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Context of 'December 30, 1998: Grand Jury Names No New Suspects in Oklahoma City Bombing'

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Terry Nichols.Terry Nichols. [Source: Oklahoma City Police Department]White separatist Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, April 2, 1992 and After, and October 12, 1993 - January 1994) makes a number of trips to the Phillippines, apparently to meet with al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef and other radical Islamists. Nichols will later help plan and execute the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Nichols’s wife is a mail-order bride from Cebu City; Nichols spends an extensive amount of time on the island of Mindanao, where many Islamist terror cells operate. This information comes from a Philippine undercover operative, Edwin Angeles, and one of his wives. Angeles is the second in command in the militant group Abu Sayyaf from 1991 to 1995 while secretly working for Philippine intelligence at the same time (see 1991-Early February 1995). After the Oklahoma City bombing, Angeles will claim in a videotaped interrogation that in late 1992 and early 1993 Nichols meets with Yousef and a second would-be American terrorist, John Lepney. In 1994, Nichols meets with Yousef, Lepney, and others. For about a week, Angeles, Yousef, Nichols, and Lepney are joined by Abdurajak Janjalani, the leader of Abu Sayyaf; two members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, both of whom are working with Yousef on the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995); and a half-brother of Yousef known only by the alias Ahmad Hassim (this is a probable reference to Yousef’s brother Abd al-Karim Yousef, who is living in the Philippines at this time). Elmina Abdul, Angeles’s third wife, will add additional details about these 1994 meetings in a taped 2002 hospital confession to a Philippines reporter days before her death. She only remembers Nichols as “Terry” or “The Farmer,” and doesn’t remember the name of the other American. She says: “They talked about bombings. They mentioned bombing government buildings in San Francisco, St. Louis, and in Oklahoma. The Americans wanted instructions on how to make and to explode bombs. [Angeles] told me that Janjalani was very interested in paying them much money to explode the buildings. The money was coming from Yousef and the other Arab.” [Gulf News, 4/3/2002; Insight, 4/19/2002; Manila Times, 4/26/2002; Insight, 6/22/2002; Nicole Nichols, 2003] (“The other Arab” may be a reference to the Arab Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, because Janjalani’s younger brother later claims Abu Sayyaf was funded in its early years by Yousef and Khalifa.) [CNN, 1/31/2007] Abdul claims Nichols and Lepney are sent to an unnamed place for more instructions on bomb-making to destroy a building in the US. She also says that Angeles and others in Abu Sayyaf believe Yousef works for the Iraqi government. [Insight, 6/22/2002] The Manila Times later reports that “Lepney did indeed reside and do business in Davao City [in the Southern Philippines] during 1990 to 1996.” One bar owner recalls that when Lepney got drunk he liked to brag about his adventures with local rebel groups. [Manila Times, 4/26/2002] In 2003, Nicole Nichols (no relation to Terry Nichols), the director of the watchdog organization Citizens against Hate, will explain why an American white supremacist would make common cause with Islamist terrorists. Two unifying factors exist, she writes: an overarching hatred of Jews and Israel, and a similarly deep-seated hatred of the US government. [Nicole Nichols, 2003] After Nichols takes part in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), Wali Khan Amin Shah will attempt to take the credit for plotting the bombing for himself and Yousef, a claim federal authorities will not accept (see April 19, 1995 and 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After).

Entity Tags: Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Ramzi Yousef, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Nicole Nichols, Elmina Abdul, Terry Lynn Nichols, Abu Sayyaf, Edwin Angeles, Abd al-Karim Yousef, John Lepney, Abdul Hakim Murad, Abdurajak Janjalani

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 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

