Bomb Suspect Hopes to Be Cleared; FBI Mum on Charges
ATLANTA (AP) _ As hours turn into days, the security guard at the center of the FBI’s Olympics bomb investigation is growing more optimistic that he will be vindicated, his lawyer says.
Federal officials say, in essence: Not so fast.
Watson Bryant, the lawyer for bombing hero-turned-suspect Richard Jewell, said Thursday that Jewell is still worried, in part because federal officials won’t tell him anything about their investigation.
``He’s still in shock,″ Bryant said on CNN’s ``Larry King Live.″ Still, he added, ``As time passes without an arrest or any more trouble from the government, he becomes relieved. ... Every minute that goes by, we feel a little better.″
The Washington Post today quoted sources who said Jewell told colleagues at his old job that he would be a ``hero″ at the Olympics.
Jewell was hailed as a hero after he spotted an unattended knapsack in Atlanta’s crowded Centennial Olympic Park during a rock concert. The knapsack contained a bomb that exploded early Saturday, splattering the park with nails and shrapnel that killed one person and injured 111 others.
But on Tuesday, Jewell turned from hero to what one federal law enforcement official called the ``leading candidate″ in the investigation. Authorities were looking into whether he planted the bomb in order to ``find″ it and become a hero.
For two days, agents of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have been putting Jewell’s life under a microscope, examining everything from his underwear to the paint on his door.
Jewell, a 33-year-old former deputy sheriff, has not been charged or arrested, and FBI officials have stressed that he is only one of several potential suspects. As time goes on, speculation has begun to rise that investigators may be losing interest in Jewell.
Federal officials cautioned Thursday that their investigations often take a long time, and that it is premature to expect an arrest. At the same time, they continued to stress that Jewell should not be judged prematurely.
``Nobody is about to be charged with a crime,″ FBI Director Louis Freeh said in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
``The fact that somebody’s name has surfaced or may surface ... doesn’t mean anything,″ he said. ``It certainly doesn’t mean that people should speculate as to guilt. We work very carefully to get the evidence we need to go into a court. ... We regret many times in these investigations that people’s names surface as suspects who are later proven not to be connected. We want to avoid that.″
As federal agents came and went, Jewell remained a virtual prisoner Thursday in the northeast Atlanta apartment he shares with his mother. Although he was free to leave, the crowd of reporters outside apparently deterred him.
He has been questioned by the FBI at least a half-dozen times since the explosion.
Also Thursday, a half-dozen agents returned to a rundown cabin in northeastern Georgia where Jewell lived until May. Reporters, kept 20 yards away, saw them carting away more material, removing blue paint from around the doorway, looking under the house and taking photographs around its foundation.
Federal agents also questioned hardware store clerks, asking them if Jewell had bought the components needed to build a pipe bomb. At least one store owner said Jewell had bought pipes _ plastic ones he needed to replace frozen ones at his home.
In all, investigators were known to have searched Jewell’s home, the cabin, and a storage shed he rented near the cabin. They were believed to be looking for remnants of the two types of gunpowder used in the device, and wire, nails and duct tape like those used.
Agents ``found things that one could find in anybody’s house, including nails and duct tape, but nothing earth-shaking,″ said one Washington source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Washington Post, quoting unidentified senior law enforcement officials, reported that Jewell told colleagues when he left his job as a small-college security guard that ``if anything happens during the Olympics, I want to be in the middle of it.″
The statement was quoted in a sealed affidavit that accompanied the search warrant for Jewell’s apartment and was one reason officials at Piedmont College in Demorest contacted authorities, the newspaper said.
Jewell was forced to resign from his Piedmont post in May because of what school president Ray Cleere said was an over-zealous approach. Cleere contacted bomb investigators after seeing Jewell on television.
Bryant, Jewell’s lawyer, expressed outrage that details of the investigation were finding their way into newspapers and television.
If Jewell is cleared, Bryant said, ``I think he’s entitled to an apology. ... You don’t conduct investigations like this with this kind of media attention.″
EDITOR’S NOTE _ AP Washington correspondent Michael J. Sniffen contributed to this report.