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Context of 'January 1995: Future Oklahoma City Bomber Attends Michigan Militia Meeting'

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Combat engineering vehicles (CEVs) lined up outside the blazing Branch Davidian compound.Combat engineering vehicles (CEVs) lined up outside the blazing Branch Davidian compound. [Source: PBS]The FBI and local law enforcement officials begin their planned assault on the besieged Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993, March 1, 1993, and April 17-18, 1993), despite indications that the Davidians inside the compound will retaliate either by firing on the gathered law enforcement officials, by torching the main residential building, or perhaps both (see April 18, 1993). [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Warning - At 5:55 a.m., Richard Rogers, the commander of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), orders two combat engineering vehicles (CEVs, unarmed modifications of Bradley fighting vehicles and the primary means for deplying CS “riot control agent” into the main building) deployed to the main building. One minute later, senior negotiator Byron Sage telephones the residence and speaks with Davidian Steve Schneider. At 5:59, Schneider comes to the phone. Sage tells him: “We are in the process of putting tear gas into the building. This is not an assault. We will not enter the building.” Schneider replies, “You are going to spray tear gas into the building?” Sage says, “In the building… no, we are not entering the building.” At the conclusion of the conversation, Schneider or another Davidian throws the telephone out of the building. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] Minutes later, Schneider slips out, retrieves the phone, and ducks back inside. [Time, 5/3/1993]
Combat Vehicles Begin Deploying Gas, Davidians Open Fire - At 6:02 a.m., the two CEVs begin inserting CS gas into the compound, using spray nozzles attached to booms. The booms punch holes through the exterior walls of the building. The FBI uses unarmed Bradley Fighting Vehicles to deploy “ferret rounds,” military ammunition designed to release CS after penetrating a barricade such as a wall or window. As the CEVs and the Bradleys punch holes into the buildings for the deployment of the gas, Sage makes the following statement over the loudspeakers: “We are in the process of placing tear gas into the building. This is not an assault. We are not entering the building. This is not an assault. Do not fire your weapons. If you fire, fire will be returned. Do not shoot. This is not an assault. The gas you smell is a non-lethal tear gas. This gas will temporarily render the building uninhabitable. Exit the residence now and follow instructions. You are not to have anyone in the tower. The [guard] tower is off limits. No one is to be in the tower. Anyone observed to be in the tower will be considered to be an act of aggression [sic] and will be dealt with accordingly. If you come out now, you will not be harmed. Follow all instructions. Come out with your hands up. Carry nothing. Come out of the building and walk up the driveway toward the Double-E Ranch Road. Walk toward the large Red Cross flag. Follow all instructions of the FBI agents in the Bradleys. Follow all instructions. You are under arrest. This standoff is over. We do not want to hurt anyone. Follow all instructions. This is not an assault. Do not fire any weapons. We do not want anyone hurt. Gas will continue to be delivered until everyone is out of the building.” Two minutes later, Davidians begin firing on the vehicles from the windows. The gunfire from the Davidians prompts Rogers and FBI commander Jeffrey Jamar to decide to change tactics; at 6:07 a.m., the assault forces begin deploying all of the gas at once instead of dispersing it in a controlled manner over the course of 48-72 hours as originally envisioned. [Dean M. Kelley, 5/1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; USMC Weapons, 2002] (Jamar will later testify that before the assault even began, he was “99 percent certain” that the FBI would have to escalate its assault because the Davidians would open fire.) [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] As a CEV demolishes the back wall of the gymnasium area of the compound, negotiators broadcast: “David, we are facilitating you leaving the compound by enlarging the door.… Leave the building now.” [Cox News Service, 1/30/2000] Jamar will later explain that the Bradleys do not carry military weaponry. “Of course we had all the firepower removed,” he will say in a 1995 interview. “There were no cannons or anything on them. We used them for transportation. And they’re more than a personnel carrier—they’re a track vehicle. I mean it’s mud, just thick mud there the whole time. And the agents learned how to drive ‘em. But the idea was to protect them as best we could. And we didn’t know—they talked about blowing a 50—did they have rockets? Who knows? Did they have explosives buried in various vicinities? Are they prepared to run out with Molatov cocktails? What’s in their mind?” Jamar is referring to threats made by Koresh and other Davidians to blow up FBI vehicles. As for the CEVs, they are tanks modified for construction and engineering purposes, and are often used as bulldozers. Observers watching the events live on television or later on videotape will sometimes mistake the CEVs for actual tanks, though two M1A1 Abrams tanks are actually on site and take part in the assault. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
House Report: Davidians Would Certainly Consider FBI's Actions an Assault - A 1996 report by a House of Representatives investigative committee (see August 2, 1996) will note that it is almost impossible for the Davidians not to consider themselves under assault, with tank-like vehicles tearing holes in the building, CS being sprayed everywhere, grenade-like projectiles crashing through windows, men in body armor swarming around the compound, and the sounds of what seems like combat all around them. “Most people would consider this to be an attack on them—an ‘assault’ in the simplest terms,” the report will find. “If they then saw other military vehicles approaching, from which projectiles were fired through the windows of their home, most people are even more likely to believe that they were under an assault. If those vehicles then began to tear down their home there would be little doubt that they were being attacked. These events are what the Davidians inside the residence experienced on April 19, yet the FBI did not consider their actions an assault.” Moreover, the FBI did not consider the close-knit, home-centered community the Davidians have long since formed. “Their religious leader led them to believe that one day a group of outsiders, non-believers, most likely in the form of government agents, would come for them,” the report will state. “Indeed, they believed that this destiny had been predicted 2,000 years before in Biblical prophecy. Given this mindset, it can hardly be disputed that the Davidians thought they were under assault at 6 a.m. on April 19.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Monitoring from Washington - At 7:00 a.m., Attorney General Janet Reno and senior Justice Department and FBI officials go to the FBI situation room to monitor the assault. