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Context of 'July 1, 1998: Press Reports on Letters, Family and Witness Statements Regarding Convicted Oklahoma City Bomber'

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Timothy McVeigh during the time he served in the Army.Timothy McVeigh during the time he served in the Army. [Source: Viceland (.com)]Sergeant Timothy McVeigh (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990) gives three months of military service in the Persian Gulf War as a gunner on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle before returning home; during his time there, he paints the name “Bad Company” on the side of the vehicle. “He was a good soldier,” Sergeant James Ives, who serves with McVeigh, will later recall. “If he was given a mission and a target, it’s gone.” [New York Times, 4/23/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 34; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; CNN, 2001] McVeigh earns a Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal while overseas, along with a number of citations and ribbons. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 25-26] Staff Sergeant Albert Warnement, the commander of McVeigh’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Kuwait, later recalls: “He was against the National Command Authority’s decision to go to war. McVeigh did not think the United States had any business or interest in Kuwait, but… he knew it was his duty to go where he was told, and he went.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 110]
Experiences in Kuwait, Iraq - Fellow soldier Todd Regier later recalls that McVeigh was “definitely excited about going to Desert Storm. He was a perfect gunner. He was the best gunner we had.” McVeigh is part of a Bradley crew which spends its first few weeks sitting idly in the Saudi Arabian desert while American aircraft attack Iraqi defenses (see January 16, 1991 and After). Sergeant Anthony Thigpen later recalls that while the other soldiers play cards, write letters, and chat to relieve their boredom, McVeigh spends his time cleaning his weapons. The 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry Regiment, McVeigh’s unit, is one of those that makes the initial drive into Kuwait when the invasion begins (see February 23, 1991 and After). McVeigh’s unit sees less intense action than some, and fellow soldier Roger L. Barnett will later recall that McVeigh shows little interest in shooting unarmed and defenseless Iraqis. At one point, McVeigh shoots an Iraqi soldier from some 2,000 yards away in the head, using the Bradley’s 25mm cannon. McVeigh wins a medal for the shot. He later recalls of the shooting: “His head just disappeared.… I saw everything above the shoulders disappear, like in a red mist.” He becomes angry when he learns that many Iraqis do not want to fight, and are equipped with inferior gear. According to an aunt, McVeigh is deeply disturbed about the fighting in Iraq. “When he came back, he seemed broken,” she later tells a reporter. “When we talked about it, he said it was terrible there. He was on the front line and had seen death and caused death. After the first [killing], it got easy.” While posted in Kuwait, McVeigh writes to a friend in the US that he hates Saddam Hussein: “Chickensh_t b_stard. Because of him, I killed a man who didn’t want to fight us, but was forced to.” However, a fellow soldier, Kerry Kling, later recalls McVeigh being proud of the shot that killed the Iraqi. Sergeant Royal L. Witcher, McVeigh’s assistant gunner on the Bradley, later recalls the soldiers’ dismay at their experiences with Iraqi soldiers. “I think it kind of shocked most of us,” he will say. “We had thought that they were our enemies, and then for us to encounter something like that with a mass of people giving up.” After the offensive, McVeigh’s unit is assigned to guard duty, and spends the remainder of the war relatively inactive. [New York Times, 5/4/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 113; Serrano, 1998, pp. 36-38; CNN, 12/17/2007] McVeigh will later recall being angry at the situation in Kuwait. In a letter to a reporter, he will write: “We were falsely hyped up [about the enemy]. And we get there and find out that they are normal like you and me. They hype you up to take those people out. They told us we were to defend Kuwait where the people had been raped and slaughtered (see October 10, 1990). War woke me up. War will open your eyes.” Of the Iraqi soldiers, he will write, “I felt the army brainwashed us to hate them.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 36-37]
Withdraws from Special Forces Training - After returning to the US, McVeigh begins 21 days of Special Services training at Camp McCall, west of Fort Bragg, North Carolina (see October 1990). He is thrilled to be joining Special Forces, and is confident that he will pass the grueling physical and psychological assessments. However, he leaves the training at Camp McCall during the second day. He later tells people he withdraws because of a leg injury. Some military officials will say that preliminary psychological screening shows him to be unfit for Special Forces, leading some reporters to conclude that McVeigh was kicked out of training, but those conclusions are inaccurate: McVeigh’s screenings are not processed until long after he leaves, and his withdrawal is entirely voluntary. McVeigh later says that he begins training with a friend, Specialist Mitchell Whitmire (one source spells his name “Whitmyers,” apparently in error), days after returning from overseas duty. He will say that he is in poor physical condition, mentally and physically exhausted from his time in combat, and unready for the physical demands of Green Beret training. He does not accept an offer extended to him and other combat veterans to take some time off and try again at a later date. Instead, after two arduous days of physical workouts, McVeigh and Whitmire leave the training program before McVeigh’s assessments can be graded and reviewed. On his Statement of Voluntary Withdrawal, McVeigh writes, “I am not physically ready, and the rucksack march hurt more than it should.” Ives will recall McVeigh as being “extremely disappointed.” Thigpen later recalls: “Everybody knew he was highly upset. We never knew the reason why he didn’t make it. We figured, you don’t make it, you don’t make it. But he was definitely angry. He was upset, very upset.” Fellow soldier James Fox later tells a reporter that McVeigh’s withdrawal from Special Forces training was a defining moment for him, saying, “Whether he withdrew or was kicked out, it still was a failure and very easily he could externalize blame.” McVeigh then takes a 30-day leave to visit his sister Jennifer in Florida, and to spend some time in upstate New York, where he grew up (see 1987-1988). [New York Times, 4/23/1995; New York Times, 5/4/1995; New York Times, 7/5/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 115-119; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 41-42] Author Brandon M. Stickney later writes, “It was revealed in confidence to [me] that answers McVeigh gave on the psychological tests were apparently a bit off-center, not the answers of a man capable of long-term assignments with the exclusive and tight Special Forces.” Stickney will also write that McVeigh may be suffering from “Gulf War Syndrome,” a mysterious series of maladies apparently caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 117-118] In 1993, McVeigh will write a letter to his sister Jennifer giving a very different explanation of his reason for withdrawing from Special Forces tryouts (see October 20, 1993). After he returns from active duty, he begins displaying increasingly eccentric behavior (see March 1991 and After). McVeigh will go on to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).

