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Three white supremacists living in the Elohim City, Oklahoma, compound (see 1973 and After) visit Oklahoma City and make plans to blow up the Murrah Federal Building there. The three are: James Ellison, the leader of the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord (CSA) who will be arrested in 1985 after a four-day standoff with federal authorities; Kerry Noble; and Richard Wayne Snell, who will be executed for murdering a black police officer and a businessman he erroneously believed to be Jewish (see 9:00 p.m. April 19, 1995). All three men have close ties to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations (see Early 1970s). The evidence of their plan is released during the investigation of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and is collated by former US prosecutor Steven N. Snyder, who once worked out of the Fort Smith, Arkansas District Attorney’s office. The plan involves parking a van or trailer in front of the building and exploding it with rockets detonated by a timer. Snyder will come across the information on the bombing plot while preparing for the trial of a sedition case against a 14-man group of white supremacists, 10 of whom are charged with planning to overthrow the government. (All 14 will be acquitted in a 1988 trial—see Late 1987 - April 8, 1998.) Snyder will get the information from Ellison, who provides information to him as part of his role as chief witness for the prosecution. The other defendants in the trial, many of whom are believed to have had some connection to the bombing plot, will be Richard Butler, the head of Aryan Nations; Robert E. Miles, a former Klansman who heads the Mountain Church of Jesus Christ the Saviour in Cohoctah, Michigan; and Louis R. Beam Jr., a former grand dragon of the Texas Ku Klux Klan and “ambassador at large” of the Aryan Nations. Ellison will tell Snyder that in July 1983, he attends a meeting of extremist groups in Hayden Lake, Idaho, the location of the Aryan Nations headquarters, where he informs them of the death of fellow white supremacist Gordon Kahl in a gun battle with law enforcement agents in Arkansas (see March 13 - June 3, 1983). Snyder’s notes of Ellison’s statement read, “Kahl was the catalyst that made everyone come forth and change the organizations from thinkers to doers.” According to Ellison, the leaders of the various supremacist groups discuss how to overthrow the federal government, using as a sourcebook the novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), which tells of a successful move by white supremacists to overthrow the government and then commit genocide against Jews and blacks. Ellison will tell Snyder that he volunteers to assassinate federal officials in Arkansas as part of the plot. The leaders discuss blowing up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, other federal buildings, and the Dallas office of a Jewish organization. According to Ellison’s trial testimony, in October 1983 Snell and another participant, Steve Scott, “asked me to design a rocket launcher that could be used to destroy these buildings from a distance.” Of Snell, Ellison will testify: “On one of the trips when I was with Wayne, he took me to some of the buildings and asked me to go in the building and check the building out. This kind of thing.” Ellison will tell Snyder that at Snell’s request, he surveills the Murrah Building to assess what it would take to damage and destroy it. He makes preliminary sketches and drawings. According to the preliminary plans, rocket launchers are to be “placed in a trailer or a van so that it could be driven up to a given spot, parked there, and a timed detonating device could be triggered so that the driver could walk away and leave the vehicle set in position, and he would have time to clear the area before any of the rockets launched.… And I was asked to make it so it would fit in either a trailer or a van or a panel truck.” Synder will later say that Snell is embittered towards the government because of the IRS, which took him to court and seized property from him for failure to pay taxes. But, Snyder will add, “you can’t be sure about any of this, because a federal raid, to a lot of these people, is any time the postman brings the mail.” Ellison will be taken into custody after a four-day standoff with state and federal authorities in 1985, only convinced to surrender after white supremacist Robert Millar talks him into giving up (see 1973 and After). Ellison will be convicted of racketeering charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He will enter the federal witness protection program until completing his parole and leaving the program on April 21, 1995, two days after the Oklahoma City bombing. (Thomas and Smothers 5/20/1995; Anti-Defamation League 8/9/2002; Nicole Nichols 2003)
James Nichols, a Michigan farmer, anti-government white separatist, and the brother of Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), formulates a plan to use a “megabomb” to destroy an Oklahoma City federal building; an unnamed FBI informant will later tell the FBI that James Nichols specifically indicates the Murrah Federal Building. Nichols, who says he is upset over the US’s “role” in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, shares the plan with the informant, who will swear to the information in 1995, after James’s brother Terry Nichols is arrested for helping destroy the Murrah Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). “[James] Nichols… made a specific reference to a federal building in Oklahoma City and began looking through the toolshed and workbench for a newspaper clipping depicting the Oklahoma City building,” the informant will say, according to an FBI affidavit. Nichols is unable to find the newspaper clipping, the informant will say, and instead draws a diagram remarkably similar to the Murrah Building. Nichols “later located a newspaper article containing a reference to the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and showed it” to the informer, the affidavit says. The informer is a regular visitor to the Nichols farm. (Thomas 6/13/1995; Nicole Nichols 2003) James Nichols routinely stamps US currency with red ink in a protest against the government, and calls his neighbors “sheeple” for obeying authority “like livestock.” A neighbor, Dan Stomber, will recall Nichols criticizing him and others for using drivers’ licences and Social Security cards, and for voting and paying taxes. “He said we were all puppets and sheeple,” Stomber will tell a reporter. “That was the first time I ever heard that word.” Stomber will not recall Nichols discussing any plans to bomb any federal buildings. (Rimer and Bennet 4/24/1995) After the Oklahoma City bombing, a friend of Nichols, an Indiana seed dealer named Dave Shafer, will tell authorities that Nichols showed him a diagram of a building remarkably similar to the Murrah Building, still under construction at the time, and said that building would be an excellent target. Shafer will say that he thought Nichols was joking. (Serrano 1998, pp. 110) It is possible that Shafer and the unnamed FBI informant are the same person. Five years ago, a group of white supremacists had conceived of a plan to destroy the Murrah Building (see 1983).
Carole (or Carol) Howe, a former college student who became involved with a number of white supremacists and anti-government radicals at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1973 and After), allegedly gives federal agents repeated warnings about a bombing planned for Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Howe left Tulsa Metro Christian Academy after falling in with local “skinheads,” and became romantically involved with Dennis Mahon, a former Ku Klux Klan member, the leader of the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) organization, and the purveyor of Tulsa’s Dial-a-Racist telephone line. Mahon, 46, later says he became involved with Howe because she wrote him a letter in the spring of 1993 after calling his telephone line, claiming “she was 23, pure Aryan, considered beautiful, and wanted to fight for her race and culture. So, hey, I sent her some tapes.” Mahon will say that he considered Howe brilliantly intelligent and well-spoken, and wanted to make her a movement spokesperson: “I was going to get her on Oprah. Most of our women are not very intelligent. All they can say is ‘n_gger this’ and ‘n_gger that.’ She could have been our Aryan spokeswoman.” Mahon began taking her to Elohim City. The relationship had soured by the summer of 1994, and in August 1994, after filing a restraining order against Mahon, Howe was recruited as an informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). In a letter to her parents explaining her decision to work for the government, she says: “I don’t like America as she is today. But I don’t think she is past saving. And if there’s something I can do to help this country realize a glimmer of her potential greatness, then I must do it. These people intend to start a war here within the next few years. They have the power, means, and support to do it. This war would especially devastate America.” Between August 1994 and March 1995, Howe supplies the BATF with 38 audiotapes’ worth of surveillance. She tells her handler that Elohim City leader Robert Millar is spoiling for a new revolution, and repeatedly gives sermons preaching violence against the US government, particularly the BATF. He says that the group will expand its influence throughout the Midwest, and other militia groups will unite with the Elohim City forces to contend with the government. She is briefly deactivated after an apparent suicide attempt, but will be reactivated after the bombing, when she says the sketch of the “John Doe No. 2” suspect (see April 20, 1995) resembles one of the Elohom City residents, probably neo-Nazi Andreas Strassmeir. The day after the April 19, 1995 bombing, Howe will tell a reporter that she warned the BATF that Strassmeir and Michael Brescia (see 1992 - 1995) had “cased” the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in preparation for the bombing (see November 1994). She will also claim to have told her handler, BATF agent Angela Finley, about the Elohim community’s preparations for a much larger assault, perhaps as a prelude to the long-anticipated “race war” they had so often predicted. Government sources will say Howe made no warnings until after the bombing, when she tells federal agents of Mahon’s and Strassmeir’s plans. After the bombing, her information will consist largely of reporting on the Elohim residents’ attempts to lock down their own alibis. Howe will say that she saw accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) at the compound, then withdraw that claim. Federal agents will consider her answers speculative and lacking in evidence, though reports by some BATF and FBI agents may contradict that assessment. Mahon will later say that Howe attempted to entrap others at the Elohim City compound into committing illegal acts, apparently alluding to his suspicion that she was an informant. In March 1995, the BATF releases Howe as an informant, saying she is erratic and unreliable, though some reports indicate that she may serve as an informant well into 1996. (Graff, Cole, and Shannon 2/24/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 267-268; Nicole Nichols 2003; Nicole Nichols 2003; Nicole Nichols 2003)
Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, actively engaged in plotting to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), drive by the building. They park in front of the building, get out of their car, and time the distance to the place McVeigh plans to be at the time the bomb will be set to explode. (Douglas O. Linder 2001) They go through Oklahoma City on their way to buy racing fuel, an essential ingredient for their bomb (see October 21 or 22, 1994). (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996)
Timothy McVeigh, a white supremacist engaged in plotting to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), drives to the Murrah Federal Building with his friend, bookkeeper and part-time gun dealer Michael Fortier (see February - July 1994 and October 21 or 22, 1994); McVeigh tells Fortier that he intends to bomb the building (see September 13, 1994). (Mickolus and Simmons 6/1997, pp. 810; Serrano 1998, pp. 82-83; Douglas O. Linder 2001)
Concealing Blasting Caps, Going to Pick Up Stolen Weapons - McVeigh comes to Fortier’s Kingman, Arizona, home from New Mexico, and meets the Fortiers at the local Mohave Inn. Lori Fortier wraps two boxes of blasting caps stolen by McVeigh (see October 4 - Late October, 1994) in Christmas wrapping paper. The plan is for McVeigh and Michael Fortier to drive to Oklahoma City in McVeigh’s car to scout the Murrah location, then drive to Council Grove, Kansas, to pick up weapons McVeigh says his friend and fellow conspirator Terry Nichols stole to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994)—adding that he wishes Nichols had killed the victim of the robbery, Roger Moore, when he stole the weapons. In Council Grove, they will rent a car. Fortier will take the weapons back to Arizona in the rental and sell them. McVeigh will drive north with the blasting caps. Fortier will later say he is more interested in the weapons than he is in any bombing plot, as McVeigh says he can have half of the profits from their sale. Both Fortier and his wife later say that Fortier has no intentions of joining McVeigh in carrying out any violence.
Discussions of Bombing Plans - During the drive to Oklahoma City, McVeigh and Fortier pass a large Ryder storage truck, and McVeigh tells Fortier he wants to use a truck similar to that for the bombing, but a size larger. Nichols has already decided against targeting a federal building in Kansas, and McVeigh and Nichols have determined that no federal building in Dallas would serve as a good target, so the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City is the best choice, McVeigh says, in part because he believes (erroneously) that the building “was where the orders for the attack on Waco came from” (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). He also confides in Fortier that he believes his attack will mark the first shot in a general anti-government, white supremacist uprising similar to that depicted in his favorite novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978). When they arrive at the Murrah Building, they drive around the building twice. Fortier observes that the elevator shaft in the building might stop it from collapsing entirely. They stop in the parking lot and look at the building from several angles; after about 20 minutes, a nervous Fortier tells McVeigh, “Let’s leave.” McVeigh says that he is considering remaining inside the truck after parking it outside the Murrah Building and setting the fuse. A shaken Fortier says that would amount to “suicide,” but McVeigh, Fortier recalls, replies that he may decide to “stay inside and shoot anyone who tried to stop him.” McVeigh shows Fortier an alley behind the YMCA building across the street in which he can hide a getaway car. He is also mulling over having their mutual friend Terry Nichols “follow and wait” for him, presumably to help him escape the scene of the blast. McVeigh shows Fortier the loading zone for the Murrah Building, a good place, he says, to park the bomb-laden truck. According to Fortier, McVeigh is also considering driving “the truck down the stairs and crash[ing] it through the front doors.” McVeigh complains about Nichols, whom he calls “the old man,” apparently showing signs of backing out of the plot. Nichols’s waffling is part of the reason McVeigh is interested in soliciting Fortier’s involvement.