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Buildings Breached - At 7:30 a.m., a CEV breaches the side of one of the main buildings and injects large amounts of tear gas into the interior of the compound. At 7:58 a.m., gas is fired into the second floor of the back-right corner of the building. The FBI asks for more ferret rounds, and by 9:30 a.m., 48 more ferret rounds arrive from Houston. The assault is hampered by the FBI’s dwindling supply of ferret rounds, a CEV with mechanical difficulties, and high winds dispersing the gas. Another CEV enlarges the opening in the center-front of the building, with the idea of providing an escape route for the trapped Davidians. A third CEV breaches the rear of the building, according to a later Justice Department report, “to create openings near the gymnasium.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Clinton Told Assault Progressing Well - At about 11 a.m., Reno briefs President Clinton, tells him that the assault seems to be going well, and leaves for a judicial conference in Baltimore. During this time, a CEV breaches the back side of the compound. At 11:40 a.m., the FBI fires the last of the ferret rounds into the building. At 11:45 a.m., one wall of the compound collapses. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Transcriptionist Escapes - Ruth Riddle, the typist and transcriptionist sent inside the compound by the FBI to help Koresh finish his “Seven Seals” manuscript (see April 18, 1993), escapes the compound before the fire. She brings out a computer disk containing the unfinished manuscript. [Dean M. Kelley, 5/1995]
Davidians Set Fires throughout Compound - At 12:07 p.m., according to the Justice Department and House reports, the Davidians start “simultaneous fires at three or more different locations within the compound.” An FBI Hostage Rescue Team member reports seeing “a male starting a fire” in the front of the building. Later analyses show that the first fire begins in a second-floor bedroom, the second in the first floor dining room, and the third in the first floor chapel. Evidence also shows that the fires spread according to “accelerant trails,” such as a trail of flammable liquid being poured on the floor. Some of the Davidians’ clothing found in the rubble also shows traces of gasoline, kerosene, Coleman fuel (liquid petroleum, sometimes called “white gas”), and lighter fluid, further suggesting that the Davidians use accelerants to start and spread the fires. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] Within eight minutes, the main building is engulfed in flames. One explosion, probably from a propane gas tank, is observed. Later investigation will find a propane tank with its top blown off in the debris. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] After the compound burns to the ground, FBI agent Bob Ricks tells reporters, “David Koresh, we believe, gave the order to commit suicide and they all willingly followed.” [New York Times, 4/20/1993] Some of the Davidians who survive the conflagration later claim that the Davidians did not start the fires, but arson investigators with the Justice Department and the Texas Rangers, as well as an independent investigator, will conclude that Davidians did indeed start the fires in at least three different areas of the main building. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995] A 1993 Treasury Department report (see Late September - October 1993) will produce audiotapes of Davidians inside the compound and transcripts of conversations, secured via electronic surveillance, discussing the means of setting the fires. Voices on the tapes and in the transcripts say such things as: “The fuel has to go all around to get started.” “Got to put enough fuel in there.” “So, we only light ‘em as they come in,” or as a slightly different version has it, “So, we only light ‘em as soon as they tell me.” Once the fires begin, high winds and the breaches in the walls cause the flames to almost immediately begin consuming the compound. [Dean M. Kelley, 5/1995] In 1999, Colonel Rodney Rawlings, the senior military liaison to the HRT, will tell reporters that he heard Koresh give the orders to start the fires over FBI surveillance “bugs” (see October 8, 1999). Sage later describes the horror that goes through him and his fellow agents when they realize that the Davidians have torched the compound. He will recall “pleading” with the Davidians to leave the compound, and say: “I can’t express the emotions that goes through you. I had to physically turn around away from the monitor to keep my mind focused on what I was trying to broadcast to those people.” He will recall being horrified by the failure of people to flee the compound. “I fully anticipated those people would come pouring out of there,” he says. “I’d been through CS teargas on numerous occasions [in training exercises]. And I would move heaven and earth to get my kids out of that kind of an environment. And that’s frankly what we were banking on. That at least the parents would remove their children from that kind of situation.” Of Koresh, he will say: “By him intentionally lighting that place afire and consuming the lives of 78 people, including over 20 young children, was just inconceivable to me. In 25 years of law enforcement I’ve never been faced with someone that was capable of doing that.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995] Six years later, the FBI will admit to releasing two pyrotechnic grenades into the compound, but insists the grenades did not start the fires (see August 25, 1999 and After).
Plea for Release - At 12:12 p.m., Sage calls on Koresh to lead the Davidians to safety. Nine Davidians flee the compound and are arrested [PBS Frontline, 10/1995] , including one woman who leaves, attempts to return to the burning building, and tries unsuccessfully to fight off a federal agent who comes to her aid. [New York Times, 4/20/1993] One of the nine runs out of the building at around 12:28 p.m., indicating that even 21 minutes after the fire, it is possible for some of the inhabitants to make their escape. However, most of the Davidians retreat to areas in the center of the building and do not attempt to get out. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
'Systematic Gunfire' - At 12:25 p.m., FBI agents hear “systematic gunfire” coming from inside of the building; some agents believe that the Davidians are either killing themselves or each other. The House committee investigation later finds that FBI agents hear rapid-fire gunshots coming from the compound; while many of the gunshots are probably caused by exploding ammunition, “other sounds were methodical and evenly-spaced, indicating the deliberate firing of weapons.”
Fire Department Responds; Search for Survivors - At 12:41 p.m., fire trucks and firefighters begin attempting to put out the flames. HRT agents enter tunnels to search for survivors, particularly children. [Dean M. Kelley, 5/1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] No fire trucks are at the scene when the assault begins, and it takes around 25 minutes for the first fire department vehicles to respond to emergency calls from their stations in Waco. Bob Sheehy, mayor of Waco, later says the city fire department “first got a call after the fire had already started.” Ricks explains that fire engines were not brought to the compound earlier for fear that firefighters might have been exposed to gunfire from the compound, and because FBI officials did not expect a fire. “We did not introduce fire to this compound, and it was not our intention that this compound be burned down. I can’t tell you the shock and the horror that all of us felt when we saw those flames coming out of there. It was, ‘Oh, my God, they’re killing themselves.’” [New York Times, 4/20/1993]
