Richard Jewell, accused by the media in 1996 of being the prime suspect the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing during that year’s Olympic Games was found dead in his home in west Georgia. The true perpetrator, Eric Robert Rudolph, would later bomb a gay and lesbian nightclub, the Otherside Lounge also in Atlanta. Rudolph also bombed two abortion clinics.
Jewell had been working as a private security guard for the Centennial Park during the Games and had discovered a pipe bomb in a backpack. He alerted police, and helped to evacuate the area before it went off.
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. Jewel was praised as a media hero for stopping what could have been an even more disastrous event.
Praise quickly turned to hatred when it emerged that Jewel was in fact the number one suspect for the crime. Though he was neither arrested nor charged, the papers and media crucified him publicly and even compared him to serial killers.
It was later discovered that he had no involvement with the crime whatsoever and eventually homophobic, anti-government extremist, Eric Robert Randolph, pleaded guilty to the crime and is serving a life sentence.
Jewell sued media outlets and settled for a substantial amount of money with the New York Post and NBC. His case against the Atlanta Journal and Constitution was still pending appeals and according to some had become an important part of case law about journalistic integrity.
The Mayor of Atlanta later honoured him for his heroism during the incident.
Jewel died in his home of natural causes most likely brought on by kidney disease and diabetes. No foul play was suspected.
Dylan Vox of GaySports.com contributed to this article