Viewing the 'Stash' - After leaving Oklahoma City, McVeigh and Fortier drive to the storage shed in Council Grove, Kansas (McVeigh using back roads to avoid the major highways where, he says, the government has set up spy cameras, and staying overnight at a Junction City, Kansas, motel), where McVeigh and Nichols are storing explosive materials for the bomb (see November 7, 1994). McVeigh shows Fortier the “stash,” as Fortier will later call it. They drive to Manhattan, Kansas, where McVeigh rents a gray Chevrolet Caprice; they drive back to Council Grove, eat at a Pizza Hut, and load the Caprice with about 30 guns, also being stored at the shed. Fortier then drives back to Kingman in the Caprice; McVeigh drives back to Michigan in his 1988 Chevrolet Spectrum Turbo, where he is staying with a friend (see December 18, 1994), taking three of the stolen guns, some stolen ammunition, and the Christmas-wrapped blasting caps with him. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Thomas 5/13/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 83-85, 90-91, 97, 106) In 1998, author Richard A. Serrano will write that Fortier drove back to Kingman in a Ford Crown Victoria, not a Caprice, and that the two chose the Ford because of its generous trunk space, necessary for storing the guns. Serrano will write that Fortier rented the Crown Victoria at a Hertz rental firm in Manhattan. According to Serrano, Fortier drives west towards Kingman, not stopping for sleep until he pulls over at a rest stop on the Arizona-New Mexico border, while McVeigh drives his Chevrolet to Michigan. (Serrano 1998, pp. 106-107)
Oklahoma City bomb plotter Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, November 5, 1994, and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995) meets his partner Timothy McVeigh (see April 15, 1995) at a gas station next to a Dairy Queen in Herington, Kansas, where Nichols lives (see (February 20, 1995)). (McVeigh had expected to meet Nichols at Geary State Park in Kansas earlier this morning, but Nichols failed to appear.) The two travel separately to Oklahoma City to scout the location for planting the fertilizer bomb they have constructed (see December 22 or 23, 1988 and September 13, 1994); McVeigh leaves his getaway car (see April 13, 1995), backing it up against a brick wall and leaving a note (that obscures the car’s VIN number) asking that the car not be towed. They then drive back to Kansas, arriving sometime before 2:00 a.m on April 17. Nichols drops McVeigh off at a McDonald’s restaurant in Junction City, and drives back to Herington. Nichols has already told McVeigh he does not want to be directly involved in planting the bomb (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995). When the bomb detonates three days later (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), Nichols is at his Kansas home. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder 2001; Nicole Nichols 2003)
Different Account of Events - In statements given to authorities shortly after the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995 and April 25, 1995), Nichols will tell a very different version of events. Nichols will say that on April 16, Easter Sunday, he plans on taking his family to mass at a local Catholic church, drives to the church, and returns with the news that there are no services being held. Instead, Nichols will say, he and the family drive 25 miles to St. Xavier’s in Junction City. They then return home and have an Easter meal. Sometime after 3:00 p.m., he will say, McVeigh calls him and asks him to pick him up in Oklahoma City, asks him to tell his wife Marife that he is driving to Omaha, not Oklahoma City, and asks him to “keep this between us.” McVeigh, Nichols will say, has a television that once belonged to Nichols’s ex-wife Lana Padilla, and wants Nichols to come get the television. Nichols will say he wants the television as his son Joshua, who usually lives with Padilla but is visiting him, wants to watch television during his stay. Joshua asks to go with his father to Omaha and Nichols turns him down. Nichols drives from Herington to Oklahoma City, a five-hour trip, picks up McVeigh, and drives to Junction City, Kansas. Nichols will say that he drives by the Murrah Federal Building two or three times before seeing McVeigh in an alley and picking him up. During the drive to Junction City, McVeigh tells Nichols, “Something big is going to happen” (see April 15, 1995). Nichols, who will claim to be unaware of any plans to detonate a bomb (see March 31 - April 12, 1995), asks, “Are you going to rob a bank?” to which McVeigh repeats his previous statement, “Something big is going to happen.” According to Nichols’s story, he then drops McVeigh off in Junction City and returns to Herington sometime after midnight. Marife Nichols will confirm that Nichols brings a television into the house with him; she will see it when she wakes up on April 17. It is old and almost completely unusable, being without an antenna; Nichols will later get cable television activated. Nichols will claim that on April 17, the family watches rented videos on the television, including The Lion King, and will claim that he spends some of the day puttering around the house, trying to fix a broken fuel meter that he wants to resell. He will say that he takes the family to eat dinner at a steakhouse that evening, then drives to the airport to see Joshua off (see (6:00 p.m.) April 17, 1995). Nichols will say that he will not hear from McVeigh again until April 18 (see Late Evening, April 17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, and Early Afternoon, April 18, 1995). (Belluck 4/26/1995; Associated Press 3/16/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 146-148)
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) wakes up near Ponca City, Oklahoma (see Noon and After, April 18, 1995), and at about 7:00 a.m. begins driving toward Oklahoma City in a rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) containing a massive fertilizer bomb (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). McVeigh will later tell authors Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, who will write his authorized biography American Terrorist, that he has cold spaghetti for breakfast. “Meals ready to eat… are meant for high intensity. I knew I was going through a firestorm and I would need the energy,” he will say. He will tell the authors that he made an “executive decision” to move up the timing of the blast several hours; he will also tell them that he drives to Oklahoma City alone. He wears a T-shirt with a drawing of Abraham Lincoln in a “Wanted” poster and the words (shouted by John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin) “SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS” (“thus ever to tyrants”); the shirt also features the Thomas Jefferson quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” and a picture of a tree dripping with blood. McVeigh takes Interstate 35 to Interstate 40 to Interstate 235, and takes the Harrison/Fourth Street exit. According to Mike Moroz, a service manager at Jerry’s Tire in downtown Oklahoma City, two men in a large Ryder truck stop between 8:25 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. to ask directions to Fifth and Harvey Streets, the location of the Murrah Building. Moroz will later identify the two men as McVeigh and an as-yet unidentified man, shorter, darker-skinned, and wearing a baseball cap; he later tells a USA Today reporter that McVeigh gets out of the driver’s side of the cab and walks over to speak with him, while the other man remains in the cab. Moroz’s version of events will remain unverified. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Eddy et al. 6/3/1997; Thomas 6/3/1997; Douglas O. Linder 2001; Douglas O. Linder 2006) Three witnesses later say they see McVeigh near the Murrah Building around 8:40 a.m. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996)
Alternate Versions of Events - An alternate version of events has McVeigh traveling to Oklahoma City with white supremacist Michael Brescia (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995 and April 8, 1995) in the passenger seat, which would explain why Moroz sees McVeigh and another man with him. And another version of events is later given by Ed Kirkpatrick, a local structural engineer, who will claim to see McVeigh and “a white guy” in his thirties or forties meeting a Middle Eastern man at a downtown McDonald’s around 8:30 a.m. According to Kirkpatrick, McVeigh sends the white man for coffee while he talks to the Middle Eastern man sitting in a Dodge Dynasty with a blue tag. The white man becomes upset, Kirkpatrick will say, and McVeigh leaves him at the McDonald’s. Kirkpatrick says he witnesses the white man throw a .45 handgun into a nearby dumpster. Yet another version of events will be provided by an unnamed mortgage company employee, who says he sees the Ryder truck being followed by a yellow Mercury at Main and Broadway; the employee will claim he sees McVeigh driving the Mercury. This version of events is echoed by a statement given by lawyer James R. Linehan, who will say that he sees McVeigh driving erratically in a battered yellow 1977 Mercury that matches the description of McVeigh’s getaway car (see April 13, 1995), first spotting the Mercury stopped beside him at a red light on the south side of the Murrah Building. He will describe the driver as hunched over the wheel and with his face obscured, either by a hood or by hair (McVeigh’s hair is close-cropped and McVeigh is not wearing a hooded pullover). No one is in the car with him, Linehan will say. The Mercury suddenly “peels out” and runs the red light, Linehan will say, then circles the building, drives around the Murrah Building, and then drives into its underground building. Linehan will remember the car as having no rear license plate. Before the car disappears into the underground parking garage, Linehan gets a better look at the driver, and Linehan will say he has a sharp nose, no facial hair, a sharp chin, and smooth features. Linehan will say that when he sees news footage of McVeigh’s yellow Mercury on television, he leaps to his feet, points at the TV screen, and yells: “That’s the car! That’s the car!” (Stickney 1996, pp. 251; PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Douglas O. Linder 2006) Linehan’s version of events will be reported by Los Angeles Times reporter Richard A. Serrano in an August 1995 story. Linehan will be interviewed by the FBI, but will not testify before the grand jury investigating the bombing. He will also be interviewed by lawyers representing McVeigh. (Stickney 1996, pp. 251-252)
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).