Death Toll - In all, 78 Branch Davidians, including over 20 children, two pregnant women, and Koresh himself, die in the fire. Nineteen of the dead are killed by close-range gunshot wounds. Almost all of the others either die from smoke inhalation, burns, or both. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] The number is improperly reported in a number of media sources, and varies from 75 to 81. Even the House committee report does not cite a definitive total. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] Some of the FBI negotiators involved in the siege later say that they feel continued negotiations might have saved many, perhaps all, of the lives of those inside the compound. In an interview later in the year, one negotiator tells a reporter, “I’ll always, in my own mind, feel like maybe we could have gotten some more people out.” [New Yorker, 5/15/1995] But HRT member Barry Higginbotham, one of the snipers who observes the Davidians throughout the siege, will later state that neither he nor anyone on his team believed the Davidians would ever willingly surrender. Higginbotham will say: “We just felt that if you make them suffer a little more, deny them perhaps a little more food, lighting, power, things like that inside, that would cause more pressure on their leadership inside. And perhaps their leadership would go to Koresh and pressure him to start negotiating in good faith. It was hard to believe that Koresh was ever negotiating in good faith.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995] In the hours after the conflagration, Ricks tells reporters: “We had hoped the women would grab their children and flee. That did not occur and they bunkered down the children and allowed them to go up in flames with them.… It was truly an inferno of flames.” Ricks says that authorities receive reports, perhaps from some of the survivors, that the children had been injected with some kind of poison to ease their pain. This claim is never confirmed. [New York Times, 4/20/1993]
In the Bunker - FBI investigators combing the building after the conflagration find an enormous amount of guns and other weaponry inside. Dr. Rodney Crow, the FBI’s chief of identification services and one of the officials who examine the bodies of the Davidians, spends much of his time in the compound’s underground bunker, where many of the bodies are found. Crow later says: “There were weapons everywhere. I don’t remember moving a body that didn’t have a gun melted to it, intertwined with it, between the legs, under the arm, or in close proximity. And I’d say 18 inches to 20 inches would be close proximity.… The women were probably more immersed in the weapons than anyone else, because there was so much weaponry inside the bunker. It was like sea shells on a beach, but they were spent casings and spent bullets. If you had rubber gloves and tried to smooth it away, you’d tear your gloves away from the bullet points that are unexploded, or unspent ammunition. Then as you went through layer after layer, you came upon weapons that were totally burned. Until we got down to the floor, and it was mint condition ammunition there. Ammunition boxes not even singed.” The most powerful weapon Crow finds is a .50-caliber machine gun. Some of the bodies have gunshot wounds. Crow will say: “My theory is there was a lot of euthanasia and mercy killing. That group probably were just about as active as anywhere in the compound, mercifully putting each other out of misery in the last moments.” In total, 33 bodies are found inside the bunker; almost all the women and children found inside the compound are in the bunker. Many are found to have died from suffocation or smoke inhalation (two died from falling debris), but some died from gunshot wounds, and one woman was stabbed to death. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995] Local medical examiner Nizam Peerwani later says he does not believe the people in the bunker committed suicide, saying: “There has been a lot of speculation if this is a mass suicide or not. And—did they all go there to die? Ah, we don’t really think so. What I feel personally is that they tried to escape. A bunker was perhaps the safest area in the compound.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995] Sage will say that he knew the children were dead sometime around 12:30 p.m. He recalls terminating the negotiations at that time, “because I didn’t want the loudspeaker bank to interfere with instructions being given on the ground. At that point in time, I walked over to the site in shock, basically. And, uh, the first thing I asked is, ‘Where are the kids?’” He is told, “Nowhere.” Sage will say: “They had not come out. They had been consumed.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Koresh's Fate - Koresh and Schneider are found in a small room the authorities call “the communication room.” Koresh is dead of a single gunshot wound to the forehead. Schneider is dead from a gunshot wound in the mouth. Peerwani later says: “Did David Koresh shoot himself and Schneider shoot himself? Or did Schneider shoot David Koresh and then turn around and shoot himself? Certainly both are possible. We cannot be certain as to what really transpired.” [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
No Ill Effects from Gas - Peerwani and his colleagues examine the bodies for damage caused by the CS gas used in the assault, and find none. While many of the Davidians were exposed to the gas, according to tissue and blood studies, none inhaled enough of it to cause anything more than short-term discomfort. Concurrently, Peerwani and his colleagues find no damage from the propellant used in the ferret rounds. A fire report later written by Texas-based investigators will call the tear gas operation a failure at dispersing the Davidians. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; PBS Frontline, 10/1995] Medical examinations show that some of the children may well have been overcome by the gas, and rendered unable to escape, but the compound had not been gassed for an hour before the fires began, and CS has a persistence factor of only 10 minutes—in other words, the effects should have worn off by the time the fires broke out. The gas proves ineffective against the adults, because the adult Davidians are equipped with gas masks. [PBS Frontline, 10/1995]
Wrongly Executed Plan - The plan as signed by Reno called on law enforcement forces to deploy tear gas into the compound at stated intervals, then have agents retreat to await evacuees before approaching again. This “passive,” “restrained” approach was to have been followed for up to 72 hours before using assault vehicles to force entry. Instead, the agents wait only 12 minutes before beginning a motorized vehicle assault. [New Yorker, 5/15/1995]
Taking Responsibility - One of the unlikely “heroes” of the debacle is Reno. She signed off on the attack (see April 17-18, 1993), and within hours of the attacks, she holds a televised press conference where she says: “I made the decision. I am accountable . The buck stops here” (see April 19, 1993). She repeats this statement over and over again on national television. [New Yorker, 5/15/1995]