Entity Tags: Brandon M. Stickney, Timothy James McVeigh, Todd Regier, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, US Department of the Army, Albert Warnement, Anthony Thigpen, Roger L. Barnett, Royal L. Witcher, Rick Cerney, Bruce Williams, Robin Littleton, James Fox, Catina Lawson, James Ives, James Hardesty, Mitchell Whitmire, John Edward Kelso

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Sergeant Timothy McVeigh, a former Army soldier, white supremacist, and survivalist (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and November 1991 - Summer 1992), is notified that the Army will send him $1,058 as a signing bonus for his serving a second term. Later that month, he is informed that the government wants the bonus back, with interest. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 7/1/1998] Later, McVeigh’s father William McVeigh will tell FBI investigators that the Army called the money an overpayment, not a bonus, and that his son was furious over the incident. Documents later gathered by the FBI show that a form letter from the Department of Defense Finance and Accounting Service is sent to McVeigh at his Pendleton, New York, home on February 15, 1993, two years after he left the Army. The letter asks for either the full $1,058 or a $50 installment within 30 days. McVeigh replies: “I have received your notice informing me of my debt owed to you, as well as your threat of referring me to the Justice Department (Big Brother).… In all honesty, I cannot even dream of repaying you the $1,000 which you say I owe. In fact, I can barely afford my monthly rent. Assets? The only thing which I own of any value is my car, a 1987 Chevrolet/Geo Spectrum. If you really want the car, go ahead and seize it.… My car is my only way to get to work; to support myself. But I guess that’s all irrelevant to you. Go ahead, take everything I own; take my dignity. Feel good as you grow fat and rich at my expense; sucking my tax dollars and property, tax dollars which justify your existence and pay your federal salary. Do you get it yet? By doing your evil job, you put me out of work.” [New York Times, 7/1/1998]

Entity Tags: William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Timothy James McVeigh, US Department of the Army

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

White supremacist Timothy McVeigh (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and November 1991 - Summer 1992) moves out of his father’s house in Pendleton, New York, and into a nearby apartment. During this time, he may have a brief affair with a married woman. Also, sometime during this period, he obtains a Ku Klux Klan membership card in Harrison, Arkansas, and drives to Michigan, where he meets his friend Terry Nichols’s brother James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988). He begins receiving subscription copies of the white supremacist magazine The Spotlight. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]

Entity Tags: James Nichols, Ku Klux Klan, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

White separatist Timothy McVeigh (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), already mulling over plans to bomb an Oklahoma City federal building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), quits his job with an upstate New York security company (see November 1991 - Summer 1992), sells all of his belongings except what will fit into his car, and begins traveling around the US attending gun shows and militia events. Not all militia movements are characterized by the racist ideology that helps impel McVeigh, but many are, and many white hate groups are making common cause with militias. McVeigh ekes out enough money selling knives, fatigues, and copies of The Turner Diaries (see 1978) to continue his travels, and meets a number of like-minded people. One gun collector who knows McVeigh from the circuit will later tell investigators: “He carried that book all the time. He sold it at the shows. He’d have a few copies in the cargo pocket of his cammies. They were supposed to be $10, but he’d sell them for $5. It was like he was looking for converts.… He could make 10 friends at a show, just by his manner and demeanor. He’s polite, he doesn’t interrupt.” The gun collector, who refuses to give his name to a reporter, also recalls McVeigh living mostly in his car and carrying a “big pistol” with him at all times. An undercover detective will later recall McVeigh showing people at one 1993 gun show in Phoenix how to convert a flare gun into a rocket launcher, and giving out documents with the name and address of the FBI sniper who had shot the wife of white supremacist Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992). Psychology professor Gerald Post will later say, “Gun shows have become town hall meetings for racists and antigovernment radicals.” At McVeigh’s trial, prosecutors will say that McVeigh used the gun shows to “fence stolen weapons, make contacts to buy bomb materials, and hone his terrorist skills.” During his travels, McVeigh writes to his sister Jennifer, saying that the government is planning to disarm gun owners and incarcerate them in concentration camps. [New York Times, 7/5/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Author Brandon M. Stickney will later write: “Today, this part of McVeigh’s life would be difficult even for Tim to document, but it was during this odyssey of uncertainty that he became seriously involved in a dangerous world. Tim was now driven by a desire for ‘citizen action,’ or a movement by the people to alter the liberal thinking of politicians and officials in power.… [I]t is believed that during those lost days, he was frequently exposed to the growing ‘paramilitary’ underworld of Michigan and other states. Groups whose members were upset with taxes, political corruption, and incidents like Ruby Ridge spoke of organizing ‘militias.’” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 150]
Meets Fellow Anti-Government Figures at Gun Shows - Along the way, McVeigh meets Andreas Strassmeir, the head of security for the far-right white supremacist community at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1973 and After). He also meets gun dealer Roger Moore at a gun show; McVeigh’s partner Terry Nichols will later rob Moore (see November 5, 1994) as part of McVeigh and Nichols’s bomb plot. [New York Times, 7/5/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003] Moore is an outspoken man who loudly boasts about his love of country and his hatred for the federal government. He frequently says he would be more than willing to take part in a violent assault against federal law enforcement officials, but, he says, his girlfriend, Karen Anderson, will not let him get involved in such activities. He will later tell a reporter: “I don’t give a sh_t. I’ll put on my flak vest, take a bunch of godd_mn guns in my van, and if I get in a firefight, so be it. I wanna run around and dig up a lot of stuff, but she will not let me go anywhere.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 59]
Admires Davidian Attack on Federal Law Enforcement Officials - McVeigh has recently developed a crippling habit of gambling on football games, and has maxed out several credit cards, severely damaging his financial status, though by the end of 1992 he had paid off all but one $10,000 debt. According to his later recollections, he is depressed and frustrated by his inability to find someone to love. He spends some time in Florida, living with his sister and working for her husband as an electrician. He meets Moore while in Florida, and shares a table with him at one gun show. He finds Miami too loud and the people offensive, so he leaves shortly after his arrival. It is at this time that he first learns of the federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), and while watching news coverage of the event, tells his sister that the Davidians “must be doing something right, they are killing Feds.” [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]

