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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. (McFadden 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.) (McFadden 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. (McFadden 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. (Green 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. (McFadden 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.’” (McFadden 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)
Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) cases a bank in Buffalo, Oklahoma, but decides not to rob it. (Douglas O. Linder 2001; Douglas O. Linder 2006) In 2006, law professor Douglas O. Linder will write that, according to FBI information, McVeigh did indeed participate in a series of bank robberies, possibly with colleagues from the white supremacist settlement Elohim City (see 1973 and After) in an effort to raise money for projects involving anti-government violence (see August 1994 - March 1995). According to Linder, “McVeigh cased banks, and most likely drove the getaway car in some of the heists.” (Douglas O. Linder 2006)
White separatists Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and February - July 1994) and Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994 and October 20, 1994) plan and execute the robbery of Roger Moore, a Royal, Arkansas, gun dealer and acquaintance of McVeigh’s. Nichols and McVeigh are planning the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Moore cannot positively identify his single masked assailant, though he will tell FBI investigators he believes McVeigh is the masked assailant who knocks him unconscious, binds and gags him, and takes guns, military gear, jewelry and gemstones, Indian artifacts, cameras, gold, silver, a safe-deposit key, and cash worth around $60,000 from his dealership. Moore, according to investigators’ reports, “believes that Tim McVeigh may have been involved in the robbery, in that he had visited the owner on several occasions and was familiar with the gun collection.” Moore will give further descriptive details: the robber wears a full camouflage uniform, a black ski mask, and gloves, and wields a pistol-grip shotgun. Moore believes a second man is also involved, but will say he is unsure, because he is quickly bound and tied up while the assailant or assailants ransack his house for 90 minutes before packing the stolen goods into his van and driving off with it. Moore frees himself after about 30 minutes and calls the police, who find the van abandoned some two hours later. Moore gives McVeigh’s name as the first person he suspects of the robbery; after the bombing, though, Moore will tell a reporter that McVeigh “wasn’t the one who pulled off the robbery; I would have recognized him. Tim really stands out in a crowd and there’s no mistaking him.” Instead, Moore will say, “He just set us up for it.” The guns alone make an impressive list: the robber(s) make off with 66 rifles, including expensive AR-15 assault rifles and Mini-14s, along with eight handguns. Moore will not list serial numbers, nor will he file for insurance reimbursement, later explaining that none of the stolen items were insured. Subsequent investigation finds key evidence of the robbery, and of Nichols’s subsequent flight to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995), while searching Nichols’s home in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)). Circumstantial evidence later ties McVeigh closer to the crime, as neither he nor Nichols make much money from their jobs, but McVeigh will often be seen paying for items with cash from a large roll of bills, and the two have told friends that in spite of their meager resources, they intend to set up an itinerant gun dealing business together (see (September 30, 1994)). Authorities will come to believe that the Moore robbery may be just one of an entire series of unsolved robberies carried out by Nichols and McVeigh. Nichols takes the proceeds and flees to Las Vegas, where he hides the cash in the home of his ex-wife Lana Padilla. (Kifner 6/15/1995; Milloy 6/18/1995; PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Romano and Kenworthy 12/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder 2001; Nicole Nichols 2003) Investigators later learn that the safe-deposit key is for a box in a bank in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Press reports will later state that the person who robs Moore may be someone other than Nichols or McVeigh, but someone shorter and stockier than McVeigh and larger than Nichols. (Kifner 8/13/1995) Prosecutors in the 1997 Nichols trial will say that Nichols alone robbed Moore. (Thomas 8/29/1997) In 2006, law professor Douglas O. Linder will speculate that the robbery may have been carried off with the participation of white supremacists from Elohim City (see 1973 and After and August - September 1994). (Douglas O. Linder 2006) After leaving the scene of the robbery, Nichols stays in the Sunset Motel in Junction City, Kansas, using the alias “Joe Kyle” (see October 21 or 22, 1994) and giving his address as “1400 Decker, Lum, Michigan, 48447.” According to McVeigh, he and Nichols began considering the Moore robbery as early as August 1994. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996) Moore himself will interfere with the robbery investigation, giving law enforcement officials conflicting versions of the story and changing key facts such as whether one or two men carried out the robbery. Moore and his girlfriend Karen Anderson will conduct their own “investigation” into the robbery, and will write McVeigh a series of letters mailed to a Kingman, Arizona, postal box, first accusing him of perpetuating the robbery and later asking for his help in solving it. Some of Moore’s letters are written in odd codes, confusing investigators who remain unsure if Moore was writing to McVeigh as one anti-government zealot to another, or trying to trick McVeigh into returning to Arkansas so he can have him arrested. (Serrano 1998, pp. 89-90)
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)
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. (Pressley 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. (Bernstein 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. (Pressley 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. (Eddy et al. 6/3/1997; Thomas 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. (Pressley 4/20/1995; Walsh 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). (Pressley 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; Thomas 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).
