Is Manhunt: Deadly Games a True Story?

Well-produced crime shows present a formidable narrative, but they also afford you the opportunity to discover the dark side of the human psyche from the comfort of your own couch. One such anthology that has us excited is ‘Manhunt: Deadly Games,’ which features one of the most complex manhunts ever to take place on the American soil. But is the plot inspired by real events? Let’s find out.

Is Manhunt: Deadly Games Based on a True Story?

Yes, ‘Manhunt: Deadly Games’ is based on a true story. It provides a dramatized account of the manhunt for Eric Rudolph that was launched after the Centennial Olympic Park bombing that took place in Atlanta in 1996 during the Summer Olympics. On July 27, 1996, thousands had flocked to the park for a late-night concert that featured Jack Mack and the Heart Attack. Sometime after midnight, the perpetrator had left a green backpack in the vicinity, and it contained three pipe bombs.

Image Credit: AP Archive/YouTube

In an advantageous turn of events, the security guard, Richard Jewell, discovered the unattended bag and called the authorities. When it was confirmed that there was a bomb (comprising three pipe bombs) on the scene, he went to the neighboring five-story sound tower and evacuated the technical crew. Then occurred the explosion. Although it killed one person directly and injured 111 others, Richard was credited with saving many lives.

In fact, in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, Richard was hailed as a national hero for his efforts. However, the tide turned against him when he became the prime suspect in the eyes of the FBI and local authorities. Richard was never charged, and no implicating evidence was found against him either. Nonetheless, this did not stop him from becoming the subject of a vicious trial by the media.

At that point in time, the FBI searched Richard’s apartment twice, spoke to his associates, looked into his past, and even surveilled him around the clock. Furthermore, an investigation by the Justice Department also found that the FBI had tried to deceive the security guard into waiving his constitutional rights by telling him that they were filming a training video about bomb detection. (However, the report concluded that no criminal misconduct had transpired).

Image Credit: 60 Minutes/YouTube

It was Richard’s friend, Watson Bryant, who helped the then-suspect with his legal defense. Although Bryant himself dealt with the legalities of business, he passionately defended Richard on television. Furthermore, the lawyer got a prominent criminal attorney on board as well. Richard also partook in a polygraph test that was administered by an ex-FBI agent, which he passed.

Three months later, Richard was exonerated, but not before having been subjected to intense media scrutiny. It was only in 1998 that Eric Rudolph’s name was tied to the bombing. You see, between 1996 and 1998, four explosions occurred in Atlanta and Birmingham. However, he had managed to evade capture despite an extensive manhunt until 2003. He was finally arrested when he was going through the trash bin behind a grocery store in Murphy, North Carolina.

Former FBI executive, Chris Swecker, shed some light on Rudolph’s motives, saying, “He had borrowed ideas from a lot of different places and formed his own personal ideology. He clearly was anti-government and anti-abortion, anti-gay, ‘anti’ a lot of things. The bombings really sprang from his own unique biases and prejudices. He had his own way of looking at the world and didn’t get along with a lot of people.” 

Image Credit: FBI

Richard moved on with his life in the meantime. He returned to work in law enforcement and went on to marry a social worker named Dana. Nonetheless, the entire incident had impacted him tremendously. In an interview with ’60 Minutes,’ he said, “I’ve never been treated like a hero. Never. I don’t know what a hero’s treated like, but my mother and I have never been treated like that.” 

Rudolph was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences as part of a plea bargain that helped him avoid the death penalty. The convict said this about the first attack: “I cannot begin to truly understand the pain that I have inflicted upon these innocent people. I would do anything to take back that night.” Presently, the 54-year-old is behind bars at the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (USP Florence ADMAX) near Florence, Colorado. Richard, on the other hand, died in August 2007 due to heart complications from diabetes at age 44. 

Read More: Where Was Manhunt: Deadly Games Filmed?