Eric Robert Rudolph (born September 19th, 1966) is a Christian terrorist responsible for a series of anti-abortion and anti-gay-motivated bombings across the southern United States between 1996 and 1998, which killed two people and injured at least 150 others. The Federal Bureau of Investigation considers him a terrorist.
As a teenager Rudolph was taken by his mother to a Church of Israel compound in 1984; it is connected to the Christian Identity movement. Rudolph and his family were connected with the Christian Identity movement, a militant, racist and anti-Semitic organization that believes whites are God's chosen people. He has confirmed religious motivation, but denied racial motivation for his crimes.
He spent five years on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives until he was caught in 2003. In 2005, as part of a plea bargain, Rudolph pleaded guilty to numerous federal and state homicide charges and accepted four consecutive life sentences in exchange for avoiding a trial and a potential death sentence. He remains incarcerated at the ADX Florence supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
Rudolph was born on September 19, 1966, in Merritt Island, Florida. His father Robert died in 1981, and Rudolph (then 15 years old) moved with his mother and siblings to Nantahala, Macon County, in southwestern North Carolina.
He attended ninth grade at the Nantahala School but dropped out after that year and worked as a carpenter with his older brother Daniel. His mother believed in survivalism and instilled this ideology in Rudolph.
After Rudolph received his GED, he attended Western Carolina University in Cullowhee for two semesters in 1985 and 1986. In August 1987, Rudolph enlisted in the U.S. Army, undergoing basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia.
He was discharged in January 1989 while serving with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, reportedly for smoking marijuana. In 1988, the year before his discharge, Rudolph had attended the Air Assault School at Fort Campbell. He never rose above the rank of Private E-1.
Of the bombings committed by Rudolph, the most notorious was the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta on July 27, 1996, during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The blast killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others.
Hawthorne had attended the Olympics with her daughter because she wanted to watch the American basketball team. Melih Uzunyol, a Turkish cameraman who ran to the scene following the blast, died of a heart attack. Rudolph's motive for the bombings, according to his April 13, 2005 statement, was political:
In the summer of 1996, the world converged upon Atlanta for the Olympic Games. Under the protection and auspices of the regime in Washington millions of people came to celebrate the ideals of global socialism. Multinational corporations spent billions of dollars, and Washington organized an army of security to protect these best of all games. Even though the conception and purpose of the so-called Olympic movement is to promote the values of global socialism, as perfectly expressed in the song "Imagine" by John Lennon, which was the theme of the 1996 Games even though the purpose of the Olympics is to promote these despicable ideals, the purpose of the attack on July 27 was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.
The plan was to force the cancellation of the Games, or at least create a state of insecurity to empty the streets around the venues and thereby eat into the vast amounts of money invested.
His plan was unsuccessful. The Olympic organizers did not even cancel the day's events.
Rudolph has also confessed to the bombings of an abortion clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs on January 16, 1997, a gay and lesbian nightclub, the Otherside Lounge, in Atlanta on February 21, 1997, injuring five, and an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama on January 29, 1998, killing officer Robert Sanderson and critically injuring nurse Emily Lyons. Rudolph's bombs were made of dynamite surrounded by nails which acted as shrapnel.
He is said to have targeted the health clinic and office building because abortions were performed there, and targeted the Otherside Lounge because it was a predominantly lesbian nightclub.