In a press conference on October 28, 1996, security guard Richard Jewell delivers an emotional account of the hardship he suffered after being erroneously blamed for planting a pipe bomb at the Atlanta Olympic Games on July 27.
What really happened to Richard Jewell? Clint Eastwood's movie on 1996 Olympics bombing under fire
Legendary Hollywood actor and director Clint Eastwood's new movie "Richard Jewell" has been getting Oscar-buzz since its premiere in November, but now it's attracting attention of a different kind.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has threatened Warner Bros. with a defamation lawsuit over the film, which tells the story of a 1996 Atlanta Olympics security guard who saved hundreds of lives during a domestic terrorist attack, only to have his name smeared and life derailed by careless news coverage and a controversial FBI investigation.
Fox Nation's new documentary, "Hero for a Moment: The Richard Jewell Story," re-examined the bombing and its aftermath using rare footage of police interrogations and interviews with the authors of "The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle."
"[Jewell] had a passion for being in law enforcement," Tom Davis, Special Agent-in-Charge at Georgia Bureau of Investigation, told Fox Nation, "That's kind of the first impression that I got from him is that he really wanted to be a cop."
Davis met Jewell when Davis worked as the assistant supervisor at Centennial Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic games. Part of Jewell's responsibilities entailed patrolling the area around a temporary media tower that was constructed on the grounds. On July 27, 1996, Jewell spotted a suspicious bag under a bench beneath the tower and alerted Davis.
"Richard. was very concerned about the backpack," recalled Davis. "I would categorize it more as being very overzealous about the situation more than freaking out about it. We just started asking all of the people in the general area if the backpack belonged to them. And of course, no one claimed ownership of it."
A bomb diagnostic team was dispatched and one of them looked inside the bag and saw wires and pipes. They didn't immediately realize that it was a bomb, but security guards began moving people away from the area. Then all of a sudden three pipes bombs--filled with nails and screws--exploded.
"I won't ever forget," said Davis. "It was a very loud explosion. And the heat from it was tremendous. It just forced me to the ground. And from that point on, it was just utter chaos."
Two people were killed, a 44-year old Georgia woman and a Turkish cameraman who was trying to cover the incident. More than 100 others were injured. Law enforcement immediately started searching for suspects and the media initially hailed Jewell as a hero.
"Everyone wants to know who the security guard is," said Kent Alexander, who was the U.S. attorney in Atlanta in 1996 and co-author of "The Suspect." "You got interviews on CNN, interviews with newspapers all around, interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tuesday morning, he's on with Katie Couric on 'The Today Show.'"
"Unbeknownst to Richard Jewell, by that time, he had become the FBI's top suspect," continued Alexander, and soon that information would be reported to the public.
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 28: Richard Jewell smiles during a press conference in Atlanta, Ga. Jewell was cleared as a suspect in the July 27 bombing of Centennial Olympic Park, three months after the FBI announced that he was their prime suspect. (Photo credit should read DOUG COLLIER/AFP/Getty Images)
"Kathy Scruggs was the one who broke the story about Richard Jewell," said Lyda Longa, who was a police reporter for the newspaper during the 1996 games, to Fox Nation. "She had very good contacts with the police department. She had been there a few years and she had contacts with the FBI. And I believe the name came to her through somebody from the FBI."
The AJC's legal team sent a six-page letter to Warner Bros. and Eastwood on Monday claiming that the film misrepresents the work of Scruggs, who died in 2001. The paper alleges that the movie suggests that Scruggs had sex with an FBI agent in exchange for sensitive information in the investigation.
Warner Bros. slammed AJC's "baseless" claims, accusing the paper of "trying to malign our filmmakers and cast."
Paul Walter Hauser stars as Richard Jewell, a security guard investigated in connection with the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996.
Scruggs report set off a chain of events that upended the FBI investigation and kicked off a nightmare for Jewell, who was later cleared by the FBI.
On July 30, the night after Scruggs' article was published, NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw said on-air, "'They probably have enough to arrest him right now. probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still holes in this case.''
"Imagine what this was like for Richard Jewell," Fox News legal and political analyst Gregg Jarrett told Fox Nation. "He saved countless lives. He's being hailed internationally as a hero. All of a sudden, he's a villain. He's the monster who did this. And the Olympics hadn't even ended yet."
Alexander said: "No one wanted his name out there when the story broke that Richard Jewell was a suspect. It threw the investigation to pandemonium. People were shocked. Pounding the table with their fists. It just wasn't something that law enforcement wanted to say."
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Richard Jewell's lawyer agrees the movie smeared Atlanta newspaper reporter
The attorney for Richard Jewell, who came under suspicion in the 1996 Olympic Park bombing before he was exonerated, criticized the movie "Richard Jewell" on Thursday night, calling its depiction of a reporter at the center of the movie "false and damning."
The movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, strongly suggests that the reporter, Kathy Scruggs of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, slept with an FBI agent to get information on the investigation.
Many journalists have strongly criticized the portrayal as perpetuating a pernicious and false stereotype that some female journalists trade sex for information, which U.S. news organizations prohibit as unethical.
Scruggs died in 2001 at age 42. Jewell died in 2007 at age 44. The Journal-Constitution has maintained that there is no evidence that Scruggs slept with anyone involved in the investigation and has demanded that Warner Bros. and the filmmakers release a statement acknowledging that they took dramatic license in their portrayal of Scruggs.
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In a thread on Twitter on Thursday night, Lin Wood, the prominent defamation lawyer who represented Jewell in lawsuits against The Journal-Constitution and other media organizations, joined the movie's critics.
Referring to the newspaper by its commonly used nickname, Wood wrote: "I handled Richard Jewell's case against AJC for 16 years. By the time the case ended, Richard & Ms. Scruggs had both passed away. There was NO evidence to support a storyline that Ms. Scruggs traded sex for tips about Richard. We never made such a false & damning claim."
1/ I handled Richard Jewell’s case against AJC for 16 years. By the time the case ended, Richard & Ms. Scruggs had both passed away. There was NO evidence to support a storyline that Ms. Scruggs traded sex for tips about Richard. We never made such a false & damning claim. https://t.co/Wii3yiCK7y— Lin Wood (@LLinWood) December 13, 2019
Wood went on to write that evidence showed Scruggs was dating an Atlanta police officer at the time of the investigation and that the newspaper independently confirmed with the FBI that Jewell was a leading suspect before publication.
