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Context of 'September 23, 1994: Future Oklahoma City Bomber Buys Fertilizer for Bomb'

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Timothy McVeigh, a nascent white supremacist and survivalist (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990) who is in the process of taking “early termination” from the US Army after being denied a position in Special Forces (see January - March 1991 and After), moves back in with his father in Pendleton, New York. Initially, he joins a National Guard unit and tries unsuccessfully to join the US Marshals. He is formally discharged from the Army on December 31, 1991. His final psychological assessment from the Army shows him to be under extreme stress and experiencing a powerful sense of disillusionment with the federal government. In January 1992, he goes to work for Burns International Security Services in Buffalo after leaving the Guard (see June 1992), and quickly rises to the rank of inspector. [New York Times, 5/4/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Serrano, 1998, pp. 48; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; CNN, 2001; CNN, 12/17/2007] (A New York Times report later says McVeigh leaves the Army in early 1992. A book about McVeigh, One of Ours, claims that McVeigh returns to Pendleton after leaving the Army around Christmas of 1991.) [New York Times, 5/4/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 44]
Depressed, Suicidal, Detached, Enraged - Over time, McVeigh becomes increasingly depressed and reportedly considers suicide; friends and colleagues will describe him as deteriorating both mentally and physically, and, in the words of the New York Times, will describe him as “an increasingly unstable man who wavered between gloomy silences and a hair-trigger temper, who lost so much weight he seemed anorexic, and who could follow simple orders but could not handle pressure or take independent action.” Lynda Haner-Mele, a supervisor for Burns Security in Kenmore, New York, later recalls working with McVeigh at the Niagara Falls Convention Center. She remembers calling him “Timmy” and worrying about his weight loss. “He seemed almost lost, like he hadn’t really grown up yet,” she will say. She is unaware of his Army service, later recalling: “He didn’t really carry himself like he came out of the military. He didn’t stand tall with his shoulders back. He was kind of slumped over.… That guy did not have an expression 99 percent of the time. He was cold. He didn’t want to have to deal with people or pressure. Timmy was a good guard, always there prompt, clean, and neat. His only quirk was that he couldn’t deal with people. If someone didn’t cooperate with him, he would start yelling at them, become verbally aggressive. He could be set off easily. He was quiet, but it didn’t take much.”
Increasingly Radicalized - McVeigh becomes increasingly radicalized, growing more disenchanted with the idea of a federal government and distressed about the possibility of a federal crackdown on gun ownership. He talks about the government forcibly confiscating the citizenry’s guns and enslaving citizens. He writes angry letters to newspapers and his congressman on subjects such as his objection to inhumane slaughterhouses and a proposed law prohibiting the possession of “noxious substances,” and warns against an impending dictatorship if action is not soon taken (see February 11, 1992). He urges friends to read a novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978), which tells the story of a white supremacist revolt against the US government and the extermination of minorities, and gives copies to his friends and relatives. He begins acquiring an arsenal of guns, and sets up a generator and a store of canned food and potable water in his basement so that he would be self-sufficient in case of emergency. He applies to join the Ku Klux Klan, but decides against it because, he believes, the KKK is too focused on race and not enough on gun rights. The Times will later write: “While there was no firm evidence that Mr. McVeigh belonged to any organized right-wing paramilitary or survivalist groups, there was considerable evidence that he sympathized with and espoused their beliefs. He voiced their ideas in conversations, he wrote letters expressing them, he read their literature, and attended their meetings. And he lived, worked, and traded weapons in areas where the paramilitary groups enjoy considerable support, according to numerous interviews.” In the summer of 1992, McVeigh moves to Michigan to stay with his old Army friend Terry Nichols, telling friends he is leaving to find a “free state” in which to live. McVeigh’s and Nichols’s shared hatred of the federal government continues to grow. [New York Times, 5/4/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; CNN, 2001; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; CNN, 12/17/2007] Reportedly, McVeigh tells people that the Army has placed a computer chip in his buttocks to keep him under surveillance. [People, 5/8/1995] McVeigh’s fellow security guard, Carl Edward Lebron Jr., later recalls long conversations with McVeigh that center around “politics, secret societies, some religion and conspiracy theories,” UFOs, and government conspiracies to addict its citizens to illegal drugs. Lebron wonders if McVeigh himself might belong to a secret society of some sort, perhaps a Freemason sect. Lebron will recall McVeigh showing him Ku Klux Klan newsletters and gold coins, some minted in Canada. Lebron becomes worried enough about McVeigh’s apparent instability to tape-record some of their conversations, and keep notes of what McVeigh tells him. What seems to worry Lebron the most is McVeigh’s talk about stealing weapons from Army bases. In August, McVeigh quits his job at Burns, telling coworkers: “I got to get out of this place. It’s all liberals here.” Lebron bids him goodbye, saying, “Stay out of trouble,” to which McVeigh replies: “I can’t stay out of trouble. Trouble will find me.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 48-57] Law professor Douglas O. Linder will later speculate that McVeigh’s radicalization may have been triggered, and was certainly deepened, by the FBI’s raid on the Ruby Ridge compound of white supremacist Randy Weaver (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992). [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] McVeigh later tells his lawyers that during this time, he became increasingly stressed because of what he will call his “heightened sense of awareness of what the news was really saying.” He becomes increasingly obsessed with the news, raging at politicians for trying to blend politics and the military, and at the government for “strong-arming other countries and telling them what to do.” He becomes increasingly enraged by what he calls the increasing anti-gun sentiment in the US, and the “liberal mindset that all things in the world could be solved by discussion.” He learned in the military that most problems can best be solved by aggression, he will say, citing physical fights he had with fellow soldiers and angry confrontations with fellow security workers. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Movements Cloudy - McVeigh’s movements are somewhat cloudy during this period. A New York Times report will say that McVeigh and Nichols may have lived together in Marion, Kansas, not Michigan, and McVeigh may have moved to Kingman, Arizona, during this time or sometime later. [New York Times, 4/23/1995]
Future Oklahoma City Bomber - McVeigh will go on to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City, with Nichols’s aid (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Haner-Mele will have difficulty believing McVeigh orchestrated the bombing. “Timmy just wasn’t the type of person who could initiate action,” she will say. “He was very good if you said, ‘Tim, watch this door—don’t let anyone through.’ The Tim I knew couldn’t have masterminded something like this and carried it out himself. It would have had to have been someone who said: ‘Tim, this is what you do. You drive the truck.’” [New York Times, 5/4/1995] McVeigh’s cousin Kyle Kraus, who received a copy of The Turner Diaries from McVeigh, puts the book away until after the bombing, when he will reread some of it. Horrified, he will contact the FBI; the copy will become an exhibit in McVeigh’s criminal trial (see August 10, 1995). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 51]

