ATLANTA - Richard Jewell, 44, the former security guard who was wrongly linked to the 1996 Olympic bombing, was found dead yesterday at his western Georgia home, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.
Mr. Jewell "had been at home sick since the end of February with kidney problems," said Meriwether County Coroner Johnny Worley. No foul play was suspected, he said. An autopsy was scheduled for today.
Mr. Jewell was diagnosed with diabetes earlier this year, and a few toes were later amputated. He was recently put on dialysis, the coroner said.
Lin Wood, Mr. Jewell's longtime attorney, described him as "a dedicated public servant whose heroism the night of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing saved the lives of many people."
Mr. Jewell was a security guard at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He was initially hailed as a hero for spotting a suspicious backpack in the park and moving people out of harm's way just before a bomb exploded during a concert. The blast killed one person and injured 111.
Three days after the bombing, an unattributed report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described him as "the focus" of the investigation. Other media, to varying degrees, also linked Mr. Jewell to the investigation. He was never arrested or charged but was questioned and was a subject of search warrants.
Eighty-eight days after the initial news report, U.S. Attorney Kent Alexander said Mr. Jewell was "not a target" of the bombing investigation.
In 1997, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno expressed regret over the leak regarding Mr. Jewell. "I'm very sorry it happened," she said. "I think we owe him an apology."
The Jewell episode led to soul-searching among news organizations about the use of unattributed or anonymously sourced information.
The Olympic bomber turned out to be antigovernment extremist Eric Rudolph, who also planted three other bombs in the Atlanta area and Birmingham, Ala. Those attacks killed a police officer, maimed a nurse, and hurt several other people.
Rudolph was captured after five years in hiding. He pleaded guilty to all four bombings in 2005 and is serving life in prison.
As recently as last year, Mr. Jewell was working as a sheriff's deputy in western Georgia. He also gave speeches to college journalism classes about his experience. A year ago, Gov. Sonny Perdue commended Mr. Jewell at a bombing anniversary event.
Mr. Jewell sued several media companies, including NBC, CNN, and the New York Post, and settled for undisclosed amounts. According to Wood, he also settled a suit against Piedmont College, a former employer of his.