"That story might not win anyone an Oscar, but it is the truth under the evidence," Wood wrote.
In 2011, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled for the newspaper, which had refused to negotiate a settlement of Jewell's lawsuit. Other news organizations, including NBC News, settled similar cases, generally for undisclosed sums and with the assertion that they stood by their reporting.
In addition to Eastwood and the movie's production team, Olivia Wilde, the actor who played Scruggs in the movie, has also come under criticism. She responded earlier Thursday in a long Twitter thread, saying she wanted to share her perspective on the role and clarify previous comments in which she said she thought the controversy was a "basic misunderstanding of feminism as pious sexlessness."
One of the things I love about directing is the ability to control the voice and message of the film. As an actor, it’s more complicated, and I want to share my perspective on my role in the film “Richard Jewell”.— olivia wilde (@oliviawilde) December 12, 2019
"Contrary to a swath of recent headlines, I do not believe that Kathy 'traded sex for tips,'" Wilde tweeted. "Nothing in my research suggested she did so, and it was never my intention to suggest she had. That would be an appalling and misogynistic dismissal of the difficult work she did."
"The perspective of the fictional dramatization of the story, as I understood it, was that Kathy, and the FBI agent who leaked false information to her, were in a pre-existing romantic relationship, not a transactional exchange of sex for information," Wilde continued.
Wilde also said in her Twitter thread that Scruggs was at the center of the "brutal and unjust vilification" of Jewell and that the film centered on the tragedy of the accusations against him.
Eric Rudolph, an American domestic terrorist, was later found to have been responsible for setting off the bomb, which killed one person and injured 111 other people at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta in July 1996. Jewell, a security guard at the park, helped to evacuate the area after the bomb was discovered.
Scruggs' former friends and colleagues spoke about the journalist's legacy at The Journal-Constitution for an article in the newspaper titled "The Ballad of Kathy Scruggs." Scruggs' former reporting partner, Ron Martz, played by David Shae in the movie, said no one from the film contacted him.
"If they had actually contacted me, it might have ruined their idea of what they wanted the story to be," Martz told the newspaper. "It's obvious to me they did not go to any great lengths to find out what the real characters were like."
He went on to say that Scruggs was "one of the better reporters I ever worked with."
Cleared in Olympics Blast, Jewell Gets Cash From NBC
ATLANTA -- Richard Jewell, the world's most famous security guard, has recently racked up two big wins: a very public statement by the FBI that he didn't plant the bomb that shattered the 1996 Olympics, and a very quiet, six-figure settlement from NBC, whose star news anchor had landed the network in a difficult position.
How did Mr. Jewell manage to make the transition from well-known suspect to highly compensated victim? The story actually begins not last July, with the bombing, but a decade ago, on the eighth floor of Atlanta's Richard Russell Federal Building.
It was there that Mr. Jewell met the man who would come to serve as his crusading lawyer. Back then, Mr. Jewell was a supply clerk in the mail room, and G. Watson Bryant Jr. was a low-level, loan-closing attorney for the Small Business Administration. Some days, Mr. Bryant would give Mr. Jewell a ride home and let him borrow his radar detector. They often took lunch breaks together at a nearby Chick-Fil-A and zapped imaginary aliens in the "Galaxians" video game at the Gold Mine arcade.
Now the two have teamed up again, this time against far bigger targets. Along with a pair of outspoken personal-injury lawyers, Messrs. Jewell and Bryant are mounting a sustained assault on some of the nation's largest media companies. They have already taken on NBC and anchor Tom Brokaw, wresting the extraordinary cash payment to avert a possible defamation lawsuit. The network didn't issue an apology, and its settlement attracted few headlines when it was announced Dec. 9. But people familiar with the deal said NBC agreed to pay over $500,000 -- far more than the "nuisance value" that is occasionally offered to potential plaintiffs.
Mr. Jewell's legal team has also sued an Atlanta radio station, claiming it unfairly ridiculed Mr. Jewell in a local billboard campaign. The lawyers have publicly threatened to sue the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Emboldened by the NBC deal, the lawyers have secretly met with a Cable News Network executive to discuss a settlement. CNN, a unit of Time Warner Inc., declines to comment.
Illustration by Jeremy White
This article originally appeared in our December 1996 issue.
That adjective haunted Richard Jewell long before he became known as the FBI’s leading suspect in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing on July 27, 1996.
Even as a kid Jewell seemed driven by some deep-seated need to always do more than he was asked.
Take the instance at Towers High School, in Dekalb County. One morning he spied a new teacher walking across the parking lot, struggling to carry two cardboard boxes full of books. He went bouncing across the lawn and walked up to the social studies instructor with a smile on his face. “Can I help you, sir?” he asked, grabbing one of the boxes and leading Richard Muska to his classroom.
Unlike many of the other students, Richard would come to Muska’s room between classes and pal around, telling stories and jokes. His friendliness didn’t strike Muska as calculating. Above all, he believed Richard was genuine — a good kid, always willing to help.
But by the time he became a cop, 11 years later, it was Jewell’s zeal to please that often became his betrayer.
Like the time he was moonlighting as a security officer at a DeKalb County apartment complex and went to break up a late-night party at a hot tub. He could have called the cops and waited for them, but instead, he went to break it up himself and wound up getting arrested for impersonating a police officer.
Or the time he was deputy sheriff in Habersham County and, he would later say, noticed a car pulling out from behind a building. It looked suspicious, so he took off after and wound up crashing his patrol car. Not only that, but the sheriff was skeptical of this story and busted him down to guard duty in the county jail. Instead, he quit the force.
Then there’s the time he was working security for Piedmont College. It didn’t take him long to aggravate the college brass, issuing tickets off-campus on the main highway and writing long, detailed reports on seemingly minor incidents and suggesting undercover investigations. They wound up asking for his resignation.
Then he landed a job as a security guard in the AT&T Global Village, in Centennial Olympic Park. Beneath a bench, yards away from the entrance to the light and sound tower where he was stationed, he spotted a knapsack that contained a bomb. It exploded, killing a woman and injuring 111 but without Jewell’s discovery the numbers could have been staggering. For three days Jewell was the toast of Atlanta, of the country, even the world.