Entity Tags: Burns International Security Services, Carl Edward Lebron Jr, Ku Klux Klan, Lynda Haner-Mele, Douglas O. Linder, US Department of the Army, Randy Weaver, William (“Bill”) McVeigh, Kyle Kraus, Terry Lynn Nichols, 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) returns to Kingman, Arizona, where he moves in again with his Army friend Michael Fortier (see May-September 1993). During this time, McVeigh takes, and loses, a number of jobs, including a security guard position and as a clerk at a Tru-Value hardware store (see February - July 1994). (A chronology of McVeigh’s actions completed by his lawyers will say that shortly after arriving, he leaves Fortier’s home and moves into a house in Golden Valley, Arizona, about 20 miles outside of Kingman, where he lives for six months—see Early 2005. Other evidence disputes this claim.) He turns the house into a bunker, and begins experimenting with bombs and explosives. He renounces his US citizenship on March 16, begins openly speaking of his apocalyptic world views, and continues taking methamphetamines and smoking marijuana (see May-September 1993). In July, McVeigh and Fortier steal items from a National Guard armory. [New York Times, 4/23/1995; New York Times, 4/24/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] In April, McVeigh spends a brief period of time at the home of Roger Moore, a gun dealer in Arkansas (see March 1993). In June, he goes to upstate New York to visit his ailing grandfather. McVeigh serves as best man in the Fortiers’ July wedding. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Conflicting Stories of Problems at Residence - For a time, McVeigh lives in a Kingman, Arizona, trailer park (see May-September 1993). Residents will later tell some reporters that he was arrogant and standoffish, and full of anger against the US government. “He drank a lot of beer and threw out the cans, and I always had to pick them up,” Bob Ragin, owner of the park, will be quoted as saying. Ragin will remember having frequent quarrels with McVeigh, whom Ragin says played loud music and kept a dog in violation of his lease. “Basically he just had a poor attitude, a chip on the shoulder kind of thing,” Ragin will recall. “He was very cocky. He looked like he was ready to get in a fight pretty easy. I’ll tell you, I was a little afraid of him and I’m not afraid of too many people.… You’d tell him there were beer cans all over the yard and he’d just mumble. When I went to talk to him, I’d tell somebody, ‘If you hear fighting or windows breaking, call the police.‘… [H]e piled up so many violations, I asked him to leave. When he did, the trailer was a disaster. It was trashed.” A neighbor, Danny Bundy, later recalls, “Him and his girlfriend drove like maniacs through here.” Some reports will say McVeigh’s alleged girlfriend was pregnant. Bundy will also recall McVeigh standing at the edge of the trailer park and firing rounds from a semiautomatic weapon into the desert. In 1996, author Brandon M. Stickney will write that the characterizations of McVeigh’s troublesome behavior at the mobile home park are largely wrong. He will quote Ragin as calling McVeigh “the perfect tenant,” and will write: “These stories, published by many top news agencies like the Associated Press and the New York Times, were completely wrong. One of the sources quoted even recanted his statements. Timothy McVeigh may have been unstable, but he was never the type to drink a lot of beer, play loud music (he is known for using headphones unless he was in his car), or have a girlfriend, much less a pregnant one.” Stickney will write that McVeigh spent much of this period, not living in a rented trailer, but with the Fortiers, and later in a small rental house in Golden Valley, a claim that tallies with the chronology later created by McVeigh’s lawyers. The FBI will learn that McVeigh owned a Tec-9 semiautomatic assault weapon, which is illegal to own (see September 13, 1994) but was legal when McVeigh bought it in early 1993. Another Kingman resident, Jeff Arrowood, will recall seeing McVeigh frequent a local shooting range. Arrowood will say that McVeigh fires hundreds of rounds at random targets. “Quite frankly, it scared the hell out of me,” he will say. “He pretty much went crazy, emptying on anything—trees, rocks, anything there. He just went ballistic.” [New York Times, 4/23/1995; New York Times, 4/23/1995; New York Times, 4/24/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 152, 163-165]

