CNN BREAKING NEWS
Policeman Captures Eric Rudolph
Aired May 31, 2003 - 12:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOPHIA CHOI, CNN ANCHOR: And now I want to bring in Henry Schuster, CNN's senior producer, to give us your thoughts about what we learned in this news conference.
HENRY SCHUSTER, CNN SR. PRODUCER: Well, first of all no resistance seemed relieved. Wearing blue work britches and blue work shirt. Jogging shoes, and a BDU jacket, and a backpack, it sounds like he got those clothes from somewhere. What strikes me most of all, the profilers were right. He'd been in the same area for five years.
But they gave us a few details, but there are so many details that they want to fill in from what happened the last five years. Did he have help? Where exactly, being in the area, what does that mean? Where-if he has a cash of explosives, where would that be? So there are so many details that they -- they gave us a few details. It's almost like a tease.
But filling in those past five years is going to be very important. Because it will also help them build-add more things to their criminal case which they're going to bring against him.
CHOI: Right and it sounds like, from what we learned in this news conference that he is talking but just having simple conversations with officers, not specifically talking about what he's been doing the past five years.
They, again, have not conducted a formal interview with him.
SCHUSTER: We don't know if he's talked to anybody in the last five years except for George Norman that one time.
SCHUSTER: And those are some of the details. Imagine that, if you have not talked to somebody for the better part of five years, what that must be like.
CHOI: Let me bring in Mike Brooks. He was standing by at that news conference. Mike, your thoughts on what you learned.
MIKE BROOKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we heard, it was a remarkable job by an officer on routine patrol behind the Save-a-Lot grocery store in the east part of Murphy, North Carolina. You see the man walking behind there, thinks he may be trying to break into the store. He performed a felony stop on him, pulled his weapon, ordered him to the ground.
A deputy sheriff rides there to assist him. He recognizes him as Eric Rudolph. Now he first gave the name of Gary Wilson when they first asked him exactly what he name was. He said it was Gary Wilson.
Later, when asked again by the deputy, he said his name was Eric Rudolph.
So just a remarkable work by an officer who's been a year on the job, less than a year, 21 years old. It's just -- sometimes it's good to be lucky.
CHOI: That's what he said, that this was just all in a day's work, just doing what I was hired to do. He also said that he was just glad to be in the right place at the right time to make this capture.
Mike Brooks, please stand by. I want to bring in John Walsh from "America's Most Wanted," he joins us now by telephone.
John, your thoughts on this news conference, and also if you could tell me the details a potential tip that you received back in April.
JOHN WALSH, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED" HOST: Well, I think it's wonderful that this low-life is off streets, Eric Rudolph. It's been a five-year manhunt, an intensive manhunt and everyone was afraid that he would continue his cowardly bombings.
You know, he's a suspect in not only in the Atlanta Olympic Park bombings, but he's also a suspect in a bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, where he blew the eye out of a nurse's face, that bomb, and killed an off-duty police officer. He's a suspect in a bombing of a gay bar in Atlanta and another abortion clinic.
And we were always afraid he was going to kill again, but we did get a terrific tip from an anonymous caller into "America's Most Wanted." We profiled Eric Rudolph 22 times. We actually took the show down there to the task force, to the site in the woods in 1998.
But this tip specifically said that Eric Rudolph was in Murphy, North Carolina, area. That he was being assisted by a relative, and I'm sure police are looking very closely, or will be looking closely at that relative. That he was living on his own in the woods, and that he was periodically processing cocaine to support and get money to support his hiding. And that he was a survivalist and that periodically, again, that a relative who shared his anti-abortion, and I think people forget this; he's also a white supremacist. He's also one of those individuals that, you know, hates anybody that isn't a white supremacist, make him doubly dangerous.
But he's been able to survive in that area all these years, but thank God he hasn't killed somebody else and he was nailed by that very, very brave police officer today.
CHOI: John, I'm curious. You say you covered the story 22 times on your show "America's Most Wanted," and I know you take a lot of tips in when you air your shows. I'm wondering, did all the tips say he was in that area or were there sightings in other areas?
WALSH: No, that was the most specific tip. Over the years, we've actually waded with the task force of the local law enforcement there, the ATF, the marshals, the FBI, we have weeded through thousands of tips that range from saying that he was out of the country, that he was being, you know, hidden by anti-abortion groups.
But I believe the task force -- and I did personally always believe that he was in that area or that he may have gone out to the western United States, where lots of white supremacists hide each other out.
But the main focus was always there, but we never got such a specific tip that panned out. I mean, this was a very, very good tip. The task force was alerted. They kept it very quiet.
And this police officer just did a wonderful, wonderful job of getting Eric Rudolph, and I'm glad that he took him down without Eric Rudolph hurting anybody, because this is a guy that's always been armed and dangerous. Not necessarily did he have guns on him this time but we did know when he escaped and was up in those woods hiding out that he had all kinds of automatic weapons and access to explosives. But, you know, fortunately he was taken down and nobody was hurt.
CHOI: And I second that thought. John Walsh, thank you so much for joining us with that information.
And, now let's turn again to Mike Brooks, who has, I believe, the mayor and the chief of police from Murphy with you.
BROOKS: That's correct. Right now we're joined by chief of police Mark Thigpen of the Murphy Police Department here in North Carolina.
Chief, thanks for being with us. Remarkable arrest of one of the FBI's ten most wanted. Your thoughts?
