the scene that was on when police went into the trailer was a showdown in a cave. Ironically Eric Rudolph disappears, and they believe made his homes and caves over the years. Some are more habitable than others. And I was in the woods with trackers who showed me for this documentary that Henry produced, and I worked on together where he may have lived.
And some caves were too damp. Some were too narrow. Some had possible poison gas in them, which trackers were looking for bats, they were looking for any signs of life, insects, before they went further in. Because this gas, if you step in a puddle of water and it rises, you're dead before you hit the ground.
And so they were concerned, gee, could Eric Rudolph, because he hasn't been heard from, could he be dead in a cave?
Could he possibly have absorbed some of the residue from the explosives that they believe he stole from a possible construction site?
So over the years, this is a young man getting back to your question who knows the mountains knows the woods. Is comfortable by himself. Family was very self-sufficient. They raised their own trout. They had ducks. They froze food. Someone who does not want to at all be tied to society, and its mechanisms. Didn't have a bank account. There was no way for the FBI to track him by his credit card use. He didn't have any credit cards. And so this is someone who seemed to vanish into thin air. And to have him then captured within miles of where he disappeared is quite stunning, Arthel.
NEVILLE: Now, Art, CNN has obtained a home video of Eric Robert Rudolph, if you could talk about that for us?
HARRIS: Sure, this is a home video when I was up in the mountains and went to his home. The home that he sold to a family from Florida. The family's 11-year-old son, they're telling me this as they are giving me a tour of the house, showing me where Eric pointed out the attributes of the home they bought. They made a home movie. Their son made a movie of Eric Rudolph. Held up a handheld camera and followed Eric as they showed him around the house. And when they mentioned this to me, and I said this sounds pretty interesting and we would sure like to have this for CNN and that's how we got the video.
Mike (UNINTELLIGIBLE), another producer in the Atlanta bureau. And I were up there and the families and made arrangement with CNN to give us the video for a small fee. And so this is a video that you will see and it is of Eric Rudolph showing this perspective buyer his home. And in it, you will see him go into this secret room at the time. The family didn't know what it was, but it was a room where he grew high-grade marijuana, police have told me. That he than would harvest plots up into the mountains. He would then take it down, dry it in the house.
Apparently, his family was not wild about this, I'm told. But he would dry it. He would, then, pack it into a knapsack. Put coffee grounds in, so it would smell and he would put on his army uniform, get on the bus and go to Nashville. Where I'm told, he would have certain people pedal this high-grade marijuana for a high price to Nashville producers and some musicians in the parking lot of some of the studios there. So this is a guy who was very ingenious in making a living and surviving out side the system. Who became in his disappearance and ability to elude law enforcement somewhat of a mythological figure.
Of course when he disappeared there is history in the mountains there. No love lost between the big city and the small town, but also between the government and in the old days, the revenuers who would try to bust the stills. And so some of this animosity is passed down to generations and they were not wild about federal agents in their backyard. So here you had people who actually -- some of them rooting in a strange and sort of sick way for Eric Rudolph. You saw bumper stickers up there, Arthel which said "run, Eric, run!" You had bumper stickers that said "national hide-and-seek champion." So a feeling take some pride that one man from the area was able to allude this overwhelming number of law enforcement and he did that as we've seen now, Arthel, for five years.
NEVILLE: Indeed. And Henry Schuster I think you have something to add to that.
SCHUSTER: Back from the videotape on the home tour. A couple of things left out aside from the secret room. One of the shots out of the window and I'm not sure it's the clip that we cut. You could see Eric Rudolph's gray Nissan truck. And that of course was the truck that was spotted at Birmingham. So, you really get a way -- it closes the circle.
COOPER: Is that the same truck it that was later found abandoned?
SCHUSTER: Yes it was. And the other thing that you see on the videotape, aside from the gray Nissan truck, the house itself, When they toured in the upstairs rooms there's a skinned bobcat in one of the rooms which apparently Eric Rudolph, himself, had caught and skinned. There had been some other elements up there in the house. That house had become a haven for both Eric Rudolph and one of his brothers. They had moved back up there.