Entity Tags: Bob Ragin, Danny Bundy, Associated Press, Brandon M. Stickney, Timothy James McVeigh, New York Times, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Jeff Arrowood, Michael Joseph Fortier, Lori Fortier

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

After federal legislation bans the ownership of certain assault weapons (see September 13, 1994), future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, February - July 1994 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) decides that the government intends to launch more Waco-style raids (see April 19, 1993). He also decides that he is a likely target for violent government action. McVeigh begins stockpiling weapons and supplies at his Kingman, Arizona, home. His actions unnerve his friend Michael Fortier (see February - July 1994), who has joined McVeigh in experimenting with bombs, but apparently is unwilling to join McVeigh in his plans for more direct action against the government (see September 12, 1994 and After and September 13, 1994). [CNN, 12/17/2007] McVeigh will later tell his lawyers that it is around this time that he and co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and (September 30, 1994)) begin training with weapons and explosives in preparation for the bombing. In December 1995, he will explain that for him, the assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994 and After) was “the final straw.” He and Nichols decide that it is time to go on the “offensive,” he will later say. On September 15, Nichols asks his wife Marife to go back to the Philippines. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] A federal grand jury will later determine that September 13 is the “official” date that McVeigh begins his conspiracy to bomb the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994). On this day, McVeigh is renting a motel room in Vian, Oklahoma, visiting white supremacist friends in nearby Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1973 and After and August - September 1994), and probably taking part with other anti-government activists in paramilitary maneuvers (see September 12, 1994 and After). [Douglas O. Linder, 2006]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Marife Torres Nichols, Elohim City, Michael Joseph Fortier, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, February - July 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, and September 13, 1994 and After) begins developing plans plans to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), echoing a plan developed by white supremacists in Elohim City, Oklahoma years before (see 1983). Federal authorities will later say that the “official” date of the conspiracy coincides with a federal ban on some assault weapons that goes into effect on September 13 (see September 13, 1994 and September 13, 1994), but McVeigh has been considering such a plan for some time. McVeigh uses the alias “Shawn Rivers” to rent a storage unit, Unit No. 2, in Herington, Kansas, at Clark Lumber, for four months at a cost of $80. The address McVeigh gives on the rental registration is Rt. 3, Box 83, Marion KS. McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, (September 30, 1994) and September 13, 1994) works in Marion, Kansas (see (September 30, 1994)). The clerk who rents McVeigh the storage unit is Helen Mitchell; the owner is Ray Mueller. McVeigh pays four months’ advance rent. During the latter part of September and the first two weeks of October, McVeigh and Nichols either stay at the Sunset Motel in Junction City, Kansas, or sleep in Nichols’s truck at Geary County State Park near Junction City. [New York Times, 5/9/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 92; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Nichols will soon buy a house in Herington (see (February 20, 1995)).

