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Context of 'April 20-21, 1995: FBI Learns Details of Possible Oklahoma City Bombing Co-Conspirator'

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Entrance to Fort Riley, Kansas.Entrance to Fort Riley, Kansas. [Source: US Military (.com)]Terry Nichols, a 33-year-old Michigan farmer and house husband described as “aimless” by his wife Lana, joins the US Army in Detroit. He is the oldest recruit in his platoon and his fellow recruits call him “Grandpa.” During basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, Nichols meets fellow recruits Timothy McVeigh (see 1987-1988), who joined the Army in Buffalo, New York, and Arizona native Michael Fortier. All three share an interest in survivalism, guns, and hating the government, particularly Nichols and McVeigh; unit member Robin Littleton later recalls, “Terry and Tim in boot camp went together like magnets.” For McVeigh, Nichols is like the older brother he never had; for Nichols, he enjoys taking McVeigh under his wing. Nichols also tells McVeigh about using ammonium nitrate to make explosives he and his family used to blow up tree stumps on the farm. The three are members of what the Army calls a “Cohort,” or Cohesion Operation Readiness and Training unit, which generally keeps soldiers together in the same unit from boot camp all the way through final deployment. It is in the Army that McVeigh and Nichols become enamored of the novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), which depicts a United States racially “cleansed” of minorities and other “undesirables” (McVeigh is already familiar with the novel—see 1987-1988). All three are sent to the 11 Bravo Infantry division in Fort Riley, Kansas, where they are finally separated into different companies; McVeigh goes to tank school, where he learns to operate a Bradley fighting vehicle as well as becoming an outstanding marksman. [New York Times, 5/4/1995; New York Times, 5/28/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 91-95; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 30; Nicole Nichols, 2003] McVeigh later says he joined the Army because he was disillusioned with the “I am better than you because I have more money” mindset some people have, and because he was taken with the Army’s advertisement that claimed, “We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.” [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] Fellow unit member Specialist Ted Thorne will later recall: “Tim and I both considered ourselves career soldiers. We were going to stay in for the 20-plus years, hopefully make sergeant major. It was the big picture of retirement.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 31]
Nichols Leaves Army, Tells of Plans to Form 'Own Military Organization' - In the spring of 1989, Nichols, who planned on making a career of military service, leaves the Army due to issues with an impending divorce and child care, but his friendship with McVeigh persists. Fellow soldier Glen Edwards will later say that he found Nichols’s choice to serve in the Army unusual, considering his virulent hatred of the US government: “He said the government made it impossible for him to make a living as a farmer. I thought it strange that a 32-year-old man would be complaining about the government, yet was now employed by the government. Nichols told me he signed up to pull his 20 years and get a retirement pension.” Before Nichols leaves, he tells Edwards that he has plans for the future, and Edwards is welcome to join in. Edwards will later recall, “He told me he would be coming back to Fort Riley to start his own military organization” with McVeigh and Fortier. “He said he could get any kind of weapon and any equipment he wanted. I can’t remember the name of his organization, but he seemed pretty serious about it.” [New York Times, 5/28/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 96, 101]
