The world learned a lot about Richard Jewell last week. The heavyset, moustachioed 33-year-old lives with his mother and her beagle, Brandy, in an apartment in north Atlanta. He worked at different jobs after high school and eventually pursued a career in law enforcement. He collected guns, and former employers claimed that he was occasionally overzealous, both as a sheriff’s deputy and a security guard in Habersham County, in northern Georgia. All this and more was revealed after police let it be known that Jewell was their main suspect in the bombing of Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park in the early hours of July 27.
His face was on TV newscasts and newspaper front pages. His home was surrounded by a media encampment. The FBI combed his apartment and searched a cabin he once rented in the north Georgia mountains. And all this information became public even though Jewell had not been charged with the crime. “A case such as this is complex,” FBI spokesman Jay Spadafore cautioned, “and complex cases take time.”
As 15 minutes of fame go, Jewell’s was a doozy. He was hailed as a hero for spotting a suspicious knapsack
and evacuating a technicians’ tower just before a pipe bomb rocked the park during a free concert, killing one local woman and injuring 111 others. He was subsequently interviewed on NBC and CNN.
But Jewell, who had been working for the security firm that patrolled the AT&T Global Village, a telecommunications theme centre in the downtown park, soon became the focus of the investigation. A background probe revealed his checkered career in law enforcement and his love of guns, and police found a few nails at his former cabin similar to those used as shrapnel in the crude bomb. But by late in the week, investigators had yet to make an arrest.
With the international media in Atlanta covering the Games, Jewell became a worldwide story. His every move was followed; his mother had to vacate their apartment. The circumstances made many foreign reporters uncomfortable. The suspect was being intensely scrutinized without being charged— something that would be forbidden by law in many countries, including Canada. Moreover, Jewell’s friends found the accusation difficult to fathom. Habersham County deputy Brian McNair said that the picture of Jewell as hero was the one that rang true. “The other stuff,” said McNair, “doesn't sound like Richard at all." Innocent or guilty, Jewell’s life will never be the same.
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