CNN LIVE SATURDAY
Aired May 31, 2003 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOPHIA CHOI, CNN ANCHOR: After eluding police and the FBI for five years, the intensive manhunt for bombing suspect Eric Rudolph is now over. Rudolph was one of America's most wanted fugitives. He's accused of four terrorist attacks that killed two people and wounded about 160 others.
You're looking at the official mug shot right there. He was captured actually in Murphy, North Carolina. That's in the far western corner of the state. A police officer spotted Rudolph near a supermarket shortly before four o'clock this morning.
Rudolph initially gave police a fictitious name, but when FBI agents checked his fingerprints they knew they had their man. The officer who captured Rudolph tells us how it all came down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFC. JEFF POSTELL, MURPHY POLICE: I was on 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 a 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 concern and advised him to come out. He complied to everything I asked him to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHOI: Rudolph is charged with the 1996 bombing at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. He's charged with other attacks in Atlanta as well, including bombings at a women's clinic and at a gay nightclub in 1997. Rudolph is also wanted in connection with the bombing of a health clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. That bombing killed a police officer.
We want to join Mike Brooks now who's standing by in Murphy, North Carolina, where this all went down and where in many respects the investigation is still going on and just picking up today -- Mike.
MIKE BROOKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Sophia. You're absolutely right. The investigation is far from over into how Eric Robert Rudolph survived for the last five years.
Now, he's being held right behind me in the Cherokee County Jail, which is right behind the courthouse that you can see directly behind me. He will be transferred to Ashville, North Carolina, sometime today or tomorrow to face arraignment on these charges that you mentioned earlier, and how he will get there, it's unknown but we're trying to find that our for sure.
Now, you talk about luck, sometimes law enforcement officers can be good and sometimes they can be lucky, and this time Officer Postell, the 21-year-old officer who's been on the job less than a year was extremely lucky.
He just happened upon him on routine patrol behind a shopping center on the east side of town here in Murphy, North Carolina. It was a sheriff's deputy who came to back him up that actually said that he thought he might have looked like Eric Rudolph.
Now, Rudolph gave the name of Jerry Wilson. When they first approached him and asked him his name he said it was Jerry Wilson but then later on law enforcement source says that he did say he was Eric Rudolph.
So, he's being held here. We also heard from the FBI earlier and they said that more officers, more agents, are coming here to Murphy, North Carolina, and these agents are with the evidence response team.
So, that would tell me, Sophia, as a former member of the FBI's evidence response team that they believe that there is additional evidence to be collected here as the investigation continues -- Sophia.
CHOI: And what type of evidence are we talking about here, Mike? I mean are they looking for caves where he might have actually been building these bombs? What are they looking for?
BROOKS: Well, that's one of the things they'll be looking for. Earlier when we spoke with Henry Shuster, the senior producer who has been following this case for some years, they were talking about maybe a bomb factory.
Now where he has been living for the last five years that also remains to be seen, there is talk that he has been living in the woods nearby Murphy, North Carolina, so if they do find exactly where he was staying they will go over that area with a fine tooth comb looking for anything at all inside there, hairs, fibers, wires, anything that could be components of an improvised explosive device.
They also want to find out where he got the explosives. We know the Centennial Park there were three large pipe bombs in a rucksack and we know the other bombs at the two abortion clinics and at The Other Side nightclub consisted of a nitroglycerin-based dynamite.
So, he was using different kind of explosives. One he used smokeless powder in the pipe bombs, the other dynamite as I said. So, they'll be looking for any evidence of these two explosives and any kind of bomb-making materials that they could find -- Sophia.
CHOI: All right, Mike, thank you so much. We'll be joining you later again I'm sure.
Well, just who is this loner, this outdoorsman named Eric Rudolph? Kathleen Koch has been wondering and here's what she found.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The most notorious American fugitive on the FBI's Most Wanted List spent most of his life in the dense Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina.
Eric Robert Rudolph was a loner, as a teenager spending weeks alone in the woods hunting, fishing, and exploring caves. Relatives say the one-time carpenter and roofer hated gays, Jews, and developed an interest in the anti-abortion movement.