Their mother had moved away to Florida, and they moved up there. And they were trying to be self-sufficient. We also see when we get an outside shot there's a trout pond. And what they tried to do literally with just with what was on their property, they would fish from the trout pond. Deborah Rudolph told Art and myself that. She got a call from her ex-husband and he said, I am just so sick of eating trout every night. But this is part of Eric's survivalists.
COOPER: But apparently they still need to rent movies, though. They rented "Kull the Conqueror," and they liked "Cheech and Chong" movies as well.
SCHUSTER: Yes, as Art and I have been talking about the discovery of Eric's sort of doper past. His sister-in-law -- former sister-in-law said he just loved "Cheech and Chong" movies. Now the man who called the TV the electronic (UNINTELLIGIBLE), because he was so anti-semantic. He made all sorts of racist comments, and yet also get high and laugh at Cheech and Chong. So go figure.
COOPER: He was smoking the pot and not just selling it?
SCHUSTER: Yes, absolutely.
COOPER: Fascinating stuff -- Art.
HARRIS: Yes. Anderson, this tape that Henry and I have been talking about and that you will be able to see later on CNN exclusively, it's going to be I understand introduced as evidence to shore up what Henry's just pointed out, that this truck that was believed to be the truck that was spotted in Birmingham was actually sitting outside of his home in North Carolina. And that is one of the scenes on the tape. So before the FBI gave the tape back to the family, they did make a copy and that tape could be introduced as evidence in his trial -- Anderson COOPER: Now, Art, Henry had also pointed out -- well, actually, before we get on that. You mention his brother who was living at time, is the same brother who then cut off his hand?
HARRIS: So many of them.
COOPER: Why did his brother cut off of his hand?
SCHUSTER: The other brother -- one of the other brothers cut off his hand, because he said it was a protest against -- in fact, he recorded it on the video.
COOPER: Right he didn't just cut it off. He videotaped himself cutting it off and sent it to the authorities.
SCHUSTER: Well, it's the 1900s, so you can make you protest like that. He said the statement to authorities of the way they were treating him and his family. And he used I saw, he cut off his hand. Fortunately someone called -- he went to an emergency room, and when they were questioning him in the emergency room, what happened is they called a sheriff's deputy and they went out to the house and they were able to bring back the hand and reattach it. And they also found the videotape there.
COOPER: Of the...
SCHUSTER: Of the incident, because he did not have a chance to send it. I think he may been so shocked by what happened. But a big family. I mean, there is another brother who is a musician in New York City, an alternative musician in New York City. There is a brother -- the brother that was living with him at the time who was Deborah Rudolph's ex-husband. And there were a couple of other siblings who were older and sort of moved away and disassociated themselves from the family a little bit.
A sister and an older brother who have just -- they would show up. We had some photos of a family gathering. In fact the first family gathering that Deborah Rudolph had ever gone to and where she talks about. Suddenly she realizes the things -- this ain't your normal family. And we have some photos of all them. But I think one of the brothers and sisters -- they were older and they had moved away even before the family had moved to North Carolina. They had moved away from the family.
COOPER: And we are going to see a lot of these images tonight at 8:00 in this CNN special report "THE HUNT FOR ERIC RUDOLPH. There it is tonight 8:00 Eastern time, CNN presents special.
I want to talk to you more, Henry, about Art had brought up the fact that some of this videotape that CNN has exclusively is going to be entered into evidence perhaps in the trial. You were telling me a little bit earlier before about how authorities from the get go have been setting aside stuff for an eventual defense.
SCHUSTER: We were in task force headquarters and I looked over and I saw in one corner on the floor, I saw a bunch of boxes. They seemed to have files in them, photos, papers, eyewitness reports. I said what's that, and somebody said that's the discovery project, by which they meant, they were preparing all the documents that they could for discovery by a defense team. So they had not lost sight of that. And if you may remember, this became an issue in the Timothy McVeigh trial, especially afterwards, when there was a question about whether the FBI had not provided all the relevant material to the McVeigh defense team.
