FBI defends Olympics bomb probe; 911 transcript shows delay
August 9, 1996
ATLANTA (CNN) -- The FBI is defending its probe of the Olympic park bombing, while a 911 transcript of the bomb threat reveals why it took 10 minutes to notify police on the scene, the night of the fatal attack.
FBI investigators admitted Thursday they have yet to find conclusive evidence linking the Olympics pipe bomb attack with the only named suspect, Richard Jewell. The security guard was initially hailed as a hero for spotting the bomb July 27 at Centennial Olympic Park.
But agents said more evidence must be tested, and they will not be ready to close their file on Jewell for some time.
Jewell is "still very much under investigation. That could change, but not for awhile," a senior law enforcement official told CNN correspondent Art Harris.
Separately, the initial response to the telephoned bomb threat is coming under fresh scrutiny, after the Atlanta Police Department released the 911 transcript Thursday.
Transcript excerpts show the 911 operator who answered the call was intent on getting the street address for the park, so the 911 computer would transmit the threat to police dispatch.
The operator got a busy signal at the police department's Agency Command Center, so she called Zone 5, the police precinct that includes the park. The transcript showed this exchange:
911 operator: "You know the address to Centennial Park?"
Police dispatcher: "Girl, don't ask me to lie to you."
Operator: "I tried to call ACC but ain't nobody answering the phone. ... but I just got this man called talking about there's a bomb set to go off in 30 minutes in Centennial Park."
Dispatcher: "Oh, Lord, child. One minute, one minute... uh, OK, wait a minute, Centennial Park, you put it in and it won't go in?"
Operator: "No, unless I'm spelling Centennial wrong. How are we spelling 'centennial'?"
The two briefly discussed the spelling and the park's location. The 911 operator then tried the ACC again but got a bad connection. On her third try, she asked for the address and was offered a phone number.
911 Operator: "I need to get this bomb threat over there to y'all."
Operator: "But I need the address of Centennial Park. ... that's where he said the bomb was."
ACC: "No particular street or what?"
Operator: "He just said there's a bomb set to go off in 30 minutes in Centennial Park."
ACC: "Ooh, it's going to be gone off by the time we find the address."
Operator: "Are you kiddin'? Give me that, give me that."
The 911 operator called the park number and, after asking for the park address, was put on hold for two minutes. The transcript showed while she was on hold, she mentioned the bomb threat to a supervisor. It shows the park operator came back on immediately after the comment, and gave her the street address.
Records show the 13-second call conveying the threat was completed at 12:58:45 a.m. The 911 operator sent the computer message to the dispatcher at 1:08:35, and the dispatcher contacted a police unit at 1:11:10.
A police unit reported a park explosion at 1:20 a.m. The pipe bomb attack killed one person and injured more than 100.
Atlanta Police Chief Beverly Harvard said it was not her department's responsibility to type addresses into the 911 system.
"It's not as if someone was sitting there disregarding the call," Harvard said Thursday. "The question becomes, why wasn't the information in the computer?"
The FBI also said Thursday it was creating a task force to streamline the investigation. It will comprise about 100 full-time investigators from the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Atlanta Police Department.
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