CHIEF MARK THIGPEN, MURPHY, N.C. POLICE: Excellent work of general police work. Officer Postell was doing what he should do every night, patrolling the businesses. Saw something suspicious, acted on it and followed on the investigation and we now have results of Eric Robert Rudolph.
BROOKS: Tell us a little bit about Officer Postell. He's been an officer for less than a year?
THIGPEN: Officer Postell's a rookie officer. He came on board with us in July of last year at his 21st birthday, and he's been with us since then.
BROOKS: I hear he does a lot with the community, does a lot of community work. THIGPEN: He's doing a lot of work establishing community watches, neighborhood watches in some of our housing project developments and very active with Special Olympics and several other community projects.
BROOKS: Now a little bit about Eric Rudolph. Now all along since he has been wanted, do your officers look out on a regular basis in roll all every day to keep on the look-out for him?
THIGPEN: It's not necessarily a formal thing but it is something that the officers talked about, not necessarily daily. But it crops up and we have posters that hang in the police department and it's a common, common topic of conversation amongst the officers with all the agencies.
BROOKS: Did you ever think you would find him here in Murphy?
THIGPEN: Well, that was a real speculative, you know, a 50/50, of whether he was here or gone. Didn't have any real clue. A lot of the evidence and the information tips always led back to the area but prior to this, I had no concrete thoughts one way or the other.
BROOKS: Now, the federal authorities had a presence here in Murphy the whole time working with the Murphy Police Department?
THIGPEN: Yes, yes they have. With the police department and the sheriff's department and the FBI. In fact they maintained an office in the local National Guard armory up until the investigation was transferred to the North Carolina district, at which time they started running that operation out of the Ashville Police Department.
BROOKS: Were they still getting viable leads in the case up till now?
BROOKS: There have been talks that they believe maybe some folks here in Murphy in this area may have been helping him. Is there anything at all that leads us to say that he was getting help here in Murphy?
THIGPEN: I have no -- nothing to establish any kind of assistance. Any conversations about that is purely speculative.
BROOKS: They say he's be moved to Ashville, North Carolina to a federal facility there and be arraigned on Monday. Will your department play a role in that?
THIGPEN: If the FBI and the U.S. marshals request us to, actually he is now becoming a federal prisoner. He is still being housed by the sheriff's department, but if they request our assistance, we will certainly provide it and transport him to there.
BROOKS: Chief, thanks for joining us.
THIGPEN: You're welcome. BROOKS: I know you've got a lot of work to do still, still an ongoing case. Good luck with the case. Thank you.
That was Chief Mark Thigpen of the Murphy Police Department here in Murphy, North Carolina, where their officer earlier this morning about 3:27 on routine patrol, arrested one of the top ten fugitives that the FBI has been looking for and other federal authorities have been working for over five years, Eric Robert Rudolph.
Back to you in Atlanta.
CHOI: All right. Mike, I want to draw on your experience as a detective in the past. And I want to ask you, they say that the point, they have not conducted a formal interview. But how do you get a person like Eric Robert Rudolph to talk?
BROOKS: Well, it sounds like right now when he was arrested and talking to one of the other federal officers that he basically had just given up. He's been on the lamb for five years.
When that officer stopped him here, he took off running, didn't go very far. The officer drew his weapon, put him on the ground, and he just gave up. So maybe he was fired of running. That's what some of the federal authorities here are saying.
Right now, there's no hurry to interview him. They can take their time. There's a lot of other things that's going to be still an ongoing investigation. They still have a lot of investigative leads to follow out, especially now that they do have Eric Robert Rudolph.
And what he tells them, it could maybe lead to other arrests. The FBI agent who was just talking from Charlotte was talking about the possibility if anyone else is involved with this as a charge of harboring a fugitive. That could be a possibility. There's a lot of leads and the case is well from over.
CHOI: Mike, you say they've got time to interview him now so they're in no real hurry. But the sooner the better, I would think, because you never know if he actually is the bomber whether he hid more bombs elsewhere, he set traps places. Wouldn't that be the case?
BROOKS: Well, again, he's allegedly accused of the bombings in Centennial Olympic Park, of the Sandy Springs abortion clinic. There were two bombs: had one bomb that went off and then a secondary device that was placed there, targeting first responders, police, fire and EMS.
Then the Other Side nightclub, two explosive devices there. And then the -- Birmingham, Alabama, at the abortion clinic there. Again, he's accused of that. They have -- the federal authorities say they have evidence that linked him to that and that's why he was indicted back in January for these crimes.
CHOI: Right, but are they not worried? Are investigators not worried at this point that he might have set up traps in those woods somewhere and that somebody could accidentally come upon it? BROOKS: Well, there is talk here in town that they believe he might have been staying in those woods. Our crew was out there today, shot some footage of a large area that's roped off and I am sure they will take their time looking to see if possibly he had a little camp set up back in the woods.
CHOI: All right. Mike, I understand that you had the mayor of the city with you there. Do you want to talk to him for a bit?
BROOKS: Yes, we do. Joining us now is Mayor Bill Hughes, mayor of Murphy, North Carolina.
Mayor, thank you for joining us.
BILL HUGHES, MAYOR OF MURPHY, N.C.: Oh, you're quite welcome.
BROOKS: Murphy, North Carolina, was put on the map back a number of years ago when they were here initially, searching the hills and the caves around Murphy, North Carolina. What are your thoughts about this arrest today?
