Olympic Park Bombing Victims on Bomber's Sentence - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

08/23/05

Olympic Park Bombing Victims on Bomber's Sentence

Victims of the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta are speaking out about Eric Rudolph. Yesterday, Rudolph was sentenced to life behind bars for a second time. The serial bomber struck a deal with the federal government to avoid a death sentence.

Last month, Rudolph was sentenced to another life term for a deadly explosion at a women's clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1998. That blast killed a police officer and severely injured a nurse.

Rudolph's bomb at the Atlanta Olympics killed one woman and injured 111 other people. Two of them were Georgia state troopers from the Coastal Empire, David Averitt and Tommy Sisson.

Over the years, we've followed the story from their perspective. They have mixed emotions about the sentence. They're both glad it's over, but torn over whether it was enough.

Averitt and Sisson have followed Rudolph's case with personal interest. They were both on duty, patrolling Centennial Park the night of the explosion. Sisson says Rudolph's 911 call drew even more officers to the scene and made it more personal.

"He tried to kill me and tried to kill a bunch of us," he said. "But he tried to kill me is the way I look at it."

Not knowing when or if the package would go off, Averitt, Sisson and others hurried to evacuate people from that part of Centennial Park. They were close to it when Rudolph's bomb exploded. Sisson was knocked unconscious.

Averitt says Rudolph's arrest closed the bomber's chapter of his life. "I put closure to it years ago and hopefully after yesterday, to the folks that it affected more, it will bring closure to them," he said.

Both men declined invitations from federal prosecutors to attend Monday's sentencing.

"There was nothing more I needed to say to him and I really didn't want to look at him," said Sisson.

They say Eric Rudolph has taken enough of their lives since the blast and the less time, thought and attention they give him now the better.

Sisson says security changed drastically after the blast for the rest of the Olympics. And he says since September 11, things of course increased even more.

There were three other local troopers working the park that night, among them the man who now heads the Georgia State Patrol, Col. Bill Hitchens from Effingham County.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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