White separatist Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and February - July 1994) flees the scene of a robbery he has committed in Arkansas and goes to Council Grove, Kansas, where he has rented a storage locker (see November 7, 1994), and then to Las Vegas, to stash the proceeds of the robbery with his ex-wife, Lana Padilla (see November 5, 1994 and November 6, 1994). Nichols makes plans to leave for the Philippines to visit his family in Cebu City, and leaves a note to be opened only if he does not return (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994) by January 28, 1995—days after the terrorist plot Operation Bojinka was to be executed (see January 6, 1995). Nichols leaves the US on November 11.
Opening the Note - Padilla, fearing her ex-husband has left her a suicide note, opens it after taking Nichols to the airport. The note, titled “Read and Do Immediately,” instructs Padilla to send all of Nichols’s cash and valuables, including the loot from the robbery, to his wife Marife Nichols in Cebu City (see July - December 1990). Some of the cash and valuables, he says, is in a Las Vegas storage unit, and some is hidden in Padilla’s kitchen, behind a wooden panel in the back of her kitchen utility drawer. “As of now, only Marife, you, and myself know what there is and where it is. I hope you will do as I have stated. Josh has just a few years before he’s capable of being on his own and Marife and Nicole [Nichols’s young daughter by Marife—see (September 30, 1994)] have many more years of support needed. There is no need to tell anyone about the items in storage and at home.” After reading the note, Padilla is convinced Nichols intends to kill himself. She follows the directions in the note, breaks through the wooden panel behind her utility drawer, and finds $20,000 in cash in a plastic baggie.
Note to Fellow Bombing Conspirator - The note also contains two letters to Nichols’s fellow conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing plan, Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), both addressed to “Tim.” The first tells McVeigh how to access the Las Vegas storage locker and where his blue pickup truck will be parked for his use if he needs it. Padilla drives to the Las Vegas storage locker and finds a box of carved jade, camera equipment, precious stones, and a ski mask. Much of this material will later be connected to the Arkansas robbery. The second letter to McVeigh instructs him to “clear everything out of CG 37” and to “also liquidate 40,” apparently referring to two storage lockers Nichols has rented in Council Grove (see October 17, 1994, and November 7, 1994) under the alias “Ted Parker,” which contain, among other items, a store of explosive fertilizer and some of the guns stolen in the Arkansas robbery. If he chooses, Nichols writes, McVeigh can pay for further rentals on the lockers instead of clearing them out. He warns McVeigh about possible law enforcement attention, writing: “As far as heat—none that I know. This letter would be for the purpose of my death.” The letter concludes: “Your [sic] on your own. Go for it!” Based on the instructions regarding the fertilizer, federal authorities will come to believe that Nichols is instructing McVeigh to go ahead with plans to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Return to the US - Nichols will return to the US on January 16, 1995 and, after staying a few days at Padilla’s home in Las Vegas, settle in Herington, Kansas, a tiny town not far from the ranch where he recently worked (see (September 30, 1994)). [New York Times, 5/28/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 11/20/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 112-114; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003]
Later Attempts to Explain Letter, Actions - In his statement to the FBI (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995), Nichols will claim to have returned to the US on November 17. The indictment against Nichols will allege that he rented a storage locker in Las Vegas on November 16, based in part on his FBI statement. These dates do not correspond with other evidence showing Nichols remains in the Philippines until January 16. A chronology of events compiled by McVeigh’s lawyers (see Early 2005) also has McVeigh staying in Arkansas and New Mexico motels with Nichols in mid-December 1994. These contradictions are never adequately explained. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] Nichols will also tell authorities that the phrase “Go for it!” is nothing more than an innocent reference to an old sales pitch he and his ex-wife had used in the early days of their marriage. The government authorities will not believe Nichols’s explanation. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 114] After the bombing, Padilla will tell authorities that Nichols gave her a key to a storage locker at the AAAABCO storage facility in Las Vegas, as stated in his note. The locker, she will say, contained thousands of dollars in gold and silver bouillon, tubular pipe, ski masks, and other items (see May 9, 1995 and May 11, 1995), many of which will be linked to the Arkansas robbery. After the bombing, FBI investigators will find a key to a safe-deposit box from the robbery in Nichols’s Herington home (see (February 20, 1995)) along with other items from the robbery. [New York Times, 5/9/1995; New York Times, 5/12/1995; New York Times, 5/28/1995; New York Times, 11/20/1997]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh, Marife Torres Nichols, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Lana Padilla