So they wanted to be very carefully. They wanted no doubt about this. So they prepared all of this evidence, and sitting somewhere in an FBI office in Atlanta now is a whole stack of documents that will be turned over to whoever becomes Eric Rudolph's lawyer.
SCHUSTER: Now, finding a lawyer is going to be a little bit tough. But then, we've had a couple, but you know, they don't like the government, but they don't like lawyers either.
COOPER: That may change. It's amazing how things change once you need them.
NEVILLE: Lots of information coming through this morning. Let's go ahead and recap. Here's what we do know. Authorities have captured the suspected Olympic Park bomber. Attorney General John Ashcroft confirms Eric Rudolph is in now in custody in North Carolina. Authorities say a man was discovered rooting through some garbage earlier this morning in the town of Murphy. That's in the far western part of the Tarheel state. A rookie police officer found Rudolph during a routine patrol about 4:00 a.m. Eastern time. The capture comes nearly seven years after the Centennial Olympic Park bombing here in Atlanta, just across the street from CNN global headquarters. The explosion there killed one woman and injured more than 100 people.
Authorities link Rudolph to a string of deadly bombings across the southeast. He was also charged with two bombings at a women's clinic at an office building in Sandy Springs, just north of Atlanta, in January 1997. One month later, the bomber struck again at a gay nightclub in Atlanta. There were several injuries in those two incidents, but no one was killed. And in January 1998, in Birmingham, Alabama, a police officer was killed when a bomb went off at a women's health clinic in that city. Rudolph's pickup truck was later found near the scene, and police discovered Rudolph in the same mountainous region of North Carolina where he had lived for many years.
Rudolph is described as a skilled outdoorsman, able to survive for long periods in the wilderness. Rudolph is 36 years old and is listed on the FBI's 10 most wanted list, with a $1 million reward offered for his capture. His name has still not been crossed off the list. Attorney General Ashcroft describes Rudolph as the most notorious American fugitive on the most wanted list.
Once again, Eric Rudolph captured this morning in North Carolina.
COOPER: And so much to focus on in this morning. It's fascinating when you think about, you know, and a lot is going to be made about this young, rookie officer, as you said, about a year on the force in Murphy, North Carolina, it's a small police officer, about seven or so officers, one investigator, I think Mike Brooks said. But this is really the culmination of an investigation that has been massive in its scope, that has been federal, state, local law enforcement. So there are a lot of law enforcement officers who are going to be taking justifiably a lot of pride this morning. They may not have been the ones who actually caught him, but it is significant, I think, to note that that there has been no other bombing that has been attributed to Eric Rudolph since 1998, and that is significant when you consider -- you look at the dates of these bombings. July 1996, then, January '97, February '97, January '98. One after another successful bombings, and then silence.
SCHUSTER: Well, remember, that they didn't know who bomber was until after Birmingham, or who alleged bomber was until after Birmingham, when they had an eyewitness who was able to see a man leaving the scene and was curious, the man was leaving the scene when everybody else was walking towards the scene. So this guy, this medical student at the time, got into his truck and he tried to follow him. And he did, and then the man disappeared in the woods, and then he went to the telephone at a McDonald's and the man reemerged. And so he was able to see him getting into the truck and he was able to get the license plate, and it was that gray Nissan truck, and Art was talking about -- we were talking about the video, the home video. It's the same truck that was later found abandoned, but it was also the same truck that was on that home video.
And so they've built a profile...
COOPER: And that really broke it open?
SCHUSTER: Well, that broke it open. What they had been able to do beforehand, was they had been able to tie forensically the Centennial Park bombing to the two bombings that happened later in Atlanta from the Sandy Springs abortion clinic bombing and also from the nightclub. There were elements in common. There was a metal plate that was in the Centennial Park bomb, that was also used -- they took it to Oakridge National Lab, they had a test, and it came out it was the same metal plate that was used in another bombing, the bombing in Sandy Springs.
COOPER: So when you say forensic evidence, you're talking about evidence of the actual mechanics of the bombs.