Survivors of the Murrah Federal Building bomb blast in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) begin evacuating. By 9:30, a triage center has been established at the corner of 6th and Robinson Streets. By 10 a.m., 59 survivors have either been rescued from the blasted building or have emerged on their own. The next day, the Washington Post will report: “Workers staggered out of stairwells, blood dripping into their eyes. A woman moaned on the ground, part of her leg apparently missing from the blast. Employees at buildings blocks away reported being thrown from their chairs, windows were shattered, and residents who live 30 miles from downtown reported feeling the powerful vibrations of the blast. Everywhere around the city, people stood in stunned silence, not believing what they had just seen and heard, not comprehending how anyone could have done such a thing.” Physician Carl Spengler, who arrives at the scene a few minutes after the blast to render assistance, tells a reporter: “It’s like Beirut. Everything burning and flattened.” Hours after the explosion, Assistant Fire Chief John Hansen says rescue workers see “many more fatalities in the building that we are working around” while searching for survivors. The task of searching for survivors goes on throughout the day and into the night, interrupted by erroneous reports of a second bomb being spotted and the subsequent evacuation of the scene (see 10:28 a.m. April 19, 1995). An agent of the medical examiner’s office, Richard Dugger, says: “Tomorrow will be the really awful day when everyone starts to get the official notification. That’s going to be a horrible thing to watch.” By 10:15, blood drives for the injured have begun at nearby Tinker Air Force Base and the Oklahoma Blood Institute. At 10:34, a new triage center is established at the corner of NW 3rd Street and Harvey Street. By 10:35, the Department of Defense delivers bomb-sniffing dogs, surgeons, equipment, medivac aircraft, and body bags to the site. (Pressley 4/20/1995; The Oklahoman 4/2009) One mother, Helena Garrett, whose child Tevin is in the Murrah day care facility, runs from the nearby Journal Record building to the devastated Murrah Building to rescue her son, but is not allowed in by police officers. She finds another way in and begins climbing a pile of rubble to get to the day care on the second floor, but a man pulls her back down to the ground, telling her it is not safe for her to try to get to the facility. A few minutes later, people begin bringing dead, dying, and injured children out. Garrett, who knows the children in the facility, helps comfort one dying boy, two-year-old Colton Smith, until he loses consciousness for the last time. Garrett watches, numb and stricken, as the rescuers begin lining the children up on white sheets one by one on the ground. She screams: “Please don’t lay our babies on the glass! We don’t want our babies on the glass!” and a man with a broom sweeps away much of the broken glass on the ground where the rescuers are placing the bodies of the children, crying as he sweeps. Garrett never sees her son alive again; he is not found until April 22. The officials of the funeral home caring for Tevin’s body will convince Garrett not to look at her son’s head, as he is terribly disfigured by a crushing head injury. Instead, she recalls, they will open the lower lid of the casket. She later recalls, “I kissed his feet and his I kissed his legs, and I couldn’t go up higher.” (Serrano 1998, pp. 166-168)
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, having just set a massive fertilizer bomb to explode in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), executes his getaway plan, which centers around a Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995) parked near the Murrah Federal Building, the target of the bomb. McVeigh is almost into a parking lot when the bomb goes off. The wall of the building on his left comes down, and he is struck by falling debris in the left leg. He steps over a fallen power line and removes ear plugs he has been wearing. He crosses Broadway and is seen by a woman exiting a shop; he shakes his head at her as if to say he does not know what has happened. He turns right on Broadway and 7th, walks a quarter of a block, crosses NW 7th Street, and walks north along an alleyway before turning east on 8th Street. He crosses a set of railroad tracks, approaching the building where he parked the Ryder truck containing the bomb (see April 15, 1995). According to one source, a mail delivery man approaches McVeigh and says, “Man, for a second I thought that was us that blew up!” McVeigh reportedly replies, “Yeah, so did I” and keeps walking. (The source for the mailman’s statement is a document purportedly created by the McVeigh legal defense team—see February 28 - March 4, 1997; other reporters will try and fail to corroborate the statement.) McVeigh checks over the Mercury for damage, gets in, and starts the car; it takes about 30 seconds to start. He lets it warm up for another 30 seconds, by which time he can hear sirens approaching. After briefly working with the transmission, the car lurches into gear and he pulls out slowly, driving through the alleyway to Oklahoma Street, a one-way southbound street. He manages to get onto Highway 235 to Interstate 44, then finally to I-35 north. He is captured by a state trooper less than 90 minutes later (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 272)
A Water Resources Board meeting is commencing in the water board building just north of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, on the northwest corner of 5th and Harvey. As always, the meeting is audiotaped. Cynthia Lou Klaver, a Water Resources Board attorney, is there to help mediate a dispute from Ardmore, Oklahoma, involving a farmer who wants to drain scarce groundwater to open his own bottled-water business, a plan disputed by a small number of his neighbors. “We were getting ready to open it [the arbitration] up around nine that morning,” Klaver will later recall. She brings the group together in a third-floor boardroom, turns on a small cassette tape recorder, and begins the meeting. She has just begun to describe how the meeting will proceed when a huge, devastating roar thunders through the entire building. Pieces of ceiling and office furniture come crashing down. The roar, the sound of the explosion that devastates the Murrah Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), is captured on the tape, as is Klaver’s voice. “Everybody get out… out!” she screams. “Watch the electricity lines. Watch the lines!… Out the back door. All the way to the right.… Let’s get out of here!” Klaver later remembers wondering if the entire building is going to collapse, and will recall the tremendous amount of falling debris and live electrical lines. She and recording secretary Connie Siegel Goober try to help some of the elderly people out of the room, but find that the door is blocked. They force open a back door and lead their charges out of the room into a hallway. Klaver is one of the last people out of the building. Soon she and others are in the street, dazed and coughing on the thick smoke hanging in the air. She sees a coworker, Mike Mathis, who is attempting to drive himself to the hospital with a deep cut on his forehead. Klaver drives him, using his pickup truck. After officials let her back into the building, she will retrieve the audiotape. It will become one of the key pieces of evidence in the trial of the bomber, Timothy McVeigh (see April 25, 1997). She will also find a clock that had stopped after being shaken off the wall; it reads 9:02. (Serrano 1998, pp. 158-160; The Oklahoman 4/2009)
Luke Franey, an explosives expert for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, sometimes called the ATF), is on the ninth floor of the Murrah Federal Building when the bomb goes off (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Though he is an expert on explosives, he is unable to immediately identify the kind of explosion that rocks the building. He tries to extricate himself from the debris, and almost immediately comes across a small tape recorder in the rubble. He begins making dictated notes into the microphone, trying to preserve his impressions for history and for any possible prosecution that might be forthcoming. “It’s April 19,” he says, breathing hard. “I’m making this tape for evidence purposes.… I was sitting at a desk on the ATF office on the ninth floor talking about obtaining an arrest warrant.… During that conversation, a loud explosion occurred, blowing me from my desk across the hall into the opposite office. It took me a minute to figure out what happened. But once I regained my senses I heard people screaming for help. I looked. I got out of my office. The building is basically destroyed. The DEA office is gone. There’s a sheer dropoff outside of my office.… The building has been ripped apart and there’s a straight dropoff approximately nine floors straight down.” Franey continues his observations, which are punctuated by muffled screams and the noise of emergency sirens. He is unable to find any survivors. “I can’t get any verbal responses,” he says. “I’m just holding tight. I’m not hurt. A little bit disoriented, I guess.” He notes the phone lines are dead. “Hell, I don’t know what else to say. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.” Franey turns off the machine at 9:05 a.m., three minutes after the blast, and turns it on again around 9:20 a.m. “I want to put this down before I forget. Right after it detonated, I got up and looked out the part of the building that wasn’t there. I could see where the Greek restaurant across was gone and there was a huge orange-colored flame with black smoke. I don’t know if it was a natural gas explosion that did this. I have no idea. I don’t know whether it was a bomb or a gas explosion or whatever. I’m not sure. But hell, who knows, it might be important.” Franey finds a large evidence poster board and writes on the back, “ATF Trapped, 9th Floor,” and props it in a window jamb. He later escapes across an outside ledge that slopes at a 45-degree angle, and will testify at the trials of bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. (Serrano 1998, pp. 160-161; Associated Press 5/28/2001)
Charles Watts, an attorney sitting in a building near the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, feels and hears the explosion of the truck bomb that devastates the Murrah Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). A few seconds later, he hears what he believes might be a second explosion. In a later interview with the far-right Media Bypass magazine, Watts will say: “It was like two distinct happenings. We thought the [bankruptcy court] building we were in was the one being bombed, as I guess most people in downtown Oklahoma City did. The alarms immediately went off in the building. Never have I ever experienced anything like this. This was a huge, huge explosion.” Subsequent investigations show that Watts and fellow witnesses were incorrect in assuming they heard a second blast. Geological and explosives experts later determine that the “second explosion” was caused by the huge roar and shock wave of the upper floors of the Murrah Building smashing down upon themselves, “pancaking” one atop another. (Stickney 1996, pp. 26-27) The US Geological Survey in Oklahoma recorded two major events 11.9 seconds apart at the time of the bombing. Oklahoma chief geophysicist James Lawson later explains that the second “tremor” was the building collapsing, not a second bomb. (Stickney 1996, pp. 266) Reporter and author Brandon W. Stickney later writes: “When a car bomb is used on a building like the Murrah, the first wave of the explosion shatters windows and rips vertical supports away from the foundation as it creates an upward wave of motion. A shock wave penetrates to the interior, pressuring floor slabs, causing them to fall. The shock then creates pressure on the roof and sides of the building. A vacuum is created, causing a wind that can carry debris great distances. The explosion also forms a crater in the ground, creating an earthquake-like atmosphere, shaking the entire site.” (Stickney 1996, pp. 33)
Merrick Garland, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division in Washington, receives an “Urgent” report on his computer from Oklahoma City. The report concerns the bomb that has just ripped through the Murrah Federal Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Some of the report is speculation and some of it is incorrect. It was hastily compiled and sent out from the administrative office of the US Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. The report reads in part: “An explosion was heard. Black smoke billowed from a few blocks north.… The explosion rocked the private leased space which houses the US Attorney’s office three blocks north from the federal courthouse.” The report gives details about the federal safety officials sent to investigate: “Along the three-block walk, they found massive glass in the streets from several of the high-rise buildings. Along the way, walking wounded were everywhere, along with emergency rescue vehicles. It appears, and has been speculated, that a massive bomb exploded in the area of ATF, DEA, or Secret Service offices in the Murrah Federal Building. Employees from HUD indicated there were a few suspected deaths, and a couple of critically injured.… Damage to the Murrah building included the front of the building being blown off, several floors seem to be missing, and you can see right through the building in the area of the 7th, 8th, and 9th floors.” Safety officials have inspected the nearby federal courthouse and found extensive damage there as well. “It appeared some small explosions were continuing, perhaps gas lines.” Garland enters the office of Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, who calls Attorney General Janet Reno with the news. Reno asks for further information as it comes in. Garland looks for television news reports but sees nothing yet. Another “Urgent” report comes over his computer, again from the US Attorney’s office for the Western District in Oklahoma, and again mixing factual details with errors. “Information was received by the district that it was a bomb,” it reads. “Information was received by the district that there was a second bomb and it was NOT detonated. The northeast side of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was blown out. The 9th floor of the building is gone. All grand jurors have been evacuated. One WDOK (Western District of Oklahoma) employee has a child in the day care center in the Federal Building. Unconfirmed reports from the district were six children in the day care center killed, although CNN is reporting that all of the children are safe. The district reported that there was a bomb threat at a church located north of Oklahoma City. In reviewing cases, the US Attorney’s office initially reported that a defendant in a methamphetamine case had apparently made threats against the government.” Garland now sees pictures from the scene on television news reports, and realizes immediately that the devastation had to have been caused by a bomb and not a gas main break or any other accidental occurrance. By this time, Garland’s office is filling with prosecutors and staffers, stunned at the scenes they are witnessing on TV. Garland meets again with Gorelick, and both meet with Reno. Their first priority is to take control of the situation, and Reno alerts the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A third “Urgent” report comes in; Garland reads: “A Channel 4 [local Oklahoma City television station] reporter reported the Nation of Islam has claimed responsibility for the bombing.… (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After) Dahlia Lehman, the victim witness coordinator in the Western District of Oklahoma, has a daughter employed at the DEA office in the Alfred Murrah Federal Building.” Garland leaves the Justice Department and runs across the street to the FBI building. Stepping into the Strategic Information Operations Center (SIOC), he is amazed at the number of tips already pouring in about the bombing. He stays in the SIOC office for much of the day, coordinating leads and details as information arrives. FBI Director Louis Freeh is in an adjacent room; like Garland, he is collating and processing information. Reports of bomb threats swamp the offices throughout the day (see 9:22 a.m. April 19, 1995 and 10:00 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). (Serrano 1998, pp. 182-187)
The disaster response efforts for the Murrah Federal Building blast in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995) are interrupted when police are dispatched to a nearby building to investigate a suspicious briefcase that may contain a second bomb. A police bomb squad finds nothing. (The Oklahoman 4/2009) Police Sergeant John Avera is one of the rescuers who has to leave the Murrah Building because of the bomb report. Avera ignores the bomb warning, trying to help free a woman trapped under huge shards of concrete and piles of bricks and rebar. She begs him not to leave her, but he has to. Before he leaves, he writes her name and her husband’s name on a piece of paper, intending to call her husband and tell him his wife was still alive. But somehow, in the confusion, he loses the piece of paper. He later racks his brain trying to recall her name. He believes her first name is Terry. He is later told that the woman was rescued, but he does not know this for certain. (Serrano 1998, pp. 168-172)
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. (Katz and Hart 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. (Katz and Hart 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.”) (Walsh 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).
