Richard Jewell found dead in home
Richard Jewell, the Centennial Olympic Park security guard once suspected — but later cleared — in the bombing of the park during the 1996 Summer Games, was found dead Wednesday in his home in Meriwether County. He was 44.
A year ago this month, Jewell was commended by Gov. Sonny Perdue at an event marking the 10th anniversary of the bombing. "The bottom line is this: His actions saved lives that day," said Perdue. "Mr. Jewell, on behalf of Georgia, we want to thank you for keeping Georgians safe and doing your job during the course of those Games." Jewell, his voice choked with emotion, responded: "I never sought to be a hero. I have always viewed myself as just one of the many trained professionals who simply did his or her job that tragic night. I wish I could have done more."
In early news reports, Jewell was lauded as a hero for helping to evacuate the area after he spotted the suspicious package. Three days later, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed that the FBI was treating him as a possible suspect, based largely on a "lone bomber" criminal profile. For the next several weeks, the news media focused aggressively on him as the presumed culprit, sifting through his life to match a leaked "lone bomber" profile that the FBI had used. Two of the bombing victims filed lawsuits against Jewell on the basis of this reporting. In a reference to the unabomber, Jay Leno called him the "Una-doofus". Though he was never officially charged, the FBI aggressively investigated him in spite of a continuing lack of evidence. They publicly searched his home, questioned his associates, investigated his background, and maintained twenty-four hour surveillance of Jewell. The pressure only began to ease after Jewell's attorneys hired an ex-FBI agent to administer a polygraph, which Jewell reportedly passed. Despite this, in the searches of Jewell's residence, which he shared with his mother, the FBI confiscated his mother's tupperware collection and family photographs. When these items were returned, many pieces of the tupperware had been broken, and the photographs were ripped apart.
Jewell sued the New York Post for libel for $15 million over a series of stories and a photograph caption. The newspaper reportedly called Jewell "a Village Rambo" and "a fat, failed former sheriff’s deputy."
One-time Olympic park bombing suspect Richard Jewell dies
After 12 weeks of scrutiny following the bombing, Jewell was cleared by the FBI and U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander in an unprecedented government acknowledgment of wrongful accusation.
"I am not the Olympic park bomber," Jewell told reporters after being cleared. "I am a man who has lived 88 days afraid of being arrested for a crime I did not commit."
The FBI, Jewell said, trampled on his rights "in its rush to show the world it could get its man," while the news media "cared nothing about my feelings as a human being" in its rush to get a story on the bombing.
Jewell was working as a private security guard in Centennial Olympic Park about 1 a.m. on July 27 when he identified a suspicious unidentified package and began moving people away from it. The package turned out to contain the bomb, which went off, killing one person and wounding more than 100.
He was originally hailed as a hero for moving people away, but he was later thrust into a different light when the FBI suspected that he had set off the bomb to give himself an opportunity to be a hero.
For weeks, reporters and camera crews camped outside Jewell's Atlanta apartment, capturing every move that he -- and the FBI -- made.
Comment: Here's a man who was a true hero and saved lives by his actions. He was pilloried and vilified by the media! I cannot imagine what this man and his family must have suffered emotionally! May he rest in peace!