White supremacist Timothy McVeigh, held by federal officials on suspicion of being the Oklahoma City bomber (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), is arraigned in a makeshift federal courtroom at Tinker Air Force Base near Midwest City, Oklahoma. He is arraigned before a federal magistrate on charges of maliciously damaging federal property. Merrick Garland, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division in Washington, arrives in time to handle the hearing for the FBI. Garland is displeased by the lack of openness in the hearing, and arranges to have a dozen reporters in the “courtroom.” McVeigh, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and socks with no shoes, is led into the room and given a copy of the criminal complaint, or affidavit, against him. The affidavit is signed by an FBI agent, and in 14 paragraphs lays out the government’s case for holding McVeigh on suspicion of carrying out the bombing. The affidavit includes evidence given by Carl Lebron, McVeigh’s former fellow security guard (see April 20-21, 1995), though Lebron is not identified in the document. According to Lebron, McVeigh was “known to hold extreme right-wing views” and had been “particularly agitated” about the Branch Davidian debacle two years earlier (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). The affidavit says McVeigh visited the site of the Davidian compound in Waco during the standoff (see March 1993), and later expressed “extreme anger at the federal government” and said the government “should never have done what it did.” Reporter Nolan Clay for the Daily Oklahoman later recalls: “He seemed like such a kid. I’ve covered courts for years, and I’ve seen hundreds of killers and usually they have an aura around them of being a killer. That look in their eyes. You can tell in their eyes they’re killers, and they are scary. But he looked like the kid next door. It’s true, that image about him. I was very surprised by that.” McVeigh enters no plea at the arraignment.
Transferred to Federal Prison - After the arraignment, McVeigh is transferred to the El Reno Federal Corrections Center, just west of Oklahoma City. (Purdum 4/22/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 196-198) He is represented by two local lawyers, public defender Susan Otto and private attorney John Coyle, who has specialized in death penalty cases. (Kifner 4/22/1995) At El Reno, McVeigh is held in a cell with thick glass walls eight feet high; Coyle has to shout through the glass so that McVeigh can hear him. (Stickney 1996, pp. 223) According to law professor Douglas O. Linder, McVeigh tells Otto and Coyle, “Yes, I did the bombing.” Any such admission would be privileged and not divulged to law enforcement officials. (Douglas O. Linder 2006)
Conditions of Incarceration - McVeigh refuses to provide any more information than his name, Army rank, and serial number, and allegedly tells investigators that he considers himself a prisoner of war. According to reporter Michelle Green, “The implication was clear: He saw himself as a revolutionary in the hands of the government he allegedly hoped to destroy.” (Green 5/8/1995) He will later deny reports that he considers himself a prisoner of war, and refused to give any information besides name, rank, and serial number (see June 26, 1995 and June 26, 1995). McVeigh is given the same privileges as most prisoners at El Reno, a medium-security federal facility: he is allowed to send and receive mail, read newspapers, receive visitors, and listen to the radio, though he has no television access. Reportedly during his time at El Reno he will receive at least four marriage proposals from women writing to him in prison. He will meet with his lawyers on a near-daily basis and will receive two visits from his father. He reads the Dallas Morning News and a number of right-wing publications, from the mainstream newspaper, the Washington Times, to the more extremist Spotlight, the John Birch Society’s New American, and a number of newsletters from militia leaders James “Bo” Gritz and Jack McLamb. (Stickney 1996, pp. 194)
The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) rests after having presented 25 witnesses over less than four days of testimony. (Douglas O. Linder 2001) McVeigh does not testify in his own defense. (Kenworthy and Romano 6/14/1997) Defense lawyers, led by Stephen Jones, found it difficult to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case (see May 21, 1997). Their story was that McVeigh was the unwitting victim of an overzealous federal investigation and the treachery of his friends. Today, they try to cast doubt on some of the witness testimony, with little apparent success, focusing on critical testimony by two friends of McVeigh’s, Michael and Lori Fortier (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, April 29-30, 1997, After May 6, 1995, and May 12-13, 1997), calling them drug addicts who were lying in order to profit from their story and to avoid jail time. The last witness, Deborah Brown, who employed Lori Fortier at her tanning salon in Kingman, Arizona, testifies that she had bought amphetamines