HUGHES: Well, I'm just delighted to see that we have some closure to a very sad and tragic situation. As long as the case was open, there was no closure and I believe now this will allow us to get on with our lives.
My compliments to Officer Postell of doing just a great job, and I'm very proud of the Murphy Police Department at this time. It goes without saying.
BROOKS: I'm sure. How long have you been mayor here?
HUGHES: I've been mayor five and a half years.
BROOKS: Now how do you address the talk that some people here in Murphy may have been assisting him or may have been...?
HUGHES: I think that's totally unfounded and completely false because the people in this area just terribly upset by the whole unfortunate thing and, no, I don't think he was getting any assistance from people around here.
The sort of thing that he has done in no way -- or allegedly done in no way adheres to the philosophy of people in this area and I feel sure he had no support in here. He certainly had no sympathy.
BROOKS: Now, you saw Eric Rudolph this morning.
HUGHES: I saw him this morning, yes.
BROOKS: Could you describe -- how did he look to you?
HUGHES: Just like anyone else you'd see on the street. He had a mustache, had a short haircut. You could put him in this crowd and there was nothing extraordinary or outstanding about him. Had on a dark t-shirt. He was sitting in a conference room there, having coffee with a couple of police officers, and he looked somewhat tired. Exhausted.
Perhaps he was just looking for some closure, I don't know. Maybe he got a little careless. Maybe he was looking for some closure.
But anyway, it's over with, and for a small town, with all of the media attention, something that are totally unaccustomed. And the media has been kind to us, we appreciate that and before too much longer, life will get back to normal, as normal as it can be in a town of 1,600 people.
BROOKS: Exactly. Mayor, thank you very much.
HUGHES: You're quite welcome.
BROOKS: Good work to the police department and thank you for joining us.
HUGHES: You're quite welcome. Have a pleasant day.
BROOKS: Thank you, sir. Again, a small town, Murphy, North Carolina, we just heard from the mayor, the chief of police. A small ten-man department. The chief said they have ten police officers including him. The mayor earlier while speaking to him, he said that the Murphy Police Department did something that the federal agents couldn't do. But it has been a collaborative effort, we hear, between local, state and federal authorities.
CHOI: And we had heard from FBI special agent in charge, Chris Swecker, that they always believed that it would be a local police officer who captured the suspect Eric Robert Rudolph.
BROOKS: And there goes to the term first responder. The first ones on the scene, they're the ones who arrested him.
CHOI: All right. Mike Brooks, thank you for that and now let's go to Art Harris, who is standing by in Modesto, California, where he's actually covering the Laci Peterson case, but he has extensive knowledge on this case, as well.
Art, your thoughts from what you learned in this news conference?
ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sophia, to hear a young officer to say "all in a day's work" is an understatement. This is a young man who has captured one of the most alleged notorious bombers in law enforcement history. And certainly a fugitive who has been able to elude the most high-tech equipment law enforcement had available, from forward-looking infrared radar in helicopters to tracking dogs to 200 agents at a time.
So for a young man to come upon a guy digging through the garbage for something to eat, presumably, is pretty extraordinary and quite ironic, Sophia.
CHOI: Well, Art, were you surprised that he gave up so easily? Put up no fight? Had no weapons on him at the time of this capture? HARRIS: Well, if you look at his gaunt nature or his gaunt appearance, very thin compared to Eric Rudolph in the home video that you'll see tonight at 8 p.m. on CNN exclusively, that that was taken by some homeowners who bought the house from him. He was very well fed, in fact over fed.
I think it seems like he was tired of the fight, tired of the run. And who wouldn't be after five years in the woods, where agents and law enforcement believe he was living in, apparently was. Was not eating very well.
CHOI: All right, Art Harris, thank you for your thoughts.
The bomb that shattered Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park in 1996 overshadowed the summer games and really is still haunting the city to this day.
Let's go to our Marty Savidge, who is at the site of the attack and he is, as well, joined by U.S. attorney Ken Alexander -- Marty.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sophia, as you point out Olympic Centennial Park has changed a great deal since July in 1996 but there are still many reminders here.
Kent Alexander was the U.S. attorney at the time; he was chief prosecutor when all of this took place. He joins me now.
Thanks very much.
KENT ALEXANDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Great to be here on a day like this.
SAVIDGE: Give us a lay of the land. Tell us how this park was laid out and where things were on that fateful night.
ALEXANDER: Sure, it looked a lot different. A lot of the planting wasn't here. These falls weren't here. Basically, there was a hill going up. There was a sound tower where I'm pointing right over here. That's the sound tower where the bomb was placed. It was right at the base, under a bench.
There were tents and large areas set up with different sponsors, beer companies, watch companies. There was a lot of partying going on.
Down far over here, there was a big stage with a band and then we shift around here, we've got a Greek statute. We're going to walk by this.
SAVIDGE: This statue, which you'll see in just a minute as we listen to video from that exact night. The statue was actually set up here for the Olympics back in June of 1996. But what was the role? Or how did it come into play during the actual time of the blast?
ALEXANDER: Well, it's pivotal. First of all, right now it's still here unlike much of what's here has changed. But Alice Hawthorne, the one who was tragically killed, was literally walking where we are now across, probably trying -- starting to get out, and the bomb went off and hit her, killed her, hit a lot of people around here. There's still shrapnel within the statue and the bomb also spread shrapnel all over. Even people well to the left of this statue were hit. There were over 100 people injured. There were ambulances, EMTs. I was here.
