Olympics Hero Who Became a Terror Suspect
The scene was the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Early on the morning of July 27, as thousands gathered in Centennial Olympic Park for a concert, a security guard named Richard Jewell spotted a suspicious green backpack sitting alone on the ground.
Moving quickly, Jewell and other officers ushered concertgoers away from the bag only seconds before it violently exploded. A homemade pipe bomb propelled nails and screws into the crowd, killing one woman and wounding more than 100. Casualties would certainly have been higher if Jewell hadn't alerted authorities and begun to clear the area.
Initially hailed as a hero, Jewell quickly found himself under investigation as a suspect in the bombing. A local newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, published a special edition the very next day naming Jewell as a focus of police attention and national media followed suit. News vans parked outside Jewell's home and barraged him with questions. The local police and FBI conducted multiple investigations. It wasn't until October that Jewell's name was finally cleared.
But the damage was already done. Even though the real Olympic bomber, Eric Rudolph, was ultimately caught and convicted, Jewell's name was forever marred by the false accusations of his involvement with the domestic terror attack. He died at 44 years old from complications of diabetes in 2007. However he did manage to win settlements from NBC and CNN and a 2006 commendation from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue for saving lives at the Olympics [source: Sack].