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Law professor Douglas O. Linder will later use a book by two death-row inmates, Secrets Worth Dying For by David Hammer and Jeffrey Paul, to claim that a number of white supremacists from the Aryan Republican Army (ARA—see 1992 - 1995, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and November 1994) and Elohim City (see November 1994 and April 5, 1995) may help Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) construct his bomb at this time. Hammer and Paul will write their book after spending time in the Florence, Colorado, “Supermax” prison with McVeigh (see June 2, 1997). Linder himself will say that the claims lend themselves to dispute, as the trial record does no more than “hint at th[e] possibility” of someone besides McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and February - July 1994) being involved in the bomb construction, and “[a]ny book written by convicted death row inmates raises credibility concerns.” However, Linder says other evidence gives the Hammer and Paul claims at least some credibility.
McVeigh Receives Help in Building Bomb? - According to the authors and Linder, ARA members, possibly including a bomb expert McVeigh will later call “Poindexter” (see March 1995), join McVeigh in early April to work on the bomb. The men probably camp at Geary Lake, where on April 14 McVeigh meets with Nichols to receive some cash (see April 13, 1995). This same evening, a Junction City pizza delivery man brings a pizza to Room 25 of the Dreamland Motel, where he gives it to a man identifying himself as “Bob Kling,” an alias used by McVeigh (see Mid-March, 1995) to rent the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15, 1995). The delivery man later tells an FBI interviewer that “Kling” is not McVeigh. Linder, via Hammer and Paul, will say that the man who takes the pizza “was, most likely, ARA member Scott Stedeford.” Linder, drawing on Hammer and Paul’s material as well as his own research, believes that McVeigh, Nichols, and, “probably,” the never-identified “John Doe No.2” (see April 15, 1995 and and April 20, 1995) drive to Oklahoma City (see April 16-17, 1995), with McVeigh and “Doe” in McVeigh’s Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995) and Nichols in his pickup truck. McVeigh parks the Marquis in a parking lot near the Murrah Building, and all three ride back to the Dreamland Motel in Nichols’s truck. McVeigh leaves Elliott’s Body Shop in Junction City with a Ryder truck on April 17 (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995), after renting it under the name “Robert Kling” and telling the employees he plans on using it for a four-day trip to Omaha.
Conflicting Stories - At this point, Linder will write, the accounts of what happens become quite divergent. McVeigh leaves for his storage locker in Herington, Kansas, either alone or in the company of Elohim City resident Michael Brescia (see April 8, 1995). At the Herington storage facility, McVeigh, perhaps in the company of Brescia, meets either Nichols or “Poindexter.” (In their book, Hammer and Paul will quote McVeigh as saying Nichols is “a no-show” at the locker, and complaining, “He and Mike [Fortier] were men who liked to talk tough, but in the end their b_tches and kids ruled.”) McVeigh and his partners load bags of fuses and drums of nitromethane into the Ryder truck. In his authorized biography American Terrorist by Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, McVeigh will claim that he and Nichols also load bags of fertilizer into the truck, and he and Nichols finish constructing the bomb at Geary Park on the morning of April 18 (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). McVeigh, according to Michel and Herbeck, drives by himself towards Oklahoma City in the Ryder truck, parking for the night near Ponca City and sleeping in the cab. Hammer and Paul will tell a different story. They will claim that the fertilizer is loaded into a “decoy” truck and then two trucks, not one, drive to Oklahoma City. In their version of events, the bomb is finished on the night of April 18 in a warehouse in Oklahoma City by McVeigh, Poindexter, and ARA member Richard Guthrie. After the bomb is completed, according to Hammer and Paul, Guthrie or another ARA member kills Poindexter by cutting his throat; the explanation to McVeigh is, “Soldier, he was only hired help, not one of us.” (Linder will admit that Hammer and Paul’s version of events is “sensational” and may not be entirely reliable.) FBI interviews will later include a couple who own a diner in Herington recalling McVeigh, Nichols, and a third, unidentified man having breakfast in their restaurant on the morning of April 18 (see 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995). Witnesses will recall seeing a Ryder truck and a pickup truck at Geary Lake later this morning. This afternoon, a hair salon owner sees McVeigh and an unidentified companion enter their business and attempt to get haircuts (see April 18, 1995). Owners of a steakhouse in Perry, Oklahoma, will tell FBI investigators that they see McVeigh and “a stocky companion” eat dinner in their restaurant around 7 p.m. this evening. Linder will conclude, “We might never know exactly who assisted McVeigh in the 24 hours leading up to the dreadful events of April 19, but the McVeigh-and-McVeigh-alone theory, and the McVeigh-and-just-Nichols theory, both seem to stretch credulity.” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006]

Entity Tags: Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Douglas O. Linder, Dan Herbeck, Aryan Republican Army, “Poindexter”, Terry Lynn Nichols, Scott Stedeford, Timothy James McVeigh, Michael Joseph Fortier, David Hammer, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Elohim City, Jeffrey Paul, Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Lou Michel, Michael William Brescia

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).

In the hours after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), some believe that the bombing was the work of Islamist terrorists. Televised news reports air theories of Islamist involvement, and say that eyewitnesses have reported seeing “Middle Eastern-looking men” fleeing the scene of the crime. [Los Angeles Times, 4/20/1995; Fox News, 4/13/2005] One eyewitness describes a man running from the scene clad in a black jogging outfit; many both in US intelligence and in the media assume that the man is likely Middle Eastern. One source tells reporters that the FBI has received claims of responsibility from at least eight groups, seven of which seem to be of Middle Eastern origin. Some officials privately fear that the bombing is the work of either Hamas or Islamic Jihad, two violently militant Islamist organizations. [Los Angeles Times, 4/20/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 185] Later in the day, Abdul Hakim Murad, an al-Qaeda operative in US custody, attempts to take credit for the bombing, but his associate Ramzi Yousef, also in US custody, does not (see April 19, 1995). In another instance, Jordanian-American Abraham Ahmad, attempting to fly to Jordan to visit relatives, is detained and questioned during a layover in Chicago. Ahmad, whom some sources describe as Palestinian-American, lives in Oklahoma City. A naturalized citizen who has lived in Oklahoma City since 1982, he has a background in computer science and is making a scheduled departure this morning to Jordan. His five suitcases contain, among other items, several car radios, large amounts of electrical wires, solder, a VCR, and a tool kit. He has packed a blue jogging suit and a pair of black sweatpants. Federal magistrates rush to serve him with a material warrant, moving so quickly that they misspell his name. He is stopped and questioned in Chicago before being allowed to continue his flight. He is stopped again in London, and this time is detained, strip-searched, and paraded in handcuffs through the crowded airport. He is photographed, fingerprinted, and returned to Washington before being transported to Oklahoma City. His name is leaked to the news media as a possible bombing suspect, creating a firestorm of interest; reporters crowd around his family’s home in Oklahoma City, and angry citizens vandalize his front yard. Authorities learn that Ahmad is going to Jordan for a family emergency. He will be released on April 21, will attend a memorial service for the bombing victims, and will file a $1.9 million lawsuit against the federal government. In later days, government officials such as counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will say that the possibility of Islamist involvement on some level is difficult to disprove (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994 and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). [Serrano, 1998, pp. 185-186; Clarke, 2004, pp. 127; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Justice Department spokesman John Russell says of Ahmad: “He cooperated. There is no reason for him to be held.” (The Washington Post, in reporting this, does not name Ahmad, and identifies him as “Palestinian-American.”) [Washington Post, 4/22/1995] Shortly after the bombing, senior FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, who had worked with the FBI at the Branch Davidian siege outside Waco, concludes that the bomber is probably a white male with militia ties and not an Islamist terrorist (see April 19, 1995).