SCHUSTER: Absolutely. And they had the timers in the Sandy Springs and the nightclub bombings were the same. But those two were also mentioned in this first letter that came, this first series of letters that came out.
COOPER: And yet the method, the methodology of some of the bombings were different. It's believed that whoever was the bomber actually was on site for the second clinic bombing. SCHUSTER: Yes. That's right. They talk about -- Art and I heard a lot about bombers and their signatures, and we kept asking, well, there are elements that seem to be different, they said, yes, but there are elements that are the same, and that even the bomber who has a quote/unquote "signature" will evolve. They'll get smarter. What happened in the nightclub bomb, there were two bombs. One of them malfunctioned, and the investigators believe that was actually the bomb that was supposed to go off and kill law enforcement, but it was found and it was actually accidentally detonated by the Atlanta Police Department. They actually wanted to keep that bomb for evidence.
But because that bomb -- because that bomb malfunctioned, the next time -- and remember there's a big gap between those -- the next time the bomber reappears, what happens is that he detonates the bomb by hand. He is behind, they believe, behind a tree and he's peaking out behind it, and when Officer Sanderson is leaning over with his police baton and examining something that looks kind of funny in the flower pot in front of the women's health clinic in Birmingham, and what they believe they told us is that's when he looks from behind the tree, that's about 100 feet away, and he detonates the bomb.
COOPER: Officer Robert Sanderson who died?
SCHUSTER: Yes, and I mean, if that is the case, that's just an incredibly cold-blooded act.
NEVILLE: There's of course the $1 million reward for his capture. What happens to that now? Any ideas on that?
SCHUSTER: It's a good question. I mean, we will see -- I don't know whether that applies to law enforcement officers. We'll have to ask Mike Brooks and Jeffrey Toobin and Kelli Arena. They should have some good answers about that.
NEVILLE: That Officer Postell should get a big portion of that.
SCHUSTER: I think there are a lot of people who are just happy he was caught.
NEVILLE: Absolutely. Of course. The money is certainly secondary.
Want to go to the phone now, where Kim Gandy is standing by. She is the president of NOW, the National Organization for Women, and Kim, if you could tell us what this news means for you.
KIM GANDY, PRESIDENT, NOW: Well, there is no question in my mind that advocates and doctors and staff at abortion clinics across the country are breathing a collective sigh of relief that this man is no longer at large. I will nerve forget hearing Emily Lyons, who was a nurse in the Birmingham clinic that he blew up, the same clinic where Officer Robert Sanderson was killed. Emily Lyons was badly, badly, badly, badly maimed. Changed her life and her family's life forever. And to hear her talk about what happened to her because she was giving herself to the nursing profession is -- was just heartbreaking, and we're glad that he's not going to do it to anybody else.
NEVILLE: Kim Gandy, if you could see and talk to Rudolph, what would you say to him, or ask him?
GANDY: I would say, you hold yourself out as pro-life but you are destroying life, and whatever mission it is that you believe you have.
NEVILLE: Interesting. Interesting. When you heard the news this morning, again, just trying to get a personal perspective from you, I know you said that you believed that the pro-choice people, abortion clinic technicians et cetera breathed a collective sigh of relief. What did it mean to you personally?
GANDY: I was personally relieved. Many of the advocates, myself included, and head of other organizations that support women's reproductive rights have been put on lists ourselves and put on Internet lists and Internet sites, and this kind of person, who is obviously not all there, is the very kind of person that they target with these kind of lists, hoping that somebody like him will read those lists and take action on them.
NEVILLE: OK, Kim Gandy, president of National Organization for Women. Thank you so much for joining us here this morning.
COOPER: Also just want to remind our viewers that we are anticipating a press conference in about 20 minutes. We don't know for sure. The reason there is is this sort of open question, it's said from a press release by Attorney General John Ashcroft's office that there would be a press conference at noon. Local authorities in Murphy are saying 1:00 to our CNN's Mike Brooks. So there is a slight discrepancy, we are trying to figure it out, but we are, of course, standing by for this noon press conference. We will bring it to you if it does, in fact, it does happen, wherever it may happen.