SAVIDGE: What was the evidence you found of the intensity of this explosive device?
ALEXANDER: It was incredibly powerful. People say pipe bomb and the think something just north of a firecracker. This was huge. It was filled with nails, pipes. The shrapnel was found 200 yards away. On top of the building, the Inform (ph) building, it looks like it's 15, 20 stories high. It was a remarkably powerful bomb and had the bomb been positioned to go in a different direction, a lot more people would have been killed.
SAVIDGE: We point out some of the shrapnel that was used. Nails were actually part of this device and if you look closely here, Ken -- I think we pointed this out -- you can see the outline of what appears to be like a roofing nail or a small-type nail. And you say that there were thousands of them packed in this device?
ALEXANDER: Yes. Hundreds and hundreds of these nails. And it was like having a hand grenade wrapped with extra layers of shrapnel. And it was just a remarkably explosive, powerful device.
SAVIDGE: Having been in the position that you were in them -- now you are chief legal council for Emory University here in Atlanta -- but back then, to hear the news today of the arrest, what were your thoughts, your feelings?
ALEXANDER: I was absolutely ecstatic. I was like Jim Valvano (ph) after the final four, having played nothing of the role he did, when he went around wanting to hug everybody, because something that just built and built.
I was really happy for law enforcement. I was really happy for -- not to sound hokey but the United States generally. Not that this bombing compares to the World Trade Center or other horrendous tragedies, it does to the individuals hurt.
But on a symbolic level you've got the Olympics. This was a world stage. You had someone who came here and absolutely ruined it in the most violent way possible. And for the person alleged to have committed that crime to now be caught, it's just a great day for all of us.
SAVIDGE: Do you wish you were part of the prosecutorial team now?
ALEXANDER: Absolutely. My only regret in stepping down as U.S. attorney was that I would not be sticking around to prosecute the Olympic bomber.
SAVIDGE: Did you think he'd be found?
ALEXANDER: I did. I did then. As time went on, I think I could just say I hoped he'd be found. I assumed he'd be either found alive or dead in a cave, but I thought certainly he'd be found.
SAVIDGE: Kent Alexander, thanks very much for joining us today.
ALEXANDER: Good to see you.
SAVIDGE: There are people that have been drawn down to the park. There are a lot of people that come to this park traditionally, anyway, but some of them maybe today drawn by the fact of hearing the news of the arrest of Eric Rudolph and coming back once more to see where it all began in what was supposed to be a joyous celebration of the Olympic and then turned into something vastly different -- Sophia.
CHOI: Marty, what kind of personal memories do you have being at that site today, knowing that this capture happened?
SAVIDGE: Well, on the night that the blast took off I was in New York, in Long Island, covering TWA 900 and then I was immediately rushed back here to Atlanta. And we were up on the rooftop of CNN Center all day reporting on it.
So I look back at that time and then followed up going up into North Carolina on the search. I was in Alabama the at abortion clinic where that bombing took place. So, like law enforcement, it seems I've been many times on the trail of Eric Rudolph myself.
But also like -- well unlike law enforcement probably thought that we may never hear from him again. That it would be one of those unsolved mysteries. So it is quite remarkable to hear if a rather unremarkable way how he was arrested and now been brought to justice. So it's, as news often is, very interesting -- Sophia.
CHOI: Yes. Marty, thanks to you and to U.S. attorney Kent Alexander.
Still, much more coverage of the capture of suspect Eric Robert Rudolph coming up, including a live report from Birmingham. We will take you to the scene of that deadly bombing at a women's clinic there, where a police officer was killed and a nurse injured when we come back. First, a short break.
CHOI: You're watching continuing coverage of the capture of suspect Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber suspect. And let me get you caught up with what we know.
We know that a rookie police officer found Rudolph during a routine patrol at about 4 or 4:30 a.m. Eastern time this morning. He is accused of at least four bombings, including that of, as I said, the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, and that -- another one in Birmingham, Alabama, at a women's clinic there, which killed a police officer and injured a nurse. I want to bring in Henry Schuster, senior producer for CNN. We just had a news conference from the various members of the various law enforcement agencies who've been on this five-year hunt for Eric Rudolph and now the capture.
What did you think?
SCHUSTER: Well, two things struck me. One, that -- they said he'd been in the area the whole time and that just means that the profilers who said that, when a lot of people doubted it, were right.
But the other was that he offered no resistance. He almost seemed relieved.
What must it must be like on the run for five years? We have a few details of his capture but we don't have those details of the last five years. Now the FBI special agent in charge, Chris Swecker, said that's precisely what they're going to be investigating now. Did he have help? Where did he live?
What he didn't say but I think would be obvious that they're going to looking for is, if indeed he is the bomber, which they believe he is, where was his hide-out and what's in there? Is it booby-trapped? Is it safe? Will there be more evidence in there that could help at a prosecution at his criminal trial?
Now they're reporting now -- and I think Jeffrey Toobin or someone else said that earlier this morning -- he's not a suspect anymore. He's about to become a defendant. And as a defendant, they have already indicted him, and they believe with what they have so far that they have a strong criminal case against him.
They have an eyewitness, actually more than one eyewitness in Birmingham. They didn't see him or anyone else detonate the bomb, but they did spot the truck leaving the scene. They have a lot of forensic evidence. That forensic evidence ties together the bombs, the bombs in Atlanta, all three of the sets of bombs in Atlanta and also it ties it to the bomb in Birmingham. But more importantly from when they got into a storage shed in Murphy, North Carolina, it also ties it, they believe, to him.