McVeigh Continues Army Career, Described as 'Strange,' 'Racist,' but 'Perfect Soldier' - McVeigh does not leave the Army so quickly. He achieves the rank of sergeant and becomes something of a “model soldier.” He plans on becoming an Army Ranger. However, few get to know him well; only his closest friends, such as Nichols, know of his passion for firearms, his deep-seated racism, or his hatred for the government. McVeigh does not see Nichols during the rest of his Army stint, but keeps in touch through letters and phone calls. Friends and fellow soldiers will describe McVeigh as a man who attempts to be the “perfect soldier,” but who becomes increasingly isolated during his Army career; the New York Times will describe him as “retreating into a spit-and-polish persona that did not admit nights away from the barracks or close friendships, even though he was in a ‘Cohort’ unit that kept nearly all the personnel together from basic training through discharge.” His friends and colleagues will recall him as being “strange and uncommunicative” and “coldly robotic,” and someone who often gives the least desirable assignments to African-American subordinates, calling them “inferior” and using racial slurs. An infantryman in McVeigh’s unit, Marion “Fritz” Curnutte, will later recall: “He played the military 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All of us thought it was silly. When they’d call for down time, we’d rest, and he’d throw on a ruck sack and walk around the post with it.” A fellow soldier, Todd Regier, will call McVeigh an exemplary soldier, saying: “As far as soldiering, he never did anything wrong. He was always on time. He never got into trouble. He was perfect. I thought he would stay in the Army all his life. He was always volunteering for stuff that the rest of us wouldn’t want to do, guard duties, classes on the weekend.” Sergeant Charles Johnson will later recall, “He was what we call high-speed and highly motivated.” McVeigh also subscribes to survivalist magazines and other right-wing publications, such as Guns & Ammo and his favorite, Soldier of Fortune (SoF), and keeps an arsenal of weapons in his home (see November 1991 - Summer 1992). Regier will later tell a reporter: “He was real different. Kind of cold. He wasn’t enemies with anyone. He was kind of almost like a robot. He never had a date when I knew him in the Army. I never saw him at a club. I never saw him drinking. He never had good friends. He was a robot. Everything was for a purpose.” [New York Times, 5/4/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 86; Serrano, 1998, pp. 30; Nicole Nichols, 2003] McVeigh is taken with the increasing number of anti-government articles and advertisements in SoF, particularly the ones warning about what it calls the impending government imposition of martial law and tyranny, and those telling readers how to build bombs and other items to use in “defending” themselves from government aggression. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 27-28] McVeigh is not entirely “by the book”; he knows his friend Michael Fortier is doing drugs, but does not report him to their superior officers. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] McVeigh is promoted to sergeant faster than his colleagues; this is when he begins assigning the undesirable tasks to the four or five black specialists in the group, tasks that would normally be performed by privates. “It was well known, pretty much throughout the platoon, that he was making the black specialists do that work,” Regier will recall. “He was a racist. When he talked he’d mention those words, like n_gger. You pretty much knew he was a racist.” The black soldiers complain to a company commander, earning McVeigh a reprimand. Sergeant Anthony Thigpen will later confirm Regier’s account, adding that McVeigh generally refuses to socialize with African-Americans, and only reluctantly takes part in company functions that include non-whites. Captain Terry Guild will later say McVeigh’s entire company has problems with racial polarization, “[a]nd his platoon had some of the most serious race problems. It was pretty bad.” In April 1989, McVeigh is sent to Germany for two weeks for a military “change-up program.” While there, he is awarded the German equivalent of the expert infantryman’s badge. In November 1989, he goes home for Thanksgiving with Fortier, and meets Fortier’s mother Irene. In late 1990, McVeigh signs a four-year reenlistment agreement with the Army. [New York Times, 5/4/1995]
McVeigh Goes on to Serve in Persian Gulf War - McVeigh will serve two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf War, serving honorably and winning medals for his service (see January - March 1991 and After). Nichols and McVeigh will later be convicted of planning and executing the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).

