Timothy James McVeigh (April 23, 1968 — June 11, 2001) was an American domestic terrorist convicted and executed for his part in the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Hundreds were injured and 168 men, women and children died when a truck loaded with improvised explosives was detonated in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building as federal offices began business for the day.
Most accounts say the ANFO explosive device arranged in the back of a rented Ryder truck contained about 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) of ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer, and nitromethane, a highly volatile motor-racing fuel. Prosecutors said McVeigh strode away from the truck after he ignited a timed fuse from the front of the truck. In interviews from prison, McVeigh later alluded to collateral damage when asked about children arriving at a day care center behind glass windows that shattered in the explosion.
McVeigh was a decorated veteran of the United States Army, having served in the Gulf War, where he was awarded a Bronze Star. He had been a top scoring gunner with the 25 mm cannon on lightly armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles used by the US 1st Infantry Division to which he was assigned. He deployed to Iraq from Fort Riley, in Kansas.
Upon leaving the Army, McVeigh worked for a while near his native Pendleton, New York in Buffalo, New York, as a security guard. He returned to Junction City, Kansas, outside Fort Riley, among other places, in what became an increasingly transient lifestyle in the months before the attack in Oklahoma. Prosecutors said he made the bomb at a lake campground near his old Army post. He was seen renting a Ryder truck identified as the one used for the bombing at Elliots Auto Body in Junction City, and was identified as the main suspect by a motel receipt from the Dreamland Motel in nearby Grandview Plaza. While driving on I-35 in Noble County, Oklahoma, Charles Hanger, an Oklahoma Highway Patrolman from Pawnee, Oklahoma, stopped the car McVeigh was driving for speeding, just minutes after the bombing, as he raced toward central Kansas in a car with no license plate. He was arrested for driving without a license and carrying a concealed weapon, and almost released before he was identified three days later as the subject of a worldwide manhunt.
In a book based on interviews before his execution, American Terrorist, McVeigh stated he decapitated an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day in the war, and celebrated. But he said he later was shocked to be ordered to execute surrendering prisoners, and to see carnage on the road leaving Kuwait City after U.S. troops routed the Iraqi army. In interviews following the Oklahoma city bombing, McVeigh said he began harboring anti-government feelings during the Gulf War. He said he was further influenced by the 1993 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms raid on the Waco, Texas residences of the Branch Davidians. He visited Waco, Texas, during the standoff, where he spoke to a news reporter about his anger for what was happening there.
McVeigh was convicted on June 2, 1997 in a United States Court for the murder of eight federal employees who died in the explosion. The same jury on June 13 recommended that McVeigh receive the death penalty. (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/june97/mcveigh_6-13.html) Justice Department prosecutors could not bring charges against McVeigh for most of the murders because those deaths fell under the jurisdiction of the state of Oklahoma. One of his appeals made it to the Supreme Court of the United States, which on March 8, 1999 upheld his murder convictions. McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001, by lethal injection, at the U.S. Federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was the first execution of a convicted criminal by the federal government of the United States since the execution of Victor Feguer in Iowa on March 15, 1963, and after McVeigh was Juan Garza.
Before his execution, some speculated McVeigh was framed, or that others were involved. Convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols was sentenced in federal court to life in prison for his role in the crime, but at Nichols' trial, testimony suggested McVeigh had several other accomplices. McVeigh's original trial attorney wrote in a book, Others Unknown, about several other possible suspects, and continued to implicate Terry Nichols' brother James after McVeigh's execution.
Various analysts have suggested the government had a role in a conspiracy behind the bombing, or even planned the attack, so as to have grounds for persecuting right-wing organizations in a manner similar to Nazi prosecution of legislators after the Reichstag fire. Soon after the bombing an analysis by Brigadier General Benton K. Partin (Ret) concluded that "the damage at the Murrah Federal Building is not the result of the truck bomb itself, but rather due to other factors such as locally placed charges within the building itself". Partin's report, released in the weeks following the bombing, was based on assumptions the bomb was fueled with diesel fuel, but did not account for the greater explosive strength of nitromethane in an improvised explosive device.
Some writers suggested seismograph records from a nearby research station shortly after the explosion indicated the possibility of multiple explosions, but other analysts suggest multiple readings within seconds indicate shock waves from collapse of the building.
In February, 2004, the FBI announced it would review its investigation after learning agents in the investigation of the Midwest Bank Robbers had turned up explosive caps of the same type that were used to trigger the bomb. McVeigh had affiliated with the Aryan-oriented gang in the months before the bombing. He and members of the gang were all reportedly at Elohim City in northern Arkansas at a time shortly before the attack. McVeighs presence is verified by an Arkansas speeding ticket issued at the time, while the other's visit to the compound were discovered as part of the bank robbery investigations.
Agents in 2004 expressed surprise that the bombing investigators had not been provided information from the MidWest Bank Robbers investigation. Shortly before McVeigh's June, 2001 execution, evidence related to the bank robbers gang was presented to a court, resulting in a delay of a week after his first scheduled execution date. McVeigh eventually declined any further delays, and maintained until his death he had acted alone in the bombing.
A few unofficial investigators, primarily journalists, identified the MidWest Bank Robbers as likely suspects at the time of the original investigation. Other evidence destroyed from the Bank Robbers investigation included a drivers license of a gun dealer who was robbed in the months before the attack. Neither McVeigh nor convicted accomplice Nichols were convicted of the robbery, and investigators never resolved questions about who participated in that crime, which they said funded construction and delivery of the bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
One of the bank robbers had been arrested and confined in a Georgia jail, but prosecutors approved his release at the request of the Secret Service, who wanted the man's assistance. Secret Service agents said they needed the man to help them find another man with elite military experience whose political ideals made him an especially dangerous criminal. The freed man eluded handlers and apparently joined the bank robbery gang.
Shortly after the bombing, an ATF informant, Carolyn Howe, told reporters she had warned her handlers in the weeks before the bombing that guests of Elohim City were planning a major bombing attack. Several residents of central Kansas, including real estate agent Georgia Rucker and a retired Army NCO testified at the Terry Nichols federal trial that they had seen two trucks at Geary State Lake where prosecutors alleged the bomb was assembled. The retired NCO said he visited the lake April 18 but left after a group of surly men looked at him aggressively. The operator of Dreamland Motel testified that two Ryder trucks had been parked outside her Grandview Plaza motel where McVeigh stayed in Room 26 the weekend before the bombing.
McVeigh's first trial attorney, Stephen Jones also suggested in his book on the case that Terry Nichols had crossed paths with suspected Islamic-oriented terrorists during his frequent visits to the Philippines before the attacks. Nichol's father-in-law at the time was a Philippine police officer who owned an apartment building often rented to Arabic students with alleged terrorist connections.
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