For a moment it seemed that Richard Jewell’s zeal had finally served him right. Then, in the blink of an eye, everything went wrong. The blaring headline on Tuesday, July 30, 1996, said it all: FBI SUSPECTS ‘HERO’ GUARD MAY HAVE PLANTED BOMB.
Before the Olympic bombing made his name a household word, Richard Allensworth Jewell had lived about as anonymous a life as possible. “Unremarkable,” is the way Habersham County Attorney Robb Kiker describes Jewell’s five-year tenure as a deputy sheriff in that county. “In fact, when this happened, I had to think for five minutes just to bring to mind which officer he was,” says Kiker.
Jewell, 33, was born in Danville, Va. But little is known of his time there. Reporters for the Danville Register & Bee combed through old telephone books and city directories looking for listings of the Jewell family. They checked other likely sources tax records, marriage records, death records, the real estate register. Nothing.
A spokesman for the schools could not confirm if Jewell was ever a student. Records at Dan River — the city’s largest employer — didn’t show that anyone by the name of Jewell had ever worked at the mill during the 1960s, the time the family presumably lived there. In a story headlines SUSPECT’S LINK TO DANVILLE STILL A MYSTERY, the reporters for the Register mused, “Did Richard Jewell ever sleep here?”
The lack of information didn’t stop the media frenzy. The Danville mayor held a press conference and answered such questions as whether the city could “live down the infamy” if Jewell were charged for the bombing. “…If the man left Danville at age 6, we could not be accused of having nurtured him,” the mayor responded.
An only child, Jewell has “basically been separated form his father for a number of years,” according to Jack Martin, Jewell’s defense lawyer. He is very close to his mother, and moved with her to Atlanta when he was 6. She works for Sedgwick James of Georgia insurance company, where she was recently the firm’s employee of the year.
Jewell went to Towers High School, in Dekalb County, and was one of those quiet students that few seem to notice or remember. In the 1982 school annual, Jewell’s senior year, he is mentioned in neither the class prophecy nor the senior directory. In fact, some of his high school classmates and teachers didn’t even realize they had gone to school with “that Richard Jewell” until a reporter contacted them.
But for his former teacher, Richard Muska, Jewell did stand out. “He was a shining star,” says Muska. “He was always a kid willing to help, and in the late 1970s that was very peculiar.
“He was a kid who didn’t get involved in the negative things. He was very upset at anything that was disorderly around the school. At the time, there was racial tension, and there were flare-ups. And he’d come in my room and he’d shake his head and say, ‘That’s not right,’ and we’d talk about it. He was a good kid, and back in that time there were darned few good kids.”
Jewell was not a complicated person. “He was never devious in any way,” says Muska. “If anybody was going to grow up to be a good old boy, it was Richard. I say that as a compliment to Southerners. This kid was a product of the rural South living on the edge of the big city.”
Jewell graduated from Towers High in 1982 and worked in a variety of jobs, including as a supply room clerk for the U.S. Small Business Administration. It was there he met Watson Bryant, who was then a lawyer at the agency. They became quick friends, rendezvousing nearly every afternoon during their lunch break int he arcade at the CNN Center, manning video destroyers and waging battle with alien ships.
Jewell’s nickname was “Radar.” Bryant says he was that efficient at his job — that prescient, that willing to make the extra effort, just like his namesake, Radar O’Reilly, from MASH.” Richard has always done the best he could at whatever the assigned task was, and he usually did it better than everybody wanted him to do it,” says Bryant, who now serves as Jewell’s lawyer.
He was quickly promote to supervisor of the supply room and the mail room. Working in the division that specialized in making disaster loans across the Southeast and Midwest, Jewell would often have to get a supply truck ready at a moment’s notice to go to a field office. “Here comes Radar,” his boss would say. “This is what I need, Radar.” And no matter how obscure an item, Richard Jewell would find it.
Being a cop was always an ambition for Jewell, and in 1990 he landed a job in Habersham County as a jailer, the entry-level position in the sheriff’s department. His eagerness to please had served him well as a supply clerk. But once he began working in law enforcement, it began to lead him to trouble.
At the same time he went to work with the sheriff’s department, Jewell also moonlighted as a security guard at the DeKalb County apartment complex where he lived.
Early in the morning on May 26, 1990, he received complaints about rowdiness at a hot tub in the complex. Jewell armed himself with a 9 mm handgun, picked up his handcuffs, and went to investigate. When he found the two people responsible, he identified himself as a Habersham County deputy sheriff and placed a 22-year old man under arrest for public drunkenness and creating an offensive condition.
In the process, he got into a scuffle with the suspect, who, in the words of the prosecutor in the case, “was beaten up by Mr. Jewell, not seriously enough to require medical treatment.” More troubling, Jewell was not even a certified officer he was just a jailer with no power to arrest anyone. Instead, he was arrested himself by DeKalb County Police for impersonating a police officer.
Watson Bryant now calls it a misunderstanding. “The guy attacked Richard, and he had to put him on the ground and sit on him,” says Bryant. “Richard was wearing a hat that said he was a deputy sheriff in Habersham County he was a deputy sheriff, assigned to the jail. He called the police, and for whatever reason, he and the DeKalb cop didn’t get along — the guy’s got to show Richard who’s in charge and charges him with impersonating an officer for doing his job as a security guard.”
Over 70 residents of the apartment complex signed a letter in support of Jewell, according to a court transcript, and his lawyer told the court that his client was only trying to be a “very zealous protector” of the people living there. “I think the police felt like he was being overzealous,” the lawyer said, using the adjective that has come to haunt Jewell in his law enforcement career.
The prosecutor, Elisabeth MacNamara, found the incident disturbing enough to suggest that Jewell was overzealous to the point he might be off-balance. “The primary concern, as I gathered from everyone involved in this case, is that Mr. Jewell may need to be evaluate for some form of mental health treatment,” she told the court.
Jewell pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of disorderly conduct. He was placed on probation and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation.
In part because the charge was dropped from felony to misdemeanor, he was able to keep his position as a jailor in Habersham County and months later be promoted to a full-fledged deputy sheriff. “He’d work 12-hour shifts, go home, shower, then come back to work and ride with a day deputy,” former deputy Randy Bowden told Newsweek.
Then, in 1995, Jewell crashed his county cruiser while, he claimed, giving chase to a suspicious vehicle. When the sheriff doubted his account of the accident and demoted him back to jailer, Jewell resigned.