Entity Tags: Ted Thorne, Terry Guild, Todd Regier, Terry Lynn Nichols, Robin Littleton, Michael Joseph Fortier, Charles Johnson, Glen Edwards, Marion (“Fritz”) Curnutte, Anthony Thigpen, Timothy James McVeigh, US Department of the Army

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Courtroom sketch of Lana Padilla.Courtroom sketch of Lana Padilla. [Source: Lawrence Journal-World]Michigan realtor Lana Padilla files for divorce from her husband Terry Nichols. Padillla, frustrated with her husband’s tendency to drift from job to job, was disappointed in his failure to commit to an Army career (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990) and tired of trying to motivate him to begin a career. Padilla decides to move from their home in Michigan to Las Vegas, where the real estate market is booming. The divorce will be finalized in July 1989. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 72-74]

Entity Tags: Lana Padilla, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

James Nichols, a Michigan farmer, anti-government white separatist, and the brother of Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), formulates a plan to use a “megabomb” to destroy an Oklahoma City federal building; an unnamed FBI informant will later tell the FBI that James Nichols specifically indicates the Murrah Federal Building. Nichols, who says he is upset over the US’s “role” in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, shares the plan with the informant, who will swear to the information in 1995, after James’s brother Terry Nichols is arrested for helping destroy the Murrah Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). “[James] Nichols… made a specific reference to a federal building in Oklahoma City and began looking through the toolshed and workbench for a newspaper clipping depicting the Oklahoma City building,” the informant will say, according to an FBI affidavit. Nichols is unable to find the newspaper clipping, the informant will say, and instead draws a diagram remarkably similar to the Murrah Building. Nichols “later located a newspaper article containing a reference to the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and showed it” to the informer, the affidavit says. The informer is a regular visitor to the Nichols farm. [New York Times, 6/13/1995; Nicole Nichols, 2003] James Nichols routinely stamps US currency with red ink in a protest against the government, and calls his neighbors “sheeple” for obeying authority “like livestock.” A neighbor, Dan Stomber, will recall Nichols criticizing him and others for using drivers’ licences and Social Security cards, and for voting and paying taxes. “He said we were all puppets and sheeple,” Stomber will tell a reporter. “That was the first time I ever heard that word.” Stomber will not recall Nichols discussing any plans to bomb any federal buildings. [New York Times, 4/24/1995] After the Oklahoma City bombing, a friend of Nichols, an Indiana seed dealer named Dave Shafer, will tell authorities that Nichols showed him a diagram of a building remarkably similar to the Murrah Building, still under construction at the time, and said that building would be an excellent target. Shafer will say that he thought Nichols was joking. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 110] It is possible that Shafer and the unnamed FBI informant are the same person. Five years ago, a group of white supremacists had conceived of a plan to destroy the Murrah Building (see 1983).

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Murrah Federal Building, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dave Shafer, James Nichols, Dan Stomber

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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

Terry Nichols’s home in Herington, Kansas.Terry Nichols’s home in Herington, Kansas. [Source: Associated Press]White separatist Terry Nichols, conspiring with his friend Timothy McVeigh to bomb an Oklahoma City federal building (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, February - July 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), buys a $28,000 home in Herington, Kansas, near a ranch where he once worked (see (September 30, 1994) and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). The house is located at 109 South Second Street, not far from where McVeigh and Nichols lived while stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990). Nichols also persuades his wife Marife to return from the Philippines with their daughter Nicole, and live together in the new house. His payment for the house is unusual; because he does not believe in paper transactions, he has set up a special account at a local bank in which he puts cash. The only reason Nichols was able to buy the house under such circumstances is because the former owner, Kenneth Siek, was desperate to sell it quickly. [New York Times, 5/28/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 122] Before finalizing the purchase, Nichols lives in the Sunset Motel in Junction City, Kansas, for approximately three weeks. He will not take actual possession of the house until March 11. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]

Entity Tags: Marife Torres Nichols, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Kenneth Siek

