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In a new depiction of the events and aftermath of the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in the series “Manhunt: Deadly Games,” the man behind the attack goes on to terrorize communities and even murder a man in his bed, all while a wrongfully accused scapegoat is ripped apart by the media.
The second season of “Manhunt: Deadly Games'' takes on the story of Richard Jewell, the security guard who discovered a suspicious package that contained a pipe bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The crowd in Centennial Olympic Park was able to begin evacuating, but the explosive device detonated, killing one person and injuring 111 others. Even though Jewell's vigilance saved lives, he was identified as the culprit during the immediate aftermath, instead of a hero. His reputation was quickly ripped apart, and it was an ordeal from which he never fully recovered.
It took 88 days for Jewell to be officially cleared following the Olympics bombing, as well as several other attacks, before the real bomber, Eric Rudolph, was caught. Rudolph was captured in May 2003 while “rummaging through a trash bin behind a rural grocery [store] in Murphy, North Carolina.” He’d already made the FBI's top 10 fugitive list.
As “Manhunt: Deadly Games'' depicts, Rudolph continued his reign of terror after Jewell took the fall. While the series’ timeline makes it seem as though all the subsequent bombings occurred before Jewell was cleared, many came after the FBI realized Jewell was no longer a target.
Rudolph set off two bombs at an abortion clinic in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs in January 1997, which resulted in seven people being injured, CNN reported. The following month, he put a bomb in Otherside Lounge, a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta, which injured four people when it detonated. A second bomb was found in the club before it went off. Then in January 1998, he set off a bomb in Birmingham, Alabama which killed a security guard and injured a nurse.
The details of what Rudolph did between 1998 and 2003 aren't exactly clear. The FBI notes that he "managed to elude law enforcement officials for five years while hiding out in the mountains.” However, the new Netflix series takes some creative liberties with the events around Rudolph’s capture.
While the FBI has clearly stated that the terrorist was located as he was sifting through the trash, the series portrays a dramatic chase by investigators. For example, there is a vehicle pursuit through a wooded area of North Carolina, which never actually happened. In the show, federal investigators track the bomber to the area and attempt to capture him, but they are met with angry militia members who cover for Rudolph.
On the show, while hiding out in the woods, Rudolph is depicted as killing two of the locals he befriended — shooting one man and coldly smothering a second man who is intellectually disabled with a pillow.
Newsweek points out that some residents of Murphy, North Carolina — where Rudolph was captured — did not appreciate the show’s depiction of their town as uncooperative and militia-friendly. In reality, there is no evidence to suggest that Randolph got by with any local assistance. While there were some rumors that he had help, the then-mayor insisted the terrorist received none, the Associated Press reported in 2003. There was, however, evidence to suggest that he did garner at least some sympathy. Bumper stickers were spotted in North Carolina at the time which read "Run Eric Run,” according to the same AP report.
During his five years on the run, it's believed Rudolph hid out in caves, campsites, and cabins, and foraged food from the trash of local restaurants and grocery stores to survive.
There is also no evidence that Rudolph killed anyone while on the run, following his bombing spree.
Currently, Rudolph is serving his prison term at the ADX Florence Supermax prison in Colorado, where he is expected to remain for the rest of his life.
He launched an effort earlier this year to get out of the supermax, filing a handwritten request in June explaining that he wants either a new sentencing hearing or a chance to change his plea. In that 11-page handwritten request, Rudolph, writing in the third person, claimed that his crimes are no longer considered acts of violence, AL.com reported. He also asserted that his sentence was “in excess of the maximum authorized by law or was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.” He wrote that he wants his sentence vacated and to be sentenced to time served.
His public defender filed more arguments for that request in October, the Associated Press reported at the time.
Prosecutors maintain that Rudolph had waived his right to appeal when he took the plea deal.
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