Investigators looked at Richard Jewell after the Olympic Park bombing as someone who had a history of overzealousness and a desire to be a hero. Plus, he was near where the bomb exploded.
With such elements fitting the profile of a lone bomber, but with no hard evidence, they went after him - and struck out spectacularly.After three months at the center of the probe, Jewell has been publicly cleared as a target of the bomb investigation.
However, criminal justice experts said Monday that the profiling that led authorities to Jewell is a viable law enforcement tool despite its failure in this case.
"Profiling is merely an indicator that this is a person we should look at," said Robert Heibel, a retired FBI agent who now runs a research training program at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa.
"If he walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and has feathers, you should go to lengths to prove he's not a duck," Heibel said.
According to a 10-page affidavit
unsealed Monday, the FBI in July obtained a warrant to search Jewell's property by telling a judge that he was fascinated by "cop stuff" and had a cursory knowledge of bombs.
His work as a police officer at a small northeast Georgia college, where officials said he had a tendency to go overboard, also was offered as a reason to search his belongings after the bomb exploded July 27 at Centennial Olympic Park, killing a woman and injuring 111 people. One TV cameraman died of a heart attack.
While the affidavit contains no hard evidence against Jewell, it raised valid suspicions, said Robert Friedmann, chairman of the criminal justice department at Georgia State University.
"If you read it line by line it may not look like much, but the total picture is of one you would want to question," Friedmann said. "Don't forget, questioning him doesn't mean he did it. Probable cause and a conviction are miles apart."
At a news conference Monday, Jewell cried as he spoke about his ordeal and lashed out at reporters and investigators who had depicted him as the man who brought the specter of terrorism to the Summer Olympics.
"I felt like a hunted animal, followed constantly, waiting to be killed," Jewell said. "The media said I fit the profile of a lone bomber. That was a lie. The media said I was a frustrated police wanna-be. That was a lie. I was, then and now, a law enforcement officer."
His lawyers plan to sue the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which first reported he was a suspect, and NBC for comments Tom Brokaw made in early news reports about the bombing. The newspaper on Monday defended its stories as "accurate and appropriate."
In the whirlwind of speculation in the days after the bombing, Jewell was often linked to "hero syndrome" - compared with fire-fighters who start fires so they can put them out and nurses who administer too much medicine to patients so they can save them.
The FBI affidavit contains several entries that follow the pattern.
Jewell, who worked as a security guard at the park during the Olympics, "was always reading and talking about `cop stuff,' " an acquaintance told an investigator in the affidavit. The names of the sources were blacked out.
"Jewell lives and breathes police stories, spy stories and SWAT," another said.