DEBRA RUDOLPH, FORMER SISTER-IN-LAW: He felt like if women continued to abort their White babies that eventually the White race would become a minority.
KOCH: Rudolph came to law enforcement's attention in January, 1998 when his gray pickup was spotted near the scene of a bombing of a Birmingham abortion clinic. The blast killed an off duty police officer and disfigured the clinic's head nurse.
A day later, police in North Carolina searched Rudolph's storage shed. He'd already left his home. They seized (unintelligible) and a bomb-making pamphlet. Authorities quickly began to connect the dots.
Police believe Rudolph's first attack was the 1996 pipe bombing during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. One woman died and more than 100 were injured in Centennial Olympic Park.
Rudolph was also charged in the 1997 bombings of an Atlanta area abortion clinic and a gas and lesbian nightclub. The motive, Rudolph's mother claimed his father died after doctors refused to treat his cancer with Laetril, an experimental drug the government wouldn't approve, so the bombings came.
CHARLIE STONE, GA BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Out of a perverse sense of getting back at the government for hurting his family.
KOCH: Authorities launched one of the most intense manhunts in U.S. history. Hundreds of armed searchers with bloodhounds combed the North Carolina woods. Search helicopters with heat-seeking devices roared overhead. The last sighting was July, 1998 two months after the FBI offered $1 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Rudolph turned up at a former neighbor's home asking for supplies before heading up into the hills. Rudolph took a pickup truck stocked with food from the house, left behind $500 and disappeared. Since then, the trail had grown cold. The task force dwindled to just 20 members. Still some law officers believed Rudolph's long game of hide and seek would eventually end. CHRIS SWECKER, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: No one in this area and no law enforcement agent ever gave up on finding him and the search continued albeit on a different scale with a different strategy but we always thought that he was up here in the mountains in North Carolina somewhere.
KOCH: Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.
CHOI: Now, for years, Eric Rudolph stayed one step ahead of authorities despite an intense manhunt, massive media coverage, and perhaps a healthy obsession by John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted." He joins us now from New York. Thanks for joining us.
JOHN WALSH, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": Thank you, Sophia.
CHOI: Let me get right to a tip that you received on April 10. It was a really interesting tip. Tell us about it.
WALSH: Well, a woman, and I've got to say she's got tremendous courage. We want to keep her name anonymous and she called in as an anonymous tipster, said that her cousin helped Eric Rudolph all these five years and that he died last year and Eric Rudolph had the nerve to come to his funeral and several people, several members of Eric Rudolph's family, allegedly, and some of the members of this family, of this cousin, actually saw Eric Rudolph at the funeral.
She gave the tip that Eric Rudolph had been using a cabin on Fires Creek that he was back in the woods, that he used it periodically, and this cousin helped Eric Rudolph. They processed cocaine periodically and sold cocaine to finance his stay in the woods but he was on his own and desperate when this guy died in 2000.
So, she's given lots of good information. The FBI is talking to her. We kept it all confidential until the capture and the FBI is talking to her now. But God bless her. She's got a lot of guts to make that call.
CHOI: And, in fact, that's not the only tip you received because you've aired or you focused on this on your show on Eric Rudolph's case 22 times and you even went out to the scene because the task force actually asked you to come out to the mountains there in North Carolina and do you show from there. Tell us about some of the other tips that you might have received over the past five years.
WALSH: Well, we did get thousands of tips and I did, I probably was one of the few people allowed at the actual task force. I mean they had everyone from Navajo trackers to FBI sharpshooters. They had dogs. They had heat-seeking planes flying overhead. Unfortunately, the woods are so dense in that area that they would pick up subjects and they would be bears and deer.
But we got lots of tips that he had left the country, that other anti-abortionist groups were helping him, that White supremacists -- now, let's not forget that this guy in my opinion is a psychopath, violent, dangerous person that killed two people and how I got so passionately involved was that we interviewed the nurse who's eye he actually blew part of her face off and she lost her eye, a very courageous woman.