Entity Tags: Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Karen Anderson, Jennifer McVeigh, Andreas Strassmeir, Brandon M. Stickney, Gerald Post, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

White separatist Timothy McVeigh (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and November 1991 - Summer 1992) meets white supremacist Andreas Strassmeir (see 1973 and After) at a gun show in Tulsa, Oklahoma (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994). Strassmeir is the chief of security at Elohim City, a white supremacist compound in eastern Oklahoma. McVeigh will go on to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995); a precursor of the McVeigh-Nichols bomb plot was hatched in 1983 by Elohim City residents (see 1983). McVeigh will make at least two visits to Elohim City before carrying out the bombing (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and September 12, 1994 and After), though federal investigators will rule out any involvement by Strassmeir or any other Elohim City residents in the bombing plot (see August 1994 - March 1995). [Douglas O. Linder, 2006]

Entity Tags: Andreas Strassmeir, Timothy James McVeigh, Elohim City

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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

Michael Fortier.Michael Fortier. [Source: Indianapolis Star]Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) travels to Kingman, Arizona, to move in with his old Army friend Michael Fortier (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, November 1991 - Summer 1992, and March 1993) in Fortier’s trailer home, where he tells Fortier he intends to carry out some unnamed violent action against the government in response to the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and After). McVeigh briefly works as a security guard for State Security. Fortier will later recall, “I thought he was still in the Army when he showed up at my door,” noting McVeigh’s tight blond crewcut and his camouflage clothing. “When you saw him, it was like he never left. Actually, I never thought he would leave the service. It was just him.… I have to say McVeigh was a good soldier, a much better soldier than I ever was. His shoes were always spit shined and his clothes always pressed. I would put them on straight out of the dryer.” When they first met in the Army, Fortier will recall, he did not like McVeigh, who is from upstate New York (see 1987-1988). “He had this real New York attitude, real rude and blunt,” Fortier will recall. “He just had no tact.” But, he will continue, “you just got used to his attitude.” Staff Sergeant Albert Warnement, another member of the same company who also sometimes went shooting with McVeigh on the weekends, will later recall, “Fortier was probably his best friend.” Fortier’s mother Irene Fortier has a different recollection of McVeigh, remembering him as “polite and courteous.” McVeigh and Fortier share a dislike of the US government—in the front yard of his trailer, Fortier flies both an American flag and a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag often connected with right-wing militia groups—and a fascination with weaponry. Fortier keeps a half-dozen or more guns in his home, as is commonplace in many northern Arizona homes. McVeigh tells him it is time to take violent action against the US government (see August 21-31, 1992). McVeigh stays in Kingman for around five months, though he soon moves into a rented trailer in the Canyon West Mobile and RV trailer park, and gives Fortier’s address as his residence on an application to rent a private mail box, #206, at the Mail Room (see February - July 1994) under the alias “Tim Tuttle” (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). He and Fortier discuss forming a militia to fight the “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990), which, they believe, is represented by the government’s fatal assault against the Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). [New York Times, 5/6/1995; New York Times, 5/21/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 151; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 79; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] During the first weeks of his stay at the Fortiers’ home, McVeigh visits his friend Roger Moore, an Arkansas gun dealer (see March 1993). At some time during his stay, he uses methamphetamines, probably obtained from Fortier and in the company of Fortier. He writes his father Bill during this time and asks him not to divulge his address. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] In October 1993, McVeigh leaves Arizona to move in with another Army friend, Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994).

Entity Tags: Michael Joseph Fortier, Irene Fortier, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

’Soldier of Fortune’ magazine logo.’Soldier of Fortune’ magazine logo. [Source: Military (.com)]Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), staying in Kingman, Arizona (see May-September 1993), attends a convention at Las Vegas’s Sands Motel, sponsored by the militia/mercenary magazine Soldier of Fortune. During the convention, he shares a gun-dealing table with his friend Roger Moore, who calls himself Bob Miller at gun shows (see March 1993), and Moore’s sister Carol. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Soldier of Fortune

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

Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, May-September 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) writes a letter to his younger sister Jennifer that outlines his difficulties in not being able to “tell it all.” McVeigh writes that he is talking about his “‘lawless’ behavior and anti-gov’t attitude,” but does not elaborate. He tells his sister that at one point he went to their grandfather’s house and considered committing suicide there. “I have an urgent need for someone in the family to understand me,” he writes. “I will tell you, and only you.” McVeigh also gives a very different reason for his decision to quit during the first few days of Special Forces tryouts (see January - March 1991 and After). Instead of the reason he publicly states—he could not meet the physical requirements—he says he actually dropped out because he and nine other soldiers were taken to a private intelligence briefing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where the training took place. In that briefing, he writes, they were told they could be required to take part in government-sanctioned assassinations and drug trafficking operations. Referring to himself, he writes: “Why would Tim, (characteristically non-drinker), super-successful in the Army (Private to Sergeant in 2 yrs.) (Top Gun) (Bronze Star) (accepted into Special Forces), all of a sudden come home, party HARD, and, just like that, announce he was not only ‘disillusioned’ by SF, but was, in fact, leaving the service?” The answer, he writes, is because as a Green Beret, he says he was told, he and the others might be ordered to help the CIA “fly drugs into the U.S. to fund many covert operations” and to “work hand-in-hand with civilian police agencies” as “government-paid assassins.” He adds, “Do not spread this info, Jennifer, as you could (very honestly, seriously) endanger my life.” The New York Times will later note that government spokespersons have always denied these kinds of allegations. [New York Times, 7/1/1998; New York Times, 7/1/1998]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, Jennifer McVeigh, Timothy James McVeigh, New York Times