From there he took a job working security at Piedmont College, in Demorest. College officials later told reporters that Jewell was overzealous, writing long and detailed reports on minor incidents and issuing traffic tickets on the main highway, well beyond the campus boundary. In an Aug. 1 story in The Atlanta Journal Constitution headlined A BAD MAN TO CROSS ON HIS BEAT, students were also quoted as saying that Jewell went to extremes.
“He was very macho, and he could get very belligerent,” Piedmont College junior Nikki Lane said. “I’ve seen him go from calm to angry, back to calm and back to angry in a matter of seconds.”
Jewell told 60 Minutes that the college’s aggravation with him stemmed from their fear that his penchant for making drug and drunk-driving arrests would bring the college unfavorable publicity in the local paper.
Both sides agree that Jewell was asked to resign.
He quickly landed a job working security at Centennial Olympic Park for the Olympic Games. At about the same time he was hired, two members of a right-wing group were arrested in Crawford County and charged with making bombs. Rumors, which later turned out false, turned up in the press that the bombs were intended for the Olympic Games.
“If anything happens during the Olympics,” Jewell allegedly remarked to friends, “I want to be in the middle of it.”
It became a prophetic statement and, in the eyes of the media and the FBI, one that grew to have sinister implications.
The two feds sank to their knees, flicked on flashlights and dipped under the bench toward the knapsack. Ten feet away, closely watching, was Richard Jewell, along with his supervisor, Bob Ahring, a GBI agent named Tom Davis, who was also working security in Centennial Park, and an AT&T corporate security officer.
Jewell told Ahring (who recounted this chronology to Atlanta magazine) that his attention has been drawn by a group of four kids who ere drinking while gathered at a bench near the light and sound tower where he was stationed. They looked underage, and, Jewell ad told his supervisor, he had flagged down Davis (who declined to be interviewed for this story), and they had walked toward the bench to investigate.
The kids got up to leave, Jewell explained to Ahring, and that’s when he spotted the knapsack sitting underneath the bench, next to a fence Jewell said he and Davis called out to the kids to ask if they had forgotten their bag. He explained that the kids said it didn’t belong to them and seemed to quicken their pace before disappearing into the crowd.
By all accounts, Jewell and Davis didn’t go to see what was inside the knapsack or find out whether it had a name tag — you didn’t toy with packages that didn’t seem to have an owner. Instead, Jewell had radioed Ahring, an assistant chief of police form Blue Springs,Mo., who supervised the 36-member night shift security force, while Davis had called Centennial Park’s bomb squad.
Now one of the bomb experts was reaching out to the knapsack. He very carefully opened a flap, focused his flashlight and then leaned forward to peer inside. For a moment he simply froze. Then, almost simultaneously, both feds scrambled backward, out from under the bench and away from the knapsack. They stood up and didn’t even take the time to turn around they just kept going backward. Up to where Jewell, Ahring, Davis, and the other man were waiting. And then on past them.
The four men understood immediately: This is real. This is a bomb.
Ahring caught up with one of the feds. “What have we got?”
“It’s big,” he replied, obviously shaken.
“Real big,” the fed said as he pulled out a cell phone.
“Do we need to evacuate?” Ahring asked.
The fed vigorously nodded his head as he dialed a number.
It was close to 1:10 a. m., July 27, 1996. About 10 minutes left.
They moved quickly the moments before the blast. The first thing Ahring did was send Jewell to the light and sound tower with orders to evacuate everyone. Meanwhile, Tom Davis radioed his command post for state troopers to help move people away from the tower. There was a crowd on the grass directly in front of the knapsack Davis and Ahring went there first.
“We’ve got a suspicious package back by the tower,” Ahring told people, “We’re trying to isolate it, Would you please step away from this area?” He purposefully didn’t mention the word bomb the last thing they needed was a panic, Fortunately, everybody cooperated and began moving back.
Jewell hustled 11 people out of the light and sound tower, literally pushing some of them out. Then he went outside to help the others evacuate the crowd, He kept telling them to get back. Move away from the area, please. But many of them refused, stubbornly staying at the benches near the tower.
When the bomb exploded, Bob Ahring was just 10 yards away. The concussion knocked him forward six feet and sent him sprawling on the ground. There was smoke everywhere. And the smell of gunpowder. But what Bob Ahring will remember most is the sound. Then there was a sudden deathly quiet throughout the park: And he could hear the whistle of shrapnel whizzing away from the light and sound tower through the air toward the crowd.
It was the eeriest thing he’d ever heard in his life.
Ahring could see two civilians down just in front of him. He looked back over his shoulder. He saw several state troopers down on the other side of the tower. More civilians,too. And in the minutes following the blast, Ahring saw Richard Jewell tending to the fallen.
In the aftermath, Jewell became a celebrated hero. He was on CNN. On the Today show, USA Today interviewed him. He came across as shy and polite to a fault, punctuating most sentences with “Yes, sir,” or “Yes, ma’am.”
Four days later the world turned inside out, and he became the focus of the FBI investigation. For the media it was too sexy to resist: Hero turns suspect.
When the Atlanta Journal broke the story late that following Tuesday afternoon, it set off an avalanche of attention. Under the hypothetical FBI scenario, Jewell had planted the knapsack and then rushed to a bank of pay phones a couple of blocks away from Centennial Olympic Park and placed a 911 call to warn police of the bomb. He then raced back to the light and sound tower, “discovered” the bomb and heroically moved people out of harm’s way.
The media quickly all but pronounced him guilty.
“Richard Jewell, 33, a former law enforcement officer, fits the profile of the lone bomber,” wrote Kathy Scruggs and Ron Martz in the second paragraph of a story in an “Extra” edition of The Atlanta Journal on July 30, 1996. “This profile generally includes a frustrated white man who is a former police officer, member of the military or police ‘wanna-be’ who seeks to become a hero.
“Jewell has become a celebrity in the wake of the bombing, making an appearance this morning at the reopened park with Katie Couric on the Today show. He also has approached newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, seeking publicity for his actions.”
NBC’s Tom Brokaw told viewers, “The speculation is that the FBI is close to ‘making the case,’ in their language. They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still some holes in this case.”
The FBI spent most of Wednesday, Aug. 1, combing through the apartment of Jewell’s mother, where he was staying during the Olympics, They rifled through Barbara Jewell’s undergarments and carted out box after box of potential evidence, including her set of Tupperware and 22 Walt Disney tapes. Jewell sat on the steps outside his apartment in humiliation and in full view of the phalanx of media encamped in the parking lot of the Buford Highway apartment complex.