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Murrah Federal Building, John Russell, Clinton R. Van Zandt, Abraham Ahmad, Abdul Hakim Murad, Richard A. Clarke, Timothy James McVeigh, Ramzi Yousef, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal officials state that the circulation of a sketch identified as “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), a man once believed to have had some connection with accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995), was a mistake. The person, described as short, stocky, thick-necked, and olive-skinned, was misidentified by a witness who gave an incorrect recollection to federal investigators. Prosecutors say that while the possibility exists that others besides McVeigh and Terry Nichols were involved in the bombing, they have no physical descriptions to give to the public. Prosecutors identify the man in the “John Doe No. 2” sketch as Private Todd Bunting, an Army soldier stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, near Junction City, Kansas, where McVeigh rented a Ryder truck used in the bombing (see April 15, 1995). Bunting entered the same Ryder rental office on April 18, a day after McVeigh entered the office. The sketch is based on the recollections of Tom Kessinger, a mechanic in the truck rental office. He and two other employees identified McVeigh from the sketch, but Kessinger’s recollection of “John Doe No. 2” as a man accompanying McVeigh was not supported by the others. McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones says that because of the misidentification of Bunting, all the identifications of all the Ryder clerks must be thrown out. “I don’t think any of those identifications are now safe,” Jones says. Bunting is 5’11”, 200 pounds, muscular and stocky, with dark brown hair, a wide, square chin, and relatively dark skin. On April 18, he accompanied Sergeant Michael Hertig, another Fort Riley soldier, to pick up a truck that Hertig had reserved five days before. Prosecutors believe Kessinger, pressured by investigators, became confused in his recollections and mistakenly identified Bunting as accompanying McVeigh and not Hertig. On November 22, 1996, Kessinger positively identified Bunting as “John Doe No. 2.” He also says he is now unsure that McVeigh was with anyone when he came to rent the Ryder truck. The other Ryder clerks, Vicki Beemer and Eldon Elliott (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995), have said that they believe McVeigh was with another man, but cannot recall what that man looks like. [New York Times, 1/30/1997]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Eldon Elliott, Michael Hertig, Timothy James McVeigh, Stephen Jones, Tom Kessinger, Todd David Bunting, Vicki Beemer

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

A grand jury convenes to investigate allegations that a larger conspiracy surrounds the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), perhaps involving a federal government cover-up. Militia member Timothy McVeigh was convicted (see June 2, 1997) and sentenced to death (see June 11-13, 1997) for carrying out the bombing; his alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols awaits trial for his role in the bombing. State Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City) and accountant Glenn Wilburn, who lost two grandsons in the blast, gathered 13,500 signatures on a petition to force the review. (Wilburn became involved when private investigator J.D. Cash began his own investigation, fueled by his belief that McVeigh either had no involvement in the bombing or was part of a larger conspiracy. Cash is a strong advocate of the “John Doe No. 2” theory, which states that the putative, never-identified Doe No. 2 suspect “proves” the existence of a wider conspiracy—see June 14, 1995 and January 29, 1997). Both Key and Wilburn allege that the federal government had prior knowledge of the bombing (see June 15, 1997); Key is involved with right-wing militia groups (see July 17, 1998). Twelve jurors are selected in less than three hours. Prosecutor Pat Morgan questions jurors about their backgrounds, their acquaintance with victims of the explosion, and their views of the case. Five jurors know someone killed or injured in the bombing, or someone who participated in the rescue. One prospective member, Ben Baker, says the grand jury is unnecessary: “Everybody I’ve talked to believes this is kind of a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. I believe the same thing.” Federal officials have long stated that they doubt anyone besides McVeigh and Nichols was involved in the bombing plot, though circumstantial evidence exists of white supremacist militia involvement on some level (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Oklahoma City District Attorney Robert Macy, who will advise the grand jury, has already promised to file state murder charges against both McVeigh and Nichols. Macy originally opposed the grand jury, but now says he hopes it will “find out what the truth was in the Oklahoma City bombing, if there is any additional evidence.” Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson calls the grand jury investigation a waste of time and taxpayer money. “The notion that it can learn something that the FBI was unable to learn, is, I think, ludicrous,” he says. “The witnesses that Mr. Key is talking about, we know who they are, we know what they have to say. That doesn’t get us any closer to knowing the truth of it, hearing them say it again.” The grand jury petition names seven witnesses who have said they saw at least one other person with McVeigh in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing. None of those witnesses were called before the federal grand jury that indicted McVeigh and Nichols (see August 10, 1995). [Deseret News, 6/30/1997; New York Times, 7/1/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 266]