Entity Tags: Bob Ricks, Bob Sheehy, Branch Davidians, David Koresh, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, Barry Higginbotham, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Janet Reno, Jeffrey Jamar, Byron Sage, US Department of Justice, Nizam Peerwani, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Richard Rogers, Rodney Rawlings, Rodney Crow, Ruth Riddle, Texas Rangers, Steve Schneider

Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis

Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, May-September 1993 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) again goes to Michigan to join his Army buddy and future co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, and April 2, 1992 and After). He stays with Nichols for several months, living on a farm in Decker, Michigan, owned by Nichols’s brother James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988) and helping with the harvest. The two also drive around the country, buying and selling items at gun shows. Enraged by the debacle in Waco (see April 19, 1993), McVeigh and Nichols begin experimenting with explosives on James Nichols’s farm, meeting with members of the nascent Michigan Militia (see April 1994), and proposing to launch violent attacks on judges, lawyers, and police officers (see April 19, 1993 and After). McVeigh and Nichols find the militiamen too inactive for their taste. (Michigan Militia spokesmen will later claim that they ejected Nichols and his brother James from their group for their “hyperbolic language”; after the bombing, militia leader Norm Olson will say, “These people were told to leave because of that type of talk of destruction and harm and terrorism.”) Inspired by the novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), McVeigh and Nichols form their own small “cell” (see February 1992), calling themselves the “Patriots.” (Some neighbors will later say that McVeigh and Nichols were not necessarily building “practice bombs” for later use, but merely amusing themselves—“mixtures of mainly household chemicals”—to relieve the boredom of farm work.) In October, they drive to Elohim City, a white supremacist compound in eastern Oklahoma (see 1973 and After), where they meet with at least one member of the Aryan Republican Army (see 1992 - 1995). A speeding ticket from December 1993 shows McVeigh makes multiple visits to the compound. During this time, Nichols and McVeigh go to a gun show in Arkansas, and briefly consider buying a house there, but instead they return to Michigan. Neighbors later recall that McVeigh and Nichols go to several meetings of the Michigan Militia (see January 1995). McVeigh begins using the alias “Tim Tuttle,” and begins buying nitromethane, a key ingredient in explosives, at hobby shops (see December 1993). [New York Times, 4/24/1995; New York Times, 5/4/1995; New York Times, 5/28/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 159; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003] During this time, McVeigh acquires a Michigan driver’s license. [New York Times, 4/23/1995] After the bombing, Elohim City leader Robert Millar will deny having any knowledge of McVeigh (see April 1993 and May 24, 1995).

Entity Tags: Robert Millar, Elohim City, Aryan Republican Army, James Nichols, Norman (“Norm”) Olson, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Michigan Militia

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, February - July 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, and September 12, 1994 and After), plotting to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), sends a letter to his Army buddy Michael Fortier (see February - July 1994). He tells Fortier that he and his friend Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994) plan to take “some type of positive offensive action” against the government. [Washington Post, 12/24/1997] Fortier will later say that a week after receiving the letter, McVeigh tells him what sort of “positive action” he means. Fortier will say, “He told me that him and Terry were thinking of blowing up a building.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 79] Subsequent analysis by FBI behavioral analyst Jack Douglas will indicate that part of McVeigh’s impetus for deciding on “positive action” is the signing of a crime bill into law that bans the ownership and distribution of 19 types of assault weapons (see September 13, 1994). [New York Times, 12/31/1995] It is around this time that Terry Nichols’s brother James (see December 22 or 23, 1988) tells McVeigh and his brother that they are heading down the wrong path with their paramilitary actions. According to neighbor Philip Morawski, “[James] believed that there were other ways of bringing about change.” [People, 5/8/1995]

Entity Tags: John E. (“Jack”) Douglas, James Nichols, Terry Lynn Nichols, Michael Joseph Fortier, Timothy James McVeigh, Philip Morawski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, actively engaged in plotting to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), drive by the building. They park in front of the building, get out of their car, and time the distance to the place McVeigh plans to be at the time the bomb will be set to explode. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001] They go through Oklahoma City on their way to buy racing fuel, an essential ingredient for their bomb (see October 21 or 22, 1994). [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Murrah Federal Building, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Kevin Nicholas, a farmhand in Vassar, Michigan, receives a phone call from his friend Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). McVeigh is en route to Nicholas’s home to stay with him. From a truck stop in Saginaw, Michigan, McVeigh calls Nicholas and asks him to drive out to a Speedway service station near I-75. He needs a ride to Nicholas’s house because he has had an accident with his car; on his way back from Kansas (see December 16, 1994 and After), he was rear-ended, and just managed to get his damaged car to the truck stop. When Nicholas arrives, he helps McVeigh load belongings into his car, including two Christmas packages. McVeigh tells Nicholas to leave the packages alone. According to later statements by Nicholas: “I was just grabbing stuff, and just throwing it in the back of my truck, and Tim said: ‘Don’t handle them. I’ll take care of them two Christmas-wrapped packages there,’ because I was just tossing his other stuff in, you know, was in a hurry, wanted to get home.” Nicholas asks McVeigh what is in the packages and, according to Nicholas, McVeigh replies, “I’ll tell you later.” The two manage to pry the bumper of McVeigh’s car far enough to allow McVeigh to follow Nicholas to his home. McVeigh stores the packages in a shed near Nicholas’s house, and later takes them to Chicago, on a trip to visit David Paulsen, a gun and military surplus dealer. After the Chicago trip, according to Nicholas, McVeigh will tell him that the packages contained blasting caps that he had gotten “dirt cheap” (see October 3, 1994), though author Richard A. Serrano will later write that McVeigh told Nicholas about the “caps” later that same evening. Multiple sources agree that McVeigh never tells Nicholas that he is planning on using the caps to detonate a bomb in Oklahoma City. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 5/9/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 107-109] The blasting caps in the packages were wrapped by McVeigh’s friend Lori Fortier (see December 16, 1994 and After). McVeigh is thankful that the blasting caps did not explode when his car was hit. He later buys an old blue Pontiac station wagon from James Nichols, the brother of his co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988 and January 1 - January 8, 1995). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 107-109]

Entity Tags: Michael Joseph Fortier, David Paulsen, James Nichols, Lori Fortier, Timothy James McVeigh, Richard A. Serrano, Kevin Nicholas

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

According to later statements by Michigan Militia members, Timothy McVeigh, a white supremacist engaged in plotting to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), attends a meeting of the group in Jackson, Michigan, where speakers talk of action against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). Many anti-government groups such as the Michigan Militia have a special hatred for the BATF, which they hold largely responsible for the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). [New York Times, 4/23/1995; New York Times, 5/4/1995] McVeigh is staying for a time in Michigan with a friend, Kevin Nicholas (see December 18, 1994). It is unclear whether Nicholas is a member or a sympathizer of the Michigan Militia.

