Richard Jewell, wrongly implicated in the bombing of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, died today:
Jewell, who was working as a sheriff’s deputy as recently as last year, was a security guard in 1996 at the Olympics in Atlanta. He was initially hailed as a hero for spotting a suspicious backpack in a park and moving people out of harm’s way just before a bomb exploded during a concert.
The blast killed one and injured 111 others.
Three days after the bombing, an unattributed report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution described him as ”the focus” of the investigation.
Other media, to varying degrees, also linked Jewell to the investigation and portrayed him as a loser and law-enforcement wannabe who may have planted the bomb so he would look like a hero when he discovered it later.
I lived less than a mile from the bomb site, and had left the actual site only a couple of hours before the bomb exploded. Like everyone else in Atlanta at the time, I was intensely focused on it. And, also like everyone else, I soon became damn sure that Richard Jewell had done it, after listening to and reading all the reports. Except:
Eventually, the bomber turned out to be anti-government extremist Eric Rudolph, who also planted three other bombs in the Atlanta area and in Birmingham, Ala. Those explosives killed a police officer, maimed a nurse and injured several other people.
Remember this, the next time you just “know” that someone did something. I’m sorry, Mr. Jewell. We did you wrong.