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A 1977 Mercury Marquis similar to that owned by Timothy McVeigh.A 1977 Mercury Marquis similar to that owned by Timothy McVeigh. [Source: Classic Cars (.com)]Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) visits Oklahoma City and finds a place to leave a car after he bombs the Murrah Federal Building. He has left Kingman, Arizona, and stayed overnight at a motel in Amarillo, Texas. McVeigh arrives in Oklahoma City around noon, and does not drive by the Murrah Building, but instead finds the drop site for his getaway car. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Buys Getaway Car - He then drives to Kansas, inspects his explosives stored in a Herington storage unit (see September 22, 1994 and (February 20, 1995)), and notes that his Pontiac is blowing smoke and stalling out, most likely from a blown head gasket. After making a quick run to a storage shed in Council Grove, Kansas, taking some of the explosive materials from that shed and combining them with the materials in the Herington unit, he buys a 1977 Mercury Marquis as a getaway vehicle from Thomas Manning, who owns a Firestone dealership in Junction City, Kansas. (McVeigh is using a similar plan to those executed by the Aryan Republican Army, or ARA, which uses “junk” cars to make their getaways after robbing banks—see 1992 - 1995. McVeigh has some affiliations to the ARA—see December 1994.) McVeigh trades in his deteriorating 1983 Pontiac station wagon (see January 1 - January 8, 1995) and $250 cash for the Mercury, telling Manning that he needs a “cheap car” to “get me to Michigan.” Manning, who recognizes McVeigh from his days as a soldier at Fort Riley (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), has the Mercury, which he bought eight days ago for $150 and is planning to use for parts. Others at the dealership have used it for local errands, and they had worked on its transmission and other elements. McVeigh agrees to pay $300 cash, but when he tells Manning he will not have enough money to get back to Michigan, Manning knocks $50 off the price for McVeigh. McVeigh has Manning send the service form to the Nichols’s farm address in Decker, Michigan, and the bill of sale to his postal drop in Kingman, Arizona. “It doesn’t matter,” McVeigh tells Manning, “because I’m going to junk the Mercury out when I get to Michigan.” On the sale form, he lists his employer as the US Army, and claims he is still stationed at Fort Riley. Firestone mechanic Art Wells does some work on the Mercury to ensure it is road-ready, including swapping out a bald rear tire for a spare. McVeigh’s old Pontiac is later taken to a local junkyard and then confiscated by investigators. [New York Times, 4/22/1995; New York Times, 4/30/1995; New York Times, 12/3/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 127-130; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] McVeigh buys an oil filter from a WalMart in Arkansas City, Kansas, near the state line, around 6 p.m. on April 13, and on the 14th, swaps the damaged Pontiac and $250 for the Mercury. Nichols tries to return the filter to another WalMart on April 15. The receipt will later be found in Nichols’s wallet; it bears the fingerprints of both McVeigh and Nichols. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 11/4/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 127]
Arranges Truck Rental - While Wells is prepping the Mercury, McVeigh goes to a pay phone in front of a nearby bus depot and makes two phone calls using a Spotlight telephone card (see August 1994). The first is to Nichols’s home in Herington, and lasts less than a minute. The second is to Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City to inquire about the rental rates for a large Ryder truck capable of carrying 5,000 pounds of cargo (see April 15, 1995). He uses the alias “Bob Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995). Office clerk Vicki Beemer will later recall McVeigh asking how many pounds a 15-foot truck would hold; when she tells him around 3,400 pounds, he tells her, “I need a truck that will hold 5,000 pounds.” Beemer informs him he needs a 20-foot truck. She tells him he can reserve such a truck, but he will have to put down a deposit on April 15 or he cannot have the truck by April 17, as the shop is closed on Easter Sunday, April 16. McVeigh agrees, and walks back to the Firestone dealership, where he puts the Arizona license plate from the Pontiac onto the Mercury. He puts his belongings into the Mercury and drives away. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 130-131]
Rents Room - McVeigh then rents a room at a local motel, in which he will stay until he makes his final trip to Oklahoma City to deliver the bomb (see April 13-14, 1995).