President Clinton declares a state of emergency for Oklahoma City, in response to the massive bombing that devasted the Murrah Federal Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995). (The Oklahoman 4/2009)
White supremacist Timothy McVeigh, held in the Noble County Courthouse in Perry, Oklahoma, for misdemeanor weapons charges (see After 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995), is identified as the FBI’s prime suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), as “John Doe No. 1” depicted in police drawings (see April 20, 1995). According to Assistant District Attorney Mark Gibson, if the local judge had not been busy with a divorce case, McVeigh would have been arraigned and released the day before. “In most cases this guy would have been bonded out yesterday,” Gibson tells a reporter. “God was watching us.” Gibson learns of McVeigh’s status as the bombing suspect from Noble County Sheriff Jerry Cook, who is informed over the telephone by a BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agent in Washington, and is incredulous that the person being hunted throughout the nation (see After 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995) is in his own rural courthouse. McVeigh is waiting outside a courtroom for his bail hearing and release; instead, Gibson escorts him back to his cell in an upper floor of the courthouse to await federal authorities. Cook shuts down the jail telephones and implements a security perimeter around the building. Judge Danny G. Allen, aware that McVeigh will soon be taken into federal custody, provides McVeigh a hearing on his traffic and weapons charges, and after listening to McVeigh denying ever doing anything illegal, sets McVeigh’s bail at $5,000 and sends him back to his cell. Shortly after noon, a group of FBI agents arrives in Perry via helicopter, with more on the way. By this time, many people in and around the courthouse are aware that McVeigh is the bombing suspect, and reporters are beginning to gather outside the courthouse. McVeigh attempts to telephone a local lawyer, but because Cook has shut the phones off, he is unable to get through. He angrily slams the phone down in its cradle, prompting jailer Farrell Stanley to later reflect that this moment is the only time anyone at the courthouse sees McVeigh display any emotion. (According to One of Ours, a 1998 book written about McVeigh and the bombing by Richard A. Serrano, McVeigh privately worries that he will be taken into FBI custody, tortured, and made to disappear without a trace.) (Kifner 4/22/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 1-10)
Final Wait - Two FBI agents, James L. Norman Jr. and Floyd M. Zimms, arrive to take McVeigh into custody. One of them asks McVeigh if he knows why they are here, and McVeigh responds: “Yes. That thing in Oklahoma City, I guess.” McVeigh asks for a lawyer, and says he will give no more information save for name, age, and other routine information. “I will just give you general physical information,” he says. He refuses to respond to any further queries, instead listening to the increasingly loud and angry sound of the swelling crowd outside. He asks the agents, “Take me out the roof,” and explains that he wants to be taken out of the building via the roof. “Jack Ruby,” he says. “You remember what happened with Jack Ruby.” McVeigh is referring to the man who shot President Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. McVeigh believes the Dallas police allowed Ruby to get close to Oswald, and does not want the same thing to happen to him. The agents refuse, but promise he will be well guarded, for his safety and that of his escorts. Senior FBI agent James Adams decides to take McVeigh out by a courthouse entrance, with the sheriff’s van backed up near the door. McVeigh and the surrounding agents and other officials will only be exposed to the crowd for a few minutes. Adams later says that he never thought to put a bulletproof vest on McVeigh. After another agent takes McVeigh’s fingerprints, McVeigh is brought back to his cell for one last, brief stay. On the way back, he sees news coverage of the crowd gathered around the courthouse. He tells fellow inmate Tiffany Valenzuela that he did not bomb the Murrah Federal Building, and says the sketch being circulated of the bombing suspects (see April 20, 1995) does not look like him. He asks Valenzuela to look out of her window and see if she can spot federal agents “on the roof” or “outside.” She advises him to relax, saying, “I’m sure they got the wrong man anyway.” He admits to being “kind of paranoid” because “everybody’s out there.” FBI agents take possession of McVeigh’s mug shot, his fingerprint card, booking receipts, clothing, and the mattress he slept on in his cell; the fingerprint card and other belongings will be tested for explosive residue.
Meeting with Local Lawyer - Local lawyer Royce Hobbs, who has been trying without success to meet with McVeigh, finally gets the meeting he has asked for after filing a petition with Judge Allen alleging that McVeigh is being held incommunicado. Allen allows the two to meet briefly, and Hobbs tells McVeigh to keep his mouth shut. (Stickney 1996, pp. 191; Serrano 1998, pp. 1-10)
Perp Walk - Federal agents take McVeigh out of his cell, place him in handcuffs and leg irons, and escort him out of the building. “I’m not scared,” McVeigh mutters to himself. “I’m not scared now.” He is escorted into the parking lot to the sheriff’s van. The crowd spots him and begins screaming imprecations: “Baby killer!” “Burn him!” “Rip his head off!” “Killer!” “Murderer!” and “B_stard!” McVeigh does not react, and shows no emotion during the brief “perp walk” to the van. He is taken to a helicopter and flown to Tinker Air Force Base outside of Oklahoma City. News broadcasts later show photographs and video of McVeigh being “perp walked” in an orange jumpsuit, surrounded by FBI agents as the crowd jeers and screams; these images are replayed thousands of times over the following days and months. (Walsh 4/22/1995; Purdum 4/22/1995; Johnston 4/22/1995; Kifner 4/22/1995; Stickney 1996, pp. 179; Serrano 1998, pp. 1-10; Douglas O. Linder 2001) One onlooker, Darrin Rucker, tells a reporter, “They should give him a taste of his own medicine and put him inside a bomb and blow it up.” (Walsh 4/22/1995) McVeigh later says he was focused on looking for snipers in the crowd, moving his eyes in the Z-pattern he had learned in the Army. He later says he wasn’t afraid to die, but was intent on surviving to tell his side of the story. (CNN 12/17/2007) He also later says he twice asked for a bulletproof vest, but was “ignored” by the jailers. His sister Jennifer McVeigh will express her anger at the media’s response to her brother’s appearance. “What would they have said about any look he had?” she will ask. “I mean, what do they want? You want him to walk out with a big smile on his face? What would they say about that? What kind of look do they expect from someone who has just been accused of a crime like that? I think the sun was shining in his eyes, first of all. He was squinting. I think that was part of it.… How would you like it if a bunch of people were staring at you, screaming ‘Baby killer!’ I don’t think you can assume a reason for everything. You can’t assume a reason for the way somebody looks at all times.” (Stickney 1996, pp. 178-179) McVeigh will be arraigned in a federal court hearing at Tinker Air Force Base (see April 21, 1995).
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)
Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, November 5, 1994, and November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995), having turned himself into the local police in Herington, Kansas (see 2:00 p.m. and After, April 21, 1995), is interrogated for nine hours by federal authorities and consents to have his home and truck searched (see Evening, April 21, 1995 and After). (Mickolus and Simmons 6/1997, pp. 810; Douglas O. Linder 2001; Nicole Nichols 2003)
Nine-Hour Interrogation, No Recording Made - Starting around 3:15 p.m., FBI agents interrogate Nichols for over nine hours. Nichols agrees to speak without a lawyer present. The agents do not record the interview, instead making handwritten notes on it. Preliminary questions include verification of his Social Security number (which he says he never uses because he does not believe in having a federal government number; he also says he does not pay federal taxes (see March 16, 1994)) and his job (self-employed dealer of military surplus). They then ask him when he heard that he might have been involved in the bombing. Nichols says he only heard of his alleged involvement earlier in the day. He says he knew bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh during their stint in the Army (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990). He says that he saw the sketches of the two bombing suspects (see April 20, 1995), but does not believe the sketch of “No. 1” looks like McVeigh. He explains that once he heard about his being a suspect, he decided to go directly to the local police instead of federal agents, because “I didn’t want another Waco” (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Apparently Nichols means he did not want to become involved in an armed standoff with police and FBI agents. He says he realized he was being followed when he pulled into the Surplus City parking lot, and came directly to the police station. Agents Stephen E. Smith and Scott Crabtree then begin asking him about his brother James, and he gives some information about his earlier life in Decker on his brother’s farm, and notes that McVeigh had lived with them for a time (see Summer 1992 and October 12, 1993 - January 1994). At this point, around 3:30 p.m., the agents inform him that he is not a suspect, but a witness. Nevertheless they ask him to read aloud a form titled “Interrogation; Advice of Rights,” that sets forth his rights to have a lawyer present or to remain silent. He refuses to sign the form. Smith will later testify, “He said the word ‘interrogation’ sounded like the Nazis.” The US Attorney for Kansas, Randall K. Rathbun, tells reporters, “He refused to sign the form, indicating that since it dealt with interrogation, he said that was a word that reminded him of Nazi Germany and he refused to sign the form dealing with his rights.” From Washington, lead FBI counsel Howard Shapiro advises the agents that they need to secure Nichols’s oral acknowledgment that he is waiving his rights to legal representation, and advise him again that he is free to go. Shapiro adds that if Nichols does leave, the agents should follow him and arrest him once a warrant for his detention as a material witness is available. Nichols waives his rights to a lawyer and agrees to continue speaking. Shapiro advises the agents not to tell Nichols about the warrant for his arrest being prepared, as it may discourage him from talking. (Johnston 5/11/1995; Thomas 7/2/1996; Lane 12/24/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 203-205) He signs a Consent to Search form allowing agents to search his home and pickup truck, though his lawyers will later claim he believes his wife will be allowed to be present during the search. He says repeatedly that he hopes the agents searching his home can tell the difference between cleaning solvents and bomb components: “There is nothing in my house or truck that could be construed as bomb-making materials,” he says. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Thomas 7/2/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 205)
Denies Knowledge of Bombing - Nichols denies any foreknowledge of McVeigh’s bombing, saying merely that McVeigh had told him “something big” was in the offing (see April 15, 1995). He tells his questioners that the first he heard of the bombing was while watching a television demonstration at the Home Cable Television sales outlet in Herington. The agents ask him when he last had contact with McVeigh. According to Nichols, he sent McVeigh a letter in February 1995, asking McVeigh if the next time he was in Las Vegas, he could pick up an old television set from his ex-wife Lana Padilla; Nichols says he wanted the television set for when his son Joshua visited.
Tells of Long Easter Trip to Oklahoma City, Junction City for Television - On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, April 16, Nichols says, McVeigh called and asked him to come to Oklahoma City to pick up the television set (see April 16-17, 1995). “I’m pressed for time to get back east” to his family in New York, Nichols says McVeigh told him. “If you want your television, you’ll have to come to Oklahoma City.” Although Oklahoma City is some 250 miles away, Nichols agreed to make the trip. He also agreed to tell his wife that he was going to Omaha, not Oklahoma City, at McVeigh’s request. Nichols explains: “He [McVeigh] has a private nature. He has told me that no one is to know his business. Some of the things he wanted kept private were trivial matters. He just doesn’t want people to know what he is doing. That is just his nature.” Nichols tells the agents that before Easter, he had last heard from McVeigh in November 1994 or perhaps early 1995 (see February 20, 1995 and April 11, 1995). He then says: “In my eyes, I did not do anything wrong but I can see how lawyers can turn stuff around. I did not know anything. Lawyers can turn stuff around.” He denies ever seeing McVeigh at any motel in Junction City, Kansas (see September 22, 1994, January 19 - January 27, 1995, and (February 20, 1995)), says he has no knowledge of McVeigh renting a Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995, April 16-17, 1995, Late Evening, April 17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), and was never asked by McVeigh to buy any materials related to making bombs (see September 13, 1994, September 22, 1994, September 30, 1994, October 3, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 17, 1994, October 18, 1994, October 20, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, October 29-30, 1994, November 5, 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, November 7, 1994, November 9, 1994, January 19 - January 27, 1995, January 31 - February 12, 1995, February 20, 1995, March 1995, March 17, 1995, April 5-10, 1995, April 15-16, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). He says he drove to Oklahoma City and picked up McVeigh near the Murrah Federal Building (see April 16-17, 1995). McVeigh loaded the television into the pickup, Nichols says, along with a green duffel bag. They then headed towards Junction City. Nichols says he met McVeigh in an alleyway and never saw McVeigh’s car, which he says McVeigh claimed was broken down. Asked what they talked about, Nichols responds, “McVeigh talked in code.” He only later understood what his friend meant when he said “something big” was going to happen; he claims that he thought McVeigh was talking about robbing a bank. The conversation then turned to the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), and McVeigh said he was interested in a protest rally for April 19 in Washington, DC. Nichols says he does not know why McVeigh wanted to go to Junction City. Maybe McVeigh had another car there, Nichols speculates. He let McVeigh off in Junction City, ate by himself at a Denny’s restaurant, and made the short drive home.