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, May-September 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) writes a letter to his younger sister Jennifer hinting that he is involved in illegal activities, and saying that she might need to “re-evaluate your definition(s) of good and bad.” He writes in part: “In the past, you would see the news and see a bank robbery, and judge him [the perpetrator] a ‘criminal.’ But, without getting too lengthy, the Federal Reserve and the banks are the real criminals, so where is the crime in getting even? I guess if I reflect, it’s sort of a Robin Hood thing, and our government is the evil king.” Jennifer McVeigh later tells FBI investigators, presumably during agents’ interrogation sessions with her after the bombing (see April 21-23, 1995), that her brother once told her he planned a bank robbery with others who carried it out (potentially a robbery, or series of robberies, with a violent white supremacist group—see August - September 1994), and showed her the large stack of $100 bills he said was his share. She will also say that he gave her three of the bills and asked her to give him $300 in smaller denominations. [New York Times, 7/1/1998]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Jennifer McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Andreas Strassmeir, the head of security for the far-right white supremacist community at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1973 and After), will later say he meets up with future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh at a gun show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He will recall buying a set of military fatigues from McVeigh. Strassmeir will tell FBI investigators: “I sold [McVeigh] a US Navy combat knife with a sheath. Later I returned… and bought a shirt, pair of trousers, and a pair of leather gloves from him. [Strassmeir is apparently referring to purchasing McVeigh’s old Army fatigues from him.] During this transaction we discussed the events that transpired at Waco.… As near as I can remember, we both agreed that it wasn’t right for the government to use such force against a religious group or to kill them for what they believed in.” Strassmeir will say he gives McVeigh a business card belonging to Elohim City and Robert Millar, and may tell McVeigh that his name is “Andy.” Strassmeir will claim this constitutes his only contact with McVeigh, though he may be lying (see April 1993). Attorney Dave Hollaway will later say that Strassmeir stayed with him for a time and had McVeigh’s Army fatigues with him; though McVeigh’s name had been ripped from the clothing, McVeigh’s initials were still on the clothing, and the shirt carried the patch for McVeigh’s unit, the “Big Red One.” Karen Anderson, the girlfriend of gun dealer Roger Moore (see March 1993), will also recall seeing McVeigh at the gun show. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Denver Post, 3/11/1997] McVeigh is preparing to visit Moore in Arkansas (see February - July 1994). McVeigh met Strassmeir at a Tulsa gun show almost a year ago (see April 1993).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Andreas Strassmeir, Elohim City, Robert Millar, Karen Anderson, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Dave Hollaway, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) cases a bank in Buffalo, Oklahoma, but decides not to rob it. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] In 2006, law professor Douglas O. Linder will write that, according to FBI information, McVeigh did indeed participate in a series of bank robberies, possibly with colleagues from the white supremacist settlement Elohim City (see 1973 and After) in an effort to raise money for projects involving anti-government violence (see August 1994 - March 1995). According to Linder, “McVeigh cased banks, and most likely drove the getaway car in some of the heists.” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Douglas O. Linder, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, February - July 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) participates in paramilitary exercises at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1973 and After). Federal authorities will later find a September 13, 1994 hotel receipt confirming his presence in the area. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001] He stays at the El Siesta Motel in Vian, Oklahoma, arriving in a car with Michigan plates. McVeigh will later give a different account of his actions during this time period, saying he visited his sister Jennifer in Florida beginning September 5, 1994, stayed for a brief period, and did some work for Jennifer’s husband, an electrician. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] It is possible he visited his sister before, not after, journeying to Elohim City.

Entity Tags: Jennifer McVeigh, Elohim City, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, February - July 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, and September 13, 1994), plotting to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), stores explosive materials stolen from a Kansas quarry (see October 3, 1994) in a Flagstaff, Arizona, storage facility for approximately three weeks, due to the failure of his friend Michael Fortier (see May-September 1993) to rent a unit for them in Kingman, Arizona, as McVeigh had requested. In late October, McVeigh rents a storage locker at the Northern Storage facility in Kingman. Fortier will later tell FBI investigators that McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols show him explosives in the locker sometime in late October. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 8/29/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Michael Joseph Fortier, Northern Storage, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Jennifer McVeigh, the sister of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), will later testify that during this time, her brother gives her a “wad” of cash and asks her to “launder” it for him. He claims the money comes from a bank robbery. She will also testify that her brother discusses plans to conduct political assassinations. Later investigations will show that by this time Timothy McVeigh may be involved with a self-described “terrorist group,” the Aryan Republican Army (see 1992 - 1995), which has staged numerous robberies and says its purpose is to conduct “terrorist acts against the United States.” [Nicole Nichols, 2003] McVeigh comes back to their Pendleton, New York, home in the days after their grandfather dies (see November 2-7, 1994), and stays for a month. He shows his sister a videotape about the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), and tells her he believes the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) were responsible for the deaths at the Davidian compound. He also says he does not believe the government will ever hold anyone accountable for the deaths.
Letter to American Legion - McVeigh borrows his sister’s word processor and types up a “manifesto” of sorts, a letter written to the American Legion and addressed to “Constitutional Defenders.” The letter reads in part: “We members of the citizen’s militia do not bear our arms to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow those who PERVERT the Constitution and when they once again draw first blood (many believe the Waco incident (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) was ‘first blood’). Many of our members are veterans who still hold true to their sworn oath to defend the Constitution against ALL enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC.” He quotes English philosopher John Locke on the right to slay the tyrant if the government leaders force the people into a state of war. He attacks the BATF as a “fascist federal group” that attacks and kills innocent civilians. Militia groups alone, he writes, can defend the American people “against power-hungry storm troopers” (see October 21 or 22, 1994). He cites the Branch Davidian tragedy, the Ruby Ridge incident (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992), and the Gordon Kahl slaying (see March 13 - June 3, 1983) as examples of the government behaving as “fascist tyrants.” He says the US military is being used overseas to fight for democracy “while at home [it is] used to DESTROY it (in full violation of the Posse Comitatus Act), at places like Waco.” He concludes: “One last question that every American should ask themselves. Did not the British also keep track of the locations of munitions stored by the colonists, just as the ATF has admitted to doing? Why???… Does anyone even STUDY history anymore???”
'Now I'm in the Action Stage' - McVeigh’s sister, though in agreement with much of her brother’s beliefs, is alarmed by the letter, believing that her brother has gone far past where she is willing to go in her beliefs and his apparent willingness to act on those beliefs. McVeigh tells her: “I’m no longer in the propaganda stage. I’m no longer passing out papers. Now I’m in the action stage.”
Letter to BATF - McVeigh’s second letter, written to the BATF and labeled “ATF Read,” is even more alarming. It reads in part: “ATF, all you tyrannical motherf_ckers will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous actions against the Constitution and the United States. Remember the Nuremburg War Trials. But… but… but… I was only following orders.… Die, you spineless cowardice [sic] b_stards!” He prints the American Legion letter for mailing, but leaves the ATF letter in the computer, apparently for federal agents to find after he has launched his bombing attack. [New York Times, 5/6/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 114-115] Jennifer will write her own letter to her hometown newspaper warning of an impending government crackdown on its citizens’ liberties (see March 9, 1995), a letter which will echo many of her brother’s anti-government sentiments.

