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Jewell, guard falsely tied with '96 Olympic bombing, remembered as hero

8/31/2007

ATLANTA -- Each anniversary of the 1996 Olympic bombing,
Richard Jewell would slip away, usually at night when no one was
looking, to place a rose and a card where spectator Alice Hawthorne
was killed.

The former security guard, wrongly linked to the blast, saved
hundreds of other people by ushering them away before the
explosion. But he wished he could have helped the person he
couldn't get to in time, his longtime attorney told mourners at
Jewell's funeral service Friday.

"Richard rarely told people about what he did that night,"
attorney Lin Wood told about 300 people gathered at Brookhaven
Baptist Church. "Richard thought it was all in a day's work."

Likewise, Jewell told few people about the annual visit to
Centennial Olympic Park to remember Hawthorne and the 111 people
injured by the explosion, Wood said.

"For years, I looked forward to the day when I would stand
before a jury and talk about my friend and client Richard Jewell,"
Wood said. "Never did I think I would talk about him at a memorial
service."

Jewell, 44, died of heart disease Wednesday at his home in west
Georgia.

He was initially hailed as a hero after the July 27, 1996,
bombing for spotting a suspicious backpack and moving people out of
harm's way just before the explosion.

But three days later, a report in The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution described him as "the focus" of the
investigation. Other media, to varying degrees, also linked Jewell
to the probe.

He was questioned but never arrested or charged, and the bomber
turned out to be anti-government extremist Eric Rudolph.

Jewell sued several media organizations and settled for
undisclosed amounts.

A suit he filed against the Journal-Constitution is set for
trial in January, and Wood has said he will pursue the suit on
behalf of Jewell's estate. The newspaper has stood by its coverage.

A 1997 Life magazine article on Jewell's plight with the media
greeted mourners in front of the church pews Friday. Beside the
article were pictures of him in happier times, in his police
uniform, at a sporting event, with his wife of six years, Dana.

Since the Olympics, Jewell worked in various law enforcement
jobs, including as a police officer in Pendergrass, Ga., where his
partner was fatally shot in 2004 during the pursuit of a suspect.

The Rev. Jonathan Porter, chaplain of the Meriwether County
Sheriff's Office, where Jewell was working as a deputy before he
fell ill from diabetes and kidney problems this year, said all
Jewell ever wanted to be was a police officer.

A large contingent of sheriff's deputies and police officers
from several Georgia communities attended the service.

"It takes a special person to go through what he went through
and still love law enforcement," Porter said.