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