But we got tips that he was out west with White supremacists, but we all believed that he was somewhere in those woods and deep down I think everybody on that task force, including me, believed that some people that knew him, not everybody in that area, a lot of people hated him in that area and knew he was a coward, but some people agreed with his views, his radical White supremacist views and were helping him and now we know that this guy was helping him hide out all these years.
CHOI: Well, let me just interject here, John, and make clear that he is still just a suspect at this point.
WALSH: Alleged, absolutely.
CHOI: We don't know that he actually did the bombings, so he allegedly we should interject and say that. Let me ask you about the people. You were talking about the people in that area and how some actually wanted to help him. What did you find out about kind of the militia mentality of the people in that area?
WALSH: Well, when I went there, I went on the ground with the FBI and the local police, which again I say did a great job in that area. They never gave up looking for him. The vast majority of police when I was walking along -- I mean the people -- walking along the streets and going to the actual task force headquarters were very supportive.
But there were a small number of people on their porches waving rebel flags who said get the hell out of here. We don't want you here. Eric Rudolph is doing God's work. He's actually a hero.
And I said, you can't believe that he's a coward. He's killed two people here. He's a coward. He's hurt and maimed people and no matter what he believes in he's wrong and you can not take the law into your own hands.
So, there's a certain faction of people in that area, small fraction albeit, that I believe have supported him, including this man who died last year who was a main supporter of Eric Rudolph and helped him stay on the run for five years.
CHOI: John, let me ask you about the mug shot that was released today after Eric Rudolph's capture. What do you think about the way he looked in this mug shot? It's quite different from what we had seen earlier in the kind of most wanted posters. He, you know, had a thicker build in those earlier photos. Now, we see him, he's got a shorter haircut. He's got a moustache, much thinner build, and he's kind of staring off into space.
WALSH: Well, I've always believe, and let's be politically correct and say alleged and all those things for all those lawyers, Eric Rudolph was in a lot better shape five years ago. He was in, you know, good health. He was a survivalist and a lot younger. He's actually a pretty good-looking guy.
Certainly, five years on the run has aged him, you know, not eating well, living in the woods, not knowing where he's going to get his next meal. When I was up there at the command center five years ago they actually had dogs.
He had gone into that house and stole a whole bunch of oatmeal and while I was there he was so smart that when he created a fire in the woods, in the caves, he would actually bury the coals four feet down and there were remnants of those oatmeal boxes. But he's had a tough life over those five years on the run.
CHOI: Five years, though, is a very long time. John, why do you think it took so long to capture him? I mean with all of the publicity surrounding this case, as we mentioned, your show alone did 22 shows on his case.
WALSH: Well, I'll tell you. First of all, he's very smart. He grew up in that area. He spent his life in those woods hunting, exploring those caves. I went in some of those caves. Those caves are endless. He could have gone back deep into those caves, you know, for 500, 600, 700 yards, half a mile.
He was able to elude the dogs by crossing streams. He really knew what he was doing in those woods and he moved. Those are deep woods and he moved. When he would hear somebody searching he would move to another woods.
And don't forget, I say this and I believe it and they're going to make an arrest soon that he had help, that this guy helped him and provided him with food periodically and that's how he avoided capture. Unless you've been down there, you have no concept how thick and deep these woods are.
CHOI: Yes, but he was actually captured inside the city of Murphy. I mean dumpster diving. So, don't you think that perhaps he could have been working alone and he just came into the city and got food that way?
WALSH: Well, I absolutely believe until this guy died last year, and he snuck into his funeral, that he had help, that he couldn't do it alone and this just shows you how desperate he's become in the last few months that he had to come into town to rummage food out of the dumpster.
He no longer had a co-conspirator. He no longer had people helping him and so he was probably starving. I know that he was really good at hunting. He probably was able to kill animals, rabbits, maybe a deer occasionally, very smart in how he built his fires, but he was getting near the end of his run.
I don't doubt for a minute that he didn't come into town, that probably he robbed hunting cabins, got food wherever he could. That's not unusual for a fugitive to come into town and get stuff out of dumpsters. That's normal. CHOI: All right. John Walsh, thank you, and I just want to make it clear that at this point a lot of what we're talking about is still speculation, and I guess we won't really know what he did in the past five years until investigators do their official interrogation of him which they have not done yet.