I want to check in again with Art Harris, who is standing by on the satellite who has been following this investigation, reporting on this investigation for many years now. Art, let's talk a little bit about the evidence. We will also bring in Henry, senior producer here at CNN. Talking about the evidence that was recovered both from the house and a storage unit that belonged to Rudolph?
HARRIS: Well, yes. In addition to the nails and the plates that were found in the different bombs, the FBI's match forensically, you have the storage unit in North Carolina where they have found other nails that apparently match some of bombs or at least one of them, and they have also found grow lights that they believe he was using to grow his cache crop, which was high-grade marijuana, as we have mentioned.
He would take trips to Amsterdam more than one time and purchase high-grade seeds, which he then smuggled back through Canada, I'm told, to Georgia and had what he called a root cellar, and you will see pictures of this root cellar in this exclusive video CNN obtained. You will be seeing it later on the air tonight at 8:00 p.m. in a CNN special. A root cellar that he used, apparently, to grow hydroponic marijuana. He would grow it and then dry it in his home. He would also grow it in the woods and then dry it and sell it in Nashville, I'm told.
But back to the evidence. The evidence is also seen in this videotape. If you look at the videotape, you can see the truck that he was last spotted in in Birmingham, and when I was walking around the home with the family who bought the house that Eric Rudolph grew up in, their 11-year-old son made this tape, and they were pointing out to me the different things in the house and on the tape that the FBI took away as possible evidence.
For example, there were repelling ropes that Eric was believed to have used to go down these very, very steep rock walls and cliffs that dot the mountain side in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina where he grew up and where he is believed to have been hiding for the last five years. So now does he get around? How does one man elude 200 law enforcement people, hunters and wildlife officials for five years? That is going to be introduced, some of that, as part of the evidence. The repelling, there are some chains.
There's a sump pump in the house, for example, in this home video that he used to pump out water when the basement would flood. But as far as the evidence, at least in the home video, that will be part of it. The storage locker also has some other tools, and things that they believe may have been used in the bomb-making process.
But the other thing that's interesting, when Eric would possibly break into these homes up there, they believe they had mysterious break-ins in the area over the years, one of the reasons they believed that he had broken into one home was that he had used the toilet, and on that toilet, they had taken explosive residue of the kind that they believe would be matched or could be similar to dynamite, and in high quantities that he had possibly been sitting on in caves, and that it had gotten through his clothes.
So you will possibly see evidence introduced linking Eric Rudolph to local thefts, and then back to the bombing through forensics.
COOPER: Let's bring in CNN senior producer now Henry Schuster here. Also, the trail of evidence is something we're all going to be talking a lot in the coming days?
SCHUSTER: Right, and what's going to happen is that you will hear a lot less from federal sources, because now there really is a chance of a trial here. They're going to be very mum about some of the detail that we'll be having that we will be laying out for you.
I just want to go back to that video for one second, the home video, because you see photos of Eric Rudolph. There are photos on the wanted poster, there are other photos. But look at him. This is a man who is incredibly fit. This is after he's been on his little survivalist regimen inside his house, but if you look at that video, this is a man who looks like he can last in the woods for a long time. Now, of course, we heard from Mike Brooks who had spoken with the mayor of Murphy, North Carolina, and he says that the Eric Rudolph that they saw had short hair, had a mustache but no beard but also very gaunt. When one of the pieces of evidence that the FBI has is cash register receipts that were found in Eric Rudolph's abandoned truck. Those were the food that he bought at the local grocery store, the Baylo (ph). It was cans of tuna, raisins, salted peanuts, batteries.
And they laid it out. And what they did when they put that on there, it was a small amount, it could fit on a table top, but they said, this is what he had, and they tried to figure out how long he could live off of that. They tried to figure out how many calories a day. It didn't look like a lot of food to us. I mean, to me, it's like, you know, a couple of days' grocery shopping, but they said he could have survived a number of months with this, they figured six months with this, and then sure enough, six months later, he resurfaced. So they tried...