Entity Tags: Michigan Militia, Kevin Nicholas, Timothy James McVeigh, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Alfred P. Murrah Building after being bombed.The Alfred P. Murrah Building after being bombed. [Source: CBS News]A truck bomb destroys the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people in America’s worst domestic terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh, later convicted in the bombing, has ideological roots both in the Patriot world and among neo-Nazis like William Pierce, whose novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978), served as a blueprint for the attack. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 127] Initially, many believe that no American set off the bomb, and suspect Islamist terrorists of actually carrying out the bombing (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Their suspicions prove groundless. Investigators will find that the bomb is constructed of some 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, carried in 20 or so blue plastic 55-gallon barrels arranged inside a rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995). The bomb is detonated by a slow-burning safety fuse, most likely lit by hand. The fuse is attached to a much faster-burning detonation cord (“det cord”) which ignites the fertilizer and fuel-oil mixture. [New York Times, 4/27/1995] The Murrah Federal Building houses a number of federal agencies, including offices for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF); the Social Security Administration; the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture departments; and the Secret Service. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995] It encompasses an entire city block, between 5th and 4th Streets and Harvey and Robinson Streets, and features a U-shaped, indented drive on 5th that allows for quick pickup and delivery parking. The entire building’s facade on this side is made of glass, allowing passersby to see into the offices in the building, as well as into the America’s Kids day care center on the second floor, which by this time is filling with children. It is in this driveway that McVeigh parks his truck. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 99-102]
Entering the City - McVeigh drives into Oklahoma City, entering around 8:30 a.m. from his overnight stop in Ponca City, Oklahoma; the details reported of his entrance into the city vary (see 7:00 a.m. - 8:35 a.m., April 19, 1995). At 8:55 a.m., a security camera captures the Ryder truck as it heads towards downtown Oklahoma City [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] , a sighting bolstered by three people leaving the building who later say they saw the truck parked in front of the Murrah Building around this time. At 8:57, a security camera captures an image of McVeigh’s Ryder truck being parked outside the Murrah Building in a handicapped zone. One survivor of the blast, Marine recruiter Michael Norfleet, later recalls seeing the Ryder truck parked just outside the building next to the little circle drive on 5th Street leading up to the main entrance of the building. Norfleet had parked his black Ford Ranger in front of the Ryder.
McVeigh Lights Fuses - McVeigh drives the Ryder truck west past the Murrah Building on NW Fourth Street, turns north on a one-way street, and turns right on Fifth Street. He pulls the truck over and parks near the Firestone store, next to a chain-link fence. He then lights the five-minute fuses from inside the cab (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), sets the parking brake, drops the key behind the seat, opens the door, locks the truck, exits, and shuts the door behind him. A man later claims to have hit his brakes to avoid someone matching McVeigh’s description as he crossed Fifth Street around 9:00 a.m. McVeigh walks quickly toward a nearby YMCA building where he has hidden his getaway car, a battered yellow Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995), in the adjoining alleyway, crossing Robinson Street and crossing another street to get to the alleyway. He begins to jog as he approaches his car. He later says he remembers a woman looking at him as she is walking down the steps to enter the building; he will describe her as white, in her mid-30s, with dirty blonde hair. According to McVeigh’s own recollection, he is about 20 feet into the alley when the bomb goes off. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 184-185; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 158; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Truck Explodes - At 9:02 a.m., the truck explodes, destroying most of the Murrah Building and seriously damaging many nearby buildings. Eventually, it will be determined that 168 people die in the blast, including 19 children. Over 500 are injured. The children are in the second-story day care center just above the parking space where McVeigh leaves the Ryder truck. McVeigh will later tell his biographers that he is lifted off his feet by the power of the blast.
Devastation and Death - When the bomb detonates, the day care center and the children plummet into the basement. The building, constructed with large glass windows, collapses, sending a wave of flying glass shards and debris into the building and the surrounding area. The oldest victim is 73-year-old Charles Hurlbert, who has come to the Social Security office on the first floor. Hurlbert’s wife Jean, 67, also dies in the blast. The youngest victim is four-month-old Gabeon Bruce, whose mother is also in the Social Security office. One victim, Rebecca Anderson, is a nurse who runs towards the building to render assistance. She never makes it to the building; she is struck in the head by a piece of falling debris and will die in a hospital four days after the blast. Her heart and kidneys will be transplanted into survivors of the bombing. [Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 153-154; Oklahoma City Journal Record, 3/29/2001] Sherri Sparks, who has friends still unaccounted for in the building, tells a reporter in the hours after the blast, “Oh, I can’t stand the thought of… those innocent children, sitting there playing, thinking they’re safe, and then this happens.” The explosion leaves a 30-foot-wide, 8-foot-deep crater in the street that is covered by the wreckage of the building’s upper floors. The north face of the nine-story building collapses entirely. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; Washington Post, 4/22/1995] Mary Heath, a psychologist who works about 20 blocks from the Murrah Building, says the blast “shook the daylights out of things—it scared us to death. We felt the windows shake before we heard the noise.” In a neighboring building, a Water Resources Board meeting is just commencing; the audiotape of the meeting captures the sound of the blast (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] Norfleet, trapped in the Marine Corps office, is thrown into a wall by the explosion. His skull is fractured, and a shard of glass punctures his right eye. Three separate arteries are pierced, and Norfleet begins bleeding heavily. Two supply sergeants in the office are far less injured; Norfleet asks one, “How bad am I hurt?” and one replies, “Sir, you look really bad.” One of the two begins giving Norfleet first aid; Norfleet later recalls: “He immediately went into combat mode and started taking care of me. He laid me on a table and he started looking for bandages to administer first aid. And while I was laying on that table, I just knew that I was losing strength and that if I stayed in the building, I would die.” Norfleet wraps a shirt around his head and face to slow the bleeding, and the two sergeants help him to the stairs, through the fallen rubble, and eventually out. Norfleet will later say that he follows “a blood trail of somebody that had gone down the steps before me” to get outside, where he is quickly put into an ambulance. He loses almost half his body’s blood supply and his right eye. He will never fly again, and will soon be discharged for medical incapacity. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 161-162] Eighteen-month-old Phillip Allen, called “P.J.” by his parents, miraculously survives the blast. The floor gives way beneath him and he plunges 18 feet to land on the stomach of an adult worker on the floor below, Calvin Johnson. Landing on Johnson’s stomach saves P.J.‘s life. Johnson is knocked unconscious by the blast and by the impact of the little boy falling on him, but when he awakes, he carries the toddler to safety. P.J.‘s grandfather calls the child “Oklahoma’s miracle kid,” and media reports use the label when retelling the story of the miraculous rescue. P.J. is one of six children in the day care center to survive the blast. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 275-277] Some people later report their belief that the Murrah Building was rocked by a second explosion just moments after the first one, the second coming from a secure area managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) that illegally stored explosives. Law professor Douglas O. Linder will later write, “Both seismic evidence and witness testimony supports the ‘two blast theory.’” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] That theory is later disputed (see After 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Explosion's Effects Felt Miles Away - Buildings near the Murrah are also damaged, seven severely, including the Journal Record newspaper building, the offices of Southwestern Bell, the Water Resources Board, an Athenian restaurant, the YMCA, a post office building, and the Regency Tower Hotel. Two Water Resources Board employees and a restaurant worker are killed in the blast. The Journal Record building loses its roof. Assistant Fire Chief Jon Hansen later recalls, “The entire block looked like something out of war-torn Bosnia.” Every building within four blocks of the Murrah suffers some effects. A United Parcel Service truck 10 miles away has its windows shattered by the blast. Cars in parking lots around the area catch fire and burn. Millions of sheets of paper, and an innumerable number of glass shards, shower down for hundreds of feet around the building. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 28-30]
Truck Axle Crushes Nearby Car - Richard Nichols (no relation to bomber Timothy McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols), a maintenance worker standing with his wife a block and a half away from the Murrah Building, is spun around by the force of the blast. They throw open the back door of their car and begin taking their young nephew Chad Nichols out of the back seat, when Richard sees a large shaft of metal hurtling towards them. The “humongous object… spinning like a boomerang,” as Richard later describes it, hits the front of their Ford Festiva, smashing the windshield, crushing the front end, driving the rear end high into the air, and sending the entire car spinning backwards about 10 feet. Chad is not seriously injured. The metal shaft is the rear axle of the Ryder truck. Later, investigators determine that it weighs 250 pounds and was blown 575 feet from where the truck was parked. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) points out the axle to reporters when he walks the scene a day or so later, causing some media outlets to incorrectly report that Keating “discovered” the axle. The scene will take investigators days to process for evidence. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 32; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 187-189]
First Responders Begin Arriving - Within minutes, survivors begin evacuating the building, and first responders appear on the scene (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995).
McVeigh's Getaway - McVeigh flees the bomb site in his Mercury getaway car (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995), but is captured less than 90 minutes later (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995).