Second Trip to Junction City - On Tuesday, April 18, Nichols says, McVeigh called him around 6 a.m. and asked to borrow his pickup. Nichols says he met McVeigh in Junction City, and spent the morning at a military surplus auction while McVeigh used the truck. When they met up again in the early afternoon, all McVeigh had, Nichols says, was his green duffel bag. Explaining why McVeigh had had the truck for hours and brought back no items, Nichols explains, “Tim lives and travels light.” He then tells of picking up items from a storage locker McVeigh has rented (see April 20, 1995), and says that was the last time he saw McVeigh. The agents would find some of McVeigh’s belongings in his garage: a sleeping bag, rucksack, and rifle. (Johnston 5/11/1995; PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 205-208; The Oklahoman 4/2009)
Morning's Events - Nichols says he spoke to his ex-wife Lana Padilla earlier that day, angering his wife Marife, who announced she wanted to go back to the Philippines. “I’ve got friends there,” he says she told him. “I don’t have friends here. You got friends like Tim.” Marife does not like McVeigh, Nichols says, complaining that he lives his life “on the edge” and drives too fast. As for his conversation with Padilla, Nichols says she asked him about $3,000 he had apparently given her for their son Joshua. Investigators will later speculate that the money came from a robbery Nichols perpetrated in order to fund the bombing (see November 5, 1994). He says he went to a local lumberyard, then came back home.
Turning Up the Heat on Nichols - Nichols and Marife watched a few minutes of television together, and that was when they saw news reports identifying McVeigh as a suspect in the bombing. “I thought and swore that I could not believe it was him because he was heading back to see his family!” he says. “And he was back there in Oklahoma City? When I heard his name on TV, that is when I figured out why my name was on the radio, because I was his friend.… I was feeling shock, because I heard my name. How am I involved? How am I connected to it? I must not have known him that well for him to do that.” Nichols says he and McVeigh had become somewhat estranged, in part because McVeigh did not like Nichols’s penchant for practical jokes. The agents lean in and begin demanding to know if McVeigh executed the bombing, and if Nichols had any role in it. It is apparent they do not believe Nichols’s stories. Nichols, talking fast, says: “I feel upset that I’m involved, in a sense, because of him, and knowing that I am not.… I feel I cannot trust anyone any more than Tim. I would be shocked if he implicated me. Tim takes responsibility for his actions, and he lives up to his arrangements.… I cannot see why he would do it.” The agents ease off for a bit, and ask Nichols about his recent fertilizer purchases. He admits buying two 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate at a Manhattan, Kansas, elevator, for which he has the receipts. He intends to sell it in one-pound bags at gun shows, to be used as fertilizer. He has already sold a few bags at earlier gun shows, he says: “If I sell any more at these shows, they will question me.” He says he spread some of the leftover fertilizer on his lawn just recently. (Investigators will later determine that the fertilizer was probably left over from the bomb-making process (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995).) He did not mention the fertilizer earlier, he says, because ammonium nitrate can be used to make an explosive compound, and “[i]t would make me look guilty to a jury.” He says he is working to build a new career as a military surplus dealer and create a peaceful life for himself and his family (see April 6, 1995). While he has worked gun shows with McVeigh in the past, he says, he does not know any of the other vendors, and though they never associated with militia members, he did recently sell 30 MREs (military “meals ready to eat”) to members of the Michigan Militia. Sometimes he heard talk about the Davidian tragedy and federal law enforcement officials at the shows, but he rarely took part in the conversations. He admits to having some anti-government feelings, and has read some of the literature, but says others got “hyped” about it and talked about taking action. McVeigh “was much more hyped about Waco,” he says. McVeigh is very knowledgeable about explosives, and is “capable” of building a bomb such as the one detonated in Oklahoma City, he says, but the agents should not assume he actually carried out the bombing. Nichols denies having specific knowledge himself of how to build a fertilizer bomb similar to that used in Oklahoma City, though he says the information is readily available. McVeigh is particularly fascinated with guns, Nichols says, and is extremely knowledgeable about them. He notes some common acquaintances, including Michael Fortier (see December 16, 1994 and After, Mid-March, 1995, April 5, 1995, and April 19, 1995 and After). whom he merely identifies by his last name and does not disclose that the three of them served in the Army together. Nichols admits to having rented a number of storage facilities in Las Vegas (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995) and in Kansas, including one in Herington (see September 22, 1994) and another in Council Grove (see October 17, 1994 and November 7, 1994), but he just uses them for storing household items, he says, along with a few guns and ammunition. After more questioning, Nichols admits that he now suspects McVeigh might well be the bomber. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Thomas 7/2/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 208-214) One source says that the FBI first learns of Fortier from Nichols’s 12-year-old son Joshua, who phones the bureau from his Las Vegas home and speaks with agent Debbie Calhoun about Fortier. (Stickney 1996, pp. 183)
Break and Resumption - Everyone, including Nichols, is tired. At 6:10 p.m., they take a break, and give Nichols a glass of water and two slices of pizza. They refuse to let him see his wife. Special Agent John F. Foley sits with Nichols, and they talk casually until about 7:00 p.m. Smith and Crabtree resume the questioning, and ask Nichols to verify that the house or garage is not “booby-trapped.” He says it is not, and gives them a map of his house that indicates where guns and ammunition are stored on his property. Nichols repeats much of what he said earlier, insisting that his story about McVeigh’s borrowing his pickup truck on April 18 is factual and that he fully intends to build a new life for himself with his family. While McVeigh had grown increasingly agitated about the federal government and had become more radicalized, Nichols says, he himself just wanted to settle down. At 11:15 p.m., they play him an audiotape of his ex-wife Lana and his son Joshua urging him to cooperate. The tape upsets Nichols. Just after midnight, they hand him copies of the letters he had left at his ex-wife’s house urging McVeigh to “Go for it!” (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995). Nichols says he wrote the letter to take the place of a will, worried that he might not return from the trip he took to the Philippines. During the last two hours of interrogation, a new pair of agents, Foley and Daniel L. Jablonski, begin pressuring Nichols, accusing him of lying. Nichols does not respond to the new tactics. He refuses to take a polygraph exam, and refuses to sign a form certifying that he has been advised of his Miranda rights. He ends by denying any involvement whatsoever in the bombing. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Thomas 7/2/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 208-214)
Wife Questioned for Six Hours - Marife Nichols is questioned for six hours (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21, 1995).
Warrants Signed - Oklahoma City’s chief federal judge, David L. Russell, is at the FBI’s command center, and after the decision is made in Washington to procure a material witness arrest warrant, Russell signs it. It is faxed to the police station in Herington at 4:46 p.m. FBI agents interrogating Nichols do not tell him that the material witness warrant is now available; lead agent Thomas A. Price will later say he did not want to interrupt the interrogation. Russell will say he is not aware that Nichols is being interviewed by the FBI, and, noting language on the warrant that says Nichols “has attempted to leave the jurisdiction of the United States,” will say that the language is “inconsistent” with Nichols’s voluntary presentation at the police station.
Public Defender Denied Access - Public defender David J. Phillips, the federal defender for Kansas, learns from television reports that Nichols is in custody and has asked for legal representation. Phillips repeatedly calls the Herington police station, but is told that no one is available to speak with him. At 9:10 p.m., he calls a federal prosecutor in Topeka and is told that Nichols is not being arrested, and that Nichols is not the “John Doe” the FBI is looking for. Price will testify that he is aware of Phillips’s attempts to contact the police, and has told Police Chief Dale Kuhn to write down Phillips’s number. “[I]f Nichols asked for counsel, we’d provide the number,” Price will testify. Phillips will represent Nichols beginning April 22. (Thomas 7/2/1996)
Possible Militia Affiliation - The FBI says it has reason to believe Nichols is a member of the Michigan Militia (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994); spokesmen for the Michigan Militia say Nichols is not a member and their group has no connection to the bombing (Purdum 4/22/1995) , though a relative says that both brothers are indeed members of the group. A neighbor of Nichols, Randy Izydorek, tells a reporter that Nichols is proud of his affiliation with groups such as the Michigan Militia. “He told me it’s nationwide and it’s growing,” Izydorek says. (Weiner 4/23/1995) (Militia spokesmen have said the group ejected Nichols and his brother James for “hyperbolic language,” apparently referring to calls for violence.) (Rimer and Bennet 4/24/1995)
Nichols Arrested and Jailed, Admits to Using Aliases - Shortly after midnight, the agents formally serve the warrant on Nichols and arrest him. At 12:24 a.m., Nichols is incarcerated in Abilene, Kansas. The afternoon of April 22, he is transferred to a jail in Wichita, Kansas, in the custody of Smith and Crabtree, where he will make his initial court appearance. Nichols continues to talk; during the drive, he admits to using a number of aliases, including Ken Parker (see October 17, 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, and November 7, 1994) and Jim Kyle (see October 17, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, November 5, 1994, January 19 - January 27, 1995, and January 31 - February 12, 1995). McVeigh, he says, often used aliases such as Shawn Rivers (see September 22, 1994 and October 1994) and Tim Tuttle (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, November 22, 1993, December 1993, February - July 1994, and November 30, 1994). McVeigh liked to use aliases, he says, and Nichols went along with the practice. “But we parted ways last fall,” he says. “The way we both live did not jive.” His brother James always “got along well” with McVeigh, he says. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Thomas 7/2/1996; Lane 12/24/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 215)
Michael and Lori Fortier, close friends of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh who took part in the conspiracy to build and detonate the bomb (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and December 16, 1994 and After), are closely questioned by FBI agents. Federal agents have combed through their home town of Kingman, Arizona, compiling evidence and questioning friends and neighbors. The Fortiers have pretended to know nothing about the bomb plot (see April 19, 1995 and After) and continue to lie to investigators. Michael Fortier tells agents that his trip to Oklahoma City to “case” the target of the bombing, the Murrah Federal Building (see December 16, 1994 and After), happened in a far different way than the evidence suggests: Fortier says that he hitched a ride to Kansas to buy guns from McVeigh for resale. The agents do not believe his story. He tells agents that he never heard McVeigh discuss anything to do with bombmaking, and says he only discussed guns and government issues with McVeigh, “never, ever” discussing blowing up any buildings. On May 6, perhaps cracking under the stress of the interrogations and the intense, negative media coverage (reporters are camped out in front of his home and filing stories about him being an accomplice in the bombing), he asks agents to stop interrogating him. “I don’t want to cooperate,” he says. “I can’t be of any more help. I don’t know anything.” The agents accuse Fortier of being heavily involved in the bombing conspiracy, and of lying about his involvement. One agent calls Fortier a “baby killer,” the same imprecation leveled at McVeigh after his arraignment (see April 21, 1995). After the agents threaten to “raid” his home, Fortier agrees to cooperate. The agents give him enough time to get his wife, their two-year-old daughter Kayla, and their cats out of their trailer home. (Serrano 1998, pp. 240-243)
US magistrate Ronald L. Howland orders Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995) held without bail. Howland rules there is “an indelible trail of evidence” linking McVeigh to the bombing, and orders him detained. FBI agent John Hersley testifies that at least three witnesses place McVeigh near the Murrah Federal Building minutes before the blast that almost destroyed the building and killed over a hundred people. Hersley also testifies that McVeigh’s clothing bore chemical residue that matched the explosives used in the blast. The hearing is held in the El Reno Federal Corrections Center instead of the usual courtroom setting because of security concerns, in a prison cafeteria converted for the purpose. Only lawyers, FBI agents, and a small number of journalists are present, along with McVeigh, who is heavily cuffed and shackled. Hersley testifies that one witness, a meter maid, saw someone she believes to be McVeigh driving a Ryder Rental truck similar to the one that detonated in front of the Murrah Building. A second witness, Hersley says, saw someone who he believes to be McVeigh walking away from the Ryder truck after parking it in front of the building. A third witness saw what he believes to be two men (see April 20, 1995) driving away from the scene of the blast in a yellow Mercury (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). Hersley says that other witnesses saw McVeigh bring a Ryder truck to the Dreamland Motel in Junction City (see April 13, 1995), and saw him again in the truck a day before the bombing (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). The other person to testify is trooper Charles Hanger, who arrested McVeigh on unrelated gun charges (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). McVeigh’s lawyer John Coyle tells the judge that his client chooses to “stand mute” during the hearing, and later points out that none of the witnesses cited by Hersley actually saw McVeigh detonate the bomb. At the beginning of the hearing, both of McVeigh’s lawyers, Coyle and Susan Otto, again ask to be removed from the case (see April 24, 1995) because of their personal experiences with the bombing. “We heard it,” Otto tells Howland. “We smelled it. We lived there in it.” Otto lists the names of 10 people she and Coyle knew who were killed in the bombing. They both repeat their request that McVeigh’s trial be moved from Oklahoma City (see April 22, 1995). (Bernstein 4/27/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 223-224; Douglas O. Linder 2001) Coyle will later tell reporters, “The reasons I accepted the appointment in the first place is that I’ve never seen anyone who needed a lawyer more than that boy did.” Now, however, “[t]his is a case where I know too many people. In a sense, I feel like a victim. Everyone in Oklahoma City feels like a victim. [McVeigh] deserves a lawyer who would have no hesitation in his defense.… If ever anyone needed a lawyer, it is this young man. And it should not be me.” (Applebome 4/28/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 225)
