Former security guard Richard Jewell memorialized a hero
"It takes a special person to go through what he went through and still love law enforcement."
ATLANTA, Ga. — 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.
"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."
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.
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.
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