Federal authorities publicly identify Timothy McVeigh, the accused Oklahoma City bomber (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), as a member of the Michigan Militia (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, April 1994, and January 1995), and say the Nichols brothers, his suspected co-conspirators, are also affiliated with the organization (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). After McVeigh’s arrest, authorities discover residues of ammonium nitrate and high explosives in his car. They also find political documents and a note from 18th-century philosopher John Locke citing his “right” to kill “political oppressors.” The package includes a copy of the Declaration of Independence, material on the 1993 Branch Davidian assault (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), material on Revolutionary War battles, an anti-government leaflet, and quotations from political philosophers. Included in the documents are copied passages from the overtly racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978 and April 21, 1995). Later examination of the copied pages show that the pages describe the bombing of FBI headquarters that, in the novel, touches off a white “Aryan” revolution and the subsequent slaughter of blacks and Jews. The Turner Diaries passage contains the following quote: “The real value of our attacks today lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties. For one thing, our efforts against the System gained immeasurably in credibility. More important, though, is what we taught the politicians and the bureaucrats. They learned today that not one of them is beyond our reach. They can huddle behind barbed wire and tanks in the city, or they can hide behind the concrete walls and alarm systems of their country estates, but we can still find them and kill them.” Another document in the car contains a quote from Revolutionary War leader Samuel Adams that reads: “When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Underneath, in McVeigh’s handwriting, is an additional note: “Maybe now, there will be liberty.” [Washington Post, 4/22/1995; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 809; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]

Entity Tags: Michigan Militia, Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Nichols, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