COOPER: This is when he resurfaced to get the food from ...
SCHUSTER: George Nordmann, the guy who owned the health store, and in fact, what he asked George Nordmann was for all sorts of supplies, and again they did the same thing. They reconstructed what George Nordmann had told them that he had given him, and they thought, well, he can probably last longer this time. And what he had were a lot of nutritional supplements this time.
So instead of taking cans of tuna, he had a lot of powders and dehydrated food, things of that sort, that they felt would enable him in vitamins, that would enable him to last longer, but I don't think even in their wildest imagination that they anticipated...
COOPER: That he could last this long.
COOPER: Yes, it is extraordinary. We're joined on the phone by Jack Killorin, former ATF special agent in charge. Mr. Killorin, your thoughts upon hearing the news?
JACK KILLORIN, RETIRED ATF SPECIAL AGENT: I was obviously elated and I have got admit a bit surprised. But listening to the discussion and the fact that he has survived out there, as we thought he did, for such a long time, five years now almost.
COOPER: Surprised because of the conditions? Surprised because of the hunt that was in place looking for him?
KILLORIN: Well, I don't think I was surprised by -- by his ability to evade the hunt. I think we have a hard time conceptualizing just how much wilderness the Nantahala National Forest encompasses, and this was a person, as Henry Schuster just mentioned, sort of dedicated himself for a lot of his life to being able to live out there. There were times where he would just be with associates and decided to take off and would disappear for six months into the forest. So we knew this was a person who was well prepared to survive out there.
COOPER: Do you feel like you have a sense of who this person is? I mean, I am fascinated by these details, you know, on the one hand, we are told that he is a survivalist; on the other hand he is, you know, growing the hydroponic pot and getting stoned, watching "Cheech and Chong" movies. Do you have a sense of who this guy is?
KILLORIN: I think we have a broad sense of who this man is. In many ways, the best news today it is that he has been apprehended. There's a lot we would like to know that only Eric can tell us, and this is probably the best end. Watching some of the coverage this morning, I heard folks talk about, and some part of us began to believe that he had passed away out there, and in many ways that was the worst case scenario. There's so much we want to know about what he's been doing, about why he did what he did, and we now actually have the opportunity to find out.
COOPER: Henry Schuster has a question for you.
SCHUSTER: Jack, it's your former agency, the ATF, which is going to really be at the crucible in the trial with the evidence. I know there's some degree of reluctance to talk about the evidence, but in general, do you think that you have -- that the ATF will be able to show the links between all the bombs, forensically?
KILLORIN: Yes, we have publicly said that at the time he was indicted on all the charges. It was hard. Here's a person who started out with a black powder device at Centennial Park, and then in many ways switched the explosive he used and went to dynamite, changed -- was willing to change somewhat his MO slightly. It was a hard evidentiary trail to put these together, but at time of his indictment, we're prepared at this point to go forward and to try this Eric Rudolph on all the charges.
COOPER: And is that -- you say obviously you're prepared to go forward. Is the linkage more clear that all of these bombs were somehow related? I mean, I guess first there is that linkage, that all these separate incidences are related through whatever the evidence is of the devices used, and then there is the other chain of evidence which is linking those bombs to Eric Rudolph.
KILLORIN: Yes, and when we indicted -- I mean, I think the correct term to apply to Mr. Rudolph right now is defendant. A person who is charged. He's not a suspect. He's not someone we think might be involved in a crime. He's someone the government has publicly stated we're prepared to bring to trial. And clearly those issues, without going into the evidence, which I can't do, the government doesn't gamble on these things. It's too important. We were prepared when we formally charged him with all the incidents to offer proof that he was involved in all of the incidents.
COOPER: Do you see him going to Birmingham? Do you think that's where the first trial will be? Is that where the case is strongest?
