Reprinted from www.libertylobby.org, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive
Carolina Ready to Erupt
A tinderbox is waiting to ignite in a remote area of North Carolina. Dozens of federal agents have harassed local residents while searching, in vain, for a wily 31-year-old carpenter accused of being a crazed bomber.
It is reportedly the biggest manhunt ever conducted by the FBI for a single individual.
Some 200 FBI and BATF agents are currently stationed in the small town of Andrews, in the mountains of western North Carolina. They are hunting for Eric Robert Rudolph, accused by the Justice Department of several bombings.
Rudolph has been charged with the 1998 bombing at the Olympic Games in Atlanta and an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., last Jan. 29. Most recently, he was charged with the bombing in 1997 of a homosexual bar and an abortion clinic in Atlanta.
Last May, Rudolph was placed on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" list and the Justice Department is offering a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
The agents have established a sprawling headquarters complex in a 15,000 square foot former factory building in downtown Andrews, behind the community's hospital. It serves as an elaborate communications center as well as barracks for the federal agents.
The facility is surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. It is protected by armed guards, a video surveillance system and motion sensors around its perimeter.
There are landing pads for five army helicopters, including at least one red cross-marked Medevac helicopter.
Residents of Andrews, which has a population of about 1,100 are beginning to confront agents in anger on the streets. This is after the agents have searched private homes, apparently without warrants, have followed private automobiles without cause, reportedly stopping some, and have had dozens of residents under surveillance of one form or another.
The FBI has been searching the Andrews area since early this year, concentrating their search in a mountainous area about 20 square miles around Andrews.
On Nov. 11, at about 10 p.m., the situation turned violent when someone, as yet unidentified, stopped a car along the street beside the complex and fired eight shots from a semi-automatic rifle. The bullets penetrated the metal-clad building, one shot creasing the scalp of an agent.
According to SPOTLIGHT sources on the scene who spoke with the FBI, the agents immediately instituted a state of emergency for Western North Carolina.
In order to be legitimate, a state of emergency must be declared publicly. This, however, was not done, although the fact that it is in place was told to local residents by FBI Special Agent Terry Terchie.
After the shooting, the agents fanned out through the community and the Army helicopters began flying overhead at near tree-top level.
While a helicopter hovered over one house, the homeowner, Philip Rogers, pointed at the aircraft with a red light from a toy laser obtained by his 10- year-old daughter from a local convenience store.
Rogers was immediately sought for assault and was driven to the Andrews Police Department by a neighbor Ramon Sparks. In the parking lot, the two men were surrounded and thrown to the ground by a black-clad FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) of about a dozen agents.
The two citizens were kicked and stomped by the officers and taken into custody where they were again beaten as they were interrogated.
Sparks was released a short while later by the agents. Rogers was held on $20,000 bond, apparently awaiting charges of assaulting federal offecers to be filed.
As a result of the two men being taken into custody, there have been numerous "touchy situations" that have developed on the streets of Andrews, where citizens confronted agents with accusations of harassment and brutality.
Unable to get the attention of the media after learning of the brutal apprehension of their fellow townsmen, residents of Andrews circulated throughout the town a flyer, outlining the circumstances and calling the agents "brutal tyrants."
The SPOTLIGHT called the office of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), where a spokesman would say only that the senator was "keeping up with the situation there."
A call to Rep. Charles Taylor, a Republican who represents the Andrews area, was supposed to be followed up by the congressman's press officer. When he was asked if his boss was aware of the tension in Andrews, he said he would check and return the call. He did not, and a subsequent call by The SPOTLIGHT found him "out of the office."
Neither Helms nor Taylor has risen to defend the rights of their constituents.
The federal agents believe that Rudolph is holed-up somewhere in the mountainous area around Andrews.
Could Rudolph have ventured into the town to shoot at the FBI complex?
It is possible, although a Cherokee county police officer, who requested anonymity, said he doubts it.
However, last summer, he reportedly entered the town and purchased a supply of groceries from a store, located about a block from the FBI complex.