CHOI: Right. They found nails in that shed...
CHOI: That were...
SCHUSTER: And a metal plate, a metal plate. And that metal plate was something that they had analyzed at the Oakridge National Lab, came from, they believe, one specific lot from the mill in North Carolina and that that mill in North Carolina, that metal plate ties the first bombing from Centennial Olympic park to one of the later bombings in Atlanta and also ties it to that shed.
So they're going to make a forensic case. Now, obviously we don't know whether -- yet whether they're going to do the case first in Atlanta or in Birmingham. But they felt all along that they had enough evidence to indict him and enough evidence to prosecute him, should he ever be caught. So what they find now will be additional evidence and it also might tell them whether he had any help.
CHOI: Right, that is the big question, did he have any help? And I thought it was interesting that the FBI special agent in charge at this news conference who said he was a good outdoorsman, not an excellent outdoorsman. That might tell you something.
SCHUSTER: Well, yes, but also been this legend of Eric Rudolph, you know, that he's some superman. I mean, obviously, from this home video that we've seen, he's a very fit guy. A lot of training. He knew these woods by the back of his hands.
But yes, if it turns out that he has been living, you know, in the basement of an abandoned house or something like that, then you know, where are those outdoor skills?
I guess we'll find all of that out as they're able to fill in the blanks. But first they have to do a formal interview, don't they?
CHOI: Yes, they do and they have yet to do that.
And now we want to take you to Birmingham, Alabama, and to reporter Karen Church from our affiliate WBRC. She is with nurse Emily Lyons. She is the nurse who was injured at the Birmingham women's clinic that was bombed. That was also the site where the off- duty police officer was killed -- Karen.
KAREN CHURCH, WBRC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Emily Lyons is inside her house right now with her husband Jeff and she is naturally elated. She found out very earlier this morning from a friend of hers who called.
Her husband intercepted the call and he said, "What would it take for me to wake you up right now?"
And she said, "What do you mean?"
And he said, "Well, what would make you happy?"
And she said, "Rudolph?"
And he said, "Yes."
And she just broke into tears and got a big smile across her face. Because as a survivor, she has suffered tremendously, operation after operation. Because as you've seen from the pictures of the clinic, you saw what damage occurred at clinic so imagine what it did to the human body. She was inside the clinic. The bomb exploded. It was loaded with roofing nails and her body from head to toe was just torn up and she's been through numerous operations.
When I asked her what she would like to say or do when she saw Rudolph. She told me this. She basically said that she would like to see his eyes, because she said his eyes seem so vacant. He seems to be filled with hatred and she just wants to look him in the face and see him. She said that the hatred that he has must have generated from his upbringing. She doesn't know why she was targeted, why the clinic was targeted or why any of the events that he's linked to were a target of his, allegedly.
But she plans on going to the trial, if there is one, and she plans on wanting to hear him explain why he did what he did, if he indeed is responsible for these acts.
CHOI: Yes, she's not only suffering physically but also mentally, as well, from that attack.
I'm wondering, Karen, have you or any of your colleagues been in touch with the Birmingham Police Department and gotten some sort of reaction from them? After all, they lost one of their own from that bombing.
CHURCH: Well, the new police chief here is expected to call Emily sometime today and congratulate her and formally inform her of the fact that he has been arrested, that Eric Robert Rudolph has been arrested.
I have not personally talked with Annette Annan, the new police chief here, but of course they were very saddened and turned out very heavily for his funeral. So I'm sure in some very real sense they're very relieved.
CHOI: All right. Karen Church from our affiliate, WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama. Thank you for that.
We're going to have continuing coverage of the capture. Eric Robert Rudolph, the suspect and soon to be defendant in the Olympic Park bombing case. He's also accused of three other bombings.
CHOI: And now we want to take you back to the Centennial Olympic Park, the site of the first bombing and Mark -- Mike Rising, I'm sorry, who is a former FBI special agent.
Thanks for joining us; what can you tell us?
MIKE RISING, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Thank you.
CHOI: What are your thoughts from all that's happened today involving Eric Robert Rudolph?
RISING: Well, on a personal note, I'm extremely elated. I found out early this morning. My brother-in-law called me from Tulsa, Oklahoma and told me that Eric had been caught and I go, "What, they caught him in Oklahoma?"
And he said, "No, in North Carolina." I'm really much more relieved for my fellow agents that are still on the job, hundreds of FBI and ATF and local people that have just stayed with this case and covered thousands of leads. And this has got to be a great day for them.
CHOI: I'm joined by Henry Schuster, a senior producer here at CNN, and he's got some questions for you, as well.
SCHUSTER: Did you feel...
SCHUSTER: Hi. Did you feel vindicated when you heard that he'd been caught basically where he started out, in Murphy, North Carolina? That the search had been focused in the right place all that time?
RISING: Yes, I had. I was not one of those that subscribe to one main theory as to where he was located. I spent a long time in the FBI, worked fugitives quite a bit, and I would have not been as surprised if they caught him in London, England.
So I had it in my mind that there were probably two or three places that he might be located. And I thought it was humorously exciting that he was caught behind a business at 4 in the morning in Murphy, North Carolina.
CHOI: But didn't the FBI always say that they thought that it would be a local police officer who would finally nab this guy?