Entity Tags: US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Gordon Kahl, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jennifer McVeigh, American Legion, Aryan Republican Army, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

FBI documents show that 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), takes part in bank robberies in concert with colleagues from the militant separatist community of Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1973 and After, 1992 - 1995, and November 1994), presumably to help finance the bombing. It is unclear whether the Elohim City participants know anything of McVeigh’s bombing plans. [Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]

Entity Tags: Elohim City, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, May-September 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) writes a letter to his younger sister Jennifer, mailed from Caro, Michigan. McVeigh is staying for a time in Michigan with a friend, Kevin Nicholas (see December 18, 1994). McVeigh writes in part: “Of course you must realize, then, that I’m not living in Arizona. You know how hard it is to get into that deep of a lie with Dad? It’s painful, especially how you have to look so confident when telling stories,” meaning lies. He continues: “Why am I running? I am trying to keep my path ‘cool,’ so in case someone is looking to ‘shut up someone who knows too much’ I will not be easy to find. I have also been working, and establishing a ‘network’ of friends so that if someone does start looking for me, I will know ahead of time and be warned.… If that ‘tip’ ever comes, (I have ‘ears’ all over the country) that’s when I disappear, or go completely underground. Believe me, if that necessity ever comes to pass, it will be very difficult for anyone to find me.” [New York Times, 7/1/1998]

Entity Tags: Jennifer McVeigh, Timothy James McVeigh, Kevin Nicholas

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal investigators probing the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) visit Jennifer McVeigh, the sister of just-arrested bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995). She is visiting a high school friend, Dennis Sadler, in Pensacola, Florida (see April 7, 1995). As she later recalls, she was driving Sadler to pick up his paycheck when she heard the news of her brother being connected to the bombing come over the car radio; stunned, she pulled the car over and began chain-smoking. Sadler drove them home, where she called her father for news. Sadler will recall being in the car with her when the news of her brother’s arrest came over the radio. According to one of Sadler’s roommates, David Huckaby, she later said, “I can’t believe I was saying the other day, ‘Hang this person,’ and it’s my brother” (see Mid-December 1994).
She Destroys Evidence - Jennifer McVeigh took a sheaf of clippings her brother had given her, including copied excerpts from the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see April 7, 1995 and April 15, 1995) into the laundry room behind the garage, and burned them. “I was scared,” she later tells investigators. “I just heard Tim’s name announced, so I figured you would come around sooner or later to talk to me.”
She Is Questioned - The questioning is cordial, according to Huckaby, but, he will later recall, one of the agents tells Jennifer, “If you don’t help us we’ll charge you, too.” Two days later, agents return with a warrant to search the house and her pickup truck. The search turns up a cache of books, letters, and documents, many of them expressing anti-government and white supremacist ideologies, sent to her by her brother (see March 9, 1995 and April 15, 1995). Agents show the roommates some of the letters sent to Jennifer by her brother; one of them reads in part: “Be careful on the phones, because the G-Men are watching. Use the pay phone.” Another instructs her not to try to contact him after April 1, 1995, “even if it’s an emergency.… Watch what you say, because I may not get it in time, and the G-men might get it out of my box, incriminating you.” The agents begin questioning Jennifer again, and this time, Huckaby will recall, she tells them, “I’m not going to help you kill my brother.” Huckaby and the other rooommates later tell reporters about her burning her brother’s papers. “She did it out of panic,” Sadler will recall, adding, “It was nothing that would have been important anyway.” Another roommate, John Donne, will tell reporters that she watched news reports of the bombing on television with the rest of them. “You couldn’t peel her away” from the set, Donne will recall. At some point during the broadcasts, Donne will say, she said, “Whoever did that should fry.” Authorities also search the McVeigh family home in upstate New York. [New York Times, 8/4/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 236-237]
"Fear Tactics" - Later, Jennifer McVeigh will accuse the investigators of using “fear tactics” to frighten her into talking. “They played a lot of games with me, a lot of things to get me talking,” she will tell a reporter from Time magazine. “They totally broke me down. I thought I could handle it on my own. I guess I couldn’t.… I didn’t have time to think things out. It was constant pressure altogether.” She will add that in a later session in her New York home: “They showed me pictures of burned, dead kids. They put me and my mother in this room with all these huge posters with my name and a picture all blown up with all these possible charges against me… like life imprisonment, death penalty, and this and that. My mother was in tears when we walked away; they just crushed her.” [New York Times, 8/14/1995] Investigators have, with consent, searched McVeigh’s father’s home in Pendleton, New York. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Did She Know of the Bomb Plot? - In 1996, author Brandon M. Stickney will write that Jennifer McVeigh may have returned to Pendleton days earlier than reported, and hidden from police and press at her friend Mary Butler’s apartment in Lockport. A mutual friend later says that Butler was acting “very strange, almost scared out of her mind” in the days after the bombing. Butler told the friend, “You do not know the whole story” of the bombing, leading the friend to believe “she knew something was going on.” The friend will assert that Jennifer McVeigh was indeed staying with Butler. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 182]

Entity Tags: David Huckaby, Brandon M. Stickney, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jennifer McVeigh, Timothy James McVeigh, Dennis Sadler, John Donne, Mary Butler

