Centennial Olympic Park bombingThe Centennial Olympic Park bombing took place on July 27, 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1996 Summer Olympics.
An early morning blast in the crowded park in downtown Atlanta killed Alice Hawthorne from bomb shrapnel that struck her in the head. The blast wounded 111 others and caused the death of Turkish cameraman Melih Uzunyol from a heart attack while running to cover the blast.
President Bill Clinton denounced the explosion as an "evil act of terror" and vowed to do everything possible to track down and punish those responsible. At the White House, Clinton said, "We will spare no effort to find out who was responsible for this murderous act. We will track them down. We will bring them to justice."
Despite the tragedy, officials and athletes agreed that the "olympic spirit" should prevail and that the games should continue as planned, which they did.
Just hours after the attack, a Centennial Park security guard named Richard Jewell was hailed as a hero for discovering the suspicious green knapsack that contained the bomb and helping police clear the area before the explosion. Around the time that Jewell called the Federal Bureau of Investigation, police received an anonymous 911 call stating that a bomb had been left in the park.
Four days after the bombing, news organizations began reporting that Jewell had been named as a suspect in the bombing. Jewell was cleared of suspicion by the United States Department of Justice in October of that year, but he claimed that the negative media attention had ruined his reputation. He eventually settled libel lawsuits against a former employer, Piedmont College in Northern Georgia, as well as CNN, ABC, NBC, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which was the first news organization to report that he had been labeled a suspect.
On October 14, 1998, the Department of Justice named Eric Robert Rudolph as its suspect in the bombing as well as two attacks in 1997 on an abortion clinic and a nightclub. Despite the announcement, Rudolph was not located and became a fugitive. As late as 1999 on the third anniversary of the bombing, FBI officials believed Rudolph had disappeared into the rugged southern Appalachian Mountains. On May 5, 1998, the FBI named him as one of its ten most wanted fugitives and offered a $1,000,000 reward for information leading directly to his arrest. After more than five years on the run, Rudolph was located on May 31, 2003 in Murphy, North Carolina.