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The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children, injured hundreds more and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to structures and vehicles in the downtown area. Photo AP.

The bomb killed 168 people, including 19 children, injured hundreds more and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to structures and vehicles in the downtown area. Photo AP.

The Oklahoma City Bombing

On April 19, 1995, around 9:03 a.m., just after parents dropped their children off at day care at the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, the unthinkable happened.

A massive bomb inside a rental truck exploded, blowing half of the nine-story building into oblivion. A stunned nation watched as the bodies of men, women, and children were pulled from the rubble for nearly two weeks.

When the smoke cleared and the exhausted rescue workers packed up and left, 168 people were dead.

Prosecutor Joseph Hartzler began his opening statement in the Timothy McVeigh trial by reminding the jury of the terror and the heartbreak:? “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, April 19th, 1995, was a beautiful day in Oklahoma City — at least it started out as a beautiful day. The sun was shining. Flowers were blooming. It was springtime in Oklahoma City.

Sometime after six o’clock that morning, Tevin Garrett’s mother woke him up to get him ready for the day. He was only 16 months old. He was a toddler; and as some of you know that have experience with toddlers, he had a keen eye for mischief. He would often pull on the cord of her curling iron in the morning, pull it off the counter top until it fell down, often till it fell down on him. That morning, she picked him up and wrestled with him on her bed before she got him dressed. She remembers this morning because that was the last morning of his life….”

A bomb carried in a Ryder truck exploded in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995.? The bomb claimed 168 innocent lives.? That a homegrown, war-decorated American terrorist named Timothy McVeigh drove and parked the Ryder truck in the handicap zone in front of the Murrah Building there is little doubt.

In 1997, a jury convicted McVeigh and sentenced him to death.? The federal government, after an investigation involving 2,000 agents, also charged two of McVeigh’s army buddies, Michael Fortier and Terry Nichols, with advance knowledge of the bombing and participation in the plot.? Despite considerable evidence linking various militant white supremacists to the tragedy in Oklahoma City, no other persons faced prosecution for what was–until September 11, 2001–the worst act of terrorism ever on American soil.

The Oklahoma City bombing trials raise questions more interesting than the answers they provide.? How, in four years, can an army sergeant and Green Beret aspirant turn so violently against the government he served?? If there had been no Waco, would there have been no Oklahoma City?? Did McVeigh?want?to be captured? Why did the government only bring charges against three men in connection with the bombing, when compelling evidence suggests that others played significant roles in the crime?

The childhood of Timothy McVeigh in Lockport, New York was far from idyllic.? His parents divorced in 1978, when Tim was ten, and for the remainder of his school years he lived mainly with his father, Bill McVeigh.? Scrawny and unathletic, “Noodle” McVeigh became a target for neighborhood bullies.? He attributes a lifelong hatred for bullies of all kinds (a class which, in his view, included an overreaching federal government) to early beatings on softball diamonds and head spinning “swirlies” in flushing toilets.

It? is possible that McVeigh’s fascination with guns, dating to pre-teen years spent admiring his grandfather’s .22-caliber rifle, might have something to do with his view of weapons as the great equalizer.? He dedicated himself to developing his marksmanship skills, spending hours shooting holes in soft-drink cans in a ravine.? By age 14, Tim McVeigh’s interests included survivalism.? He began stockpiling food and camping equipment in preparation for possible nuclear attack or a communist overthrow of the United States government.

Although McVeigh performed well on standardized tests in high school, school and its social life had considerably less appeal for him than his world of guns, fringe movements, and science fiction books.? He struck classmates as somewhat introverted and disengaged, and his only extracurricular activity was track.? Under the entry “future plans” in his high school yearbook, McVeigh wrote: “Take it as it comes, buy a Lamborghini, California girls.”? Despite his reference to “California girls,” McVeigh seemed uncomfortable around women, never had a girlfriend, and–despite his own contentions to the contrary– might have remained a virgin throughout his entire life.

For two years following high school graduation, McVeigh briefly attended a computer school in Buffalo and took on a series of short-term jobs–then, in May 1988, he enlisted in the U. S. Army. In basic training, the loner McVeigh found a friend in his platoon leader, Terry Nichols, who shared his conservative and somewhat paranoid political views.? McVeigh seemed to fit well into the structured life of the military, performing well enough to be promoted to sergeant.

He served in Fort Riley, Kansas, where he met Michael Fortier, the man who would later provide key testimony against him in the Oklahoma City bombing trial.? From Fort Riley, McVeigh headed to the Persian Gulf War, where for four months he drove a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and, for his efforts, earned a bronze star. McVeigh seemed well-suited to the details of military life; his army years were probably his best years.? Nonetheless, after realizing that he lacked the “right stuff” during the first day of a Green Beret try-out, McVeigh requested and received an honorable discharge in December 1991.

