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FBI Holds Press Conference on Rudolph's Capture

Aired May 31, 2003 - 20:00   ET


CHRIS SWECKER, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: There's no new news that I can give you. We are mustering up more resources here as we speak we're bring in agents from a lot of different agencies; a lot of work will go on over the next couple of weeks. We want to make sure -- if you would do not follow these law enforcement officers as they go about their business here, and please don't go into the woods, there is a safety factor, here. This is a bombing indictment and we just don't need people in there trampling through the woods, and there is a -- you know, any place that we're looking at has potential evidence and if you intrude in those areas you'd be trampling of evidence. So, we're asking you not to do that, there's going to be a lot of coming and going over the next couple of days and if you would -- as Miss Crosby (ph) has said, we'll be briefing you periodically as we go.

There's a lot of private property in the area, as well, and we're asking that you respect the private property. We're trying to as unobtrusive as possible while we go about our business. There is a lot of work to do over the next few days, but we are trying not to become an occupational force here. I mean, we're tying to be very measured and very controlled about what we're doing, and as I said, there are agents and detectives that are heading this way. Now, there are a lot here, but we're not going to have people trampling through crime scenes and that sort of thing.

I know there are going to be questions about whether he's talking and that sort of thing. We're not going to be able to go into that. We are following all the logical leads that are coming up, and there are plenty of things to do. There's a lot of things that we can do, now that he is arrested that we couldn't do when he wasn't, when he was a fugitive. So, we're doing those things, now, there are literally scores of things that need to be done over the next couple days, we can't go into all those details at this time.

Downtown, here -- the periodic briefings, I guess, will be here and there's church services down -- downtown here tomorrow, so we will eventually be moving away from the sheriff's department down there, but for the next couple days we will be operating out of the sheriff's, here.

That's basically all I have at this point, but I'd like to turn this back over to Pat and we'll get the deputy sheriff up here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there might have a few questions for Sean Mathews, the gentlemen who was one of the first on the scene. Sean, perhaps if you'd just give a -- just a brief statement as far as what you -- what you saw as you apparently recognized the defendant, is that not right?

SEAN MATHEWS, DEPUTY CHEROKEE COUNTY SHERIFF: Yes, sir. I just -- when I responded with Officer Postell, I walked up on scene and I noticed, when I seen the subject, I thought he had an uncanny resemblance to Eric Robert Rudolph.

QUESTION: When's the last time you seen a picture of him that it's still fresh in your memory?

MATHEWS: Oh, two days ago, I mean, we -- they're plastered all over the place.

QUESTION: What was your initial reaction?

MATHEWS: Just that.

QUESTION: So how did you respond?

MATHEWS: I was excited, just like officer...


MATHEWS: I'd met him few years back.

QUESTION: How long have you been with the department?

MATHEWS: Right at five years.

QUESTION: What was his demeanor when you recognized him?

MATHEWS: I can't comment on that.

QUESTION: What did you say to him?

MATHEWS: I'm not going to comment on that either.

QUESTION: Did you say something to him?

MATHEWS: No comment.

QUESTION: You said you had met him or seen him before...

MATHEWS: This was way before.

QUESTION: In what context?

MATHEWS: I lived in Macon County and he was over there.


MATHEWS: I had met him once, so I really -- you know, I couldn't tell you.

QUESTION: Did you ever think that you would find him here in Murphy and what did you think?

MATHEWS: No, I didn't think we'd find him here.

QUESTION: What was it about what you saw this morning that first tipped you off that it was him?

MATHEWS: I just had a hunch when I seen his eyes.

QUESTION: Now, this has been a big deal for this community, the search has been a long and drawn out one. Now that you've had a couple of hours to digest what happened this morning -- what do you think this means for your department, the community -- the folks that live around here?

MATHEWS: Well, like Officer Postell said earlier, it's a closure to a big case, it's needed to happen for a long time.

QUESTION: Are you surprised the way it did come to a closure?


QUESTION: Describe that. I mean, what did you think may eventually happen?

MATHEWS: I don't know, to tell you the truth.

QUESTION: How closely have you worked on the case prior to today?

MATHEWS: Not really close, you know, we're just always on the lookout for him.

QUESTION: When you got the initial call, from Murphy police to backup Officer Postell, how did it -- how did it come over the radio to you to respond there to assist the officer?

MATHEWS: I just heard it on another channel that he was out behind a building with the subject.


MATHEWS: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Did you recognize him, there in the service way behind the gay bar?


QUESTION: As you go over there one of the 10 most wanted fugitives is standing in front of you. It doesn't happen everyday and you're very calm about the whole thing. At the moment you recognized him, was there butterflies, was there elation, was there fear -- I mean, what emotions were you feeling at that time?

MATHEWS: All of that, what you just said.

QUESTION: You said you'd seen a picture of him, right? How closely did he resemble the picture?

MATHEWS: Pretty close.

QUESTION: Would you describe -- describe what he looked like and what he was wearing, if you could.

MATHEWS: I'm not going to comment on that.


QUESTION: You mentioned that his eyes, I think a lot of us noticed that in the mug shot, as well, I mean -- his eyes just sort of pierced out at you. Can you talk about that, I mean, is that what drew you in?

MATHEWS: The eyes and the eyebrows.