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Timothy McVeigh sits in the courtroom during his trial.Timothy McVeigh sits in the courtroom during his trial. [Source: India Times]Accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) is convicted on all 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. [University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 6/2/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The jury deliberates for over 23 hours, spread over four days (including a weekend), before announcing it has a verdict. McVeigh, who enters the courtroom with a smile on his face, shows no emotion when the guilty verdicts are read aloud by US District Judge Richard Matsch; Matsch polls the 12 jurors to ensure that they are indeed unanimous in their verdict. McVeigh is convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of eight law enforcement agents who died in the blast, one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, one count of using a weapon of mass destruction, and one count of destruction of a federal building. McVeigh awaits a trial in Oklahoma, where he will face 160 counts of murdering the civilians who died in the bombing; Oklahoma City district attorney Bob Macy says he will file state charges that will bring both McVeigh and fellow conspirator Terry Nichols to court to face the death penalty. Many family members break down in tears as the verdicts are read; one woman shouts, “We got him!” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler accepts an ovation from the gallery, and later says: “We’re obviously very pleased with the verdict. We always had confidence in our evidence. Now maybe everyone else will have confidence in our evidence.” Defense attorney Stephen Jones says he will prepare his client for the sentencing phase, where many feel McVeigh will be sentenced to death (see June 11-13, 1997). (Both sets of attorneys are under a judicial gag order preventing them from discussing the details of the case.) Jannie Coverdale, who lost her grandchildren in the blast, says she has mixed emotions: “This is bittersweet. After all, this is a young man who has wasted his life. I’m glad they found him guilty, but I’m sad for him, too. I feel sorry for him. He had so much to offer his country.… I want him to get the death penalty, but not out of revenge. It’s necessary. I haven’t seen any remorse from Timothy McVeigh. If he ever walked the streets, he would murder again. I don’t want to see that.” Asked if the verdict will bring her closure, she says: “I don’t think there will ever be closure. Too many people are missing.” Sharon Ice, whose brother Paul Douglas Ice was one of the federal agents killed in the bombing, calls McVeigh a “monster.” Former judge Durant Davidson says he supports the verdict: “I don’t have any question about that. There was a time before the trial started that I didn’t know. [But] after having followed it, there would not have been any question in my mind.” In Washington, President Clinton refuses to comment directly on the verdict, citing the judge’s gag order, but says: “This is a very important and long overdue day for the survivors and families of those who died in Oklahoma City.… I say to the families of the victims, no single verdict can bring an end to your anguish. But your courage has been an inspiration to all Americans. Our prayers are with you.” [Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Washington Post, 6/3/1997; Associated Press, 1/11/1998] McVeigh’s father William and his sister Jennifer release a statement from their Pendleton, New York, home that reads in part: “Even though the jury has found Tim guilty, we still love him very much and intend to stand by him no matter what happens. We would like to ask everyone to pray for Tim in this difficult time.” [Washington Post, 6/3/1997] Later, a juror says he and his fellows grew more convinced of McVeigh’s guilt with each day that the trial continued. “There is no justification for that kind of action,” juror Tony Stedman will say. [Associated Press, 1/11/1998] As the prosecution leaves the courthouse, a weeping woman pushes her way towards lead attorney Joseph Hartzler, throws her arms around him, and says, “Dear God, thank you for what you have done.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 292]

Entity Tags: Jannie Coverdale, Paul Douglas Ice, Jennifer McVeigh, Joseph H. Hartzler, Richard P. Matsch, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Robert (“Bob”) Macy, Tony Stedman, Sharon Ice, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

James Blassengill and his wife, Willie, who lost six family members in the bombing, comfort one another after the verdict.James Blassengill and his wife, Willie, who lost six family members in the bombing, comfort one another after the verdict. [Source: AP / Washington Post]The jury in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) unanimously decides that McVeigh should be sentenced to death by lethal injection. The verdict is written in heavy black ink by jury foreman James Osgood, a single word: “Death.”
Statements by Prosecution and Defense - The prosecution puts an array of survivors and family members of the victims on the stand to tell their harrowing stories, and shows videotapes of some of the surviving children battling grave injuries in the months after the bombing. The defense counters with testimonials from some of McVeigh’s former Army friends (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After), and a presentation by McVeigh’s divorced parents, Bill McVeigh and Mildred Frazer; the father introduces a 15-minute videotape of McVeigh as a child and concludes simply, “I love Tim.” The defense emphasizes McVeigh’s far-right political views, insisting that his misguided belief that the government intended to impose tyranny on its citizens was fueled by the Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and Branch Davidian (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) incidents, and drove McVeigh to mount his own strike against a government facility. However, defense lawyer Richard Burr tells the jury, “He is just like any of us.” The defense brings in soldiers who served with McVeigh in the Army to testify about McVeigh’s exemplary service, but their statements are quickly neutralized when prosecutors remind them that they are all taught as their first rule of duty “never to kill noncombatants, including women and children.” Another damning moment comes when prosecutor Beth Wilkinson elicits testimony that shows McVeigh killed more people in the bombing than US forces lost during Desert Storm—168 to 137. Jones pleads for a life sentence without parole. At no time do defense lawyers say that McVeigh feels any remorse towards the lives he took.
Unanimous Verdict - The jury takes about 11 hours over two days to reach its verdict. The jury unanimously finds that at least seven “aggravating circumstances” were associated with McVeigh’s crimes, including his intention to kill, his premeditation and planning, that he created a grave risk to others with reckless disregard for their lives, that he committed offenses against federal law enforcement officials, and that he created severe losses for the victims’ families. They are split in consideration of “mitigating factors” proposed by the defense. Only two find McVeigh to be a “reliable and dependable person”; only four say he had “done good deeds and helped others” during his life; none see him as a “good and loyal friend”; and none agree with the proposition that he “believed deeply in the ideals upon which the United States was founded.” Lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says: “This is not a day of great joy for the prosecution team. We’re pleased that the system worked and justice prevailed. But the verdict doesn’t diminish the great sadness that occurred in Oklahoma City two years ago. Our only hope is that the verdict will go some way toward preventing such a terrible, drastic crime from ever occurring again.” Juror Tonya Stedman says that the jury wrestled with the idea of taking McVeigh’s life for his crimes: “It was difficult because we’re talking about a life. Yes, 168 died as a result of it, but this is another life to consider. This was a big decision. I feel confident in the decision we made.” Most relatives of the bombing victims echo the sentiments expressed by Charles Tomlin, who lost a son in the explosion: “I could see the strain on them [the jurors]. You know it was a hard decision to make to put a man to death, but I’m glad they did.” However, some agree with James Kreymborg, who lost his wife and daughter in the blast. Kreymborg says he “really did not want the death penalty” because “I’ve had enough death.” Mike Lenz, whose pregnant wife died in the blast, says: “It’s not going to bring back my wife and lessen my loss. My reason for believing or wanting to put McVeigh to death is it stops. It stops here. He can’t reach out and try to recruit anybody else to his cause.” Marsha Kight, who lost her daughter in the explosion, says she would have preferred a life sentence in prison: “There is a lot of pain in living—death is pretty easy.” Lead defense attorney Stephen Jones acknowledges respect for the jury’s decision, and adds: “We ask that the barriers and intolerance that have divided us may crumble and suspicions disappear and hatred cease. And our divisions and intolerance being healed, we may live together in justice and peace. God save the United States of America. God save this honorable court.” President Clinton had publicly called for the death sentence after the bombing (see April 23, 1995), but avoids directly commenting on the jury’s decision, citing the impending trial of fellow bombing suspect Terry Nichols (see November 3, 1997). Instead, Clinton says: “This investigation and trial have confirmed our country’s faith in its justice system. To the victims and their families, I know that your healing can be measured only one day at a time. The prayers and support of your fellow Americans will be with you every one of those days.” McVeigh faces 160 murder charges under Oklahoma state law. [New York Times, 6/4/1997; Denver Post, 6/14/1997; Washington Post, 6/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 297-300, 308, 313-315; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] McVeigh shows no emotion when the sentence is read. When he is escorted out of the courtroom, he flashes a peace sign to the jury, then turns to his parents and sister in the front row, and mouths, “It’s okay.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 315]
McVeigh Will Be Incarcerated in Colorado 'Supermax' Facility - McVeigh will be held in the same “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczynski, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). In a letter to the authors of McVeigh’s authorized biography, American Terrorist, Kaczynski will later say he “like[s]” McVeigh, describing him as “an adventurer by nature” who, at the same time, is “very intelligent” and expressed ideas that “seemed rational and sensible.” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] A person who later speaks to McVeigh in prison will call him “the scariest man in the world” because he is so quiet and nondescript. “There’s nothing alarming about him—nothing,” the person will say. “He’s respectful of his elders, he’s polite. When he expresses political views, for most of what he says, Rush Limbaugh is scarier. That’s what’s incredibly frightening. If he is what he appears to be, there must be other people out there like him. You look at him and you think: This isn’t the end of something; this is the beginning of something.” [Nicole Nichols, 2003] McVeigh is one of only 13 people to be sentenced to death under federal law. It has been 34 years since any prisoner sentenced to death under federal law was executed. [New York Times, 6/4/1997] He will speak briefly and obscurely on his own behalf when Judge Richard Matsch formally sentences him to death (see August 14, 1997).