With the news that the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) was not carried out by foreign terrorists (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After) but apparently by Timothy McVeigh, a former US soldier from upstate New York (see April 21, 1995), the news media suddenly begins exploring what the New York Times calls “the murky world of the extreme right, of paramilitary groups with names like The Order, Aryan Nation Group, White Aryan Resistance, Posse Comitatus, Bruder Schweigen, or Duck Club, whose members rail against Jews, blacks, Communists, Muslims, and bankers, train with weapons, and above all, [despise] the federal government.” Journalism professor James P. Corcoran, who wrote Bitter Harvest, a book about one of the heroes of the far right, Gordon Kahl (see February 13, 1983 and After), tells the Times: “The one common thread [between these organizations] is Big Government. There are shadings in how they blame it—some believe Jews control the government, others that moneyed interests do, others that it’s too big, too intrusive, that it’s planning to take away their guns, their money. But government is always evil.” [New York Times, 4/24/1995] People magazine reporter Michelle Green reports: “[I]t is clear that [McVeigh] and his cohorts have emerged from America’s most chilling microculture—homegrown resisters who believe the federal government is bent on destroying the very people from whom it derives its power. Reactionaries who have organized themselves into paramilitary units like the Michigan Militia (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, January 1995, and April 21, 1995), which claims over 12,000 members, they share the belief that the Justice Department is determined to stamp out individual liberty and the right to bear arms. Their battle cry: ‘Remember Waco’ (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Like McVeigh, who made a bitter pilgrimage to the ruins of the Branch Davidian compound in Texas (see March 1993), the most radical are convinced that the cultists who died in the attack… were martyrs targeted by Big Brother. In fact government investigators believe that the massacre in the federal building in Oklahoma City, headquarters for some of the agents who stormed the Davidians’ compound, was timed for the second anniversary of the Waco disaster—and intended as a payback.” [People, 5/8/1995]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, James P. Corcoran, Michelle Green, New York Times, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The New York Times reports that Timothy McVeigh, accused of executing the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), has claimed responsibility for the bombing. The Times’s sources are two people who have spoken with McVeigh during his continuing incarceration at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma; they spoke to Times reporter Pam Belluck in return for anonymity. McVeigh, the sources claim, told them he chose the Murrah Federal Building as a target because it housed so many government offices, and because it was more architecturally vulnerable than other federal buildings. The sources say McVeigh said he knew nothing of the day care center in the building, and was surprised to learn that children had died in the bombing. McVeigh told the sources that he was not “directly involved” with armed civilian paramilitary groups (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, January 1995, and April 5, 1995), though he admitted to having “relationships and acquaintances with a few people who have similar views,” primarily people he met at gun shows, the sources say. They say McVeigh acknowledges responsibility for the bombing, but does not believe he committed a crime. They say that McVeigh told them the planning for the bombing began at least nine months ago (see September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, November 5, 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, March 1995, March 31 - April 12, 1995, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, and 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), and he had considered targets throughout the Midwest, from Denver to Kansas City to Texas and South Dakota. They say that McVeigh told them he had gone to the bomb site at least once (see October 20, 1994 and April 16-17, 1995) but had not gone inside the building. Federal officials say the Murrah Building was extremely vulnerable to explosive damage because of its large glass windows, its nine floors which could collapse upon one another, and because of the absence of any courtyard or plaza separating the building from the street, where a truck carrying a bomb could be parked. McVeigh’s alleged statements to the two sources suggest that those factors greatly influenced his choice of the building. The sources say that McVeigh was motivated to carry out the bombing in part because of the 1992 killing of white supremacist Randy Weaver’s wife and son during a standoff with federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992), and because of his fury over the Branch Davidian debacle outside Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). McVeigh was also driven, they say, by a more general hatred of the government, which may be fueled in part by his failure to land a well-paying job when he left the Army (see November 1991 - Summer 1992). The sources say McVeigh did not single out any one experience that triggered his desire to plan and execute the bombing. McVeigh also noted, they say, that he did not specifically target the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), some of whose agents in Oklahoma City participated in the Davidian siege. Rather, they say, McVeigh wanted to target as many government agencies as possible in one strike. McVeigh talked about the significance of the date of the bombing, April 19; not only was it the date of the Davidian tragedy, but it was the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, where in 1775 the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. The sources provide few details of the bombing plot, and it is unclear if McVeigh divulged any such details. The sources say McVeigh did not speak much of his accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995, and May 11, 1995), nor did he speak of others who might have been involved in the plot. They say that McVeigh did mention his acquaintance Steven Colbern (see May 12, 1995), and said that Colbern was not involved in the plotting. The sources say that while McVeigh carefully plotted the bombing itself, the escape he planned was less well thought out (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). He forgot to transfer the license plate from a Pontiac he traded (see January 1 - January 8, 1995) onto his getaway car, a Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995); the failure to transfer the plate caused him to be pulled over by a highway patrol officer. McVeigh told the sources he had no money with him and no back-up person to help him if he was detained. “I don’t know how to explain that gap in his planning or his organization,” one of the sources says. “The primary objective was obviously the building itself.” One of the sources adds: “He’s very anxious, obviously, because of the position he’s in. He’s anxious to see what the next step is in the process and when this will be resolved.” [New York Times, 5/16/1995]

Entity Tags: Pam Belluck, El Reno Federal Corrections Center, Murrah Federal Building, Steven Garrett Colbern, New York Times, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995 and April 24, 1995) gives an interview to Newsweek, saying he intends to plead not guilty to all charges; the interview quickly makes headlines around the country. In a cover story entitled “The Suspect Speaks,” McVeigh tells interviewer Colonel David Hackworth (see June 26, 1995) that the first he knew of the bombing was when a state trooper pulled him over driving north from Oklahoma City some 90 minutes after the blast (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). McVeigh says he was “horrified” by the deaths of 19 children in the explosion, and adds: “And you know, that was the number one focal point of the media at the time, too, obviously—the deaths of the children. It’s a very tragic thing.” He refuses to directly confirm or deny any involvement in the bombing, saying, “The only way we can really answer that is that we are going to plead not guilty.” The interviewer tells him, “But you’ve got a chance right now to say, ‘Hell no!’” McVeigh replies, “We can’t do that.” McVeigh goes into some detail about his “average childhood” (see 1987-1988); his lawyer Stephen Jones (see May 8, 1995), present for the interview, tells the interviewer that McVeigh is “the boy next door, a boy wonder.” Newsweek records McVeigh’s appearance as “a little nervous, maybe, but good humored and self-aware. Normal.” The interview is held in a conference room at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City. Jones has released pictures and an audio-less videotape of McVeigh laughing and smiling while talking to his lawyers, in an apparent attempt to soften his image. Of the video, Jones says, “We want to present our client to the public as we believe he really is.” The country is most familiar with the image of McVeigh being led away from an Oklahoma County Jail in handcuffs (see April 21, 1995). Jones also emphasizes McVeigh’s solid military record (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After). Jones placed heavy restrictions on the interview with McVeigh, and thusly little new material is given. McVeigh will not discuss any evidence that prosecutors say shows his guilt, and Jones refuses to allow McVeigh to answer questions about whether he committed the bombing. Though in May the press reported that sources had said McVeigh confessed to the bombing in prison (see May 16, 1995), Jones says: “I’m not aware of anything he said in the interview that is inconsistent with what has been reported up to this point by the New York Times and every other newspaper in the country. If you’re trying to suggest that there may have been anything inconsistent, may I respectfully suggest that you may have not read the interview carefully.” Jones later disputes one quote attributed to him of McVeigh, where Jones supposedly told the interviewer, “He’s innocent.” Jones says, “I frankly don’t remember saying that he’s innocent and I do not think that is something I would have said.” McVeigh also denies any affiliation with militia groups or attending meetings of such groups (see 1992 - 1995, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, April 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, January 1995, and April 5, 1995), and denies reports that he had called himself a “prisoner of war” and refused to state anything but his name, rank, and serial number (see April 21, 1995). He acknowledges setting off small explosions on a farm in Michigan with his accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994), but says they were little more than plastic Pepsi bottles “that burst because of air pressure,” adding, “It was like popping a paper bag.” He refuses to go into details about his political views, saying merely that he was “bothered” by the 1993 Branch Davidian debacle (see March 1993, April 19, 1993, and April 19, 1993 and After), and acknowledges visiting the site after the final raid by FBI agents. He admits to having “been through Oklahoma City,” but when asked if he and his friend Michael Fortier (see May 19, 1995) had “cased” the Murrah Federal building in the days before the attack, replies, “I think I’d rather not answer that.” He says that the government has “[m]ost definitely” made “mistakes,” but does not characterize himself as an anti-government person. [New York Times, 6/26/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 225]