QUESTION: How about the scar on his chin?

MATHEWS: I couldn't really tell you about that because I wasn't, you know, familiar with the scar on his chin. I wasn't recognizing that as part of it.

QUESTION: Can you describe, from what you saw, was he passive or was he really active?

MATHEWS: I can't comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just take a few more questions.

QUESTION: When you got on the scene had Officer Postell already had him thrown out on the ground and what kind of con -- what kind of conversation or interaction did you have with him when you arrived.

MATHEWS: I can't comment on that.

QUESTION: Was he clean shaven?

MATHEWS: I won't comment on that, either.

QUESTION: Sean, how much did you and your colleagues talk about Eric Robert Rudolph in the last years, months, and weeks? Did the case come up very often? Did you talk about it (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MATHEWS: We talk about him, you know, just always on the look out for him. The posters, you know, yeah, we'd like to catch him.

QUESTION: What about the reward?

MATHEWS: I'm not going to comment on that.

QUESTION: What's your day been like, phone calls, comments from friends and family, what have they been like?


QUESTION: What do you think about all of this publicity and the notoriety that you're now getting in light of all of this?

MATHEWS: It's different. It's a first. I'm just really, really tired right now.

SWECKER: Just briefly, I'd like to, again, mention who's involved in this investigation, because I think it's real important for everyone to know who's cooperating with us. And to go back to your question, he had some stubble on his chin when he was arrested.

Murphy P.D., obviously main players in this and Cherokee County Sheriff's Department. But you also have Macon, Jackson, Swain, and other counties. Then North Carolina Highway Petrol is helping with security and some other aspects of this and possible the transport, when he does transport. We have the North Carolina Wildlife division; we also have the Park Service -- Nation Park Service and the State Bureau of Investigation. ATF has played a major role in the investigation, throughout. They are here and they will be -- there will be more ATF agents here tomorrow. As I said there are FBI agents here, as well, with our evidence forensic team, and there will be at least 20 to 30 evidence forensic experts here by tomorrow to help process whatever needs to be processed.

With that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can take just a few questions if you're up to it.


QUESTION: Is it possible his hideout could be booby trapped?

SWECKER: We certainly have that concern, but we're, you know, we're going to -- anything that we do is going to be done very methodically, very carefully. We have bomb techs on the scene, and that's -- that'll be the first concern before we go anywhere.


QUESTION: People who have seen him tell me that he's almost like...

SWECKER: I wouldn't want to go into his demeanor, really at this point, but you know, he's calm


QUESTION: You said you had private property involved, have you gone about getting any additional search warrants or get any search warrants at all for any private property here in the Murphy area?

SWECKER: Any search warrants -- any search warrants that we need, we have the U.S. Attorney's Office from the Western district of North Carolina, Joe Rose, to my left, here seated. We're coordinating with the Department of Justice, the Atlanta U.S. Attorney's Office, and Birmingham, as well. These attorneys were all talking, they're having a conference call this evening, things are being coordinated very closely with the attorneys.


QUESTION: Has he asked for a lawyer?

SWECKER: I can't go into that, I mean...

QUESTION: Does he have one?

SWECKER: He has been Mirandized, let's put it that way, but I don't want to go into whether he's asked for...

QUESTION: Are your concerns about possible (UNINTELLIGIBLE) general concerns you've had all along?

SWECKER: General concerns that we've had all along.

QUESTION: Are you asking the people in the area to come forward and give you information about...


QUESTION: But if they come forward and have information that they made contact, then they may be afraid they're going to be charged with aiding and abetting. How are you threading on that issue?

SWECKER: We're asking for anyone who has information to call our command post at 704-377-9200. People that call in with information -- I mean, we can respect their confidentiality, but as far as any potential criminal exposure, their going to have to consult with their own attorneys before they -- you know, before they do that.

QUESTION: Have you gotten any calls saying that the people saying -- yes, we did see him over the last five year, three weeks, at all?

SWECKER: We've been running down leads for five years. You know -- all of these agencies that you see here in front of you, there have been many, many alleged sightings over the years. And as I said this morning, I mean, there has not been any credible sightings since July of '98.

QUESTION: Do you believe he has his health problem (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SWECKER: Won't go into that.


QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) grocery store, he's probably been there many times. I wonder if you've had police staking out places (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not anything recently that I'm aware of, just our general petrol -- general petrol procedures.

QUESTION: What's he doing tonight? Is he eating, is he sleeping? What has he been doing since his capture?

SWECKER: He's been doing a little of both. Tim?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have you -- what can all do now forensically that you couldn't do before, now that you have him in hand?

SWECKER: Well, I -- if I get into that I'm getting into an area that involves the actual evidence, you know -- forensic evidence process. I really can't get into that.

QUESTION: You said -- you said that you're bringing in more people, more people were going to be arriving in the coming days. The folks around here might, say -- listen, Eric Robert Rudolph's been captured, he's in jail -- why do you need to bring in more agents? Why are you going to seek more federal presence in this town?

SWECKER: We're going to have to work backwards from where he was last and wherever he's been. And we're just going to methodically go through the whole thing, obviously we can't just leave here. You know, he's been somewhere and we have to go those places and process those places and see what evidence may be at those places.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, thank you, very much.

SWECKER: Thanks.


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