Entity Tags: Joseph H. Hartzler, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Tonya Stedman, James Kreymborg, Charles Tomlin, James Osgood, Beth Wilkinson, Timothy James McVeigh, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Marsha Kight, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Mildred (“Mickey”) Frazer, Mike Lenz, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Richard Burr

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Accused Oklahoma City conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and December 15-16, 1997) is convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter. He is found not guilty of use of a weapon of mass destruction (see April 16-17, 1995), and of using an explosive, as well as the more serious charges of first-degree and second-degree murder. The jury took 41 hours over six days to decide Nichols’s fate (see December 16-18, 1997). By rejecting the murder charges in the deaths of eight federal law-enforcement officials, the jury concludes that Nichols did not provably intend to kill the people inside the Murrah building. Observers and researchers such as law professor Douglas O. Linder will later conclude that the jury believed the defense’s contention that Nichols had withdrawn from the bombing plot (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), and was probably swayed by Nichols’s decision to stay home on the day of the bombing instead of joining convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City (see June 2, 1997) at the bomb site. The jury may also have been moved by Nichols’s show of emotion during the trial; unlike the stoic McVeigh, Nichols broke down and wept during several moments in the proceedings. Legal analysts say the split verdict is in part because of a much more effective defense (see December 2, 1997) than that presented by Nichols’s co-conspirator, McVeigh (see August 14-27, 1997), who was sentenced to death for carrying out the bombing (see June 2, 1997). Kentucky defense lawyer Kevin McNally says of the verdicts: “[They mean] he had a much less culpable state of mind regarding the homicides. To the jury, he engaged in certain actions that were reckless, but it wasn’t a premeditated killing.” Former federal prosecutor Marvin L. Rudnick says the jury “probably compromised” on the involuntary manslaughter verdicts. Lead prosecutor Larry Mackey says: “The jury has spoken. We accept their verdict in its entirety. We are prepared to go forward now with the penalty phase.” Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, immediately files an appeal and says he will challenge any attempt by the jury to sentence Nichols to death. However, analysts feel that Nichols will escape execution. Denver attorney Andrew Cohen says: “I would be very surprised if the jury sentenced Nichols to death. They distinguished in their own minds what both men did.” Both McVeigh and Nichols face 160 counts of murder in an Oklahoma state court. [New York Times, 12/23/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; New York Times, 12/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Under federal law, a conviction of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction can lead to the death penalty. The law is only three years old and has never been used. This death penalty provision was passed by Congress in 1994 after the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York (see February 26, 1993). [New York Times, 12/25/1997]
Mixed Reactions - Predictably, reactions regarding the verdict are mixed. Claudia Denny, whose two children were seriously injured in the blast, says, “We’re all disappointed, but we can live with it.” She says she would have preferred murder convictions, but “one more terrorist is off the street.… The important thing to us now is our children. This doesn’t change that. It doesn’t matter.” Bud Welch, who lost his daughter in the bombing, says that the involuntary manslaughter convictions were inappropriate because that charge is what people get “for running a stoplight” and killing someone with a car. Diane Leonard, whose husband was one of the eight law enforcement agents killed, calls the verdict “a slap in the face.” Marsha Knight, whose daughter was one of the 160 civilians killed in the blast, says: “He conspired to build the bomb. What the hell did they think he was going to do with it?” [New York Times, 12/24/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997] President Clinton says the convictions of McVeigh and Nichols “should offer a measure of comfort” to the relatives of the victims. But, he adds, “I know that no verdict in a court of law can ease the loss of a loved one.” [New York Times, 12/23/1997]
Judge Offers Leniency, Nichols Turns Down Offer - Judge Richard Matsch later tells Nichols he will consider some leniency in sentencing him to prison if he cooperates in helping the government learn more about the bombing conspiracy. Nichols rejects the offer. [Indianapolis Star, 2003]