AJC columnist Dave Kindred, in his second column on Jewell in two days,compared the scene to the time law enforcement officers sought evidence against Wayne Williams, the man convicted of two murders in Atlanta’s missing children case when “federal agents came to this town to deal with another suspect who lived with his mother. Like this one, that suspect was drawn to the blue lights and sirens of police work. Like this one, he became famous in the aftermath of murder.”
Kindred later offered a spirited defense of his column, saying he was comparing scenes, not characters. «The column was a comparison of the media frenzy more than it was a comparison of Richard Jewell and Wayne Williams,” he says. “Also, I quoted a neighbor in the column, saying Jewell is a good fellow,and I said the FBI has done this before and come up empty.”
Meanwhile, Jewell’s past was quickly put under a microscope Jewell was villainized and vilified. Even Jay Leno joked about him on The Tonight Show, calling him the “Una-doofus.”
Then, as the weeks passed with no arrest, a debate ignited within the journalistic community. Had everyone overreacted? Had the FBI used them to put pressure on their main suspect in the hope of breaking him into a confession? Should they have more vigorously challenged the FBI to produce evidence before trumpeting Jewell’s name and his past? Many thought the answers were all yes.
“I think the media’s performance has been downright embarrassing,” says Howard Kurtz, a media critic for The Washington Post. “Every news organization in the country has contributed to ruining this guy’s life without the faintest idea of whether he’s guilty or innocent.”
At particular issue was the original Atlanta Journal article printed in the “Extra” edition, with the big, bold headline on Page 1, FBI SUSPECTS ‘HERO’ GUARD MAY HAVE PLANTED BOMB. The article contained no attribution and quoted no sources, leaving the reader to wonder whether the claims came from a legitimate law enforcement official or from a proclamation of God.
“I find it appalling, quite frankly, at how quickly everybody leapt to finger this guy,” says David Shaw, the media writer at the Los Angeles Times. “To write about it in the context of a larger story about the explosion, down in the sixth or eighth paragraph —that’s one thing. But to bring out a special edition and start leading your newscast and putting out Page 1 stories on it — that’s over the top.”
Earl Casey, CNN’s domestic managing editor, defends the overall coverage. CNN quickly followed the AJC in naming Jewell as a suspect, and Casey says remembering the context of the event is important. A TWA jet had just crashed near Long Island, and a bomb was suspected. There was an extreme fear of terrorism at the Olympic Games. The international media was gathered in Atlanta. Then the bomb exploded in the park intended as the center of the Olympic celebration.
And by that point Jewell was already famous. “Had this been some anonymous bloke, would his name have emerged? Maybe not,” says Casey. “Maybe the stories that day would have read that law enforcement are considering a security guard without the identity. But I think it’s difficult for journalists at a distance or on the academic level to really make value judgments on this thing. They’re often right in theory,but when you get down to the application, something in that theory falls apart.”
The same could be said for the initial FBI theories about Jewell’s role in the bombing.
The FBI’s Jewell-as-the-lone-bomber theory was quickly shattered when it proved impossible for him to have made the 911 bomb threat from a bank of pay phones two blocks away from Centennial Olympic Park, an estimated five- to eight-minute walk The 911 call was placed at 12:58 a.m., at 12:57 Jewell was standing in front of the light and sound tower with Tom Davis as Davis radioed for the bomb squad. And Jewell stayed in the area in front of dozens of witnesses until the bomb went off.
In addition, the voice of the 911 caller was described as a white male with no discernible accent. Anyone who heard Jewell speak immediately noticed his slow Southern drawl. And although the AJC had breathlessly stated that Jewell approached the paper seeking publicity, it turns out he didn’t.
CNN was the first to interview Jewell in the aftermath of the bombing, and Earl Casey says it took them “20 or 30 calls and a lot of shoe leather” to secure the interview with him. Because Jewell worked for a security company subcontracted through AT&T, a media relations specialist for AT&T named Bryant Steele eventually began fielding the requests Jewell was receiving for interviews.
Steele spent the Sunday afternoon after the bombing with Jewell. The security guard didn’t seem especially giddy that he was going to be on CNN and the Today show as much as anything else, he seemed dutiful about it. When Steele told him that USA Today also wanted to talk to him, Jewell quietly replied, “Yes,sir, that’ll be fine.”
Steele says he decided to contact the AJC as a courtesy to the local paper, to let them know Jewell was available if they wanted to interview him, and Jewell’s lawyers say that Jewell himself never called the paper. That contention was eventually and went unchallenged by the editors.
Kathy Scruggs declined comment on her coverage of Jewell citing a gag order imposed by her editors. Ron Martin, the AJC‘s editor, declined to be interviewed for this story, saying the paper expects to be the target of a libel suit from Jewell. “Everything we have to say, we’re putting in the newspaper,” he said. In a statement prepared for 60 Minutes in September and provided to Atlanta magazine, Martin wrote, “Our reporters have done an excellent job of reporting fairly, fully and accurately everything we can learn about the bombing and how the investigation is progressing. We stand proudly behind our coverage.” In mid-October the Sunday AJC reprinted an article from American Journalism Review that took a critical look at the Jewell coverage.
The telephone rang in Ahring’s hotel room the Tuesday afternoon after the bombing. Centennial Olympic Park had been closed while federal investigators combed for cluesit had reopened that morning.”Yes, sir, it’s Richard Jewell. I’d heard you were hurt and wanted to know if you were all right,” he asked his supervisor, who recalled the conversation for Atlanta Magazine.
Ahring hadn’t even noticed until later that he had taken shrapnel hits on the left shoulder and in the lower left leg. “I’m fine,” he told Jewell. ‘”Are you okay?’
“I’m fine, sir,”Jewell responded.
By then Jewell’s role in discovering the bomb was well known just that morning he’d been on the Today show with Katie Couric. But now Jewell was eager to get back to work. The two men chatted for a few minutes, and as they were about to hang up, Jewell told Ahring, ‘”I’ll see you at work this evening, sir.”
By 6 o’clock, when he was supposed to be reporting to work, Jewell was at the FBI offices. The agents told him they wanted his help they were going to make a training film on bomb scare response techniques. Jewell believed them. Only when the news reports put Jewell on notice that he was a suspect, The New York Times subsequently reported, did the FBI decide to advise him of his rights,
While it is always convenient to bash the media, it was, after all, the FBI that targeted Jewell and then whispered his name to reporters calling in from all over the country.
