An Unsung Hero Dies: Media Hype and Injustice

Olympic 1996 HQ Security Control Room
It is July 3rd 2008 and something reminded me of the name “Jewel” and his tragic story – a person who was in the headlines, and was part of the security team, sponsored by various Olympic contributors that I was part of as Captain of Second Shift Security Team, Olympic Headquarters, Atlanta, Georgia, using state-of-the-art security equipment provided by Sensormatic and working with a team of experienced individuals who provided me with knowledge and experience that may or may not be useful now – but certainly afforded me the opportunity to interact and converse with members of people who represented the broad spectrum of both intelligence community, law enforcement, and executive security administration that was proud to be a part of. But tonight was the spark of remembering my notes of an intended future article, just by uttering the word Jewel

Was it Jewel of the Nile? No.

On August 30th, 2007, USA Today, and various news wire agencies printed and posted this story …

Richard Jewell, former security guard who was falsely accused and suspect in the 1996 Olympics bombing and later cleared of any wrongdoing, died Wednesday of severe heart disease … An autopsy by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation showed Jewell, 44, essentially had a heart attack, Dr. Kris Sperry said. He said Jewell’s diabetes, diagnosed earlier this year, contributed to the heart problems. …
Jewell, who lived in Woodbury, had been on medical leave from his job as a
Meriwether County sheriff’s deputy since February, Worley said. “He had diabetes, and he’d had some toes amputated, and he’d had some kidney problems. …

Richard Jewell died on August 29th, 2007.
Okay, an article concerning an obituary – but WHO was Richard Jewell?
Wikipedia entry …
Richard A. Jewell was born on December 17th, 1962. Wikipedia doesn’t record Mr. Jewell’s personal history, but as …

RichardJewella central figure of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Jewell, working as a private security guard, discovered a pipe bomb, alerted police, and helped to evacuate the area before it exploded, saving many people from injury or potential death. Initially hailed by the media as a hero, Jewell later was considered a suspect.
Centennial Park was designed as the “town square” of the Olympics, and thousands of spectators had gathered for a late concert and merrymaking. Sometime after midnight, July 27, 1996, Eric Rudolph, a terrorist who would later bomb a gay nightclub and two abortion clinics, planted a green knapsack containing a shrapnel-laden pipe bomb underneath a bench. Jewell, in his capacity as a security guard, discovered the bag and alerted Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers; this discovery was nine minutes before Rudolph called 9-1-1 to deliver a warning. Jewell and other security guards began clearing the immediate area so that a bomb squad could investigate the suspicious package. The bomb exploded 13 minutes later, killing one woman and injuring over one hundred others. A cameraman also died of a heart attack while running to cover the incident.
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. The media, to varying degrees, portrayed Jewell as a failed law enforcement officer who may have planted the bomb so he could find it and be a hero.[3]Richard Jewell’s hunting rifles were confiscated and never returned, having been presumably sold. His mother’s family photographs and Tupperware collection were taken as “evidence” and returned vandalized. 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“.[4] Other references include “Una-Bubba,” [5] and (of his mother) “Una-Mama.” Jewell was never officially charged, but the FBI searched his home, questioned his associates, investigated his background, and maintained twenty-four hour surveillance of him. The pressure only began to ease after Jewell’s attorneys hired an ex-FBI agent to administer a polygraph, which Jewell reportedly passed. [3] Richard Jewell worked for the national security system that I worked for. While my mission concerned security of the Olympic HQ building, Mr. Jewell was involved with security within the Centennial Park itself. Just before the time this incident occurred I transferred to administration at another office that handled security background checks on new officers, a transfer arranged by the new executive director transferred from Los Angeles and who had experience with Olympic security. I was offered a position with the CDC at Atlanta, and accepted it.
At first, Officer Jewell was a hero. He had seen the knapsack that was suspiciously sitting on the ground with no apparent owner and after reporting his suspicions, attempted to evacuate nearby citizens before the blast and endangered his own life to do so. He followed security procedures as should have been performed.
The FBI looked into the matter under the usual investigative premise that anyone could be a suspect. However, FBI director at the time, Louis Freeh, stated that he did not know how the media found out that Richard Jewell was a suspect. Because certain items found in a warranted search at Jewell’s residence (to be taken to the lab for investigation, which came up negative) were items like Tupperware (possibly used to mix the smokeless powder ingredients that was used in the pipe bombs, his personally owned firearms (for what reason I could not find out because firearms were not used in this incident), which was confiscated as “evidence” and never returned because they were “sold”.
When the media got hold of this investigation and announced that Jewell was a primary suspect, immediately it was assumed that he was guilty – despite charges never being made against Mr. Jewell because there was not enough evidence. There wasn’t enough evidence because Richard Jewell was a hero, not a criminal. And for his efforts, thanks to a media that paints a suspect guilty before even a trial is set, if a trial is set at all, his life was ruined after that day he tried to save lives.
Soon, Jewell was involved in lawsuits, and again all this before any wrongdoing was established. One of the people injured was Nancy A. Davis who was injured by the shrapnel when the blast occurred. She stated through her lawyer that Jewell and other park security officers did not evacuate the area fast enough, yet their quick assessment and action actually saved lives because far less people were in the close proximity of the bomb than were before the alert. Instead of gratitude, Jewell is handed an order to appear in court. One person was killed, but if the bomb went off with no alert, there would have been several more killed. It was estimated that about 100 people in the area were injured in various degrees.
Initially, Mr. Jewell didn’t want the publicity, however as time progressed, he decided to accept an invitation to appear on CNN Larry King Live show to clear his name. CNN reported on January 8th, 1997 …