WALSH: You're absolutely right but I just want to commend this tipster for having the courage to give so much information. It's the average citizen that helps break these cases lots of times.
CHOI: You're right about that. All right, John Walsh thanks.
And this programming note, CNN's Art Harris who has been tracking the Eric Rudolph case since the 1996 Olympic Park bombing, tonight in a special edition of "CNN PRESENTS" Art takes you inside the story, "THE HUNT FOR ERIC RUDOLPH" airs at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific.
Art even followed trackers into the forests of North Carolina in pursuit of Eric Rudolph, his thoughts on the investigation when we come back.
CHOI: CNN's Art Harris has covered the Eric Rudolph case from the beginning and he joins us now to talk about his perspective on this new development today. Did you ever think, Art, from covering it all these years that it would end this way?
ART HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I didn't. One of the top Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms agents in the case kept saying, you know, I hate to say this it's going to come down to a shootout. The law enforcement officer who stops him is going to either kill or be killed.
And what we found was a docile Eric Rudolph apparently today surrendering without incident to this young officer so, a happy ending to a very sad and mysterious case. People don't really know who this guy was and how he was able to elude them for so long -- Sophia.
CHOI: But you know what he's all about. You've talked to a lot of people who were very close to him at one point. Tell us what you've learned about his personality.
HARRIS: This is a kid who grew up living and loving the woods, loving solitude, able to spend a lot of time by himself and he would go into the woods on Christmas Day when other kids were back playing with their toys and not come back for three days.
So, this is someone who was a loner inside, whether it was from the hurt he suffered when his father died when he was 14. FBI behavioral profilers have used a lot of information from childhood friends to try to understand him. And what I'm told is that he would be able to hide on ledges and showed friends how to pull rocks around him so that you could walk by him and he would be invisible.
He could start fires at the base of trees and you couldn't see the smoke. This forest, this basically triple canopy jungle that was in his backyard, a half million acres of the Nantahala National Forest full of bobcats and snakes and mountain laurel, you know you can't see in front of you three feet in the spring and summer and Eric knew his way around.
So, this was his background. This was his hiding and hunting grounds and he watched -- growing up he watched Army Special Forces use these very difficult mountains to train in. He then went into the Army.
He had some explosive training. He got a general discharge and wanted, interestingly, like Timothy McVeigh he wanted to be in the Special Forces, but apparently, sources tell us, flunked the psychological training and now we perhaps know why.
But some think that he had enough information on his hands to be very dangerous and part of this may have been an interest in showing everybody else just how much smarter he was than they were -- Sophia.
CHOI: Let's talk a little bit about the investigation. What kind of evidence have investigators come up with linking Rudolph to the bombings?
HARRIS: Well, there is -- the forensics that they have include nails that were found on the site at the Atlanta park bombing with possible nails that he had in the storage unit in North Carolina. There is a metal plate that was used in that bomb and other bombs that is similar to create an almost Claymore mine effect to blow the shrapnel out and into people. They have those plates. They have other -- they have alarm clocks from the bombs that seem to be similar and possible receipts from where he bought these things.
So, all of this along with eyewitnesses who saw his truck in Birmingham shortly after the bomb went off there killing Officer Sanderson and injuring nurse Emily Lyons at the abortion clinic in Birmingham, and then in this videotape that we will show you tonight at 8:00 p.m. on CNN, you can look out the window of his house and see the pickup truck that the witness in Birmingham actually saw leaving the scene -- Sophia.
CHOI: All right. Art Harris, thank you for your insights into this case.
And, all of that evidence that Art was talking about police are using to charge him with four bombing attacks, Rudolph that is. But how hard will it be to convict him and who gets to try him first, a legal perspective right after this short break.
