Cherokee County deputy Sean Matthews, known to all as Turtle, was walking out of Fatback's Citgo with a paper cup of coffee in his hand when he heard a commotion on his patrol car radio. As he climbed behind the wheel he could make out Jeff Postell's voice shouting "man with a gun!" It sounded pretty urgent. Jody Bandy, an officer with the Tennessee Valley Authority whose jurisdiction covered the federal lakes in the region, had stopped for coffee with Matthews and heard the same call. He jumped into his own car, and both of them took off with their lights on and sirens blaring. By the time they arrived at the Save-A-Lot alley, a third backup had already arrived: Charles Kilby, an off-duty city policeman who had been finishing some paperwork at the station when the call came in.
As the four officers stood around the man lying face-down in the dirt, Postell started asking him the routine questions: What's your name? Where are you from and what are you doing here? The man seemed calm and respectful. Cooperative. He said his name was Jerry Wilson, born December 19, 1964, but he had no identification on him. He was homeless, he said, just passing through from Ohio. He'd been living under a bridge, and he was hungry. He looked to be somewhere in his thirties, thin, average height, with short dark hair. He wore a dirty camouflage jacket, black tennis shoes and dark pants tied at the ankles with string. A bulge underneath his jacket turned out to be a pair of binoculars. The object tucked under his arm was not a gun, but a long black Mag-lite slung on a piece of rope. Nearby they found an army rucksack, empty except for some plastic bags and string. Postell called his dispatch to run an identity check, and the name and date of birth he gave came back "no match." That was odd. Most people had at least some sort of records in the system.
Jody Bandy asked "Mr. Wilson" if he had a social security number. He'd lost his, he said, and added, "I don't believe in them."
Meanwhile Matthews was staring at the man on the ground. He asked him to roll over, and the man turned his face away. Matthews asked him again, and this time he flipped himself over on his side. The deputy bent down and pointed his flashlight in the man's face. He had a few days' stubble on his cheeks, a noticeable scar on his chin and searing blue eyes. Matthew's stomach started to churn. He was just about sure. And he might as well forget about the vacation he was planning to take, starting this morning.
He stood up and pulled his colleagues aside. "This looks like Eric Rudolph."