The FBI continued to count Jewell as a suspect into October. He lived under virtual house arrest, followed by an almost comical convoy of undercover federal officers that trailed him wherever he went. Jewell’s lawyers demanded that the FBI either charge him or else clear him and apologize.
“My gut reaction, based on 47 years of lawyering, tells me the case against Jewell is total bullshit,” Summerville defense lawyer Bobby Lee Cook said early in the investigation. “The FBI is caught up in psychological profiles and decided he fit and jumped on him.”
For Jack Martin, the lesson to be learned is that the news media has to be more skeptical of what law enforcement tells them, “It didn’t take me long to find out that it was impossible for him to make the 911 call,”he says, “Didn’t take me long to find out that this man has friends and is gregarious and isn’t a loner like the profile,”
Jewell’s lawyers are preparing a bevy of lawsuits, targeting everyone from the AJC to NBC’s Tom Brokaw. “I can almost assure you The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will be sued by December,” said Watson Bryant as autumn approached, ‘We want to give them a Christmas present. I’d love to do for their reputation what they did to Richard’s. Because they damned well deserve it.”
Some think it is doubtful Jewell can ever win a lawsuit against the FBI, even if he’s never charged. “He’ll be thrown out [of court],” says Cook “I might be jumping the gun, but I think there is a moral to this: The FBI and federal agencies can set out recklessly to ruin someone and effectively do it, and there’s really not an adequate cause of action to put your name and your character back into place. I see that as a very frightening thing.”
For Richard Muska, who now teaches at Chamblee High School, the rush to judgment is forcing a reassessment of his own beliefs about the American system and how he presents it to his students, When he first saw the headlines, he told himself, “No, not this kid,” He wrote a letter of protest to both the AJC and the FBI.
“I was the civics teacher,” Muska says. “I’m the guy that got up in front of the class and said, ‘This is the best country in the world, where you get justice and freedom,’ And to see this happen to Richard — he’s obviously been singled out and made a scapegoat for a government agency that couldn’t do their job right — that really hurts.”
On a Saturday afternoon in late October, almost three months to the day of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander met Jack Martin at a Virginia-Highland coffee shop and handed over a letter that flatly stated Richard Jewell was no longer a target of the FBI investigation. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution printed seven stories in its following day’s edition, dissecting everything about the case except its own role in starting the media lynching of the hero turned suspect.
One day later, on October 28, Richard Jewell made perhaps his last run through the media gauntlet when he walked with his lawyers into a roomful of reporters gathered at a hotel conference room in north Atlanta. “The public trial in the media of Richard Jewell is over, and the verdict is not guilty,” said Lin Wood, a lawyer who will handle the civil suits Jewell intends to file.
“We’re glad the emperor has finally admitted he has no clothes,” added Watson Bryant. When asked if he was disappointed the FBI had offered no apology, Bryant paused and smiled ruefully. “They don’t have the guts to apologize,” he responded. “And that is a sad situation when they can’t say, ‘We’re sorry.’ There was not one bit of evidence, and look at what they did to him. It’s unbelievable. This investigation was like a freight train once it got started, it wouldn’t stop.”
Moments later, dressed in slacks and a cream-colored dress shirt with blue stripes, Jewell stood up and at last addressed the very same cameras that had stalked him for three months. “This is the first time I have ever asked you to turn the cameras on me,” he said. “You know my name, but you do not really know who I am…. For 88 days I lived a nightmare…. I felt like a hunted animal followed constantly, waiting to be killed…. In their mad rush to fulfill their own personal agendas, the FBI and the media almost destroyed me and my mother. … The media said I was an overzealous officer. That was a lie. I always performed my job to the best of my ability and gave 110 percent. That’s not being overzealous. That’s being dedicated…. I am going to try to re-enter law enforcement…. I love helping people. That’s what I do, that’s what I have done, and that’s what I want to continue to do in the future.”
Before he concluded, Richard Jewell put down his prepared statement. He paused for a moment and then looked directly at the cameras. His voice turned strong, as though it was resonating for the very first time.
Richard Jewell Was Wrongly Implicated in a Mass Attack. He’s Not the Only One.
In one case, the authorities charged an innocent man with capital murder. Other, smaller errors are common after mass shootings.
POINCIANA, Fla. — Brandon Gonzales did not shoot anyone.
But for more than a week this fall, the authorities in Texas were convinced that he was the gunman who killed two people and wounded several others at a homecoming party. With no chance of posting his $1 million bail, Mr. Gonzales passed his days in an orange jumpsuit poring over the Bible, writing out prayers, trying not to think about how he could face execution if convicted.
“Dear Lord, I am a innocent man and a scared man,” Mr. Gonzales, 23, wrote in jail. “I have done no wrong and they have no evidence.”
Mr. Gonzales’s arrest, and his eventual release with charges dropped, was the result, the authorities now say, of a misidentification by a witness in the tense hours after the shooting. In the chaotic aftermath of violence — when news cameras are swarming, residents are demanding answers and conspiracy theories are swirling online — mistakes often emerge.
Sometimes, the number of assailants is reported to be higher than it really is. Other times, victim counts are mistaken. But sometimes, the errors are more damaging, and as Mr. Gonzales’s case shows, inaccurate information spreads so quickly that the fallout can never be fully contained.
“It shocks me how I can look up my name on Google or on YouTube, and it’s going to pop up everything,” Mr. Gonzales said recently in Florida, where he moved to escape the notoriety that came with his arrest, but has still been unable to find steady work. “My kids, their kids, can always look up and they can see, oh, he was arrested for capital murder.”
The potential for inaccurate information about a tragedy to spread quickly and ruin lives has drawn increased attention amid a high number of violent gun attacks this year and since the release of the movie “Richard Jewell,” which tells the story of a man who was wrongly implicated by the news media in a bombing during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
In the highly competitive news environment that follows a mass shooting, reporters sometimes fall for malicious disinformation online, such as after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., or cite unnamed sources who may or may not be right. In other instances, when the police provide on-the-record information that later turns out to be wrong, news articles initially report information incorrectly and sometimes those details continue to live online. Like many local and national news outlets, The New York Times wrote about Mr. Gonzales’s arrest and published his mug shot. The Times also wrote an article when he was released.