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Aryan Republican Army, Timothy James McVeigh, Thomas Manning, Vicki Beemer, Art Wells

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

David King, staying at the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, later tells investigators that around 3:30 a.m. he is drinking beer and watching movies with a friend when he hears a noise. He looks out of his motel room window and sees a man he later identifies as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) sitting in the passenger seat of a large Ryder truck (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). According to King, the dome light is on, the glove compartment is open, and McVeigh is poring over a map. King leaves the motel just before dawn and sees McVeigh still sitting in the Ryder truck. When King returns between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m., he notices that the truck is gone. Federal investigators later determine that McVeigh leaves the motel for good sometime before 5:00 a.m. McVeigh will later tell his lawyers that he wakes up around 4:00 a.m. and leaves the motel around 5:00 a.m., but does not sit in the truck as King says. [New York Times, 4/30/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] King saw McVeigh at the motel the day before (see 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Another witness, motel owner Lea McGown, will say that she wakes up around 4:00 a.m. and sees McVeigh in the driver’s seat of the Ryder truck (not the passenger seat as King alleges). The dome light is on, she will recall, and McVeigh is hunched over as if he is studying a map. By 5:00 a.m., she will recall, the truck is gone. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 150]

Entity Tags: Lea McGown, David King, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Timothy James McVeigh

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 investigating the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) find the address left on suspect Timothy McVeigh’s recent hotel registration (see April 13, 1995 and 3:30 a.m. April 18, 1995). The address is of the family farm owned by James Nichols, the brother of McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols. Late in the evening of April 20, FBI investigators speak with two detectives from Sanilac County, Michigan, David Hall and Paul Cowley. Hall and Cowley had gathered information about bombing experiments that had taken place on a farm belonging to James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988 and October 12, 1993 - January 1994). By 9 a.m. on April 21, Hall and Cowley facilitate an interview between the investigators and Kelly Langenburg, James Nichols’s ex-wife. By this time, Langenburg has spoken with her son Chase and gathered more information for the investigators. After speaking with the investigators, the agents tell local police officers that “[t]his is the best information we’ve received so far, and we’re going to run with [James Nichols].” Langenburg also tells the agents that Terry Nichols had been married to her sister, Lana Padilla (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and November 1988). Agents then contact Padilla in Las Vegas, and on April 21, teams of agents interview her and her son Joshua, Nichols’s son. She confirms that she has spoken to Nichols earlier this day, and gives the FBI his address in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)). She says that Nichols is “an associate” of McVeigh’s. At this point, the FBI considers James Nichols a more likely suspect for a co-conspirator than Terry Nichols. [New York Times, 6/27/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 200]

Entity Tags: Joshua Nichols, Chase Nichols, David Hall, James Nichols, Kelly Langenburg, Terry Lynn Nichols, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lana Padilla, Paul Cowley, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