KILLORIN: I think an interesting discussion takes place on the jurisdictions, you know, where is first is probably least important to me. Birmingham, obviously that's where he's identified the strong evidence there. The bombing of an Olympic event, an international event in Atlanta, and the death of a woman there also makes for a strong case in that jurisdiction. I'm sure there will be a lot of interesting discussions, but ultimately if we had to, we could take him to all of the jurisdictions, try him, and the states, if they wished, could also levy homicide charges and try him there.
COOPER: Jack, I know Art Harris wants to ask you a question from California. Go ahead, Art.
HARRIS: Jack, what's fascinating is how the agency, the ATF, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms when you were there in the southeast, put together the trajectory of the bomb in Birmingham. I was standing behind a tree that I think your agents believed Eric Rudolph was standing behind when he watched it go off. Could you tell us about how you do that? And how you were able to pinpoint the trajectory of that bomb, and why you believe he was standing there?
KILLORIN: We believed -- I don't want to go specifically into an element of proof of why it was believed that he was standing there. I think the thing that's noteworthy, one, is, the degree to which our technical capability to investigate, to literally plot the path of nails from an explosive device kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the technical expertise that was applied to this investigation. And I would remind you, in the Birmingham, it's our theory that Mr. Rudolph didn't watch, that Mr. Rudolph set off the bomb deliberately, that it was a command- detonated bomb in the Birmingham bombing.
HARRIS: What does that tell you about him?
KILLORIN: I don't -- when we started this conversation discussing what is he like, I think he is a dangerous and committed homicidal person. This is a person who tried a single device in Centennial Park and got tremendous results. He killed a woman. He injured hundreds. In his next device, he sets a secondary device, clearly intended to ensnare first responders, investigators and medical personnel. He does that at the Otherside lounge. And then he sort of upgrades the stage in Birmingham by going to command- detonated. If his time-delayed bombs were not as effective as he wished them to be, he was literally going to watch his target approach the device and set it off at his command.
COOPER: Art Harris, Jack Killorin on the phone, former ATF special agent in charge. Jack, I appreciate you joining us, adding your perspective this morning, and Art, continue to stand by. We will go to Arthel and Jeff.
NEVILLE: Yes, we have Jeffrey Toobin standing by now, CNN's legal analyst. And Jeffrey, Eric Rudolph faces federal charges in a 23-count indictment. What sort of trial might he face?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think you are looking at a very long trial, probably, because proving a bombing is a complex undertaking. It's not just an eyewitness. You have to prove how the bomb was detonated, how the bomb was built. Usually you have to prove that. And you have complex surveillance of his comings and goings over the years. I think it is going to be a very tough decision for the government to decide which -- which case to try first, which set of bombings first, and then it's going to be a lot of work and it's not going to start anytime soon, that's for sure.
NEVILLE: And Jeffrey, the word murder is never mentioned in the indictments. Explain why.
TOOBIN: Well, murder itself, homicide, is not a federal offense. The federal government does not charge people with murder. They can charge people with murder -- they can charge people with killing other people in the context of other federal crimes, such as use of explosives. And Timothy McVeigh, for example, was not tried for murder in federal court. He was tried for use of an explosive device that killed people.
I mean, the effect is not terribly different. I mean, it is a crime that carries the possible death penalty, but murder itself is not the charge.
NEVILLE: Now, this -- Kelli Arena was reporting earlier that this could go all the way up to Attorney General John Ashcroft, and do you think this could become a death penalty case, Jeff?
TOOBIN: It is hard to imagine this Justice Department, which has shown itself quite willing to use the death penalty or ask for the death penalty, even when local prosecutors are opposed to it, not asking for the death penalty here. This seems -- given the extent of the charges against him -- and of course they're just charges at this point -- but the extent of the charges, the number of people who were put at risk, the number of people who died, this seems like a very likely case where the Justice Department would ask for the death penalty.
NEVILLE: And Jeff, talk about the legal complexities because of the multiple jurisdictions involved.
TOOBIN: Well, because of the multiple jurisdictions involved, he cannot be tried everywhere at once. So the Justice Department will be faced with a difficult decision of which case to try first, because you always want to go with your first case -- your best case first, and there will be a lot of competing factors at work. Of course, you have the Atlanta bombing, where there was a death, and of course the Atlanta bombing was one of the most notorious crimes in recent American history. Here you have the whole world watching Atlanta enjoying the Olympics, and this monstrous event took place.