“There’s balancing priorities between wanting to get the facts right, and knowing that the first information you get is usually inaccurate or wrong, and the public’s right to know,” said Chuck Wexler, who leads the Police Executive Research Forum, which advises departments on best practices. He described briefing reporters after a mass shooting as “piecing together a jigsaw puzzle instantly.”
In Santa Clarita, Calif., where a gunman shot five people last month at a high school, the sheriff’s office was initially duped by an Instagram account that they wrongly linked to the gunman. Reporters, who had been reassured by law enforcement officials vouching for the postings, had to backtrack after publishing excerpts.
In Jersey City, N.J., the authorities initially said a shooting at a kosher market this month appeared to be random. Soon after, the gunmen were linked to a fringe group that espouses anti-Semitic views, and the mayor called the killings a hate crime.
And in Las Vegas, where 58 people died in 2017 when a gunman fired more than 1,000 rounds into a crowd at a music festival, conspiracy theorists spewed wild, unsubstantiated claims that gained traction online. The problem was not helped by the police releasing a timeline of events that contained several errors and that twice had to be corrected.
“Although it hurts, and it can ruin, an agency’s or individual’s credibility, I think it’s more important to acknowledge as soon as we realize something is inaccurate,” said Assistant Sheriff Charles L. Hank III of the Las Vegas police.
Many police departments now train for the eventuality of a mass shooting, using the hard-earned lessons of places that have already endured one. Daniel Oates, who was the police chief in Aurora, Colo., during the 2012 movie theater shooting, compiled a list of 24 points of detailed advice that he shared with colleagues in other cities. Among them: Focus on the victims, prepare to combat online conspiracy theorists and “end the media circus as soon as you reasonably can.”
Mr. Oates, now retired, recalled showing up at the scene of the Aurora shooting to hear that officers were searching for a second gunman who turned out not to exist.
“It always comes back that people see more shooters than there are,” Mr. Oates said. In his first statement to the press, perhaps 90 minutes after the shooting, Mr. Oates correctly told reporters that the only shooter was in custody, but slightly overstated the number of victims.
Because mass shootings are so chaotic and unintentional mistakes have happened so frequently, police chiefs now make a point of qualifying their early statements. They say their information is preliminary and subject to change, or they give an estimate of the number of casualties rather than a firm number.
But failing to say anything increases the possibility of rumors and conspiracy theories spreading online, chiefs said.
“We just tried to overwhelm the public with our Twitter feed,” said John Mina, who was the police chief in Orlando, Fla., when 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in 2016. He said a rumor that there had in fact been two gunmen at the nightclub — there was only one — proved especially “hard to squash.”
This October, sheriff’s deputies in another city responded to another mass shooting at another late-night party venue. A gunman had stormed into an event hall near Greenville, Texas, where hundreds of college students and other young adults were wearing Halloween costumes and celebrating homecoming.
Randy Meeks, the county sheriff in Greenville, said in a statement that mass shootings in rural areas like his were especially difficult because of the limited number of officers available to provide backup and secure the crime scene.
Louis Freeh is the real culprit in the Richard Jewell story
If you want to know what really happened in the controversial case of Richard Jewell, who was a suspect in the 1996 bombing at the Olympics in Atlanta, don’t watch the new movie produced by Clint Eastwood.
Gripping though “Richard Jewell” is, it wrongly blames FBI case agents for bullying Jewell and leaking his name to the press as a suspect. The real culprit, whose misguided intervention and stubbornness led to the Richard Jewell debacle, was Louis Freeh, then the FBI director.
When a pipe bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, the FBI became interested in Jewell, a security guard who had alerted police to a suspicious green backpack. Jewell appeared on TV to describe how he tried to evacuate the area before the bombing, which killed two people and injured over 100.
Citing unnamed sources, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a story saying Jewell was a suspect in the FBI’s investigation. That afternoon, FBI agents Don Johnson and Diader Rosario drove to Jewell’s apartment and asked him to come to the field office. If Jewell could clear up questions to the agents’ satisfaction, they planned to drop their interest in him.
Jewell agreed. But as the agents were reviewing Jewell’s background with him, Mr. Freeh called David W. “Woody” Johnson Jr., the FBI’s special agent in charge in Atlanta. Mr. Johnson was in his office down the hall from the room where Jewell was being questioned. With him were other SACs and Kent B. Alexander, the U.S. attorney in Atlanta.
Mr. Freeh said the agents should read Jewell his Miranda rights.
Any fresh agent out of the FBI Academy at Quantico knows that, based on a long line of court rulings, a suspect must be read his Miranda rights if he is in custody or is about to be arrested. Yet in Jewell’s case, neither was true.
As revealed in my book “The Secrets of the FBI,” Mr. Johnson pointed this out to Mr. Freeh, and Mr. Alexander told Mr. Freeh on the speaker phone he agreed with Mr. Johnson. But the director was adamant.
Robert M. “Bear” Bryant, who was about to be named deputy director under Mr. Freeh, was with the director when he made the call. A lawyer, Mr. Bryant also made the point to Mr. Freeh that Miranda rights were not required. Mr. Freeh wouldn’t listen and demanded that agents read Jewell his rights.
Woody Johnson walked down the hallway and pulled out the two agents who were successfully interviewing Jewell. He passed along Mr. Freeh’s instruction. The agents went back to the conference room and read Jewell his rights. Jewell said he would like to call an attorney, and that ended the interview.
“If we could have continued with Jewell, we could have confirmed what he told us and cleared him more quickly,” Woody Johnson told me.
Not until seven months after the incident did Mr. Freeh acknowledge in congressional testimony his own role in the fiasco. Pointing out that he had been a federal judge, Mr. Freeh said, “It is a matter of legal speculation whether a court would have ruled that Miranda warnings were required in Mr. Jewell’s case.”
Despite the fact that Jewell had gone there voluntarily, Mr. Freeh said he decided to order the warning “in an excess of caution” when he learned that the interview was “being conducted in a law enforcement structure [the FBI office].”
While the movie portrays an FBI case agent leaking Jewell’s name to Atlanta Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs, who has since died, there is no basis for the claim. In fact, nine law enforcement agencies were aware that Jewell was one of dozens of suspects. After the movie premiered, Lin Wood, Jewell’s attorney, tweeted that evidence developed in lawsuits he filed against media organizations established that Scruggs’ boyfriend, who was a member of the Atlanta Police Department, tipped her off that Jewell was a suspect.