from the Fortiers, and tells the jury the Fortiers were so poor that “their baby was on some kind of state assistance to get formula and diapers.” Jones plays an audiotape for the jury of Michael Fortier’s telephone conversations that were wiretapped by federal agents in the weeks after the bombing, when Fortier was considered a suspect. In those recordings, Fortier boasted to his brother John that he could mislead federal agents and make a million dollars through book rights from his connection to McVeigh, saying: “I can tell a fable, I can tell stories all day long. The less I say now, the bigger the price will be later.” On another audiotape, Fortier, his voice slurred from apparent drug use, is heard telling a friend: “The less I say right now, the bigger the price later—there will be books, book rights. I’m the key, the head honcho, General Crank. I hold the key to it all.… I could pick my nose and wipe it on the judge’s desk.” Jones also plays excerpts from an interview Fortier gave CNN, where he said: “My friend Tim McVeigh is not the face of terror that is reported on the cover of Time magazine. I do not believe that Tim blew up any building in Oklahoma.” Fortier has already admitted that he lied to the press and the FBI during the early phases of the investigation. However, the defense has no alibi for McVeigh, nor does it offer an alternative theory to the prosecution’s version of events.
Prosecution's Case Not Challenged, Analysts Say - Legal analysts say Jones did little to challenge the prosecution, and note that Judge Richard Matsch prohibited Jones from presenting his theory of a foreign terrorist conspiracy behind the bombing (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Neither did Matsch allow Jones to put FBI laboratory technicians on the stand to explain their alleged mishandling of evidence in the case (see January 27, 1997), though Jones did present FBI lab technician Frederic Whitehurst, whose whistleblowing led to a Justice Department investigation that revealed the mishandlings (see May 27, 1997). Jones also suffered a setback when his star witness, Daina Bradley, abruptly changed the story she had told for almost two years. Bradley, a victim of the bombing who lost her two children and her mother along with her right leg, had said that she saw a “swarthy” man get out of the Ryder truck that carried the fertilizer bomb. On the witness stand, Bradley added a new detail: a second, light-complexioned man also in the truck. She was also forced to admit that she had been treated for mental illness and had a poor memory (see May 23, 1997). Legal analyst Andrew Cohen says that the jury is most likely to focus on Jones’s inability to prove McVeigh’s innocence. “The message you get as a juror,” Cohen says, “is [that] this is the worst mass murder in American history. There’s 168 dead, and you can only come up with four days of testimony? What about the alibi? If you’re going to call a guy innocent, you’d better make your case.” (Kenworthy 5/29/1997; Brooke 5/29/1997; Eddy et al. 6/3/1997; Wilmsen and Simpson 6/14/1997; Associated Press 1/11/1998) After the final presentation, law professor Mimi Wesson, a former assistant US attorney and death penalty expert, says she is “puzzled” by the defense’s “truncated” presentation. “The main thing they tried to suggest was that McVeigh was not alone. They elicited that through witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with someone else, or that they saw someone else at places connected to the bombing. But I must say that rather puzzled me, since it is no defense for McVeigh that he acted with a confederate even if that confederate cannot be identified and has not been apprehended and cannot be prosecuted.” Wesson believes that the defense may be conceding guilt, and may be attempting to build a case for “mitigating circumstances” that would spare McVeigh the death penalty. Wesson says that the testimony of Bradley was very damaging for the defense’s case, and doubly so because Bradley was a defense witness. The lawyer who handled the defense’s attack on the forensic evidence (see May 27, 1997), Christopher Tritico, did a “skilled” job in going after the forensics, but Wesson is not convinced Tritico’s assault swayed many jurors. She calls Whitehurst a “prig, a person who has his own fastidious, rather fussy idea about how things ought to be done, who is extremely inflexible and intolerant about things being done any other way” who did not make a good impression on the jury. Jones’s final attack on the Fortiers (see April 29-30, 1997 and May 12-13, 1997) was “predictable,” Wesson says, and nothing the jury had not already heard: “The thing about the Fortiers is not so much that we believe them because they’re truthful—we know they were liars about many things—but in the end I think you believe them because their testimony about McVeigh is corroborated at almost every point by other testimony.” The “parade of victims” put on by the government was tremendously effective, Wesson says: “They did such a tremendously effective case of arousing people’s emotions during the main part of the case.” (Davidson 5/29/1997)