James Nichols, the older brother of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995), is taken into FBI custody as a material witness. The FBI lacks evidence to immediately arrest James Nichols, but considers him a strong possibility of being a conspirator in the bombing plot (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 20-21, 1995). Shortly after the bombing, as James Nichols will later recall, FBI agents descended on his home town of Decker, Michigan, drawn there by the address given by suspected bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995) to a Kansas motel just days before the bombing. The address is that of Nichols’s family farm, where McVeigh has stayed frequently in the past (see April 20-21, 1995). At first, Nichols hears rumors of an “FBI raid” on Decker, and finds them hilariously “far-fetched.” He will later tell a reporter: “Decker? The Oklahoma City bombing? I mean, everyone knows that’s the kind of thing a terrorist or an intelligence agent would do in a foreign country, not something a hick from Podunk, USA would do to his fellow citizens, his own countrymen. Not a chance!” Nichols runs some errands in town, including putting down a $2,000 deposit on a tractor engine he is having rebuilt, when he drives into a roadblock put up by local police officers. He can see federal agents on his farm from the road, and identifies himself to a police officer. [Jerusalem Post, 4/23/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 232]
Taken into Custody - Nichols will later recall: “The government agents surrounding my farm possessed enough firepower to easily defeat a small planet. As I approached my driveway, an ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, also called BATF) agent who mistakenly thought he was in a ninja movie—I could tell by the way he was dressed and by the way he acted—jumped in my car and ordered me not to move, while pointing an assault rifle at my face in a nervy menacing manner. This guy seemed to be a recruit from the KGB or Gestapo or something, and was obviously a loose cannon who was also a few bricks short of a full load—a prerequisite for any adult who wants to dress and act like a Ninja turtle.” The federal agents who arrived at Nichols’s farm had come dressed in SWAT outfits. Nichols will go on to talk about the “cold eyes of a fanatic” over “the barrel of a fully automatic assault rifle” trained on him as the agent steers him onto his property. “Does this guy want to take it out on me because he wasn’t fortunate enough to be involved in the turkey shoots at Waco (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and Ruby Ridge (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After)?” Nichols will later recall wondering. Nichols is taken into custody and held on unrelated charges of conspiring with his brother and McVeigh to make explosive devices (see April 25, 1995), keeping him in a local prison.
Admits to Making Small Bombs on Farm - Nichols tells the agents that over the past few years, he has seen his brother and McVeigh make and detonate “bottle bombs” using brake fluid, gasoline, and diesel fuel. Sometimes he joined in with the bomb-making, he admits, but says the explosive devices were extremely small. He admits that McVeigh has stayed at the farm before, and says he believes “McVeigh had the knowledge to manufacture a bomb.”
Witnesses Add Details - A neighbor, Dan Stromber, tells agents that he had seen the Nichols brothers make explosive devices by mixing fertilizer, peroxide, and bleach in plastic soda bottles. “We’re getting better at it,” he recalls James Nichols saying to him. Stromber also says the brothers were angry and resentful over the sieges at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, the same incidents to which James Nichols will later refer. “The judges and President Clinton should be killed” because of the incidents, Stromber recalls James Nichols saying. “The FBI and the ATF are to blame for killing the Branch Davidians at Waco.” Stromber also recalls a young man named Tim staying on the farm in 1994 (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994), and recalls him always wearing “camouflage clothing” and carrying “a pistol” with him. A second neighbor, Paul Izydorek, recalls the man’s last name as “McVeigh,” and recalls him taking part in the bomb experiments. A confidential source informs the FBI of two men’s attempts to buy liquid nitro model airplane fuel and 200 ziplock bags from a hobby store in Marlette, Michigan, one using the name “Tim Tuttle,” an alias used by McVeigh (see December 1993). And Indiana seed dealer Dan Shafer tells investigators about the 1988 incident where James Nichols drew a picture of a building remarkably similar to the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and talked about bombing it (see December 22 or 23, 1988).
Searching the Farm - Agents hold Nichols in custody for days, trying to determine what, if any, involvement he had in the bombing. They search his farm, and find large tanks of diesel fuel, 28 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer similar to that used in the Oklahoma City bombing, and, in a field by an outbuilding, find jagged-edged shards of metal that appear to be bomb shrapnel. In the farmhouse they find copies of far-right white supremacist magazines such as The Spotlight, a paper envelope with a document quoting Adolf Hitler, 28 blasting caps, a safety fuse, and a manual telling how to clear fields and ditches with dynamite. Videotapes alleging sinister government conspiracies at Ruby Ridge and Waco lie atop Nichols’s television set; copies of pamphlets written by Davidian leader David Koresh and photographs from the Waco siege lie on the floor. Discarded envelopes addressed to James Nichols from “T. Tuttle” lie nearby. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 232-235]

Entity Tags: Murrah Federal Building, Dan Shafer, Dan Stromber, James Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Paul Izydorek, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