Three months after his FBI interview, the FBI cleared Jewell. It could have done so immediately if Mr. Freeh had not intervened and agents had been able to freely interview Jewell. In the opinion of the agents, Mr. Freeh was afraid that members of Congress would criticize him if Jewell had not been read his rights. Yet the FBI routinely interviews possible suspects in field offices without issuing Miranda warnings.
Eventually, fugitive Eric Robert Rudolph was charged with the bombing. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.
“For 88 days, I lived a nightmare,” Jewell, who died in 2007, said in tears at a press conference after being cleared.
The Jewell case was another in a series of FBI fiascoes that were directly attributable to Mr. Freeh, who was never mentioned in the movie. Almost every six months, a new debacle erupted. By imposing his will in areas he knew little about, Mr. Freeh disrupted the normal deliberative processes within the FBI. His emphasis was on making himself look good in the short run. In the long term, that approach damaged the credibility and reputation of the FBI.
• Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is the author of “The Secrets of the FBI.”
Eighty-eight days after being named "a person of interest", Jewell is informed by formal letter that he is no longer under investigation.
In April 2003, Jewell, now a police officer in Luthersville, Georgia, is visited by Bryant who tells him that Eric Rudolph has confessed to the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.
An epilogue states that two years later, on August 29, 2007, Jewell died at the age of 44 of complications from diabetes and heart failure. It also mentions that Bryant and Nadya got married and had two sons, both of whom Bobi babysits to this day.
Jewell was never charged with a crime, but media speculation led to the FBI publicly searching his home twice, his friends and neighbors being questioned, as well as FBI surveillance of him. A Justice Department investigation of the FBI's conduct in the case, found that the FBI had “tried to manipulate Jewell into waiving his constitutional rights by telling him he was taking part in a training film about bomb detection”, although the report concluded “no intentional violation of Mr. Jewell's civil rights and no criminal misconduct” had taken place.
On October 26, 1996, the United States Attorney in Atlanta, Kent Alexander, sent Jewell a letter saying “based on the evidence developed to date . Richard Jewell is not considered a target of the federal criminal investigation into the bombing on July 27, 1996, at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta”. The letter did not include an apology, but in a separate statement issued by Alexander, the U.S. Justice Department regretted the leaking of the investigation.
The separately issued statement said that Jewell “endured highly unusual and intense publicity that was neither designed nor desired by the F.B.I., and in fact interfered with the investigation”, and that “The public should bear in mind that Richard Jewell has at no time been charged with any crime in connection with the bombing.” The New York Times reported that the statement was “a tacit admission by Federal officials that they had been wrong in their suspicion of Mr. Jewell.”
On July 31, 1997, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno expressed personal regret over the leak that led to intense scrutiny of Jewell. She said, “I'm very sorry it happened. I think we owe him an apology. I regret the leak.”
On August 2, 2006, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue honored Jewell for his rescue efforts during the attack, and publicly thanked him for saving people's lives. Perdue said Jewell “deserves to be remembered as a hero.”
CNN settled a libel suit brought by Jewell for an undisclosed monetary amount.
Jewell sued NBC News for this statement made by Tom Brokaw, “The speculation is that the FBI is close to making the case. They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well. There are still some holes in this case.” The network agreed to pay Jewell $500,000.
Jay Leno also apologized during a Tonight Show episode on October 28, 1996.
On July 23, 1997, Jewell sued the New York Post for $15 million in damages, contending that the paper portrayed him an “aberrant” person with a “bizarre employment history” who was probably guilty of the bombing. He eventually settled with the newspaper for an undisclosed amount.
Jewell filed suit against his former employer Piedmont College. The college settled for an undisclosed amount.
Released in late 2019, the movie got caught up in the hubbub of the COVID pandemic and the shutdown of theatres, but it is a worthwhile reminder of what happens when the media acts as a lynch mob and politicians and law enforcement go along for the ride. Richard Jewell was never the same after what he went through. He died a broken spirit.
Recently, in Sussex County, leaders of the Democrat Party – including former candidates, the former Party Chairwoman, and the current Democrat State Committeewoman – have been making defamatory accusations against their neighbors and the residents of their county. In concert with former candidate Kristy Lavin, Democrats like former Party Chairwoman Katie Rotondi have used public meetings to make unfounded accusations of criminal behavior against county residents.
Democrat operative Michael Schnackenberg has posted violent threats against political opponents – specifically targeting women with lurid, sexual insults – while Democrat Congressman Josh Gottheimer used the resources of his incumbency to make unfounded accusations of criminal behavior against political opponents. Before creating more innocent victims, in the way that Richard Jewell was a victim, the Democrats should think about it and perhaps embrace the historic liberalism they once possessed.
Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense."
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
History of the ’90s podcast: Richard Jewell and the 1996 Olympic Park bombing
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In July 1996, a backpack bomb rocked the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, killing one and injuring over 100 others.
The bomb had been left under a bench in the middle of Centennial Olympic Park on the eighth day of the games.
On this episode of History of the s, host Kathy Kenzora looks back at the tragedy that struck the 100th Olympic games and the police investigation that followed.
1:58 NDG man claims he was wrongfully accused of driving under the influence
Security guard Richard Jewell, who discovered the bomb before it exploded, was first hailed a hero. Then, just a few days later, he was identified as the main suspect by the media who had a field day with his reputation.
This is the story of Richard Jewell, a cautionary tale about what happens when the police and the media rush to judgment.
If you enjoy History of the s, please take a minute to rate it, tell us what you think and share the show with your friends.
Kent Alexander, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia
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Eric Rudolph: The Olympic Park Bomber
The FBI investigation was stalled until 1998, when authorities connected an abortion clinic bomb in Birmingham, Ala., to the Olympic bombing and two other Atlanta-area bombings. The FBI identified the car of Eric Rudolph, and issued an arrest warrant Rudolph escaped to the mountains of Western Carolina and lived there for five years before getting caught.
Rudolph, who was part of an extremist Christian movement, targeted abortion clinics and a gay nightclub. After pleading guilty to his crimes and receiving four life sentences, he released a statement explaining his motives in the Olympic bombing: &ldquothe purpose of the attack on July 27th was to confound, anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.&rdquo