RISING: I talked to the -- one of the former case agents over a year ago, and that was always a strong possibility that some -- and that happens quite a bit in these types of cases, where some local person, a police officer, even a citizen just sees somebody that matches a description and acts on it and does the right thing and it comes to good fruition.
CHOI: Let's talk a little bit about the investigation. This has been such a frustrating case for all the different, various law enforcement agencies involved. Tell us about the struggles that you guys went through?
RISING: Well, to be honest with you, because I was a victim of the bombing in the Sandy Springs attacks, I was basically kept out of the investigation from that point on.
I was involved somewhat in the investigation of the Olympic Park bombing, but after being wounded in the Sandy Springs case, the bureau kept me out of that end of the investigation for purposes of later trial.
CHOI: Can you take us back to that day in Sandy Springs? Tell us what it was like for you, being a victim.
RISING: Well, it was kind of a deja vu thing for me. I spent 11 years in the Marines and 20 in the FBI. And I've been shot twice and blown up twice. And when I reported to the Sandy Springs location after the first bomb went off, I'd been instructed to get a lay of the land and call back to the chief assistance of the U.S. attorney's office and let him know what was going on.
I'd walked away from the crowd of law enforcement and firefighter people that had responded and was basically leaning against one of the cars that was located, I think I measured it off later, it was like 13 steps away from where the bomb was planted. And I was on the speaker phone, I was on my cell phone talking over a speaker phone to U.S. attorney's office when the explosion took place.
I had an immediate deja vu reaction. I had been hit by a rocket- propelled grenade in 1969 in Vietnam that had landed four or five feet away from me, and it just -- the force of the blast moved me three or four feet to the side. It destroyed my cell phone.
I was hit on the side of the head with five or six about shotgun blast size of fragments to the side of the head. I got two puncture wounds -- three puncture wounds in the back, three puncture wounds in the foot and I had a chunk of meat blown off of my right ankle.
I was bleeding profusely. I remember uttering a couple of unkind words over the phone, and I before -- later felt bad for the poor prosecutors. They had to sit this and listen to this go on over the speaker phone and I had told him I had to get off of the phone another bomb had gone off, and I was bleeding profusely from the head.
So I sat down. I was concerned that I might go into shock and pass out someplace. And about the time I sat down, two of my friends came and grabbed me and they had immediately rushed me back into that big black cloud that everyone's seen on the TV for the last two or three years and pulled me out of there.
CHOI: Have you recovered from all of your injuries that you've sustained from that bombing?
RISING: Yes. I've recovered. I had probably 50 to 60 headaches a day for almost a year. I had a pretty large blood clot that took awhile to dissipate on the side of my head and I've lost some upper cognitive function to the right side of my body. It was not enough to impair me. I continued to work in the FBI for three more years, and my family has noticed no real change as a result of that.
CHOI: Well, that is really good to know and good to hear.
Can you just tell me, I know you said you weren't really involved in the investigation with the FBI because you are considered a victim of that attack. Do you plan to testify, then?
RISING: That remains to be seen. You know, that'll depend on what his side of the camp decides to do. If they decide to go to trial in that case, I will expect to testify.
CHOI: All right. Mike Rising, former FBI special agent, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your story with us. The attack on a Birmingham women's clinic killed an off-duty police officer and injured nurse Emily Lyons, who is still suffering from that blast.
Cynthia Gould from affiliate WBRC in Birmingham joins us now -- Cynthia.
CYNTHIA GOULD, WBRC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sophia, we are here at the clinic where that bomb exploded and obviously they are overjoyed here today.
I'm joined by the clinic administrator, Belinda Kennedy. First of all, did you think this day would ever come?
BELINDA KENNEDY, CLINIC ADMINISTRATOR: Well, after five years, Cynthia, I really didn't think anybody was really even looking for him much anymore but I'm really surprised that it has come.
GOULD: And the mood of the staff? Overjoyed?
KENNEDY: Well, we're all ecstatic. Elated. We're happy for all the victim's families as well as ourselves and just really, really excited.
GOULD: So as far as security you obviously beefed it up right after the bombing. Do you let that down a little bit or move it up?
KENNEDY: No, absolutely not. I think if anything, we will probably increase some security measures.
GOULD: Have you talked to any of the victim's families?
KENNEDY: We spoke with Emily Lyon's husband, Jeff, this morning. They were awaiting confirmation, as were we, and I'm sure she's really busy and just as excited as we are.
GOULD: You all were open for business today and you kind of made a point since this bombing that you will not be shut down by any terrorist act or any bombing. Talk a bit about that.
KENNEDY: Well, I think if we were to close or shut down, you know, that's letting them win and, you know, we intend to stay open, just as we have in the past and provide women's health services just as they're needed.
GOULD: All right, thanks a lot for joining us, Belinda, we appreciate it.
We also talked to some protesters, about three or four across the street here from the clinic. They told us they, too, are very happy with today's arrest.
Reporting live, Cynthia Gould, CNN.
CHOI: Cynthia, let me ask you, a police officer was killed at that site. Have you or the lady you were speaking to just shortly -- a short time ago talked to any of his family members, the police officer that was killed, or even the Birmingham Police Department? Any reaction from them so far?
GOULD: We have not yet talked to his family but we did have another reporter down at the south precinct where Robert Sanderson worked out. Obviously, again over there, the news is there overjoyed. Many of them talking to reporters. They, too, cannot believe this day has finally come.