Entity Tags: Andrew Cohen, Kevin McNally, Bud Welch, Douglas O. Linder, Claudia Denny, Diane Leonard, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Marvin L. Rudnick, Timothy James McVeigh, Marsha Knight, Michael E. Tigar, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch, Larry A. Mackey

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Judge Richard P. Matsch sentences convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997) to life in prison without the possibility of parole after his jury cannot decide whether to sentence him to death (see January 7, 1998). He is also sentenced to eight concurrent six-year terms for the deaths of eight federal agents. Matsch orders Nichols to pay $14.5 million in restitution to the General Services Administration (GSA) for the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building. Nichols swears he has only $40,000 in assets; Matsch says that any future proceeds he might receive for selling his story would be given over to the government. Nichols’s defense team tried in vain to assert that Nichols was a “dupe” of fellow defendant Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) and should be given a lighter sentence. Nichols, who refused to provide information about the bombing plot, gave Matsch a written apology (see March 10, 1998). Matsch says Nichols committed an act of treason that demands the most severe punishment: “The only inference that can be drawn from the evidence is that the purpose of the plan was to change the course of government through fear and intimidation.… The evidence shows to my satisfaction that the intention was to disrupt, to disorganize, to intimidate the operations of these agencies and United States government. Apparently, the intention was that the response would be fear and terror and intimidation and that these people would not be able to perform their work and that the response throughout the nation would be hysteria.… But you know, it didn’t work out that way. There was no anarchy. There was no reign of terror.… What occurred was that a community became even more united, and I think perhaps the country as well. We proceeded with the orderly processes of recovery and of restoration.… What he did was participate with others in a conspiracy that would seek to destroy all of the things that the Constitution protects. My obligation as a judge is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Terry Nichols has proven to be an enemy of the Constitution, and accordingly the sentence I am going to impose will be for the duration of his life. Anyone, no matter who that person might be or what his background might be, who participates in a crime of this magnitude has forfeited the freedoms that this government is designed to protect.” Prosecutors say they are pleased with the sentence, while Nichols’s defense lawyers continue to assert that Nichols did not intend to kill anyone in the bombing. Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, files papers calling for a new trial; Matsch says he will schedule a hearing. Marsha Kight, whose daughter Frankie Ann Merrell was killed in the bombing, says: “I’m proud of what happened in the judicial system. I felt like singing ‘God Bless America.’ He got what he deserved.” [Chicago Tribune, 6/5/1998; Washington Post, 6/5/1998; New York Times, 6/5/1998; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Nichols will serve his term in the “supermax” federal facility in Florence, Colorado, that houses Theodore Kaczysnki, the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), and convicted World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993 and February 7, 1995). [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Nichols refused an offer of leniency in return for his cooperation in further investigation of the bombing (see April 21, 1998).

Entity Tags: Frankie Ann Merrell, General Services Administration, Michael E. Tigar, Marsha Kight, Ramzi Yousef, Richard P. Matsch, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The New York Times reports on previously undisclosed letters written by convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), as well as similarly undisclosed suspicions among McVeigh’s family members that he carried out the bombing—suspicions that they later shared with FBI investigators. According to the letters, all written to his younger sister and confidant Jennifer McVeigh, McVeigh was despondent over not being able to confide the extent of his anti-government activities to his family, even Jennifer, and at at least one point contemplated suicide. The Times obtained copies of the letters and summaries of the interviews, which were not presented at McVeigh’s trial last year.
Letters - An October 1993 letter to Jennifer (see October 20, 1993) expresses his distress over not being able to fully discuss his anti-government feelings and “lawless behavior,” and alleges that he left Special Forces training, not because he could not meet the physical requirements (see January - March 1991 and After), but because he learned that if he became a Green Beret, he could be required to take part in government-sanctioned assassinations and drug trafficking. A Christmas 1993 letter to Jennifer hints that he might be involved in bank robberies and/or other illegal activities (see December 24, 1993). And another letter, written four months before the bombing, warns her that he may “disappear” or go “underground” (see January 1995).
Family Suspicions - Jennifer told FBI investigators (see April 21-23, 1995) that she had an “eerie feeling” her brother was involved with the bombing. His father, William McVeigh, told investigators he was worried that McVeigh would do something to get in trouble; he also told investigators that his mother, Mildred Frazer, thought her son “did the bombing.” William McVeigh was not convinced of the government’s theory that his son’s anger over the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) was the trigger that set him on a path of destruction, a stance other family members emulated. William McVeigh told investigators that his son’s real problems may have begun over money, starting with the Army’s demand that he repay an “overpayment” (see March 1992 - February 1993), a demand that infuriated McVeigh. William McVeigh acknowledged that his son was obsessed with the deaths of the Branch Davidians, and told investigators that he and his son were at “opposite ends politically.” He said his son was bright but never really succeeded in life because he did not handle pressure well, did not take orders well, and had trouble handling the responsibilities of day-to-day work. But Jennifer thought that her brother’s breaking point came earlier, when he withdrew as a candidate for the Army’s Special Forces, as he wrote to her in an October 1993 letter (see October 20, 1993).
Undisclosed Evidence Suggesting Militia Ties - The Times also reports on previously undisclosed witness statements that indicate Timothy McVeigh may have had militia ties, something long suspected (see November 1992, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, April 19, 1993 and After, September 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, March 1994, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, and December 1994), but never made a large factor in McVeigh’s trial. One witness, a corrections officer who worked as a security guard in Kingman, Arizona, around the time McVeigh worked as a guard (see May-September 1993), told FBI investigators that he and his father once saw McVeigh with 10 or 15 other people dressed in camouflage in the desert north of Kingman in the fall of 1994. The group had firearms spread over the hood of an old yellow or tan station wagon, he said. The officer also said that he saw McVeigh’s friends Michael and Lori Fortier, whom he knew from high school, arrive—presumably at the desert meeting—in a small blue pickup truck with a white camper shell, a description that fits the truck owned at the time by McVeigh’s accomplice Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). The Fortiers have testified that Nichols came to their Kingman home in his blue pickup in October 1994, shortly after McVeigh had them rent a storage locker for him in which he stored stolen detonators and other explosives (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). [New York Times, 7/1/1998]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Jennifer McVeigh, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lori Fortier, New York Times, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Michael Joseph Fortier, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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