Entity Tags: Helen May Mitchell, Elohim City, Clark Lumber, Ray Mueller, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, February - July 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, and September 13, 1994 and After), developing plans to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), buys 10 bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer from the Mid-Kansas Cooperative in McPherson, Kansas, about 70 miles west of Herington, where McVeigh has rented a storage locker (see September 22, 1994). The Mid-Kansas Coop is the largest farm supply and grain cooperative in Kansas, and has branch locations in 19 cities and towns. The ammonium nitrate can be mixed with other materials to create a powerful explosive; the brown and white bags are clearly marked “Warning” and “Explosives.” [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Serrano, 1998, pp. 92; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Presumably McVeigh and his partner Terry Nichols are keeping the fertilizer in the Herington storage locker (see September 22, 1994).

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Mid-Kansas Cooperative, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see September 13, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994, September 13, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) buys 40 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate—one ton—from the Mid-Kansas Cooperative branch in McPherson, Kansas. Nichols buys the fertilizer under an alias, “Mike Havens.” Nichols’s co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992 and September 13, 1994 and After), bought 10 bags of the same fertilizer, which can be used to make a powerful explosive, the week before (see September 23, 1994). “Havens” turns down the offer of applying for the farmer’s tax exemption. The FBI will later find the receipt for today’s purchase, with a fingerprint belonging to McVeigh (see May 1, 1995), for $228.74 in cash. McVeigh also buys eight bags of ammonium nitrate in Manhattan, Kansas, one bag in Burns, Kansas, and six bags in a town near McPherson. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Presumably they are keeping the fertilizer in a storage locker in Herington (see September 22, 1994).

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mid-Kansas Cooperative, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994 and After and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) pays an additional four months’ rent on the storage unit he rented in Herington, Kansas, under the alias “Shawn Rivers” (see September 22, 1994). The unit is now rented through April 1995. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 810; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] Presumably he and his fellow conspirator Terry Nichols are storing the 3,250 pounds of fertilizer they have bought for the bomb (see September 23, 1994 and September 30, 1994) in the unit.

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Terry Nichols, conspiring with Timothy McVeigh to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), rents a storage locker in Council Grove, Kansas, under the alias “Joe Kyle.” [New York Times, 8/29/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997] FBI investigators will later find a document in Nichols’s home with the location of the storage unit and the name Joe Kyle (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Washington Post, 12/24/1997] Another source will later say Nichols may have rented the locker under the name “Ted Parker,” though FBI documents show that he used the “Kyle” alias. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] Nichols and McVeigh are storing 3,250 pounds of fertilizer they have bought for the bomb (see September 23, 1994 and September 30, 1994) in another unit (see September 22, 1994), and explosives stolen from a Kansas quarry in a storage unit in Kingman, Arizona (see October 4 - Late October, 1994).

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, 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).

