Routine patrol led to Rudolph's arrest by officer

Sunday, June 1, 2003

MURPHY, N.C. -- Friends say Jeff Postell, a rookie police officer in this small mountain town, has his eye on bigger things -- like becoming an FBI agent.

On Saturday, he did what hundreds of FBI and other law enforcement officers couldn't, arresting one of the nation's most wanted fugitives, Eric Robert Rudolph.

The 21-year-old thought he had nabbed a run-of-the-mill prowler before a colleague recognized Rudolph and the suspected bomber -- with a sigh -- revealed his identity.

"I was doing what I was supposed to be doing," Postell said. "That's just in a day's work. I don't really deserve any credit."

Federal agents for years combed vast areas of wilderness and national forests that surround Murphy looking for Rudolph, who had lived in the area for more than two decades.

Postell -- a police officer for just one year -- was working an overnight patrol shift when he spotted a suspicious man crouching in the middle of an alley behind a shopping center.

"I was under the impression I had a potential breaking and entering or a prowler," he said.

As Postell approached, the man saw him and darted behind stacked milk crates. The officer pulled his gun "and advised him to come out. He complied with everything I asked him to do."

Postell had the man spread-eagled on the asphalt by the time the first backup officer, Charles Kilby, arrived. Cherokee County Sheriff's Deputy Sean Mathews, who arrived a short time later, was the first to realize the suspect looked like Rudolph, Sheriff Keith Lovin said.

The man initially claimed his name was Jerry Wilson when he was taken to jail, but it didn't check out, Kilby said.

Kilby said he was in a room with Mathews and Jody Bandy, a police officer with the Tennessee Valley Authority, when Bandy asked the suspect, "What's your real name?"

"Eric Robert Rudolph," the man replied.

Kilby said Rudolph appeared to sigh with the admission, then added, "I'm relieved."

Friends said the arrest is the kind of thing Postell has always wanted to accomplish. He worked as a security guard at the Wal-Mart in Murphy before joining the police department.

"He was the best at every job he did," former co-worker Linda Liska said. "He's always talked about wanting to be in the FBI or the Secret Service. ... I hope this helps him."

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