The federal government prepares to lease a building in Oklahoma City to house the ever-expanding evidence surrounding the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), known as the “OKbomb” investigation. Evidence from the bomb scene, including tons of debris from the devastated Murrah Federal Building, will be microscopically examined at forensic laboratories run by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Over a thousand federal, state, and local law enforcement officials are involved in the case. (Weiner 4/29/1995)
Federal investigators probing the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) search a site at the Geary County State Fishing Lake just south of Junction City, Kansas, where accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995 and April 24, 1995) assembled the bomb he used to devastate the Murrah Federal Building (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Witnesses have told investigators that they saw a yellow Ryder truck similar to the one used by McVeigh at the lake on April 18. Investigators find traces of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO), the components of the bomb. (Johnston 5/1/1995)
The search for bodies at the bombed-out Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) is called off due to the instability of the remaining structure. The bodies of Christi Rosas, Virginia Thompson, and Alvin Justes, who were all in the building’s credit union, remain buried in unstable rubble. The bodies will be recovered on May 29. (Douglas O. Linder 2001; Fox News 4/13/2005)
The New York Times reports that Timothy McVeigh, accused of executing the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), has claimed responsibility for the bombing. The Times’s sources are two people who have spoken with McVeigh during his continuing incarceration at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma; they spoke to Times reporter Pam Belluck in return for anonymity. McVeigh, the sources claim, told them he chose the Murrah Federal Building as a target because it housed so many government offices, and because it was more architecturally vulnerable than other federal buildings. The sources say McVeigh said he knew nothing of the day care center in the building, and was surprised to learn that children had died in the bombing. McVeigh told the sources that he was not “directly involved” with armed civilian paramilitary groups (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, January 1995, and April 5, 1995), though he admitted to having “relationships and acquaintances with a few people who have similar views,” primarily people he met at gun shows, the sources say. They say McVeigh acknowledges responsibility for the bombing, but does not believe he committed a crime. They say that McVeigh told them the planning for the bombing began at least nine months ago (see September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, November 5, 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, March 1995, March 31 - April 12, 1995, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, and 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), and he had considered targets throughout the Midwest, from Denver to Kansas City to Texas and South Dakota. They say that McVeigh told them he had gone to the bomb site at least once (see October 20, 1994 and April 16-17, 1995) but had not gone inside the building. Federal officials say the Murrah Building was extremely vulnerable to explosive damage because of its large glass windows, its nine floors which could collapse upon one another, and because of the absence of any courtyard or plaza separating the building from the street, where a truck carrying a bomb could be parked. McVeigh’s alleged statements to the two sources suggest that those factors greatly influenced his choice of the building. The sources say that McVeigh was motivated to carry out the bombing in part because of the 1992 killing of white supremacist Randy Weaver’s wife and son during a standoff with federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992), and because of his fury over the Branch Davidian debacle outside Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). McVeigh was also driven, they say, by a more general hatred of the government, which may be fueled in part by his failure to land a well-paying job when he left the Army (see November 1991 - Summer 1992). The sources say McVeigh did not single out any one experience that triggered his desire to plan and execute the bombing. McVeigh also noted, they say, that he did not specifically target the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), some of whose agents in Oklahoma City participated in the Davidian siege. Rather, they say, McVeigh wanted to target as many government agencies as possible in one strike. McVeigh talked about the significance of the date of the bombing, April 19; not only was it the date of the Davidian tragedy, but it was the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, where in 1775 the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. The sources provide few details of the bombing plot, and it is unclear if McVeigh divulged any such details. The sources say McVeigh did not speak much of his accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995, and May 11, 1995), nor did he speak of others who might have been involved in the plot. They say that McVeigh did mention his acquaintance Steven Colbern (see May 12, 1995), and said that Colbern was not involved in the plotting. The sources say that while McVeigh carefully plotted the bombing itself, the escape he planned was less well thought out (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). He forgot to transfer the license plate from a Pontiac he traded (see January 1 - January 8, 1995) onto his getaway car, a Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995); the failure to transfer the plate caused him to be pulled over by a highway patrol officer. McVeigh told the sources he had no money with him and no back-up person to help him if he was detained. “I don’t know how to explain that gap in his planning or his organization,” one of the sources says. “The primary objective was obviously the building itself.” One of the sources adds: “He’s very anxious, obviously, because of the position he’s in. He’s anxious to see what the next step is in the process and when this will be resolved.” (Belluck 5/16/1995)
An Army friend of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, After May 6, 1995, and May 16, 1995), Michael Fortier, tells federal authorities that he and McVeigh inspected the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as a potential bombing target in the days before the blast (see December 16, 1994 and After). Fortier knew McVeigh from their time together at Fort Riley, Kansas (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), and says he knew of McVeigh’s plans for the bombing while the two lived in Kingman, Arizona (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994, October 4 - Late October, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and February 17, 1995 and After). Fortier and his wife Lori decided to stop lying about their involvement with McVeigh and the bomb plot (see April 19, 1995 and After, April 23 - May 6, 1995, and May 8, 1995) and tell the truth after receiving subpoenas for their testimony before a grand jury investigating the bombing; instead of testifying under oath, Fortier opens a discussion with prosecutors about a settlement, and gives his statements about McVeigh in an initial offer of the evidence he says he can provide. They also ask the authorities about retaining a lawyer. Michael Fortier admits that a statement he signed in Kingman, Arizona, is mostly false. Fortier and his wife testify for hours about their involvement with McVeigh and their complicity in the bomb plot. Fortier is negotiating with federal prosecutors for a plea deal, and for immunity for his wife, in return for his cooperation in their prosecution of McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995, April 24, 1995, and May 11, 1995). Fortier says he and McVeigh drove from Arizona to the Murrah Federal Building about a week before the bombing in an apparent effort to “case” the building. Fortier denies he had any direct role in the blast, but authorities have been very interested in him since the day of the bombing. Authorities have searched his trailer in Kingman and questioned him thoroughly, though officials say they have no basis to charge him with any direct involvement in the bombing. Fortier may still be charged as an accessory to the bombing, or on other related charges. It is doubtful, people involved in the case say, that the government would give Fortier full immunity from prosecution. Fortier is the first person to directly implicate McVeigh in the bombing; until now, investigators have only a large amount of circumstantial evidence tying McVeigh to the blast. Nichols has denied any direct knowledge of the bombing, and currently is not cooperating with investigators. Some investigators believe that Fortier may be the elusive “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995), who is considered either a co-conspirator or a material witness with knowledge of the plot, though Fortier does not clearly match the description of the suspect. (Johnston 5/19/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 244-245)
The wrecked hulk of the Murrah Federal Building, destroyed in the Oklahoma City bombing a month ago (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), is brought down in a planned demolition. The demolition consists of 150 pounds of dynamite placed in 300 carefully selected locations, and costs the federal and state governments around $404,000. The entire demolition takes about eight seconds. Retired highway department employee Lawrence Glover says: “You can’t stand to look at something like that forever. It’s like when a family member dies and your heart is broken, but you’ve got to bury them and try to get back to the land of the living. Even when you don’t think you ever can.” Linda West of nearby Yukon says: “I had stayed away before now because I felt guilty. I felt like I was intruding somehow. Now that it’s all over, I need some sort of—it’s not closure, because there is no closure on this thing, but it’s like going to the cemetery after the funeral. I was listening to a radio talk show about how most people didn’t know why they came here, they just felt like they had to. I’m like that. I don’t know why, but I had to.” Hundreds of spectators watch the demolition in almost complete silence. Afterwards, many cry, hug one another, and slowly leave the scene. Many at the scene believe a memorial to the dead, and to the responders and rescue workers who saved so many from the rubble, should be erected on the site; others say a children’s playground or library would be fitting. Onlooker Bruce Ligon says, “It doesn’t really matter what they choose, because nobody in this town, or in this country either, is ever going to forget what happened.” (Pressley 5/24/1995; Fox News 4/13/2005) Authorities had considered using cranes and wrecking balls instead of explosives to bring the building down, in concern that a second explosion, no matter how controlled, might further traumatize city residents. “The psychological ramifications were a real consideration of everyone involved in the decision,” Douglas Loizeaux, vice president of Controlled Demolition Inc, whose firm handles the demolition process, said last week. “There was a serious discussion about whether we would be traumatizing people even more by having another explosion. But by using implosion, we can bring the building down weeks sooner than by using a crane, and so the mending process can begin that much quicker.” Dusty Bowenkamp, a psychological nurse from Los Angeles who is coordinating the emergency mental health services of the American Red Cross in Oklahoma City, agreed with Loizeaux’s assessment. The building, she said last week, is “a magnet for people with grief.” She said she and her colleagues had discussed the ramifications of a second explosion, and talked with dozens of people who helped bring the dead and injured out of the rubble and others who carried blast victims into hospitals or the morgue. A few, she said, thought imploding the building was a bad idea: “it’s too much like what happened before—too much like the bomb.” The city residents were informed well in advance of the planned demolition so it would not “retrigger more fear.” The lawyer for accused bomber Timothy McVeigh, Stephen Jones (see May 8, 1995), had filed a motion to delay the demolition so he could examine the building for evidence, but that motion was denied. (Terry 5/16/1995; Belluck 5/16/1995) Two days ago, a team of people hired by Jones did examine the building for clues; that team included an explosives expert, an architect, and a camera crew. Jones explained that he wanted to understand “the dynamics of the bomb” and “the physics of the explosion.… There needs to be a separate record from that of the government. There is a criminal litigation and civil litigation. All sides will need a record, and the government’s record wouldn’t necessarily be available.” (Stickney 1996, pp. 222-223) A brick wall from another damaged building stands nearby. Written on it in dark red paint is:
We Search for the Truth.
We Seek Justice.
The Courts Require it.
The Victims Cry for it.
