Osama bin Laden was tracked down in Abbottabad, Pakistan, after a decade-long hunt
Ted Kaczynski was captured in Montana years after his bombing campaign began
Renegade ex-cop Christopher Dorner took his own life after he was cornered in a cabin
James 'Whitey' Bulger spent 16 years on the run before his arrest in California
Over the years, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officers have tracked a host of elusive criminals, most of them within the United States. Here are some of the most prominent examples.
Osama Bin Laden
The al Qaeda chief was tracked down nearly 10 years after the 9/11 attacks in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He was fatally shot after a team of elite Navy SEALs raided the bin Laden compound just after midnight on the morning of May 2, 2011. U.S. President Barack Obama made the decision to launch the raid on Pakistani territory, about 30 miles north of the capital, Islamabad, without knowing for certain whether bin Laden was there. But the work of intelligence analysts and the CIA proved accurate, and the long search for a man seen as America’s enemy No. 1 was brought to a bloody conclusion. Two of bin Laden’s bodyguards, one of his sons and the wife of one of the bodyguards also were killed.
A string of mail bombings carried out by Ted Kaczynski over 17 years from 1978 claimed the lives of three people and injured 23 others. A year after his first device exploded, an FBI-led task force was formed to investigate. But it wasn’t until 1995 that the FBI got the break they needed in the case, after publishing a 35,000 word manifesto sent by the man who became known as the “Unabomber,” he was finally identified by his brother. On April 3, 1996, investigators raided Kaczynski’s primitive cabin near Lincoln, Montana, and he was arrested. He’s serving eight life sentences for murder.
Renegade ex-officer Christopher Dorner led California police on a days-long chase before he was tracked to a hideout in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles. He took his own life February 12 while holed up in a cabin that caught fire when police fired tear gas canisters into it. He had killed four people and wounded three others as part of a vendetta against his former officers.
Eric Robert Rudolph
It took police nearly seven years to hunt down the man who planted a bomb in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, killing two. Other bombings followed, one deadly. Eric Robert Rudolph was identified as a suspect in 1998, and police came close to catching him in a search of homes and woods in Murphy, North Carolina, after two raccoon hunters found his abandoned truck. He eluded capture and, despite a $1 million reward on his head, it was not until May 2003 that a rookie police officer arrested him in Murphy. Rudolph is serving four consecutive sentences of life in prison plus 120 years for the attacks.
James ’Whitey’ Bulger
Alleged Boston mob figure James “Whitey” Bulger spent more than a decade on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list before he was captured in June 2011 in Santa Monica, California, after 16 years on the run. He was discovered hidden in plain sight, living in an apartment in the oceanside city near Los Angeles. His girlfriend, Catherine Greig, was sentenced to eight years in prison last summer for helping him evade capture. Bulger, the accused former head of Boston’s notorious Winter Hill gang, now faces 19 murder charges, as well as charges including extortion, money laundering and narcotics distribution.
In November 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper hijacked a plane and succeeded in getting authorities to give him $200,000 and parachutes in return for letting passengers off the plane. The man then asked to be flown to Mexico but jumped out of the back of Northwest Orient Flight 305 somewhere between Seattle and Reno, Nevada. Authorities have never been able to prove whether the man survived or his actual identity. In 2011, the FBI said DNA on the necktie of the man known as D.B. Cooper did not match that of a new suspect in the case, but he was not ruled out as a suspect. The suspect’s niece, Marla Cooper, who’d alerted the FBI, said she thought the man she knew as Uncle L.D. had died in 1999. The case remains unsolved.
Bonnie and Clyde
The pursuit of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the notorious lovebird bandits, made headlines across the United States during the Great Depression. According to the FBI, the authorities first picked up their trail in late 1932 thanks to the discovery of a prescription bottle filled for Clyde’s aunt, which the pair had left in a stolen car. A warrant was issued for both in May 1933 and the hunt was on. The lovers and their gang carried out a series of daring robberies but evaded capture despite a number of violent brushes with the law. Bonnie and Clyde were finally ambushed and fatally shot by a police posse in Louisiana in May 1934. They are believed to have committed 13 murders and several robberies and burglaries, as well as auto thefts.
John Wilkes Booth
Actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth staked his claim as America’s first presidential assassin on the night of April 14, 1865, shooting Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head during a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Booth managed to escape the theater through a stage door, jumped on a horse, and headed south through Maryland. Struggling with a broken leg and with federal troops in hot pursuit, Booth crossed the Potomac River into Virginia on April 21. A few days later, however, authorities trapped him in a barn on Richard Garrett’s Virginia farm. They set fire to the barn on April 26, and shot Booth as he tried to defend himself.
On the morning of April 19, 1995, disgruntled Army veteran Timothy McVeigh detonated a massive bomb in a Ryder truck left in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. 168 people were killed in the blast, including 19 children. While the FBI was able to put together a sketch of McVeigh, he was ultimately apprehended by an Oklahoma police officer who pulled him over for driving a car without a license plate. The officer noticed McVeigh was carrying a gun, and arrested him for illegal possession of a firearm. While in custody, McVeigh was identified as the likely bomber. He was executed by lethal injection at a federal facility in Terre Haute, Indiana, on June 11, 2001.
The D.C. snipers
For three weeks in October 2002, the greater Washington D.C. area was virtually paralyzed by a series of random sniper murders. Ten people were killed and another three were seriously injured before John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo – a minor at the time – were caught sleeping in their car at a rest stop off Interstate 70 in Maryland. Muhammad was executed in Virginia in November 2009; Malvo was sentenced to six life sentences with no chance of parole. The pair was also tied to murders in Washington State, Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama.