Richard Allensworth Jewell (born December 17, 1962) was a police officer and security guard who gained media attention for his connection with the Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
Employed temporarily as a security guard at the Centennial park, Jewell found an unattended green backpack with three pipe bombs on the park grounds. He subsequently informed the police and played an instrumental role in evacuating the area before the bomb detonated. At first, he was lauded for his heroics by the media for saving numerous lives. However, both the law enforcement and media later labelled him as a suspect.
In October 1996, he was formally absolved of any blame for the bombing. He subsequently filed libel lawsuits against a number of news outlets. In 2006, Sonny Perdue, Governor of Georgia, released a public statement, expressing his gratitude on behalf of the people of Georgia towards Jewell for his actions during the Olympics. The real bomber, Eric Rudolph, was later apprehended and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. Jewell passed on August 29, 2007, aged 44.
Richard Jewell Bio: Age, Parents, Early Life
Born Richard White on December 17, 1962, in Danville, Georgia, USA, Jewell was the son of Bobi and Robert Earl White. His mother worked as an insurance claims coordinator, while his father was a Chevrolet employee. When he was just four years of age, his parents split and his mother then married an insurance executive named John Jewell, who adopted him and helped his mother in his upbringing. Thereafter, the family moved to Atlanta.
Controversial Work History
He first had a stint pursuing a career as a mechanic, before landing a job as a supply room clerk at the Small Business Administration, where he met lawyer Watson Bryant, who would later serve a pivotal role in defending him. Eager to join the law enforcement, Jewell was hired as a jailer in the sheriff’s department of Habersham County, in northeastern Georgia, in 1990. He also took up a side job as a security guard of the apartment complex he called home, and it was here that his zealousness for the job first got him in trouble: After busting a couple making too much noise in a hot tub, Jewell was charged with impersonating an officer, placed on probation and ordered to undergo a psychological assessment.
Jewell regained his position in the department and even earned a promotion to deputy sheriff. However, after crashing his patrol car in 1995 while allegedly pursuing a suspicious vehicle, he resigned instead of accepting the demotion back to jailer. He soon got a new job as a campus security officer at nearby Piedmont College, where Jewell made enemies within the student body for breaking up parties and reporting offending students to their parents. He even angered his superiors for going beyond his jurisdiction to arrest speeding motorists on the highway. In May 1996, he resigned, and with his mother scheduled to undergo foot surgery, he returned to Atlanta to live with her and find a new job.
Centennial Park Bombing
On July 27, 1996, Jewell was working as a security guard at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia, where thousands of people had come together for a late concert. At around 1 a.m. in the crowded Centennial Park, he noticed an unattended green backpack, alerted police and helped move people away from the site. The backpack contained a crude pipe bomb and exploded 13 minutes after the discovery, before all the spectators could be evacuated by Jewell and others. One woman was killed by shrapnel and a cameraman died from a fatal heart attack in the course of covering the incident while 111 others were injured.
After the bombing incident, Richard Jewell was lauded for his heroic deeds, but only three days later, a news publication stated that police were investigating the possibility that Jewell was the suspect who planted the bomb. FBI agents aggressively questioned Jewell and searched his apartment.
Aftermath And Richard Jewell Death
The former hero dwelled under a very dark cloud for months. Tearful and painfully shy, Jewell criticized the FBI and the news media for how his case was handled. It was not until October 1996 that the FBI cleared Jewell as a suspect, and the lawsuits against him were dismissed. After Jewell was cleared, he filed libel lawsuits against several news outlets, including NBC, CNN, the New York Post and Cox Enterprises (doing business as Atlanta Journal Constitution). CNN and the New York Post settled with Jewell for undisclosed amount and he got a payment of $500,000 from NBC.
In August 1997, Attorney General Reno publicly apologized to Jewell and condemned the leak to the media that labelled him as a suspect. Jewell eventually got a job with a police force in tiny Luthersville, Meriwether County, Georgia. The FBI later apprehended a man named Eric Rudolph, on May 31,2003, who was responsible for the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. In 2006, Sonny Perdue, Governor of Georgia, released a public statement, expressing his gratitude on behalf of the people of Georgia towards Jewell for his actions during the Olympics.
Jewell was diagnosed with heart diseases, kidney diseases, and diabetes. He died on August 29, 2007. On December 13, 2019, a biopic directed by Clint Eastwood, “Richard Jewell” was released in his honor with Paul Walter Hauser portraying the titular character.