Entity Tags: Pat Morgan, Charles R. Key, Ben Baker, Drew Edmondson, J.D. Cash, Robert (“Bob”) Macy, Terry Lynn Nichols, Glenn Wilburn, Timothy James McVeigh

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

Charles Key.Charles Key. [Source: Oklahoma City Sentinel]An Oklahoma County grand jury investigating alternative theories about the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 30, 1997) wraps up without naming any new suspects aside from convicted bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see June 4, 1998). After hearing 117 witnesses and weathering criticism that its work gave legitimacy to wild conspiracy theories surrounding the blast, the grand jury reports: “We cannot affirmatively state that absolutely no one else was involved in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. However, we have not been presented with or uncovered information sufficient to indict any additional conspirators.” [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; New York Times, 12/31/1998; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Findings - The jury reviewed documentation of a number of “warning” telephone calls to federal and local law enforcement agencies, and determined that none of them warned of a bombing attack against the Murrah Building, or any other attack. One such call came a week before the blast, a 911 call from an Oklahoma City restaurant that warned the operator of an upcoming bombing. The caller gave no more details. Police quickly looked into the call and determined it came from a mental patient who lived in a nearby care facility. The jury also investigated the numerous claims of sightings of a possible third bomber, “John Doe No. 2,” and determined that the information given by the witnesses was so disparate and general that nothing useful could be concluded. The jury reports that the sightings were most likely of Todd Bunting, an Army private who had no connection to McVeigh or the bombing (see January 29, 1997). “The similarity of… Todd Bunting to the composite of John Doe No. 2 [is] remarkable, particularly when you take into account Bunting’s tattoo of a Playboy bunny on his upper left arm and the fact that he was wearing a black T-shirt and a Carolina Panthers ball cap when he was at Elliott’s Body Shop,” the report states. Witness statements of “John Doe No. 2” fleeing the scene of the bombing in a “brown pickup truck” were erroneous, the report finds. A brown pickup truck did leave the area shortly before the bombing, driven by an employee of the Journal Record Building near the Murrah Building. The driver left the building shortly before the bombing after being informed that her child was ill. The jury finds no evidence that the bombing was orchestrated by the federal government, or that any agency knew about the bombing in advance. [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; Denver Post, 1/9/1999]
Journalist Indicted for Jury Tampering - The jury does bring an indictment against investigative journalist David Hoffman, who will plead guilty to jury tampering, admitting that he sent one of the alternate grand jurors a letter copy of a book on conspiracy theories about the bombing. In a sealed indictment, the jury cited Hoffman for “improper and perhaps illegal attempts to exert influence on the outcome of our investigation.” Hoffman will be given a suspended sentence and 200 hours of community service. Hoffman will later call the indictment “a sham charge by a corrupt government designed to silence me,” and will write a book, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror, which says the government falsely accused McVeigh and Nichols of the crime, concealing the involvement of others, perhaps members of neo-Nazi groups with which McVeigh was involved (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and (April 1) - April 18, 1995). [New York Times, 12/31/1998; Vanity Fair, 9/2001; Lukeford (.net), 11/25/2002]
Report Denounced - Former Oklahoma State Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City), who helped convene the grand jury, immediately denounces the findings. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001] Key has insisted that McVeigh and Nichols had unplumbed connections with Islamist terrorists (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, and 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After), and has insisted that what he calls “revisionist news reports” by the mainstream media have failed to show Islamist connections to the bombing. He has even implied that government officials were complicit in the bombing. [Charles Key, 3/12/1997] The grand jury reports, “We can state with assurance that we do not believe that the federal government had prior knowledge that this horrible terrorist attack was going to happen.” The jury findings are “a ditto of what the federal government presented in the McVeigh trial,” Key states. “It had huge, gaping holes.” Glenn Wilburn, who lost two grandchildren in the bombing, died in 1997 before the jury returned its findings. Key has set up a private non-profit group, the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, which also gathered information about possible witnesses and submitted their names to the grand jury and urged Congress not to let the federal investigation drop. Key says that group will issue a final report of its own that “will read quite differently than this report today.” [District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma, 12/30/1998; New York Times, 12/31/1998]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, David Hoffman, Glenn Wilburn, Terry Lynn Nichols, Todd David Bunting, Charles R. Key