Defense Had 'All but Impossible' Task - In 2006, law professor Douglas O. Linder will write: “The task of the defense team was all but impossible. They could not come up with a single alibi witness. They faced the reality that McVeigh had told dozens of people of his hatred of the government, and had told a friend that he planned to take violent action on April 19. Rental agreements and a drawing of downtown Oklahoma City linked him to the blast. He carried earplugs in his car driving north from Oklahoma City 40 minutes after the explosion. How could it all be explained away?” (Douglas O. Linder 2001)
Accused Oklahoma City conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and December 15-16, 1997) is convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter. He is found not guilty of use of a weapon of mass destruction (see April 16-17, 1995), and of using an explosive, as well as the more serious charges of first-degree and second-degree murder. The jury took 41 hours over six days to decide Nichols’s fate (see December 16-18, 1997). By rejecting the murder charges in the deaths of eight federal law-enforcement officials, the jury concludes that Nichols did not provably intend to kill the people inside the Murrah building. Observers and researchers such as law professor Douglas O. Linder will later conclude that the jury believed the defense’s contention that Nichols had withdrawn from the bombing plot (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), and was probably swayed by Nichols’s decision to stay home on the day of the bombing instead of joining convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City (see June 2, 1997) at the bomb site. The jury may also have been moved by Nichols’s show of emotion during the trial; unlike the stoic McVeigh, Nichols broke down and wept during several moments in the proceedings. Legal analysts say the split verdict is in part because of a much more effective defense (see December 2, 1997) than that presented by Nichols’s co-conspirator, McVeigh (see August 14-27, 1997), who was sentenced to death for carrying out the bombing (see June 2, 1997). Kentucky defense lawyer Kevin McNally says of the verdicts: “[They mean] he had a much less culpable state of mind regarding the homicides. To the jury, he engaged in certain actions that were reckless, but it wasn’t a premeditated killing.” Former federal prosecutor Marvin L. Rudnick says the jury “probably compromised” on the involuntary manslaughter verdicts. Lead prosecutor Larry Mackey says: “The jury has spoken. We accept their verdict in its entirety. We are prepared to go forward now with the penalty phase.” Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, immediately files an appeal and says he will challenge any attempt by the jury to sentence Nichols to death. However, analysts feel that Nichols will escape execution. Denver attorney Andrew Cohen says: “I would be very surprised if the jury sentenced Nichols to death. They distinguished in their own minds what both men did.” Both McVeigh and Nichols face 160 counts of murder in an Oklahoma state court. (Thomas 12/23/1997; Romano and Kenworthy 12/24/1997; Bruni 12/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder 2001; Indianapolis Star 2003; Douglas O. Linder 2006) Under federal law, a conviction of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction can lead to the death penalty. The law is only three years old and has never been used. This death penalty provision was passed by Congress in 1994 after the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York (see February 26, 1993). (Brooke 12/25/1997)
Mixed Reactions - Predictably, reactions regarding the verdict are mixed. Claudia Denny, whose two children were seriously injured in the blast, says, “We’re all disappointed, but we can live with it.” She says she would have preferred murder convictions, but “one more terrorist is off the street.… The important thing to us now is our children. This doesn’t change that. It doesn’t matter.” Bud Welch, who lost his daughter in the bombing, says that the involuntary manslaughter convictions were inappropriate because that charge is what people get “for running a stoplight” and killing someone with a car. Diane Leonard, whose husband was one of the eight law enforcement agents killed, calls the verdict “a slap in the face.” Marsha Knight, whose daughter was one of the 160 civilians killed in the blast, says: “He conspired to build the bomb. What the hell did they think he was going to do with it?” (Bragg 12/24/1997; Romano and Kenworthy 12/24/1997) President Clinton says the convictions of McVeigh and Nichols “should offer a measure of comfort” to the relatives of the victims. But, he adds, “I know that no verdict in a court of law can ease the loss of a loved one.” (Thomas 12/23/1997)
Judge Offers Leniency, Nichols Turns Down Offer - Judge Richard Matsch later tells Nichols he will consider some leniency in sentencing him to prison if he cooperates in helping the government learn more about the bombing conspiracy. Nichols rejects the offer. (Indianapolis Star 2003)
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