Eric Robert Rudolph and Other Antigovernment Fugitives Remain on the Run
A surprising number of antigovernment fugitives, some of them nationally known, remain on the run
Some of them are famous, or infamous, like accused abortion clinic and Olympics bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. Others are little known to the general public, such as Timothy Thomas Coombs, a man accused of shooting a Missouri state highway patrol officer through the trooper's window as he sat eating ice cream.
They are all alleged right-wing extremists, men who may have taken up arms to battle the federal government or other enemies. And they all have been on the run from authorities, in some cases for a matter of years, managing to elude major state or federal manhunts.
Although there is no direct proof that these men have received sustained help from others in the radical right, many analysts and authorities believe they must have — a theory supported by experiences with similar radical fugitives in the past. Here, assuming they are still alive, are their stories.
· Federal and state officials have been searching for almost five years for Timothy Thomas Coombs, a 39-year-old adherent of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity religion. Coombs is accused of shooting Cpl. Bobbie J. Harper, a Missouri state trooper, to avenge the arrest of another right-wing religious extremist.
On Sept. 16, 1994, a sniper shot Harper with a bullet that barely missed his heart as he stood at his kitchen window in McDonald County, near the Arkansas border. (Harper died of apparently unrelated heart disease in 1996.)
Coombs was allegedly enraged at Harper's role in the arrest of Robert Joos, pastor of the Sacerdotal Order of David Company, who was ultimately convicted of resisting arrest and carrying a concealed weapon.
Police linked Coombs to the attempted murder by shell casings found at his Witt Springs, Ark., home. He has been tied to a number of extremists, including the antigovernment Montana Freemen and accused white supremacist murderer Chevie Kehoe. His father, Harry Albert Coombs Jr., 63, has served time for tax evasion.
· Michigan militiaman Paul David Darland, who once served as a bodyguard for the hardline leader of the U.S. Militia at Large (USML), is being sought in the 1994 execution-style murder of another militia member.
The chain of events leading to the killing began when Darland and several other camouflage-clad followers of USML leader Mark "from Michigan" Koernke were pulled over in September by Fowlerville, Mich., police who found a virtual arsenal in their car.
After posting bond, the men, who included Darland and William M. Gleason, then 26, disappeared, eventually holing up at a militia sympathizer's farm. While there, Darland and two other men allegedly became enraged at Koernke, who had promised legal help that never came. At the same time, they suspected that Gleason had remained loyal to Koernke.
Darland allegedly led the group in taking turns digging a grave meant for Koernke. When Gleason took his turn, police say, Darland shot him as he shoveled. Authorities believe that Darland, a 27-year-old habitué of topless clubs who once eluded police by swimming across a lake, may have left the state.
· Five years after being indicted on federal drug charges, alleged right-wing mastermind Brian Michael Knoff is still a fugitive. Knoff, now 61, is accused of having built up a major drug smuggling operation in connection with the Sinaloa mafia in Mexico, among others, to finance revolutionary white supremacist activities.
When his New Mexico home was searched in 1994, an address book was found with the names of 30 major radical right-wing leaders.
That same year, Knoff gave seminars on "common-law" theory, and was invited to a major conference hosted by a leading Christian Identity adherent. On June 18, Knoff and two associates, speaking on a luxury yacht in the waters off Tampa, Fla., were surreptitiously recorded as they discussed plans to set up a major marijuana-smuggling operation through Cuba.
Knoff said he wanted to use his profits to "help some of the good people" in the antigovernment movement. Knoff, who once served time for tax evasion, has operated in Florida, North Dakota and Texas, among other places.
· Twelve days after Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot in his kitchen on Oct. 23, 1998, federal authorities announced they were seeking longtime anti-abortion hardliner James Charles Kopp as a material witness. Slepian, an obstetrician-gynecologist who lived in Amherst, N.Y., was shot through the back and died as his wife and 15-year-old son looked on.
Kopp, 44, has been arrested during clinic blockades in California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, West Virginia and Atlanta, where in 1988 he earned the nickname "Atomic Dog" while imprisoned with fellow hardliners.
Although he has not been named as a suspect, Kopp allegedly was seen by witnesses jogging near Slepian's house on the day of the murder. A car registered to him was spotted nearby. A hair believed to belong to Kopp was found near the scene.
And records show Kopp's 1987 Chevrolet Cavalier had crossed the U.S.-Canadian border at times that would fit with the unsolved shootings of at least two other doctors.
A task force of 50 agents has failed to find Kopp, who authorities now believe may have fled to Mexico.