McVeigh’s life darkened in the year following his discharge.? By the end of 1991, McVeigh was living with his father again in upstate New York, near Buffalo, and working for near minimum wage as a security guard.? He fought through bouts of serious depression and thoughts of suicide.? Politically, he moved further and further from the mainstream.? He began espousing increasingly angry views of U. S. foreign policy, gun control, and what he believed were conspiracies involving the United Nations.

In a March 1992 letter to the?Lockport Union-Sun, McVeigh wrote, “AMERICA IS IN DECLINE….Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system?” According to McVeigh, he first began thinking of violent action against the federal government in August 1992 following news of a federal government shoot-out with survivalist Randy Weaver in the Idaho woods.

Rescue workers dig through the rubble as they look for survivors

Rescue workers dig through the rubble as they look for survivors

In January 1993, McVeigh turned in his security company badge, sold most of his belongings, packed his bags, left New York, and began a transient life of gun shows, stays with army buddies, and short-term jobs.? Gun shows provided McVeigh with money and a steady stream of acquaintances who shared his anti-gun control and anti-government views.

No event did more to radicalize McVeigh than did the stand-off near Waco, Texas between members of the Branch Davidians, a religious cult headed by David Koresh, and U. S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF).? On February 28, 1993, 80 armed BATF agents tried to execute a warrant to search for illegal weapons at the Mount Carmel compound of the Davidians.? The raid ended badly, with four agents and six Branch Davidians killed.? What would turn out to be a 51-day stand-off began.? The federal government’s actions so infuriated McVeigh that he traveled to Texas in March to sell bumper stickers with slogans such as “Fear the Government that Fears Your Gun.”

McVeigh was watching television at the farm of his army buddy, Terry Nichols, in Michigan on April 19 when the government forces (including the FBI and army) launched their attack against the heavily fortified Davidian compound. Tanks rammed holes in the compound and agents fired CS gas inside. Pyrotechnic devices fired into the building turned it into a raging inferno. When it was over, 74 men, women, and children were found dead inside the compound. McVeigh, in Michigan, sat stunned and appalled: “What is this? What has America become?? He decided the time would come when he would strike back.

In Kingman, Arizona, McVeigh renewed his friendship with army buddy Michael Fortier, an anti-gun control protester with a passion for far-right politics.? In the fall of 1993, McVeigh and Terry Nichols made their first visit to Elohim City, a hotbed of anti-government activity–including a plot to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City.? (For McVeigh, it would be the first of at least two, and most likely four or more visits to the compound.)

In 1994, McVeigh’s activities became overtly criminal.? According to FBI reports, it is probable that McVeigh participated in a series of bank robberies around the Midwest with a gang from Elohim City in an effort to raise money for projects involving anti-government violence.? McVeigh cased banks, and most likely drove the getaway car in some of the heists.? He also plotted and carried out, with the help of either Nichols or Elohim City residents, an armed robbery of an Arkansas gun dealer that he had befriended at various gun shows.? Joined by Michael Fortier, he stole various items from an Arizona National Guard armory.

Some of McVeigh’s activities bordered on the bizarre.? He turned his modest Arizona home into a bunker, renounced his U. S. citizenship, and began making and exploding homemade bombs.? (According to a book by two inmates who later shared death row with McVeigh, his recipe for the bomb he would use in Oklahoma City came from a patriot friend, who used his chemistry degree from the University of California as a Meth manufacturer.) About this same time, McVeigh’s own use of methamphetamines increased.? He became increasingly vocal in promoting his apocalyptic world view.

In July 1994, he and Michael Fortier trespassed on to “Area 51,” a top secret government reservation for weapons testing located near Roswell, New Mexico.? Two months later, he journeyed to Gulfport, Mississippi to investigate a rumor that the town had become a staging area for United Nations troops and equipment.

A farewell letter written by McVeigh in July to his boyhood friend, Steve Hodge, revealed the evolution of his thinking: “I have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and I will….I have come to peace with myself, my God, and my cause.? Blood will flow in the streets, Steve,? Good vs Evil.? Free men vs. Socialist Wannabe Slaves.? Pray it is not your blood, my friend.”

NBC News

NBC News

In September 1994, according to both McVeigh and the findings of a federal grand jury, that the ex-Army sergeant began plotting to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.? The date identified by the grand jury for the start of the conspiracy was September 13.? On that day, McVeigh was–according to FBI records showing a receipt for a motel room in Vian, Oklahoma–visiting Elohim City, and probably participating with other anti-government activists in a series of military maneuvers.? September 13 also marked the day, coincidentally or not, that a new federal law banning assault weapons became law.

By the end of September 1994, McVeigh’s plot (we will, in this trial commentary, call it “McVeigh’s plot,” although there is a body of evidence to suggest that others played significant planning roles as well) started to unfold.? On September 22, he rented a storage unit in Herington, Kansas, that would later be used to house explosive materials.? A week later, Terry Nichols bought a ton of ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient in the bomb that would be used in Oklahoma City.? Ammonium nitrate is a commonly used agricultural fertilizer and the purchase was made at a farm cooperative in McPherson, Kansas.