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

An investigative report commissioned by Charles Key (R-OK), a former Oklahoma legislator with ties to regional militia organizations, will conclude that the government’s investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) was riddled with omissions and errors. Key informs WorldNetDaily (WND), a conservative news Web site, of the upcoming report’s conclusions. Key helped convene a grand jury investigation in 1998 to look into questions surrounding the bombing; when the jury found no evidence of a larger conspiracy, as Key had hoped it would (see December 30, 1998), he denounced the jury’s findings and created the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, an independent body that conducted the investigation and wrote the report. Key says he hopes the report will help Americans finally “get to the truth” behind the bombing conspiracy. “The purpose of our report is to document the truth,” Key tells WND. “We, as so many others do, believe that facts regarding other perpetrators, prior knowledge, and the number of explosive devices used to damage the Murrah Building has been concealed.” Key says the committee found “substantial evidence” proving that federal law enforcement officials and court officials knew of the attack well beforehand, but either ignored those warnings or deliberately allowed the attack to go forward. One of those warnings came from a government informant, Carole Howe, whose credibility was questioned by her handlers at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see August 1994 - March 1995). Other warnings came from two informants affiliated with organizations in foreign countries, Key says. Four government agencies, including the BATF and the US Marshals, received a notification “to be on the alert for possible attacks against individuals, federal institutions, or the public at large.” Key also says that Federal Judge Wayne Alley, who originally handled the case against convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), told a reporter that the day of the bombing he had been warned to be on the alert for a possible bombing. Key also says he has statements from five witnesses who claim that no BATF agents were in the building at the time of the attack (this is false; a BATF agent documented his experiences in trying to escape from the building; see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). Other witnesses have told Key that they saw bomb squad vehicles in downtown Oklahoma City before the bomb went off. Key says “over 70 witnesses” saw McVeigh “and one or more John Does” in the days before, and on the day of, the bombing. After the bombing, Key says, around 40 witnesses identified the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995) as a man of Middle Eastern descent (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Federal authorities ignored those witnesses, Key claims. Key also says that several witnesses in the building told of a “second bomb” going off before (not after) McVeigh’s truck bomb exploded. (Claims that a second bomb went off after the truck bomb detonated have been disputed—see After 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and 9:22 a.m. April 19, 1995). Some of the witnesses say that the first, smaller detonation drove them to hide under their desks just before the larger bomb detonated, thus giving them the chance to save themselves. Key says the committee obtained seismological evidence from what he calls an expert source that, he says, “supports the fact that there were multiple explosions” that morning. But, as was the case with other witnesses, the expert “was not allowed to testify at the federal trials,” the report says. And, Key says, witnesses claim to have actually seen a number of bombs in the building that morning, reports that caused rescue personnel to evacuate the building while people were still trapped inside (see 10:00 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995 and 10:28 a.m. April 19, 1995). The report questions the size of McVeigh’s bomb, which was estimated at a number of different sizes but was eventually concluded by government experts to be somewhere around 4,800 pounds; the report says that estimate is incorrect. The damage suffered by the Murrah Building could not have been caused by a bomb of that size, according to “experts” quoted by the report. Key also says that the government deliberately prevented evidence of others’ involvement in the bombing to be used in McVeigh’s and Nichols’s trials, and says that indictments against the two named those persons (this is false—see August 10, 1995). Key says allegations by Jayna Davis that Osama bin Laden masterminded the bomb conspiracy (see March 20, 2001) support the report’s contentions. The report contains other allegations, including possible involvement by federal law enforcement and court officials, FBI officials refusing to allow Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel to investigate the building, FBI officials refusing to run fingerprint checks of over 1,000 prints obtained in the investigation, what the report calls “blatant bias” exhibited towards “anyone asking questions or probing into facts,” and of breaking “[v]irtually all of the rules governing grand juries.” Key’s committee concludes that the Clinton administration “had prior knowledge of the bombing,” and that “McVeigh and Nichols did not act alone.” Key tells WND: “The final report represents years of extensive investigation and countless interviews. It contains information never reported before in any forum.” [WorldNetDaily, 5/4/2001]

Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Carole Howe, Charles R. Key, Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jayna Davis, Wayne E. Alley, WorldNetDaily