CHOI: You are looking at a color mug shot of Eric Rudolph just obtained by CNN. It was released by Murphy police. Murphy, the city of course where Rudolph was captured earlier this morning at about 4:30 a.m. Eastern time. Rudolph is accused of four bombings, including the deadly bombing at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta and also the bombing at a women's clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, that bombing killing a police officer and injuring a nurse.
Law enforcement agents say they never gave up on finding Eric Rudolph, but his capture today was not the result of a change in their search tactics. It was the result of one police officer doing his job. Rudolph's arrest sets the wheels in motion for legal wrangling about which state will get first crack at trying him.
We want to look more closely now at his alleged crimes. In July of 1996, Rudolph is accused of a fatal bombing at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. One woman was killed in that blast. More than 100 other people were injured.
In January of that next year, he's accused of double bombings in Atlanta at women's clinic in a professional office building. In February of 1997, he is accused of bombing The Other Side Lounge. That's a gay nightspot in midtown Atlanta. And, in January of 1998, Rudolph is suspected of bombing a health clinic in Birmingham, Alabama.
Right now, Eric Rudolph is in the Cherokee County Jail in North Carolina. Which state, though, will get to prosecute him first and how is that determined? Former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey joins us from Miami to talk about the legal aspects of Rudolph's arrest and what's next. Kendall, thanks for joining us.
KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Good afternoon, Sophia.
CHOI: So, which state gets him first do you think?
COFFEY: It should be Georgia. It should be Atlanta unless Birmingham is able to make a case and they just have much stronger evidence. When federal authorities indict, it's a sealed proceeding up until the point of indictment.
We don't know what the quality of the evidence is, so you can assume that the Birmingham, Alabama prosecutor, the U.S. attorney there and the U.S. attorney in Atlanta are making their cases to John Ashcroft and the Justice Department as we speak as to which jurisdiction should go first on this obviously very important case.
CHOI: Yes, this is such a complex case because we're talking about a lot of different locales involved here and also the federal government involved in this case. Do you think that they'll take it first, the Feds?
COFFEY: The feds are clearly going to take it first. They've already got indictments pending, indictments that were issued several years ago, and while there could be, obviously, opportunities for state trials down the line, as we saw in the jurisdictional tug of wars with respect to the D.C. snipers, what the attorney general is likely to focus on is where is the strongest case that will get the death penalty in the most efficient way possible.
It's in federal hands now so the two U.S. attorneys, again in Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia, they're the ones that in this sort of bizarre contest are the finalists and one of them will be leading the charge and will get this case first.
CHOI: And the ultimate decision being made by Attorney General John Ashcroft is that correct?
COFFEY: He's going to make this call and a lot of the different issues that we talked about with respect to Maryland versus Virginia don't apply. You don't have two different state judicial systems here. You actually have the same Federal Appeals Court in Atlanta, which is a good law enforcement court as far as the Justice Department is concerned.
So, what it's going to come down to is whether there is a big difference in the quality of evidence because Atlanta suffered three bombings, more victims, more criminality in the Atlanta jurisdiction, but if they believe that because of the passage of time, because perhaps of the lack of solid witness support for that case that they're better off in having a much stronger chances of conviction in Birmingham, that's where they'll go.
CHOI: Where they had a police officer lose his life in the bombing there.
COFFEY: And that's a very good point, Sophia, because the Justice Department, while they're sensitive to all victims, they're going to have a lot of concern about the fact that a law enforcement officer was murdered in the Birmingham bombing.
CHOI: Do you think they'll go for the death penalty in this case?
COFFEY: There is no question about it. This is a death penalty case all the way.
CHOI: All right, you know what you talked a little bit about the age of this case becoming a problem. I mean is that going to be a real obstacle for any prosecutor in this case because witnesses might have forgotten some details of what happened actually during any of those various bombings?
COFFEY: Well, as a general proposition no prosecution case gets better with age. Here we're not really clear on how important witnesses are. For example, this was a lone wolf terrorist and so a lot of the evidence that's going to be important are going to be forensic, things that connect the kind of materials that he had access to that he used with the actual materials that were found at the bomb sites.
