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Richard Jewell and the Olympic Bombing's Kensington Connection

The death last week of Richard Jewell, the Georgia man who was incorrectly reported to be the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bomber, ended an ugly chapter in the annals of reportorial gullibility and reminded us of the risks of jumping to conclusions in this lightening fast world of information overload.

But here's a previously untold bit of the Jewell story, as related by longtime reader Jimmy Lawson:

Later in 1996, after Jewell had been widely identified as a suspect in the bombing and after many questions had been raised about whether he was the right guy, Lawson writes that he "was living in Kensington, Maryland and went to the 7-11 at Newport Mill Road and University Blvd. for my typical start-of-my-day coffee and breakfast rolls.

There is a very large stainless steel deck where the coffee is offered and it was there that I discovered this ring binder that contained information directly linked to the Atlanta Olympic Bombing. I asked the clerks if they knew whose it was. Then I asked the group of other patrons that were in at that hour. I never looked inside but took it with me because it looked like it contained lots of important information. I thought for sure that the owner's name would be inside and I could call them so they could retrieve it. On my way to work, I opened this book up and started to read things that I believed the police needed to know.......Things like timing devices, accelerators, detonators, shrapnel, battery wiring schematics etc., and soon I realized what I had. At that point, on my way to work, I started feverishly looking for a police car so I could hand it over for their own investigation.

Finally, I located a Park Police officer in his car at the corner of Clopper and Quince Orchard Roads in Gaithersburg. I gave the officer my pager number, my home phone number, my address, and my drivers license number. During the course of the day, I got at least 12 pages from numbers I did not recognize, most of which had a 202 prefix.

When I got home that night after work, there was the ATF, the FBI, and the Secret Service at my house along with some other interesting fellows from the NSA. Back in those days, I used to dally in smoking a little weed and drinking a few beers after work. Upon leaving my vehicle, which I had to park on the street because all the government official vehicles were in my driveway, I saw these different agents rifling through my stuff in my house. An FBI field agent seemed to be the one asking all the questions. He was holding a bong in his hands as if I was the biggest drug dealer in the United States.

In staccato unison, they asked me questions one after the other and I kept telling them the truth so my story never changed. [The FBI] asked how I knew so much about bombs and I told him that kind of terminology came from nightly TV. They were looking for manuals and bomb making supplies in my house and finally I remembered that 7-11 uses security cameras to help thwart theft of their stores and to record robberies and I said "Why don't you go down to that 7-11 and rewind the videotape and see that the story that I am telling you is the truth?" And the FBI agent said they had already done that.

At this point, everybody left except the two FBI men, who started asking very specific questions about what I observed that day, who I saw doing what, etc. He then asked what I wanted out of finding and turning in this book to the proper authorities. I said I did not want to have happen to me what happened to that fellow Richard Jewell in Atlanta, whom I believed was innocent.

I did ask, though, that he contact me when they found any [connection between the Atlanta investigation and the] evidence from that book. Many months later, [the FBI] called from Orlando, Florida, and said they traced [evidence from the ring binder] to the exact store where the 9-volt battery was purchased to make that bomb."

By Marc Fisher |  September 6, 2007; 1:52 PM ET
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Interesting story about Mr. Lawson. And sad. Given what happened to him, his story isn't exactly an inspiration to do the right thing.

Posted by: Courthouseguy | September 6, 2007 2:56 PM

Unless receipts are found it is impossible to trace down batteries to individual stores.

Posted by: Steve L | September 9, 2007 8:01 AM

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