Entity Tags: Stephen Jones, El Reno Federal Corrections Center, David Hackworth, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Newsweek, Michael Joseph Fortier, Timothy James McVeigh, New York Times, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Christian Science Monitor reporter Mark Guarino delves into some of the reasons why Michigan has such a high concentration of militia, anti-government, and other extremist groups within its borders. The analysis comes in the aftermath of the arrest of nine members of the Hutaree, a violent Christian group whom the FBI says were planning on murdering one or more police officers (see March 27-30, 2010). Michigan has 47 known militia or “patriot” groups, second in the nation behind Texas (which contains 57 such groups). These numbers come from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit civil rights organization that tracks hate group activity. The SPLC says dozens of new militia and “patriot” groups have begun since the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president; between 2008 and 2009, the SPLC says, the number of groups throughout the country has grown from 149 to 512 (see March 2, 2010). The Michigan branch of the Hutaree is one of the most violent and far-right of these groups, the SPLC says, but Michigan and the entire Upper Midwest has become a hotbed of “patriot” activity. Chip Berlet, an analyst for Political Research Associates, says: “There are a number of regional factors that, over time and at various moments, helped the militia movement take hold in different parts of the country. It certainly has emerged strongly in the upper Midwest.” Indiana has 21 such groups, Wisconsin and Ohio 13 each, and Illnois 10, according to SPLC figures. Michigan has a long history of such activity, according to SPLC official Heidi Beirich. Many of Michigan’s most prominent militia groups, including the Michigan Militia, came into being during the term in office of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. The Michigan Militia gained notoriety when the media found ties between it and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, January 1995, 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995, and April 21, 1995). Militia activity in Michigan dwindled during the Bush presidency, but with Obama as president, has risen sharply. The Hutaree members were able to attract some members of less openly violent groups such as the Michigan Militia, though spokesmen for that group say that their organization rejects the Christian survivalist doctrine of the Hutaree. Beirich says, “The roots of militia activity are there [in Michigan], so if you want to organize something you know who to call.” Experts say a combination of factors contribute to the rise in militias: a troubled economy, changing roles within the traditional family structure, and shifts in the racial makeup of the country’s population. Berlet notes that shared anxiety among lower-to-middle-class people is often a catalyst for generating conspiracy theories, which have the potency to provoke people to take up arms and commit violence. “The candidacy of Obama—when it looked to become serious—prompted a lot of anxiety, and the anxiety continued to rise up to the inauguration,” says Berlet. “This is really getting out of hand,” Berlet says. “It’s a serious problem when people decide the solution to political problems lies in arming themselves and going underground.” He concludes: “While you can look at the Republicans and right wing and say, ‘You let things go too far,’ the Democrats use very demonizing language and aren’t interested in a policy debate, either. They’ve been interested in bashing the Republicans and right wing as crazy and ignorant. So it’s a mess.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/30/2010] Former federal prosecutor Aitan Goelman, who helped convict McVeigh of the Oklahoma City bombing, suggests that the true danger of groups like the Hutaree and other militias is not from the groups themselves, but from the risk of these groups’ inflammatory declarations and actions sparking violence from so-called “lone wolves,” who like McVeigh are not necessarily active members of any such groups, but whose actions go farther than most groups ever intend. Goelman notes that in 1995, a Democrat was president, just as today; Clinton pushed through a controversial federal assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994) and Obama has successfully implemented an equally controversial health care reform package; and, both then and now, extremists on the right are warning of an impending government takeover. “On the edges” of political discourse today, Goelman says, “you have rhetoric that carries over to extreme factions.” He continues, “Anytime you have group-think and this churning of ridiculous ideas back and forth, eventually you’ll get someone like McVeigh who’s going to say, ‘I’m going to take the mantle of leadership and fire the shot heard around the world and start the second American revolution.’” McVeigh considered the Michigan Militia “too moderate” and himself as a “man of action” who wanted to go farther than these groups. “I think [his associations with militias] put a battery in the pack,” Goelman says. “Some of this is fantasy. I think the idea that it is kind of fun to talk about a UN tank on your front lawn and the New World Order (see September 11, 1990)… but when someone blows up a building and kills 19 kids in a day-care center, it’s not so glamorous anymore,” he says, referring to the Oklahoma City incident. “The reality of murdering innocent people ends up far less glorious than striking the blow.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/31/2010]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Chip Berlet, Bush administration (43), Barack Obama, Aitan Goelman, Christian Science Monitor, Michigan Militia, Clinton administration, Hutaree, Heidi Beirich, Southern Poverty Law Center, Mark Guarino

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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