And GOD Demands it! (Serrano 1998, pp. 174)
Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 24, 1995) refuses to give prosecutors a handwriting sample. He is transported from the El Reno Federal Corrections Center, about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City, to a courtroom in Oklahoma City, where he refuses to provide the sample. Prosecutors say the handwriting sample could be compared to a receipt for the rental of the Ryder truck used to plant the bomb (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). The courtroom, across the street from the targeted Murrah Federal Building, still has rough wooden plywood covers for many of its blown-out windows and is adorned with purple mourning ribbons. One man in the building wears a T-shirt that reads on the front, “In Memory, April 19, 1995.” The back reads, “A society that makes war against its police had better learn to make friends with its criminals.” McVeigh’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, argues that McVeigh should not have to provide a handwriting sample on the grounds that it may violate his rights against self-incrimination. Jones also says that McVeigh has written only in block letters since before joining the military in 1988 (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990), and that a handwriting sample in cursive letters would require more than a mechanical effort by his client. Prosecution assistant Sean Connelly reminds the court that the grand jury investigating the case has requested the sample, and calls it a “very routine” test. “We are not probing his mind or thought processes,” he says. “If he says he can’t spell ‘no,’ we’ll tell him N-O.” Judge David Russell finally rules that McVeigh will give the sample. “I’m going to order the defendant to comply with the subpoena of the grand jury,” he says. “I don’t see any reason to wait. The law is clear.” To McVeigh, he says, “Failure to comply could be used against you, not just in a contempt proceeding but as evidence in a trial.” When McVeigh again refuses to give the sample, Russell orders him charged with contempt of court and gives the defense five days to respond to the contempt charge. (Thomas 7/19/1995)
Stephen Jones, the attorney representing accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), says that an unidentified leg found in the rubble of the Murrah Federal Building might belong to “the real bomber.” (Indianapolis Star 2003; Fox News 4/13/2005) The leg and foot are clad in a combat boot. A medical examiner’s statement says in part: “This leg was clothed in a black military type boot, two socks, and an olive drab blousing strap. Anthropological analysis of this specimen reveals the individual to be light skinned, dark haired, probably less than 30 years of age, male (75 percent probability), and having an estimated height of 66 plus or minus three inches.” Examiner’s office official Ray Blackeney says that the leg was found on May 30, after the building was demolished (see 7:01 a.m. May 23, 1995). “I knew about it,” he says. “We all knew about it here at the Medical Examiner’s.” (Kifner 8/7/1995; Kifner 8/8/1995) Jones tells reporters: “There may be a logical explanation for the leg, but none comes to mind. There are no persons unaccounted for. It could have been a drifter nobody knows anything about. It could have been the individual that drove the vehicle used in the explosion. The third possibility is that this person was with the person driving [the vehicle].” (Kifner 8/7/1995; Thomas 8/8/1995; Kifner 8/8/1995) In late August, the examiner’s office will reveal that the leg belonged to an African-American female, contradicting portions of its earlier reporting. Frederick B. Jordan, the chief of the examiner’s office, will tell reporters, “DNA analysis by the FBI has shown conclusively that the left leg is not male but female.” Hair analysis has proven that the victim was African-American. Jones will tell reporters that the new information destroys any confidence one could have “in any of the forensic work in this case.” (Johnston 8/31/1995) In February 1996, experts will determine that the leg belonged to a previously identified victim (see February 21, 1996 and February 24, 1996). (Fox News 4/13/2005)
Michael Fortier, a friend of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh who participated to an extent in the planning of the bombing (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, March 1993, May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, December 16, 1994 and After, 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 19, 1995 and After, After May 6, 1995, and May 19, 1995), testifies to a grand jury about his involvement in the bombing plot. Fortier’s wife Lori also testifies; her attorney, Mack Martin, says: “Her testimony had nothing to do with Mr. Fortier. Her testimony had to do with other people involved in the bombing.” She has been given given a grant of immunity in return for her testimony. Michael Fortier tells the jury of his visit to the Murrah Federal Building with McVeigh to reconnoiter the building, and admits that McVeigh told him he intended to bomb the building (see December 16, 1994 and After). He has pled guilty to illegal firearms trafficking, knowledge of the bombing, and lying to federal agents (see April 19, 1995 and After and April 23 - May 6, 1995). (Kifner 8/7/1995; Thomas 8/9/1995; Thomas and Lardner 8/11/1995; Mickolus and Simmons 6/1997, pp. 811; Serrano 1998, pp. 245; Douglas O. Linder 2001; Fox News 4/13/2005) McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones says Michael Fortier is anything but a credible witness, and notes that Fortier has previously said in a television interview that he did not think McVeigh had any involvement in the bombing (see May 8, 1995). (Thomas 8/9/1995) Instead, Jones says in a court filing that the grand jury should begin looking for evidence of a “broad domestic or foreign conspiracy to bomb the Oklahoma City Federal building” by demanding intelligence reports on Iran and other avenues of investigation (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). (Kifner 8/9/1995) Fortier’s lawyer, Michael McGuire, will say his client came forward out of guilt and remorse. “There is no expression of grief or words sufficient to describe his anguish over the responsibility he feels for knowing about the plans to bomb the Murrah building,” McGuire will say. “The defining thing that made him want to cooperate was his conscience.” Jones says, “I think any time the government has to give two [potential] co-defendants a pretty good deal, there are weaknesses in the case.” Fortier faces a maximum of 23 years in prison and fines totaling $1 million. (Thomas and Lardner 8/11/1995) Through his lawyers, Fortier cut a deal to testify if he was assured he would not be charged as a co-conspirator in the plot, though prosecutors refused to grant him full immunity. Some observers have speculated that Fortier may have agreed to cooperate if prosecutors granted his wife immunity (Johnston 6/21/1995; Kifner 8/7/1995) , a deal later confirmed by reporters. (Kifner 8/8/1995) Lori Fortier tells grand jurors about witnessing McVeigh conduct a demonstration using soup cans on her kitchen floor that illustrated the effects of a massive bombing (see (February 1994)). McVeigh, she says, arranged soup cans to simulate the pattern he could make with barrels of explosives. McVeigh placed the soup cans in a triangle, she says, to direct the force of an explosion at a desired target, with two of the three points of the triangle flush against the side of the truck to maximize the damage. Michael Fortier did not witness the demonstration, she testifies. She also says that McVeigh once drew a diagram that showed how to blow up a building. (New York Times 9/4/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 91) Both the Fortiers will repeat their testimony in McVeigh’s trial (see May 12-13, 1997).
According to reports by the Dallas Morning News, indicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) has confessed to planning the bombing and detonating a bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building. (Douglas O. Linder 2001; Indianapolis Star 2003) Reporter Pete Slover cites as his source “summaries of several 1995 interviews with a defense team member” (Brooke 3/1/1997) , though he later admits in a court filing that he could not be sure the story was true before filing it. (Serrano 1998, pp. 271) Researchers will later learn that McVeigh suspects his lead attorney Stephen Jones of leaking his purported confession to the press. The leak is later shown to be from a member of Jones’s staff, who gave a computer disk containing FBI reports to Slover, apparently unaware that the McVeigh “confession” was also on the disk. (Douglas O. Linder 2006) However, this reported speculation is countered by an opinion advanced in 1998 by author Richard A. Serrano, who will write that the defense’s work to humanize McVeigh and “soften” his image (see June 26, 1995) “was blown apart” by the leaked information. (Serrano 1998, pp. 271) The Morning News prints the article on its Web site seven hours before its next print edition can be published, and later cites a desire to match the immediacy of television and to ensure its exclusive isn’t “scooped” by a competitor. Editors worried before publication that McVeigh’s lawyers might leak the story in one fashion or another to another media outlet. (Myerson 3/3/1997)
Details of Bombing Plot, Involvement by Co-Conspirator Nichols, Denials of Wider Conspiracy - According to documents obtained by the Morning News, McVeigh’s defense lawyers wrote that McVeigh told one of them that his bombing of the Murrah Federal Building during working hours would leave a “body count” that would make a statement to the federal government. McVeigh also named his friend, alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols, as being intimately involved with the bomb plot (see August 10, 1995), but insisted he alone drove the Ryder truck containing the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Building. McVeigh also denied any involvement by Terry Nichols’s brother James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988, May 11, 1995, and April 25, 1995). The Morning News describes the source of its reporting as summaries of several 1995 interviews with a member of the defense team’s staff, conducted between July and December 1995 at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center in Oklahoma, where McVeigh was held before his transfer to the Denver area in March 1996. The summaries, the Morning News says, validate much of the prosecution’s contention that McVeigh and Nichols committed robberies and burglary in the course of assembling money and materials for the bombing, even as it acknowledges that they could not be used by prosecutors in either man’s trial. One summary of a July 1995 interview has a staffer asking McVeigh if it would have been better to bomb the building at night when relatively few people would have been present. According to the staffer: “Mr. McVeigh looked directly into my eyes and told me: ‘That would not have gotten the point across to the government. We needed a body count to make our point.’” According to the documents, McVeigh and Nichols used significantly more ammonium nitrate than federal investigators have estimated—some 5,400 pounds as compared to federal estimates of 4,800 pounds—and about $3,000 worth of high-powered racing fuel to make a lethal explosive combination. “Mr. McVeigh states that 108 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer were mixed with the nitro fuel purchased by Terry Nichols,” one summary reads. The summaries also have McVeigh admitting to his involvement in a 1994 robbery carried out by Nichols and himself to fund the bombing plot (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). “Mr. McVeigh stated that he laid out the plan and that Terry Nichols alone broke into [gun dealer Roger] Moore’s house and stole the weapons,” one summary reads. The summary tallies closely with recent statements by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier, who pled guilty to helping transport the stolen weapons and is now helping the prosecution (see May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995). Fortier has testified that he and McVeigh sold the weapons stolen from Moore in Arizona. McVeigh also detailed a burglary committed by himself and Nichols at a Kansas rock quarry (see October 3, 1994). He also gave information about a third burglary carried out by himself and Fortier of a National Guard armory (see February - July 1994), where they attempted to steal welding tools but only made off with hand tools. According to the summaries, McVeigh denied being part of a larger conspiracy, and said the bomb plot was conceived and executed by himself and Nichols. He called a witness who claimed knowledge of a Middle Eastern or Islamist connection (see February - July 1994) a “bullsh_t artist.” He also said that another conspiracy theory centered around right-wing activist Andreas Strassmeir is groundless (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994 and April 20, 1995). (Slover 3/1/1997; Kenworthy 3/1/1997) Initially, McVeigh’s lead defense attorney Stephen Jones calls the documents “a hoax” and denies that McVeigh made any of those statements. The Dallas Morning News is trying to garner attention and subscriptions, Jones says, and implies that the Morning News’s source is “setting up” the paper: “They just bought the Brooklyn Bridge,” he says. The Morning News has informed Jones of the identity of the source that provided it with the documents. (Kenworthy 3/1/1997) “This is about the most irresponsible form of journalism,” Jones says. He says that after McVeigh learned of the story, his client said, “There’s a practical joker every week.” (Brooke 3/1/1997)
Defense Alleges Press Stole Documents - The Morning News denies a subsequent defense allegation that Slover stole thousands of computerized documents belonging to McVeigh’s defense lawyers, documents Jones says were used in the Morning News’s reporting. Jones says the documents acknowledge McVeigh’s responsibility for the bombing, but do not constitute a confession. The Morning News, Jones says, got the documents “by fraud, deception, misrepresentation, and theft” involving the defense’s computer files. Attorney Paul Watler, speaking for the Morning News, “categorically denies it committed any crime,” and says the documents were obtained through “routine news-gathering techniques.” The Morning News “did not hack into Mr. Jones’ computer system, and it did not assist anyone else in doing so,” Watler says. Jones says the documents are not, as some reports say, notes of a defense staffer’s conversations with McVeigh; defense lawyers have previously alleged that they produced a “fake confession” designed to persuade a witness to talk to defense investigators. Jones says any such false confessions, if they exist, would not be used during McVeigh’s trial. Jones says he may ask Judge Richard Matsch to delay the trial for 90 days to allow for a “cooling-off period” and allow “people to move on.” Watler says Jones is using the allegations to cloud the trial proceedings. (Hillman 3/4/1997; New York Times 3/4/1997) Freelance journalist J.D. Cash, who writes for a far-right publication called The Jubilee and a small Oklahoma newspaper, the McCurtain Daily Gazette, denies reports that he is the source of the article. Cash says he is not “the intermediary who set up The Dallas Morning News,” but says he is familiar with the documents described in the newspaper’s accounts. The confession, Cash says, is “a mixture of fact and fantasy.”