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Part of the opening page of Gore Vidal’s article about Timothy McVeigh in Vanity Fair.Part of the opening page of Gore Vidal’s article about Timothy McVeigh in Vanity Fair. [Source: Vanity Fair]Vanity Fair publishes a profile of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001) by author and pundit Gore Vidal, who attended McVeigh’s execution (see May 6, 2001) and who exchanged letters with McVeigh for three years while he awaited execution. McVeigh invited Vidal to attend his execution as a result of their letter exchange.
Simplistic Portrayal of McVeigh as Lone 'Mad Bomber' - Vidal is convinced that the government orchestrated McVeigh’s conviction (see June 2, 1997) and the media’s portrayal of McVeigh as a lone mad bomber who “wanted to destroy innocent lives for no reason other than a spontaneous joy in evildoing.” Vidal also asserts that, in the government’s story, McVeigh “had no serious accomplices” (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). Orchestrating the media response was not particularly difficult, he writes, as few in the mainstream press were particularly interested in why McVeigh carried out the bombing aside from the simple explanation that he was “evil incarnate.” Any explanation of more complexity, Vidal writes, was dismissed as wild conspiracy theories. It was predictable, Vidal writes, that evidence pertinent to McVeigh’s case was not provided until well after his conviction and sentencing (see May 10-11, 2001), and that it would be largely ignored (see June 1-7, 2001). Vidal recounts numerous instances where, when he began to attempt an explanation of McVeigh’s obsession with the 1993 Branch Davidian conflagration (see April 19, 1993) and his belief that he was at war with the US government on a variety of news broadcasts, he was cut short by the hosts.
'Counter-Attack' against US Government - According to Vidal, McVeigh was clear in his letters that the bombing was more than just, McVeigh wrote, “a simple act of ‘revenge’ for Waco,” but “a strike against the US government,” or more precisely, “a ‘counter-attack’ rather than a self-declared war.” In one letter, he quoted pundit H.L. Mencken as writing, “Every normal man must be temped at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” Vidal recalls that he warned McVeigh that “Mencken often resorted to Swiftian hyperbole and was not to be taken too literally.” He then speculates on the “interesting possibility,” perhaps “the grandest conspiracy of all… that he neither made nor set off the bomb outside the Murrah Building: it was only later, when facing either death or life imprisonment, that he saw to it that would be given sole credit for hoisting the black flag and slitting throats, to the rising fury of various ‘militias’ across the land who are currently outraged that he is getting sole credit for a revolutionary act organized, some say, by many others. At the end, if this scenario is correct, he and the detested Feds were of a single mind.” Regardless of who carried out the bombing, Vidal writes, it is clear that “McVeigh himself was eager to commit what he called ‘federally assisted suicide.’” Vidal quotes an interview with Dr. John Smith, a psychiatrist who interviewed McVeigh in prison and was then released from his oath of confidentiality by McVeigh to discuss his findings with reporters, who concluded that McVeigh was quite sane, and carried out the bombing both in revenge for the Waco assault and because “he also wanted to make a political statement about the role of the federal government and protest the use of force against the citizens.” Smith found that McVeigh was disappointed that the media had refused to discuss what he considered “the misuse of power by the federal government” that impelled him to carry out the bombing.
Limited Contact with Militias - According to Smith, McVeigh told him, “I did not expect a revolution.” He had had numerous discussions with some of the militia groups around Kingman, Arizona, Smith said, about how easy it would be to “cut Interstate 40 in two” and thereby disrupt the transportation between the eastern and western portions of the country, but those discussions, McVeigh told Smith, were “rather grandiose” and never acted upon. Vidal acknowledges that for three years before the bombing, McVeigh lived in the semi-underground world of the American militia movement. During that time, he came to believe, as many militia members did at the time, that the federal government planned on following up its assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994) with a massive, nationwide raid on gun owners and militia members in the spring of 1995. Vidal writes, “This was all the trigger that McVeigh needed for what he would do—shuffled the deck, as it were.” Vidal claims that McVeigh, unlike many militia members, had “no hang-ups about blacks, Jews, and all the other enemies of the various ‘Aryan’ white nations to be found in the Patriots’ ranks.” He was fascinated with the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978) and 1987-1988), he acknowledges, but only for its themes of individual Americans using guns and explosives to overthrow “the System.” Smith bolstered Vidal’s contention by reporting that McVeigh had insisted to him that he was not a racist nor a homophobe—“he made that very clear.”
Rationale for Bombing, and for Killing Civilians, Children - Vidal quotes a 1998 essay McVeigh wrote for the right-wing publication Media Bypass, “Essay on Hypocrisy,” that addressed his choice to blow up the Murrah Building, which contained a daycare center. The US, he wrote, set the precedent for bombing and killing civilians. When US military forces attack Iraqi government buildings with daycare centers or schools in them, McVeigh wrote, the media reported the children were being used as “shields” by the Iraqis. Vidal claims that no evidence exists that proves McVeigh knew about the presence of children in the Murrah Building, and repeats McVeigh’s claims that he had no such foreknowledge. However, Vidal notes, the FBI knew about the children in the Branch Davidian compound, “and managed to kill 27 of them.” In a final set of longhand notes McVeigh sent to Vidal in the weeks before his execution, McVeigh wrote: “I explain herein why I bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I explain this not for publicity, nor seeking to win an argument of right or wrong, I explain so that the record is clear as to my thinking and motivations in bombing a government installation. I chose to bomb a Federal Building because such an action served more purposes than other options. Foremost, the bombing was a retaliatory strike: a counter-attack, for the cumulative raids (and subsequent violence and damage) that federal agents had participated in over the preceding years (including, but not limited to, Waco). From the formation of such units as the FBI’s ‘Hostage Rescue’ and other assault teams amongst federal agencies during the 80s, culminating in the Waco incident, federal actions grew increasingly