White separatist Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, November 5, 1994, and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995), learning that the federal authorities have connected him to the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), decides to turn himself in to local authorities in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)). [Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003]
Drives to Police Station - It is unclear if Nichols knows that his ex-sister in law has cooperated with authorities (see April 20-21, 1995). He suspects that he is being watched, but does not realize that a team of three FBI agents from the mobile command post at Fort Riley is surveilling him, a single-engine FBI airplane is circling overhead, and a larger surveillance team is en route. The first agent to arrive is Stephen E. Smith, who learns little about Nichols from Police Chief Dale Kuhn except that the address they have for him in Herington is accurate. Smith then meets two other agents from the command post and they drive to Nichols’s home on Second Street. Nichols, who is listening to radio reports about the investigation, picks up a broken fuel meter from his garage, tells his wife Marife (see July - December 1990) he is going to “do something about” the meter, gives her $200, and loads her and their young daughter Nicole into his truck. Unbeknownst to Nichols, he and the family are being followed by Smith and the two agents, who saw him pulling out of his driveway. (At this moment, the FBI is more interested in Nichols’s brother James—see April 20-21, 1995. Smith’s primary assignment is to compile background information on James Nichols.) When a second car joins Smith’s car in tailing Nichols, he realizes he is being followed. Nichols waves at the cars. He then turns into the driveway of the local Surplus City store, steps out, then thinks better of it and re-enters his truck. Instead, he goes to the Herington Public Safety Building, which houses the local police station. He tells Marife that if agents ask her about his whereabouts on Easter Sunday (see April 16-17, 1995), she should tell them that he went to Oklahoma City, not Omaha as he had told her that day. The two FBI cars pull into the building parking lot close behind. [New York Times, 7/2/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 200-202]
'I Want to Talk to Somebody' - At 3:05 p.m., Nichols walks into the police station with his wife and their young daughter Nicole. Nichols is carrying his daughter in his arms; the FBI agents assume incorrectly that he intends to use her as a shield for possible gunfire. Marife Nichols will later describe her husband as “scared [and] anxious to know what’s going on.” According to Assistant Chief Barry W. Thacker: “He said: ‘My name is Terry L. Nichols. I just seen my name on television. I want to talk to somebody.’ I said: ‘Come on in. I think I can find somebody for you to talk to.’” Nichols, seemingly angry and agitated, says: “I’m supposed to be armed and dangerous. Search me.” Marife Nichols takes Nicole from her husband, and he removes his green jacket while Kuhn attempts to calm him. Outside, Smith and the other agents huddle together in the parking lot, worrying that Nichols may be attempting to take hostages in the police station. They call their supervisors in Kansas City; meanwhile, Kuhn reassures them that Nichols is not being belligerent. Shortly thereafter, Smith and the other agents enter the station. Nichols demands of them, “Why was my name on radio and television?” Smith explains they want to talk to him because he “is an associate of Timothy McVeigh.” The agents, along with some of the local constabulary, take Nichols to the basement and begin a lengthy interrogation session, led by Smith and fellow agent Scott Crabtree. Kuhn will testify that his officers tell Nichols three times that he is free to leave if he chooses. Instead, Nichols chooses to stay, telling one officer that “he was afraid to leave” and return to his home. From Washington, lead FBI counsel Howard Shapiro advises the agents to keep Nichols talking. [New York Times, 4/24/1995; New York Times, 7/2/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 202-203] FBI agents will interrogate Nichols and his wife Marife for nine hours (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) and search Nichols’s property (see Evening, April 21, 1995 and After).

Entity Tags: Howard Shapiro, Dale Kuhn, Barry W. Thacker, Herington Public Safety Building (Kansas), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen E. Smith, Terry Lynn Nichols, Scott Crabtree, Nicole Nichols, James Nichols, Marife Torres Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Lawyers for accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) reveal that a family member who cooperated with the government’s investigation (see April 20-21, 1995) is the ex-wife of Nichols’s brother James (see May 22, 1995). Kelly Langenburg is also the sister of Terry Nichols’s ex-wife Lana Padilla. This information is disclosed during the course of a hearing that reviews a defense request to throw out evidence against Nichols and accused co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh. The news of Langenburg’s cooperation answers a question observers have long asked as to how the FBI knew to search James Nichols’s farm even before Terry Nichols was taken into custody (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). [New York Times, 6/27/1996]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Kelly Langenburg, Timothy James McVeigh, Lana Padilla, James Nichols, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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