Many of them have been wearing special mementos on their uniforms and said they were going to keep on wearing them until Rudolph was caught. Today, they can take those off.
CHOI: That police officer that was killed and I want to respectfully say his name was Robert Sanderson. He was a 35-year-old off-duty police officer, who was working as a security guard there when he was killed.
It seems like people are really relieved at that site. And have they been vigilant about keeping their eyes open after they were attacked so many years ago?
GOULD: Absolutely, they certainly did beef up security here at this clinic. There are cameras all around. But again like she was saying earlier, the clinic administrator, they wanted to maintain business as usual.
While this has faded from the news headlines, people here very much remembering it, very much talking about it and hoping that they will stumble upon Rudolph.
CHOI: And I know you mentioned that they beefed up security and just over your shoulder there is a security camera. I believe that that was placed there after the bombing when they did beef up the security?
GOULD: Absolutely. There's actually two of up here. Many lights all around. And you will throughout the day see frequent Birmingham police patrols around here throughout the day. They are open on the weekends. They were open for business today.
You have to buzz to get in. They don't let anyone just walk in this clinic. They are constantly on alert that something like this could happen again.
CHOI: All right, Cynthia Gould from our affiliate WRBC there in Birmingham, Alabama. Thank you so much.
And a reminder right here, at 3 p.m. Eastern we will bring a "CNN SPECIAL REPORT: THE CAPTURE OF ERIC RUDOLPH." We'll bring you up to date on today's dramatic developments and tell you what happens next. That's at 3 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Also tonight on "CNN PRESENTS: THE HUNT FOR ERIC RUDOLPH," featuring exclusive home video of the suspected Olympic Park bomber that we've been showing you here on CNN. You'll only see it here on CNN. That's at 8 p.m. Eastern for "CNN PRESENTS."
We're going to have continuing coverage of the case of Eric Rudolph when we come back, but first, this short break.
CHOI: And we continue now with the capture of Eric Robert Rudolph. Police launched a manhunt for Rudolph in 1998 after his pickup truck was seen leaving the site of the Birmingham attack.
Investigative correspondent Art Harris reports that years of frustration would follow for his pursuers.
ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest. A half million acres of wilderness, natural habitat for wild animals, poisonous snakes and, the FBI, says at least one deadly human threat, accused serial bomber Eric Robert Rudolph.
For five years, the FBI has fielded hundreds of agents, spent more than $20 million and found evidence Rudolph was here but not Rudolph.
Early on, the FBI enlisted two unique trackers to help: a cave expert...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a hand mark.
HARRIS: ... and a folksy cop from Georgia.
CHARLES STONE, FORMER TASK FORCE MEMBER: It's just like when you're hunting, you're listening with your ears, you're seeing, you're sensing things. Eric has got that down to a fine art.
HARRIS: Charlie Stone, 25-year veteran of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He feels he knows Rudolph. He's hunted the suspected bomber from day one.
(on camera) How could one man elude all the law enforcement personnel that have been looking for him over the last three years?
STONE: You've got a double canopy forest, you have the Appalachian trail. I believe he's staying on the trails and roads, but he can move from point A to point B with relative ease and without any real danger of being discovered.
HARRIS (voice-over): After teams of bloodhounds, high-tech helicopters and an army of agents couldn't find Rudolph above ground, the FBI went underground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's thick. As you can tell, 15 feet over there is the entrance (ph) and we all walked right by it.
HARRIS: Darren Free (ph), part Cherokee Indian, part Indiana Jones. He taught agents how to search mines safely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can smell the sulfur and the copper.
HARRIS: Free's (ph) explored them since he was 12 years old, about same age as Rudolph when he discovered the woods and caves here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They may have went further down.
HARRIS (on camera): Is there a way to tell if Rudolph's been here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you could tell with the tracks and all but there was no tracks. Someone hasn't probably been in here in 60 years or more. This is just one out of about 400. OK, folks.
HARRIS: The same Rudolph seen in this exclusive video, obtained by CNN, who dug out this secret room beneath his house, should be able to convert a cave into a home, says Free.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel this, like I said, is just as good as a Motel 6. Who knows, he may even have a Jacuzzi.
HARRIS: These two trackers believe Rudolph is still alive and sometimes feel that Rudolph is tracking them.
HARRIS: After capturing Rudolph, we can expect agents to go back into the woods to try to retrace his steps and one of the things they may be facing are booby traps that he could have planted to hide his hideouts -- Sophia.
CHOI: Art, you posed a great question in your report, how was he able to avoid capture for so long? Any thoughts on that?
HARRIS: This is someone who since childhood has been in love with the woods. Loved solitude. Actually taught friends how to hide in the woods and would like -- played games, like going as close as he could to a house with dogs, would get on a ledge, pull rocks over him and see, you know, if anybody could spot him.
So this was someone who knew the woods, knew you know, the acres, 500 million acres of the Nantahala National Forest behind his home like the back of his hand.
And this was, you know, someone who had skills and could survive off very little. He went into the woods with some supplies he about bought from a grocery store and came out of the woods looking very thin but obviously having been able to survive, they believe, largely off of the land for five years -- Sophia.
CHOI: And we've heard authorities say over and over again involving this case and in other cases too that the lone wolf-type terrorist in the hardest to track because it's just one guy out there.
HARRIS: Yes. People have asked and I have asked agents, how could someone, you know, survive not just without food but without human companionship? And of course they're investigating possible help in the area.