militaristic and violent, to the point where at Waco, our government—like the Chinese—was deploying tanks against its own citizens.” The federal government has militarized the police, he wrote, and his bombing was designed as a “pre-emptive (or pro-active) strike against those forces and their command and control centers within the federal building. When an aggressor force continually launches attacks from a particular base of operations, it is sound military strategy to take the flight to the enemy. Additionally, borrowing a page from US foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile, by bombing a government building and the government employees within that building who represent that government. Bombing the Murrah Federal Building was morally and strategically equivalent to the US hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq, or other nations. Based on observations of the policies of my own government, I viewed this action as an acceptable option. From this perspective what occurred in Oklahoma City was no different than what Americans rain on the heads of others all the time, and, subsequently, my mindset was and is one of clinical detachment. (The bombing of the Murrah Building was not personal no more than when Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marine personnel bomb or launch cruise missiles against (foreign) government installations and their personnel.)”
'Exaggerated Sense of Justice' - Vidal has previously written that McVeigh suffered from what he called “an exaggerated sense of justice,” outraging many who read his words. He defends that characterization, and writes, “I knew that few Americans seriously believe that anyone is capable of doing anything except out of personal self-interest, while anyone who deliberately risks—and gives—his life to alert his fellow citizens to an onerous government is truly crazy.” McVeigh’s act may not have sparked a rebellion, Vidal writes, but it did presage an explosion of sorts in the number of citizens identifying themselves with the militia movement, many of whom joined local militia groups because they believed the government had orchestrated the bombing and then unjustly blamed McVeigh for it. Others believe that government agents planted bombs inside the Murrah Building set to go off when McVeigh’s truck bomb detonated. Many believe that McVeigh was used by the government to perpetuate “state police power,” similar to instances during the Vietnam War when “bogus Viet Cong units that were sent out to rape and murder Vietnamese to discredit the National Liberation Front,” or when US forces pretended to “find” Communist arms dumps in El Salvador. Vidal repeats the tale that all 17 members of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) working in their Murrah Building office suspiciously failed to report to work on the day of the bombing, suggesting that they knew of the bombing in advance (see December 30, 1998).
Militia Involvement? - Vidal then engages in a long and detailed attack on the evidence that shows McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols built the bomb themselves. He believes that McVeigh and Nichols were involved in a complex and shadowy “plot involving militia types and government infiltrators—who knows?—as prime movers to create panic in order to get” President Clinton to enact the Anti-Terrorism Act, and cites research by journalist and author Joel Dyer, who in his own writings detailed his belief that the government downplayed McVeigh’s militia affiliations to make a case that he was a quintessential and possibly deranged “lone bomber.” Dyer and Vidal both cite the poor defense put on by McVeigh’s trial lawyer, Stephen Jones, who, Dyer contended, “often left the jury more confused and bored than convinced of his client’s innocence. Even when he succeeded in his attempts to demonstrate that a large conspiracy was behind the bombing, he did little to show that McVeigh was not at the center of the conspiracy. Jones’s case led some reporters to speculate that McVeigh himself was limiting his own defense in order to prevent evidence that might implicate others in the bombing from entering the record.” McVeigh did indeed confess to the bombing to his defense lawyers and, later, to Vidal, but, Vidal writes, “I believe that by confessing McVeigh was, once again, playing the soldier, attempting to protect his co-conspirators.” Vidal writes that his own research has unearthed a number of militia members who may have played a part in the April 19 bombing, and a systematic effort by the FBI and the McVeigh prosecution team to quash any evidence of that sort during McVeigh’s trial. He also challenges the government’s assertion that the reports of a third co-conspirator, “John Doe No. 2,” was a US Army private with no connection to McVeigh or the bombing (see January 29, 1997). Instead, he writes, that person was likely a well-known militia member in Shawnee County, Kansas, and possibly a member of the separatist Republic of Texas organization. He cites a book on the bombing by former journalist David Hoffman, who was convicted of trying to tamper with the McVeigh jury (see December 30, 1998), as being “the most thorough of a dozen or two accounts of what did and did not happen on that day in April.” Like Vidal, Hoffman does not believe that McVeigh’s truck bomb could have caused the damage inflicted on the Murrah Building, and cites a number of military and government experts who make the same contentions, even citing one report that claims the “five separate bombs” used in the explosion “have a Middle Eastern ‘signature,’ pointing to either Iraqi or Syrian involvement” (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Vidal notes that the search for bodies in the destroyed building was halted after 16 days (see May 4, 1995), against the wishes of those who wanted to continue attempting to search for more evidence in the bomb site. Six days later the building was demolished (see 7:01 a.m. May 23, 1995), leading one critic, retired Air Force Brigadier General Benton K. Partin, to declare that the building was demolished as “a classic cover-up” executed by Communist agents. Vidal writes of Partin’s belief that Communists orchestrated the cover-up, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” (Vidal errs in his “six day” claim; the building was demolished 19 days later.) Vidal writes: “In the end, McVeigh, already condemned to death, decided to take full credit for the bombing. Was he being a good professional soldier, covering up for others? Or did he, perhaps, now see himself in a historic role with his own private Harper’s Ferry, and though his ashes molder in the grave, his spirit is marching on? We may know—one day.” [Vanity Fair, 9/2001]

Entity Tags: Joel Dyer, David Hoffman, Benton K. Partin, Federal Bureau of Investigation, H.L. Mencken, Timothy James McVeigh, Gore Vidal, Stephen Jones, Terry Lynn Nichols, Vanity Fair, John Smith, Murrah Federal Building

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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