FBI Special Agent Louis Michalko is given the task of sorting through the last 15 months of sales receipts from the Mid-Kansas Cooperative grain elevator in McPherson, Kansas. FBI investigators have found a September 30, 1994 receipt from this company in the home of suspected Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995 and May 1, 1995), and believe that the 4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer used in the bomb (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) were purchased from this company (see September 23, 1994, September 30, 1994, and October 18, 1994). Michalko goes to the company headquarters in Moundridge, Kansas, and sorts through 132,000 receipts. He learns that during that 15-month period, only one person, Mike Havens, paid cash for over 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate. Only two other customers bought more than 1,000 pounds of the fertilizer during that time period, a local experimental field and a school district, and Havens is the only one to have paid in cash. The FBI will later learn that “Mike Havens” was an alias used by Nichols to buy the fertilizer. Michalko determines that “Havens” bought some 4,000 pounds of fertilizer. Mid-Kansas employee Jerry Showalter will later testify that he took part in the September 30 sale to “Havens,” but cannot identify Nichols as the person who bought the fertilizer. Showalter will tell authorities that “Havens” told him he wanted to fertilize a field with a drill apparatus. [Chicago Tribune, 5/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 221-; Associated Press, 5/30/2004]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jerry Showalter, Mid-Kansas Cooperative, Louis Michalko

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Defense lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing case (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) seek to suppress the testimony of nine prosecution witnesses. Some of these witnesses are publicly identified for the first time, disclosed in court papers filed by the lawyers for defendants Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. McVeigh’s trial is slated to begin in March. Some of the newly identified witnesses are:
bullet Fred Skrdla, who worked at a gasoline station in Billings, Oklahoma, some 80 miles north of Oklahoma City, on the day of the bombing. Skrdla remembers a man driving a large Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) buying gasoline between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m (see (1:00 a.m.) April 19, 1995). The man paid cash. Skrdla says he was busy and does not remember if the man was alone or had company. When he saw composite drawings of “John Doe No. 1” and “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), he recognized one of them as the man who bought the gasoline. When he saw television coverage of McVeigh being “perp walked” out of the Noble County Courthouse in Perry, Oklahoma (see April 21, 1995), he became sure that the man he saw paying for the gasoline was McVeigh.
bullet William Dunlap, who took his wife to work in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing. Minutes before the bomb detonated in front of the Murrah Federal Building, Dunlap told FBI investigators, he drove past the building and noticed a Ryder truck parked in front of it. Dunlap said he saw a white man get out of the truck and walk to the rear of it. Dunlap said the man wore jeans, was in his mid- to late 20s, had “clean-cut” hair, a “medium” complexion, a slight build, and was between 5’8” and 5’9” tall. McVeigh is 6’2”. Dunlap told investigators he thought the man might have been McVeigh, but he was not certain.
Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, says the “saturation” news coverage of the crime and the arrests has “tainted” the ability of Skrdla, Dunlap, and the other witnesses to make accurate identifications of the person or persons they believe they saw. Jones cites information given to the FBI by David Ferris, a Junction City, Kansas, taxi driver who talked about a passenger he had on April 17, two days before the bombing. In early interviews, Ferris did not say that any of the passengers he had looked like McVeigh, and denied taking any passengers to the McDonald’s restaurant on South Washington Boulevard that day, where the investigators are sure McVeigh went (see May 9, 1997). Interviewers’ notes show that Ferris became emotional during the questioning, and tearfully said he “never picked up McVeigh.” The next day, however, Ferris changed his story, saying he took a man resembling McVeigh to the McDonald’s in question between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. on April 17. Ferris told agents that he had seen McVeigh’s picture on television and was “scared and panicked” after realizing who he was. Jones also contends that identifications of McVeigh by Eldon Elliott and Tom Kessinger, who rented the truck to McVeigh, were tainted by television news coverage of McVeigh; by the time Elliott and Kessinger made their identifications, Jones says, McVeigh’s face was so familiar “monks living on the mountainside in Tibet could have made the same identification.” Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, is attempting to suppress identification by an unnamed witness or witnesses who worked at the Mid-Kansas Cooperative in McPherson and, prosecutors say, sold fertilizer to McVeigh and Nichols (see September 23, 1994, September 30, 1994, and October 18, 1994). [New York Times, 1/13/1997] Judge Richard P. Matsch refuses to bar the witnesses’ testimonies. [New York Times, 2/21/1997]