So, it's not clear whether witness testimony and memories are going to be important. It's simply the quality of the forensic evidence. But one way or an other, you'd always like to bring especially a murder case as soon as possible after the crime and the fact that, of course, the Olympic bombing took place in 1996, the others a few years later, proposes a little bit more of a challenge to the prosecutors but ultimately not insurmountable.
And, let's also bear in mind that when the federal government indicts, at the time they issue those indictments they're already saying we have investigated this case and we have enough to proceed to trial and get a conviction.
So, based on everything we know right now, both of those jurisdictions ought to be ready to go and, assuming the Atlanta case has the evidence that it should in order to sustain the entry of an indictment, that would seem to be the more likely choice that John Ashcroft will be making this coming week.
CHOI: Former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, always nice to see you and get your insights, thanks.
CHOI: A check of other headlines coming up next.
And, after five years of searching they found him in the small town of Murphy, a live report from there and some interesting facts about the town when we come back. Stay tuned.
CHOI: Now, our coverage of the capture of bombing suspect Eric Rudolph continues.
Over the past five years, police and federal authorities search exhaustively for bombing suspect Eric Robert Rudolph. After a while, people began to question whether Rudolph, charged with a string of bombings including a deadly blast at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, could still be alive.
Well, early this morning that question was answered when a police officer in the small town of Murphy, North Carolina, found a man rooting through the dumpster of a local grocery story. The man ran at first but then stopped when the officer pulled his weapon.
Although he initially gave his name as Jerry Wilson, fingerprint matching later confirmed that the rookie cop had captured Eric Robert Rudolph, one of the most wanted fugitives in America.
Today's capture in Murphy, North Carolina, marks the turning point in a story that began nearly seven years ago when a festive night during the Atlanta Summer Olympic games turned tragic.
CNN National Correspondent Mike Boettcher looks back on the crimes Eric Rudolph is accused of and the efforts to track him down.
MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first bomb shook the 1996 Summer Olympics. The blast killed Alice Hawthorne and injured more than 100 other people crowded into Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. Six months later, two bombs exploded outside a suburban Atlanta women's clinic where abortions were carried out. The first bomb drew dozens of law enforcement and emergency officials to the scene. Several were hurt when the second bomb exploded an hour later.
Weeks later in February, 1997, another double bombing struck a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta. Nearly a year later, January 29, 1998, just days after the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion, another bomb exploded outside a Birmingham women's clinic. A police officer was killed and a nurse seriously injured.
Eric Robert Rudolph quickly became a suspect when his pickup truck was found nearby that clinic and an eyewitness described someone leaving the scene. Rudolph was soon listed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List and hundreds of federal and state agents moved into western North Carolina to hunt him down, combing a half million acres of mountainous, heavily wooded terrain.
A year later, the search was scaled back, but investigators continued to believe Rudolph, now 36, was hiding in the Nantahala National Forest where he spent his teenage and young adult years. An Army veteran and a mountain resident, it was believed he knew how to hide and survive. The Southeast Bomb Task Force formed to investigate the bombings, kept a presence in the area, and there were occasional sightings reported.
With Rudolph's capture, it now has to be decided where he will be tried and on what charges. Prosecutors will have to agree where the evidence against Rudolph is strongest.
Mike Boettcher, CNN, Atlanta.
CHOI: And now, we want to take you to the site of the capture, Murphy, North Carolina. Our Mike Brooks is standing by and, Mike, tell us about the young arresting officer.
BROOKS: Well, the officer, Officer J.S. Postell of the Murphy Police Department, he has been, Sophia, he has been on the department for less than a year. He's 21 years old, working the midnight shift on routine patrol, comes across someone who he seems looks suspicious to him walking behind a shopping center, possibly breaking into the store.
He stops him. He goes to run, pulls his weapon, takes him down, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) him out on the ground. They take him into custody, bring him in, Eric Rudolph. He was at a press room earlier today and he looks very young. He doesn't even look 21 years old, very humble, said he was just doing his job. They asked him if they thought he'd be eligible for the $1 million reward.