Appearing Wednesday on CNN’s ‘Larry King Live’, Richard Jewell bemoaned the loss of his “good name,” which he said is gone forever due to reports which named him a suspect in the Olympic Park bombing.
“I want my name back,” Jewell said
. …
He told King the FBI searched his apartment for 12 hours, taking his mother’s Tupperware and destroying family photographs. Dozens of reporters camped out in a nearby apartment, monitoring his every move for days. Federal officials later cleared Jewell in the blast that killed two July 27, but the former guard said his “name is ruined forever.”

When Richard Jewell found out that his former employer as security officer at Piedmont College, College President Raymond Cleere, provided false information when calling the FBI, Jewell initiated a lawsuit (Richard Jewell v. Piedmont College). Jewell also sued NBC (Richard Jewell v. NBC for Tom Brokaw’s false report that the FBI had enough evidence to prosecute), New York Post (Richard Jewell v. New York Post), and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Richard Jewell v. Cox Enterprises).
By July 1997, after either destroying or not returning personal possessions taken for investigation and ruining his life forever, he received $500,000 (for which the attorney took one third) and received an apology from the US Attorney General notorious for her “mistakes”, misuse of power, morally unfit and ruthless procedures (but also the butt of unfounded allegations)  – Janet Reno – stated in a news conference:

I’m very sorry it happened. I think we owe him an apology. I regret the leak.

And, finally, on April 13th 2005, Richard Jewell was exonerated completely after the arrest and guilty plea of Eric Rudolph who not only bombed the Olympic Park, but also several other locations in the South, one of them being an abortion clinic causing one nurse to lose her eye.
Richard Jewell’s ordeal is an example of how the media seems to think that they are the judge and jury when it comes to news reporting, as well as being bias when it comes to political news – instead of objective reporting that once was the code of journalism.
And it is also a moral reminder that this nation’s judiciary was set up in a manner that literally means “innocent until proven guilty” – in other words, it is the mission of prosecutor to prove guilt not the suspect to prove innocence. Just because someone is accused, doesn’t mean they are guilty.
Richard Jewell would later make public appearances, one being on July 4th 2001 as the honored invitation as being the Grand Marshal of the Carmel, Indiana’s Independence Day Parade whose theme was “Unsung Heroes”. Appropriate.
Richard Jewell was a sheriff in West Georgia until his health began to fail in 2006. He is an example of why the media and justice system must be reformed. 
He can be truly said to be an “Unsung Hero”. 
References & Bibliography
60 Minutes: Falsely Accused – June 26th 2002
The Wheels of Justice – August 2001
Jewell Finally Honored as Hero
Centennial Olympic Park Bombing – Wikipedia
Battery Used in Olympic Park Bomb Traced to South Florida – CNN
Clinton Pledges Thorough Effort to Find Olympic Park Bomber – CNN
Jewell to Get More Than $500,000 from NBC – CNN
Investigators Have “Handful” of Suspects – CNN
FBI Chief Can’t Explain Media Leaks in Olympic Bombing – CNN
FBI Defends Olympics Bomb Probe; 911 Transcript Shows Delay – CNN
FBI Examines Evidence Found in Security Guard’s Home – CNN
FBI Hopes Sketches Will Help Nab Bomber – CNN
Jewell: ‘My Name is Ruined Forever’ – CNN
Let the World Not Forget’ – CNN
Richard Jewell – Wikipedia
A Tearful Richard Jewell Lashes Out – Headlines at Augusta

[i] Yes, and a personal identification to one of the Rolling Stones greatest hits – of the song of the same name: Ruby Tuesday
[ii] I seem to have a thing with the letter “K” – noticing this personal pattern that amounts to trivia regarding the subject material. 
[iii] “Mini” used not mean that is necessarily unobtrusive or meaningless.
[iv] As with most American couples today, both work in order to maintain one’s dwelling, provide the basic of life, pay the rising taxes (rising in the term of the count, not the amount (a brain teaser that will make you stop and THINK) – so therefore it is a “we” endeavor, but life mates’ across the country do this daily without thinking about it. 
[v] Trademark-copyright pending.
This entry was posted in Media.