Entity Tags: Fred Skrdla, Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Ferris, William Dunlap, Tom Kessinger, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Michael E. Tigar, Eldon Elliott

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The prosecution and defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) give their closing statements.
Prosecution: Nichols an Eager Participant - Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson tells the jury that even though Nichols was at home on the day of the bombing, he was an eager participant in the bomb plot, and shares the violent anti-government views of his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Like McVeigh, she says, Nichols wanted to strike back at the federal government for its role in the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He intended death, destruction, and chaos in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995,” she says. His favorite quote is from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” However, “Thomas Jefferson never bombed a day care center.” Nichols was involved in the plot from its inception in September 1994, when he left his job on a Kansas ranch “to begin gathering bomb components” (see September 13, 1994 and September 23, 1994), Wilkinson says. Nichols used aliases, such as “Mike Havens,” to purchase several tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a key component in the bomb (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). He took part in the robbery of a quarry to secure explosives and explosive components (see October 3, 1994), and took part in the purchase of three barrels of nitromethane racing fuel from a Texas dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Nichols also robbed an Arkansas gun dealer to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994), a fact confirmed by testimony given by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier (see November 12-13, 1997) and by the FBI finding items taken in that robbery in Nichols’s possession (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Nichols and McVeigh had assembled most of what they needed by November 1994, she says, when Nichols went to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995); after that point, she says, “all they had to do was wait.” When Nichols returned from his trip, they resumed their activities, using sales of guns and ammonium nitrate at gun shows to give themselves alibis. In contrast to a claim made in the opening statement by Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael E. Tigar, she says Nichols was not building a life, “he was building a bomb, and he was building an alibi.” Wilkinson says that witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with an unidentified person, and not Nichols, in the days before the bombing (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), were just plain wrong. Referring to the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2,” she says: “As a result of the media frenzy, sightings of John Doe 2 were about as common and credible as sightings of Elvis. No one is telling you Tim McVeigh was never with anyone else. The issue here is, who is on trial? John Doe 2 is not on trial. Tim McVeigh is not on trial. This is the trial of Terry Nichols.” Concluding the prosecution’s close, lead prosecutor Larry Mackey tells the jury, “It’s finally time—it’s time for justice” in what he calls “America’s most horrific crime.”
Defense: Nichols Victimized by Government - Tigar tells the jury that Nichols is the victim of a farrago of errors and circumstance; the evidence against him, Tigar says, is comprised of dishonest witnesses, sloppy investigation, and misleading circumstantial evidence. “It’s kind of like a stick on the ground, as Sherlock Holmes told Watson,” Tigar says. “If you stand here and look, it seems to point there. But if you walk around to the other side, it points in the opposite direction.” A fellow defense lawyer, Ronald G. Woods, attacks the government’s case, saying, “Anything that differs from the government’s theory, they discount, put aside, ridicule.” The witnesses who saw other men in McVeigh’s company during key moments in the bomb construction timeline were neither wrong nor mistaken, he says. Neither Tigar nor Woods refer at any length to the testimony of Nichols’s wife Marife, which is largely viewed as damaging to their client (see December 10-11, 1997). Tigar continues his previous attack on Fortier, saying: “Michael Fortier is the only witness who says he ever heard anyone say they wanted to bomb the Murrah Building. His testimony was bought and paid for, not with money but with a coin that only the government has the ability to print and hand out, and that is immunity from punishment.” Tigar says that Fortier was far more of a conspirator in the McVeigh plot than Nichols, and accuses the government of turning Fortier from a co-conspirator into a witness. Woods accuses the FBI of manipulating and fabricating witness testimony. Tigar concludes tearfully: “One hundred sixty-eight people died in Oklahoma City. We have never denied the reality of that.” But this is a nation that promises equal justice under law, he says, “rich or poor, neighbor or stranger, tax protester or not, someone who’s different from us, or not.… Members of the jury, I don’t envy you the job that you have,” he says, placing his hand on Nichols’s shoulders. “But I tell you, this is my brother. He’s in your hands.” [New York Times, 12/16/1997; New York Times, 12/17/1997]

Entity Tags: Michael Joseph Fortier, Beth Wilkinson, Larry A. Mackey, Michael E. Tigar, Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Ronald G. Woods, Marife Torres Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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