There will be a strong push to try that case first. The Birmingham case, some have said the evidence is stronger, I personally don't know. Those are the kind of factors that will go in, and also, this was a pretty unexpected thing, by all accounts, to find him. So they're going to have to go back, see what evidence is available, see if any witnesses have disappeared, died, forgotten things since the crimes, and decide accordingly.
NEVILLE: And, Jeff, Rudolph currently sits in a city county jail in Murphy, North Carolina. We're awaiting for a press conference that could happen in five minutes, it could happen in one hour. There is a little bit of a time discrepancy there, but having said that, where does he go from the city county jail in Murphy, North Carolina?
TOOBIN: Well, what's going to happen is, there will be what's called the removal hearing, where the question -- the only question will be, is this Eric Rudolph? And if you have fingerprint evidence, it's not much of a -- the hearing is not very complicated. It tends not to go on very long, and in fact, most defendants just waive the hearing and admit that they are the person charged, and then they are moved to the jurisdiction where they are going to be tried.
I don't know exactly where he will go next. He will certainly go into federal custody from the local jail, where he is now.
NEVILLE: We'll see. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much for clearing up and answering all of those legal questions for us this morning.
COOPER: We're going to check back in with Art Harris, who is in Modesto, California, was covering a different story, obviously now covering this story. Art, your thoughts on hearing Jeff talk about the legal ramifications of where this thing goes now?
HARRIS: Well, you know, you are going to have people in Atlanta and prosecutors in Birmingham, everyone vying to get a piece of him. You've had U.S. attorney, Atlanta prosecutor, Sallie Yates (ph), extremely, extremely smart prosecutor who has been working on this case for years. And I expect that she may well get the case first, because you did have the Olympic Park bombing as the first bombing in Atlanta. It's been bandied about, but of course the decision will have to come down to Washington to make -- to decide which -- which U.S. attorney does prosecute, but also getting back to the ground, Anderson, up in North Carolina, one of the things, if Eric Rudolph will talk to the authorities, you are going to have to try to figure out if there are any booby traps and how dangerous are the woods that he has been living in?
And from spending time up there, these are woods, people ask, how can somebody hide from 200 law enforcement with dogs, with high-tech helicopters, with forward-looking radar that can pick up anybody on the ground? Well, this is someone who is so skilled at surviving in the wilderness that they wonder what could be in these caves, what could be, you know, in these paths that he used to travel. And I know a number of agents were worried as they approached some of these caves, did he set booby traps? And so I think if they can get any cooperation to get him to reconstruct how he did survive, then that would be tremendously useful not only to making the national forest safe for hikers and other people, but also to perhaps teach some of the survival instructors and special forces and other people who perhaps loaned their expertise to the hunt how this man was able to elude the experts -- Anderson.
COOPER: You know, Art, oftentimes we build these things up in our minds in the lack of information, and it often turns out to be simpler than it was. could it be in this case? I mean, could it be that he was living in some house somewhere, you know, in the basement of some abandoned shack somewhere?
HARRIS: Well, that was one of the theories. I know they have searched a lot of them, and in the winter time, you have a lot of summer homes up in this beautiful part of North Carolina, Anderson, and so people would report break-ins, and the police would go and the sheriff's department would go and investigate. They were rarely solved, but he could have easily have lived and made himself a guest in some of these places.
So it could be simpler, but it also -- we also know that he did have caves and he was able to survive in the woods. There are hundreds of caves, some mapped, some not, that date back over 100 years, Anderson, and one of the trackers was telling me that in his travels, he found a cave where confederate soldiers were hiding out, that a complete place setting and table was set for a meal and people hadn't found that for 100 years, so this is how difficult it is to locate a cave in front of you hidden by thicket up in those kinds of woods, Anderson.
COOPER: It is just a fascinating case, one we're going to be following throughout the day. Art Harris, thanks very much, from California.
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