And we should make a note of the fact that these are people who, for the most part, are wonderful law-abiding citizens but it's also an area where there could be and are believed to be a handful of white supremacist types who could have aided and abetted. That's something they're looking into.
But so far as Eric Rudolph goes, this is a man whose mystery has just began to unravel.
CHOI: Let's delve a little bit into his history here. You mentioned white supremacist groups possibly helping him. He did drift in and out of those types of groups, didn't he?
HARRIS: Well, he certainly had an affinity for them. He spent time with a far right religious group in the Midwest. And he was raised in an area and mentored by a man, whose name we won't mention, but who had these views.
And so from a very early age, you know, after his father died when he was about 14, this is someone who seemed to be looking for an answer. An answer to his problems and the world's problems and found them in, perhaps, some of the simplistic and in very hate-filled arguments and explanations that fuel the right-wing hate movement -- Sophia.
CHOI: You mentioned hate filled, especially toward the government and any authority figure.
HARRIS: Yes, if you look at the way the bombs were planted, federal agents and local law enforcement believe that because they were secondary bombs that went off after police would arrive at a bombing, a tactic that was used by the IRA, that he was out to harm law enforcement.
And they believe that this traced back to his father's death. His mother had wanted to use an alternative medicine called Layatril (ph) from apricot pits, which has no proof in the curing of cancer. And his when his father died when he was young, there was a belief that this fueled a resentment against government and against government regulations that have later, perhaps, resulted in all this violence.
CHOI: And that was due to his -- and that was due to his connection with the Church of Israel? Is that right? Or no?
HARRIS: Well, you know, that was one of his odysseys along the way. But you know, he hated Jews, he hated blacks. He bombed a gay nightclub in Atlanta, allegedly. There was the family planning clinic in Birmingham. And so there was a panoply of things that he purportedly hated.
When I interviewed his former sister-in-law, she described how he would sit around at night in front of the television and yell at this television set when there was something that he disagreed with. He would talk back to the set. He called it, quote, "the electronic Jew."
When I walked through his house, I saw carvings of stars and swastikas on furniture. So this was someone who was apparently full of hatred and the way he got it out was through solitude and then through, apparently, his alleged actions -- Sophia.
CHOI: All right, Art, thank you so much for your insights into this case. I know you've been following it for years now. Thanks again. And I'm sure we'll be chatting soon.
In the meantime, this case really came down, this capture came down to one person, a young Murphy police officer, only 21 years old, on the job for not even a year, who was driving through the Valley Village Shopping Center when he noticed a man basically dumpster diving behind that shopping center. That police officer, his name is J.S. Postell, let's listen to what he has to say.
OFFICER J.S. POSTELL, MURPHY, N.C., POLICE: I was on a patrol in the east part of town doing business checks at one of the shopping centers. Came around the corner, turned my headlights off -- that's how you usually proceed around the building -- observed the male subject, squatted down in the middle of the road.
As I approached, he observed me and he took off running, and got in behind some milk crates which were stacked up there. Not knowing who it was or what he had, I took safety into concern and advised him to come out. He complied to everything I asked them to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
POSTELL: At the sheriff's office after taking him in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officer, how do you feel now, in retrospect, knowing -- I know it was -- I don't want to say it was routine, but you go through this a lot. In retrospect, you captured one of the most wanted fugitives in this country.
POSTELL: It was just in a day's work. I really don't deserve any credit. I'm just doing what I was hired to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long have you been on the job?
POSTELL: I've been on the job for nearly a year, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what kind of conversation do you have?
POSTELL: I can't really comment on that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've already told me he gave a false name. Could you walk us through that point? POSTELL: Pretty much, he had no I.S. on him and he supplied me a name. And that's about all I can comment. He was very cooperative. Not a bit disrespectful. Very respectful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officer, there's a big reward out in this case for the person who captured Eric Robert Rudolph. Do you think you deserve that reward?
POSTELL: I'm not going to comment. Like I said I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
POSTELL: I did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How old are you?
POSTELL: I'm 21.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did it ever dawn in your mind before he was taken to the jail that this might be Eric Robert Rudolph? Did you ever think that you may run into him?
POSTELL: I never had that impression to ever run across him. However, there was a deputy sheriff there that stated that he struck a very similar resemblance to Mr. Rudolph.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you grow up around here?
POSTELL: I did.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Murphy?
POSTELL: In Andrews.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officer, I know you're just doing your job, but you've got to feel something, something inside of you about capturing this guy.
POSTELL: I think I put a lot of people's feelings at ease, a lot of stress that was involved in this situation. It's a closure to it, I believe. And that's like I said, that's about it. I am just glad was out there doing my job and was glad I was at the right place at the right time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think about all this media attention?
POSTELL: It's different. It's real different. Not used to it.
CHOI: And you've been listening there to Murphy Police Officer J.S. Postell, the arresting officer in this case.
At 3 p.m. Eastern, we'll bring you a "CNN SPECIAL REPORT: THE CAPTURE OF ERIC RUDOLPH." We'll bring you up-to-date on today's dramatic developments and tell you what happens next. That's at 3 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
Also tonight on "CNN PRESENTS," "THE HUNT FOR ERIC RUDOLPH," featuring exclusive home video of the suspected Olympic Park bomber that we've been showing you exclusively here on CNN. That's 8 p.m. Eastern for "CNN PRESENTS."
We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we take you back to Murphy, North Carolina, the site of the capture of suspected Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph.
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