He wouldn't comment about that but his police chief, we talked to Chief Thigpen of the Murphy Police Department who actually hired him, and said he does a lot of work in the community, works in the schools and is just a credit to the Murphy Police Department. And now, Sophia, he will probably be one of the most famous officers in the country at 21 years old and less than a year on the job.
CHOI: Yes, it's amazing and he said in a news conference earlier today that it was just all in a day's, you know, work, that he was happy to do it, glad that he was in the right place at the right time.
This is such a small police department too. Murphy is such a small town with only seven officers and one investigator on that team.
BROOKS: Yes, I talked to the chief. He said they actually have a total of ten officers. That's including him. So, again, that's a very, very small department.
I think we've seen today, we've seen half of the department. We've seen five different officers and I spoke with one of the other officers who actually was one of his back up and he was still out there when we had the press conference earlier and he said, hey we were just doing our job.
I know I was a cop for 26 years and I thought it was a big deal in my rookie year of making a stolen auto arrest, but to catch one of the top ten fugitives he's got -- he has no idea how much publicity is coming his way -- Sophia.
CHOI: Mike, I guess you just weren't in the right place a that right time like young Officer Postell, glad he was there though. Thanks.
BROOKS: Exactly. Thank you.
CHOI: Well, the search for and capture of Eric Rudolph has thrust the small town of Murphy and the surrounding Nantahala National Forest into the national spotlight. Here are some facts about both.
Murphy was incorporated in 1851. It has a population of 1,650. Its residents have a median age of 44, fairly young. Murphy is located in Cherokee County, North Carolina, which is also home to more than 92,000 acres of the Nantahala National Forest. In all, the forest covers more than half a million acres in North Carolina.
The Olympic Park bombing is probably the most notorious crime Eric Rudolph is accused of committing. Alice Hawthorne died as a result of that blast, her story when we return.
CHOI: Police say the 1996 blast at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park came from the biggest pipe bomb in U.S. history. Miraculously, it killed only one person but for the family of Alice Hawthorne the bomb changed everything.
CNN's Art Harris has covered the Eric Rudolph story from the very beginning. Two years ago he talked to Alice Hawthorne's family about what happened that night in the park and what they wanted for the future. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
HARRIS (voice-over): Fallon Stubbs still dreams about the last time she saw her mother alive in Atlanta just before 1:00 a.m. on July 27, 1996.
FALLON STUBBS, BOMBING VICTIM: I used to dream about what she would be like here with me watching me grow up.
HARRIS: That night she saw nothing suspicious, just a party going on at Centennial Olympic Park, all part of a surprise 14th birthday trip from her mother, Alice Hawthorne with tickets to see the Dream Team.
STUBBS: Everybody was happy and laughing and moving and dancing.
HARRIS: And smiling, like friends say her mother always did as she posed for the last snapshot. Where were you standing?
STUBBS: Probably about over here.
HARRIS: Some 60,000 people jammed into the park soaking up the spirit, free rock and roll, then shrapnel from the biggest pipe bomb in U.S. history.
STUBBS: I remember seeing my mother turn, do a complete 360. It was probably going to be the most lasting memory out of all of that. It was all kind of mostly like a movie. It was like this can't be happening. I mean what was that? And then, you know, you get up and you see people scared and running and I saw my mother on the ground.
HARRIS: The bomb knocked her down but Fallon ran to get help for her mother, shrapnel in her arm, her leg, a finger nearly cut off. Bleeding, she was scooped into an ambulance but she still wanted help for her mother.
STUBBS: Some people told me to lay down, get down, get down, and I was like wait my mother.
HARRIS: Alice Hawthorne (unintelligible) the first murder victim, says the FBI, of alleged serial bomber Eric Rudolph, a working mother admired and eulogized for her good work. Then a police escort to the cemetery. That's John Hawthorne, her husband of 14 years so despondent at first.
JOHN HAWTHORNE, HUSBAND OF VICTIM: I was sort of in a fog.
HARRIS: He says he considered suicide.
HAWTHORNE: She really made me realize some skills and talents that I didn't know that I had.
HARRIS: He now aims to raise millions for an Alice Hawthorne youth center.