Possible Negative Impact on Jury - Observers worry that the story may prejudice a potential jury. “It’s a worst-case scenario,” says legal studies professor Jeffrey Abramson. “At the witching hour, but before people have been isolated from pretrial publicity, you get explosive evidence, exactly the kind of thing that makes it very difficult for a defendant to think he hasn’t already been tried in the press.” Law professor Rita J. Simon says the article could make a fair trial very difficult. “The jurors will know there was some report about a confession,” she says. “I can’t imagine, no matter where you hold the trial, that the jurors will not hear about it. As soon as the trial gets under way, the story will come out afresh.” (Thomas 3/2/1997)
Second Purported Confession - Days later, a second confession from McVeigh is reported, this time published by Playboy magazine. The article containing the purported confession is written by freelance reporter Ben Fenwick, and is apparently based on an internal summary of the case compiled by the McVeigh defense team (see Early 2005). Fenwick had obtained the document in 1996, he later says, and had kept it under wraps in the hopes of eventually writing a book about the case. He quickly wrote an article based on the document and sold it to Playboy after Slover’s article hit the press. According to Fenwick’s article, McVeigh says he detonated the bomb when he was a block away from the Murrah Building, and admitted to the bombing during a lie detector test administered by his lawyers. Other details in the article contradict physical evidence already presented in open court. Jones says: “These escalating reports of alleged statements by Mr. McVeigh are corrupting the heart of the jury system. The American ideals of justice are being held hostage to sensationalism.” Fenwick is soon hired by ABC News as a legal consultant, an arrangement that allows ABC to quote extensively from the article in a special broadcast aired shortly before the trial begins. Fenwick will later admit that he did not authenticate the document before using it. The document and the article will lead the FBI to discover McVeigh’s purchase of racing fuel from an Ennis, Texas, dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). (New York Times 3/14/1997; Thomas 3/18/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 271)
The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) suffers a setback when a witness brought on to show that someone else could have bombed the Murrah Federal Building admits that one of the men she saw fleeing the scene might have been McVeigh. Daina Bradley, visiting the building on April 19 to get a Social Security number for her four-year-old son, lost her leg in the blast, and the family members accompanying her, including her mother, her son and her three-year-old daughter, died; her sister was also injured. Her rescuers had to amputate her leg to free her from the rubble. She has said in previous statements that she saw a dark-complexioned man not resembling the tall, pale McVeigh leave the passenger side of the Ryder truck and walk quickly away in the moments before the blast; some suspect Bradley is referring to the infamous, never-identified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). “It was a olive-complexion man with short hair, curly, clean-cut,” she testifies. “He had on a blue Starter jacket, blue jeans, and tennis shoes and a white [baseball cap] with purple flames.” But she now remembers a second man getting out of the driver’s seat of the truck, and says the man she saw resembled McVeigh. Prosecutors elicit the fact that Bradley suffers from serious memory problems and has been treated for mental illness. Her previous testimony had been taken in May 1995 by federal investigators who spoke with her while she was in the hospital recovering from her wounds. She says she has not told anyone about the second man she saw exit the truck until last week, when she spoke with prosecuting attorney Cheryl A. Ramsey. She then told US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, another prosecutor, of her memory of the second man. On the stand, Ryan asks her: “You told me that there was nothing that you saw about the man that ran across the street that was different than what you could see when you looked at Mr. McVeigh. There weren’t any differences that you could see.” She agrees. She also admits that she cannot remember the size of the truck or its orientation to the Murrah Building. (Thomas 5/24/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 288-290)
FBI agent Stephen E. Smith testifies in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997).
Nichols Told of Picking Up McVeigh - Smith testifies that Nichols told him and other FBI agents that on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1995, three days before the bombing, he drove around downtown Oklahoma City looking for his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Nichols, says Smith, drove around the Murrah Federal Building, McVeigh’s target, several times before finding McVeigh in a nearby alley (see April 16-17, 1995). McVeigh, according to what Nichols told Smith, had asked Nichols for a ride from Oklahoma City back to Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home (see (February 20, 1995)) because his car had broken down. Nichols found McVeigh, Smith says: “[H]e was standing in a light rain with Mr. Nichols’s TV set and a green laundry bag.” Smith was one of the agents who interrogated Nichols for nine hours after the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). He was not allowed to testify in McVeigh’s trial, but was allowed to introduce the 22 pages of handwritten notes taken during Nichols’s interrogation. Smith’s testimony is the first to describe what Nichols said about the trip from Oklahoma City to Herington. McVeigh was going to bring Nichols a television set, Nichols told Smith, when his car broke down. Nichols said after he received the telephone call from McVeigh at around 3 p.m., he left about 10 minutes later and drove straight to Oklahoma City. McVeigh had told him to “drive around the block a couple times,” Nichols told the agents, and added that he passed “that building” several times. The alley McVeigh was standing in was, Smith testifies, next to the YMCA near the Murrah Building. Nichols told Smith and the other agents that McVeigh was “hyper” during the return trip to Herington, and they talked about the upcoming anniversary of the federal assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Nichols told the agents that McVeigh told him “he would see something big in the future.” Nichols, Smith testifies, asked if McVeigh was planning to rob a bank; McVeigh replied, “No, but I’ve got something in the works.” Nichols was shocked to learn that McVeigh was a suspect in the bombing, Smith testifies: “He thought Tim was driving back east to see his family.” Nichols told the agents he could not discern any motive for the bombing, since McVeigh “was supposed to receive an inheritance from his grandfather and he would have money” to do whatever he wanted. Smith testifies that when the agents asked Nichols if he was worried about what McVeigh might say about him, Nichols replied that “he’d be shocked if Mr. McVeigh implicated him.… Terry Nichols said he trusted Timothy McVeigh more than anyone. Timothy McVeigh lived up to his arrangements and took responsibility for his actions.” Smith adds that Nichols never clarified what he meant. Nichols told the agents that the Easter telephone call was the first contact he had had with McVeigh since November 1994. However, other testimony has shown numerous contacts between McVeigh and Nichols since that time period (see November 7, 1994, March 1995, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, and April 15-16, 1995). (Thomas 11/21/1997) Nichols also told federal agents that he spent the morning of April 18 at an auction in Fort Riley, Kansas, and that the same morning, McVeigh had borrowed his pickup truck to run errands. Nichols told agents that the morning of April 18, McVeigh called at 6:00 a.m. and asked to borrow the truck. Nichols agreed, and the two met at a McDonald’s restaurant in Junction City, Kansas, around 7:30 a.m. The two drove to the auction site, and McVeigh took the truck, leaving Nichols at the auction. McVeigh returned after 1:00 p.m. Nichols told agents he signed in at the auction site sometime around noon. (Thomas 11/26/1997)
Story Contradicted by Other Evidence - Other evidence has shown that Nichols’s story about driving to Oklahoma City to pick up McVeigh and a television set is false. That evidence has shown that on April 16, Nichols met McVeigh at a Dairy Queen in Herington, then the two drove separately to Oklahoma City to scout the location for the bomb. McVeigh left his getaway car at the scene (see April 13, 1995) and the two drove back to Herington in Nichols’s pickup truck (see April 16-17, 1995). On the morning of April 18, McVeigh, staying at a motel in Junction City with his rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995), met Nichols at a Herington storage unit (see (February 20, 1995)). The two loaded bags of fertilizer and drums of nitromethane into the Ryder truck, and McVeigh told Nichols, “If I don’t come back for a while, you’ll clean out the storage shed.” They drove separately to Geary County State Fishing Lake, where they met and mixed the explosive components. Nichols later told investigators that he cleaned out the storage shed on April 20. One witness told investigators that he saw McVeigh with a man resembling Nichols at the motel. Other witnesses recalled seeing the Ryder truck parked behind Nichols’s house on April 17, and the Ryder truck and a pickup truck resembling Nichols’s at Geary Lake on April 18. Other witnesses said that on either April 17 or 18, they saw what appeared to be Nichols’s pickup truck parked behind the Herington storage shed (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Videotape from the Regency Towers Apartments, one and a half blocks from the bombed Murrah Federal Building, showed Nichols’s dark blue pickup with a white camper shell passing the building on April 16, though the videotape does not itself disprove Nichols’s claims of driving to Oklahoma City to pick up McVeigh and a television set. (Lane 12/24/1997; Fox News 4/13/2005) Prosecutors will soon submit evidence showing that Nichols’s claims of his whereabouts on April 18 are incorrect (see November 25, 1997).
Shared Interest in Bombs - Nichols also said that he and McVeigh were curious about bombs. They read books and magazines about them, and discussed how they worked. Nichols told the agents that “it’s possible he [McVeigh] could make a device to blow up a building without my knowledge.” Nichols, Smith testifies, insisted that their interest in bombs was strictly out of curiosity. Nichols told Smith and the other agents that he had learned about explosives from people “who came by the table at gun shows and literature he had read.” Nichols also said that he had learned “ammonium nitrate fertilizer can be used to make a bomb.… I imagine you have to put a blasting cap on it.” Smith testifies that someone had informed Nichols that ammonium nitrate could be mixed with diesel fuel to make a bomb, but adds that Nichols said he had not done that.
Cross-Examination - Nichols’s defense lawyer, Ronald G. Woods, has Smith read the entire 22-page sheaf of handwritten notes he took during his interviews with Nichols, then tells Judge Richard P. Matsch that the typewritten transcript of those notes “was not accurate or complete.” Woods also questions why the interviews were not tape-recorded. Smith calls his notes accurate, but admits that he had not written down what he now testifies was Nichols’s silence when shown a letter he had written to McVeigh the previous November urging him to “Go for it.” During the interview, Smith says Nichols admitted to having the knowledge needed to build a fertilizer bomb after initially denying it. (Kenworthy 11/21/1997; Thomas 11/22/1997; Lane 12/24/1997)
On the fifth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), dedication ceremonies are held at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, built on the site of the bombed-out Murrah Federal Building. The memorial is on three acres of land, and contains a reflecting pool and 168 chairs—149 larger chairs representing the adults killed in the blast and 19 for the children who died in the bombing. (Douglas O. Linder 2001; Indianapolis Star 2003)
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.” (Vidal 9/2001)
The press reports that Terry Nichols, convicted on federal and state charges surrounding the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see December 23, 1997 and May 26, 2004), admitted to his involvement in the conspiracy to blow up the Murrah Federal Building during secret plea negotiations in 2003. Presumably these were the negotiations where prosecutors ultimately rejected an offer by Nichols’s lawyers for Nichols to plead “no content” to the 161 charges of first-degree murder in return for being spared the death penalty (see February 17, 2004). Nichols signed a statement acknowledging helping bomber Timothy McVeigh (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) construct the bomb, though he denied having any prior knowledge of the target (see April 11, 1995) or knowing any other co-conspirators (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and December 16, 1994 and After). Prosecutors now say they never believed Nichols was being entirely truthful in his plea offer. (Barnes 11/30/2004; The Oklahoman 4/2009)