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Profile: Michael Hertig

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Michael Hertig was a participant or observer in the following events:

Law enforcement authorities call off the search for the so-called “John Doe No. 2,” believed to be another person involved in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 20, 1995). Officials say the sketch identifying the man is of an innocent person. The sketch has been “enhanced” twice to further aid in identification. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003] Government prosecutors say that the person believed to be depicted in the sketches is Todd David Bunting, an Army private from Fort Riley, Kansas; they say that Bunting has no connections to McVeigh or the bombing. A witness has told the FBI that he saw Bunting at Elliott’s Body Shop, a truck rental agency in Junction City, Kansas, on April 17, two days before the blast, either in the company of accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995 and April 24, 1995) or standing close to him while McVeigh rented the Ryder truck used in the bombing (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Authorities now believe that Bunting was at the rental shop on April 16, the day before McVeigh’s visit, or perhaps April 18, the day after. The FBI releases a statement that says in part: “That individual… resembles the sketch previously circulated as the second of two men who rented the truck on April 17 and who has been called John Doe No. 2.… [The FBI] has determined that individual who has been interviewed was not connected to the bombing.” Some investigators believe that the witness, the rental agent at the shop, became confused under pressure from investigators to recall the details of the second man he says he saw with McVeigh. [New York Times, 6/14/1995; Mickolus and Simmons, 6/1997, pp. 811; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] Bunting will later say that it is his face depicted in the composite sketches of “John Doe No. 2.” [New York Times, 12/3/1995] He closely resembles the sketch, and has a Carolina Panthers baseball cap with lightning strikes down the sides, much like the cap Doe No. 2 was said to wear. He even has a tattoo on his right arm where one witness said Doe No. 2 has a tattoo. The press learns of the Bunting identification before the FBI can hold an official press conference announcing its findings, and reporters trek to Timmonsville, South Carolina, where Bunting is attending the funeral of his mother-in-law, to interivew him; some reporters even barge into the funeral home. Bunting will later stand before cameras and reporters in a press conference held in Fort Riley, where he says he was at Elliott’s Body Shop in the company of another man, Sergeant Michael Hertig, to rent a truck and pack up his belongings to transfer to Fort Benning. He talks of the FBI’s questioning of him, and of the chill he felt when he learned he was being connected to the bombing, however tenuously. Author Richard A. Serrano will later write that after repeated humiliating press reports of false identifications of Doe No. 2 (see April 20, 1995 and May 1-2, 1995), the FBI wants the problems of Doe No. 2 to “go away… dissolve from the nation’s consciousness.” Serrano will suggest that agents deliberately found an innocent man, Bunting, who bears a strong resemblance to the sketch, and decided to use him to end the speculation. If true, the FBI’s efforts will be fruitless: the speculation will continue for years, with a Web site, “John Doe Times,” posted by an Alabama militiaman, hosting anti-government postings and criticism of the ongoing investigation. The far-right “Spotlight” newsletter will say in 1996 that federal agents had employed “dupes” to bomb the Murrah Building, and that McVeigh and Doe No. 2 were mere patsies. The newsletter will claim that Doe No. 2, a government provocateur, lives in hiding on an Indian reservation in upstate New York. Others will speculate that Doe No. 2 is white supremacist Michael Brescia (see August 1994 - March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 8, 1995, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), who bears a close resemblance to the sketch. Brescia later pleads guilty to crimes unrelated to the bombing and will deny any involvement. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 265-266] Author Nicole Nichols, an expert in right-wing domestic terrorism unrelated to accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols, will later speculate that Doe No. 2 is actually Andreas Strassmeir, a gun aficianado and member of the militaristic Elohim City compound along with Brescia (see 1973 and After). Press reports later state that McVeigh denies any involvement by Strassmeir (see February 28 - March 4, 1997). Prosecutors will later reiterate that Bunting is “John Doe No. 2” and reiterate that he has no connection to the bombing (see January 29, 1997).

Entity Tags: Andreas Strassmeir, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nicole Nichols, Michael Hertig, Todd David Bunting, Michael William Brescia, Richard A. Serrano, Timothy James McVeigh

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

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