STUBBS: It's a feeling of incompleteness, you know, you look for closure for things and situations like this and I haven't found it yet, and you know hopefully somebody will be caught.
HARRIS: Fallon told me at the time that she'd never find peace until her mother's killer was caught. Now that suspect Eric Rudolph has been captured, maybe she'll find it now -- Sophia.
CHOI: And, Art, I understand that Alice Hawthorne really wanted to go to the celebrations there that night for a specific reason. Can you tell us about that?
HARRIS: Yes, her friends told me nothing was going to stop her. She wanted to take her 14-year-old daughter so badly. Her daughter was a track star and the Olympics to her was a symbol of harmony, of people of all races, creeds, nationalities, getting together and this is a woman who was a bridge builder back home in the town of Albany, Georgia, who reached out across the community for racial harmony.
And so, this was a symbolic visit for her to take her daughter to the Olympics and it's ironic, some people point out, that she died at a place that for her symbolized real peace -- Sophia.
CHOI: And it all brings it back to why this case was so important to solve if they, in fact, have. Thank you so much Art.
CNN's Art Harris will have much more on the Eric Rudolph case tonight. Be sure to tune in for a special edition of "CNN PRESENTS" for an inside look at the story, "THE HUNT FOR ERIC RUDOLPH" airs at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific.
Still ahead this hour, the capture of Eric Rudolph in the words of the man who caught him. We're back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OFC. JEFFREY POSTELL, MURPHY 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 a 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 him to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHOI: You're listening to the young police officer from Murphy, North Carolina who arrested Eric Rudolph after a massive five year search, of course Rudolph accused of four separate bombings, the first one being that of Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park, and that's where we find our Marty Savidge. And, Marty, you've been talking with police officers and other law enforcers all day long about this case. What was their reaction about how this guy was caught?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, every one of the law enforcement officials that you talk to are very relieved and also very happy that Eric Rudolph has been brought into custody.
Let's show you a different view of Olympic Centennial Park. We've shown you much around the area where the bombing took place. This is how the park is remembered today.
This is how it's used today by all the people that live in the Atlanta area or come, and it's a Saturday afternoon. It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon and probably the event that happened here seven years ago for the most part has been forgotten by the people who enjoy it on a regular basis and that's the way it should be.
Parks are for the people and that's how it's used but it also raises a problem, of course, for security, and that's the issue we want to talk to Major Stan Savage who is with the Atlanta Police Department Special Operations. You were here the night after or the night of the bombing actually, crowd control, how do you try to control from a police point of view such an open area as a park like this?
MAJ. STAN SAVAGE, ATLANTA POLICE: Well, it takes a lot of coordination. My recollection brings back to memory the number of different agencies. We had local, federal, state officers and our security officers to assist us.
You know, typically, in particular with an open area you have to look at the entrances and obviously the places where the people tend to congregate and on the night of the bombing this was a pretty wide open area. We had a number of different stages for entertainment and things of that particular nature.
And probably one of the biggest things is for those individuals once the crowd gets into the park is to play a pretty good monitoring role so that you can monitor, you know just activities and just kind of see what everybody is doing.
SAVIDGE: So, you're looking for something suspicious, whether it be a package or a person?
SAVAGE: Well, we had a lot of training and, you know, during the Olympics as well as even now and, of course, to look for any type of suspicious activity of course and that's something that can be hard in an atmosphere where perhaps, you know, individuals are kind of at a free event and you got large numbers of people, and of course it was a night also.
So, you know, there are some challenges often to that but, you know, typically, you know, that's one of the things that we try to do. We try to, you know, look for, you know, things out of the ordinary.
SAVIDGE: Major, thank you very much for joining us.
SAVAGE: All right.
SAVIDGE: One of the things that had been discussed prior to the Olympics in the planning stages was actually having metal detectors here at the entrance to the park but that was overruled because the feeling was this was to be a public place, accessible. It was a world gathering spot. In hindsight, maybe that was in error but, of course, looking forward to the Olympics who would have anticipated what happened here -- Sophia.
CHOI: Exactly. No one could have guessed. Thank you so much, Marty.
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