October 1994 was a busy month for McVeigh and his co-conspirators.? He and Terry Nichols bought a second ton of ammonium nitrate from the same farm cooperative.? A burglary at a quarry near Marion, Kansas on October 3 netted McVeigh and Nichols a supply of dynamite and blasting caps.? Wearing a biker disguise, McVeigh purchased nearly $3000 work of nitromethane, a racing fuel used in bomb construction, from a Dallas track.? In between these supply-gathering missions, McVeigh found time to visit Oklahoma City to inspect the building he had targeted, and to calculate his own position at the time the bomb would be likely to explode.

McVeigh also managed to fit in two separate visits in October to Kingman, Arizona.? He rented another storage locker and, with Michael Fortier watching, tested the explosive mixture that he had chosen for the Murrah Building bombing.? McVeigh tried to recruit Fortier to assist in the actual bombing, but Fortier balked, and asked, “What about all the people?”? McVeigh told Fortier to think of the victims as “storm troopers in Star Wars” who, although individually innocent, “are guilty because they work for the evil empire.”? Despite the persuasive efforts of McVeigh, Fortier made clear that he had no desire to be in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing.

McVeigh’s close association with white supremacists and other government-haters at Elohim City continued throughout 1994.? In addition to joining in bank robberies, there is evidence to suggest that people at the compound were involved in the bombing plot itself.? According to BATF informant Carol Howe, who worked undercover in Elohim City, Andreas Strassmeir and Dennis Mahon made the first of three trips to Oklahoma City in November to inspect possible bombing targets.? Howe informed her supervisor of these developments.? The BATF was sufficiently alarmed by Howe’s reports to plan a raid on Elohim City, but following a February 1995 meeting with officials from the FBI and U. S. Attorney’s Office, the planned operation is called off.? There is no way of knowing whether the raid, if conducted, might have prevented the tragedy in Oklahoma City–but that remains a real possibility.

In March 1995, when Terry Nichols told McVeigh that he wanted to back out of the bombing plan, McVeigh had to turn elsewhere for the assistance he would need in the final stages of the plot.? There is speculation that his help came from Elohim City. (McVeigh wanted to be seen at the mastermind of the plot, and in his statements discounted the role of others in the conspiracy, leaving uncertainty as to exactly what roles others played.? A polygraph test taken by McVeigh showed him to be truthful in regards to his own role in the bombing, but “evasive” concerning the roles played by other persons not charged in the bombing.)

Fellow death row inmates David Hammer and Jeffrey Paul, in their 2004 book?Secrets Worth Dying For, contend that McVeigh revealed to them that he and four members of the Aryan Republican Army, with Elohim City connections, met several times in March and April 1995 in the Arizona desert, where “they conducted ‘dry runs’ of the ‘planting the bomb and getting away.'” The two authors also contend that McVeigh told them he met in Las Vegas a man he called “Poindexter,” who provided detailed knowledge on bomb assembly, and would visit with him again at McVeigh’s room at the Imperial Hotel in Kingman.

On April 5, two minutes after a phone call to the Ryder Rental Company made from his motel room in Kingman, McVeigh placed a call to Elohim City.? The contents of that phone conversation are unknown, of course, but there has been considerable speculation in books and on Internet sites, that McVeigh sought to coordinate bombing plans with some compound residents.? Three days after his phone call, McVeigh arrived in Oklahoma, where he was seen at Lady Godiva’s, a Tulsa strip club, in the presence of Elohim City militants Andreas Strassmeir and a third man, who some people suggest might have been Michael Brescia.? A security camera in a dressing room at the strip club apparently recorded McVeigh telling a stripper, “On April 19, you’ll remember me for the rest of your life.”

In the final days leading up to the bombing,? Aryan Republican Army members (and perhaps bomb expert “Poindexter”) converged in east central Kansas where final preparations were being made.? (This is a matter of dispute, as the trial record only hints at this possibility and McVeigh told authorities otherwise, but a growing body of evidence suggests several Elohim City activists played critical roles in April 1995.? This history is supported by the chronology of events reported in?Secrets Worth Dying For,?based on McVeigh’s alleged death row revelations.? Any book written by convicted death row inmates raises credibility concerns, but the inmates’ account corresponds fairly well with the timing of various sightings of “John Doe No. 2” and other unidentified persons, as reported by witnesses interviewed by the FBI.)? The men most likely camped at Geary Lake, the same place where McVeigh said he received some cash from Terry Nichols on April 14, before he checked into room 25 at the Dreamland Motel in Junction City.? A Junction pizza delivery man later told an FBI interviewer that he delivered a pizza to “Bob Kling” in room 25 that night–and that the man taking the pizza was not Timothy McVeigh.? “Bob Kling” was, most likely, ARA member Scott Stedeford.

On Easter Sunday, April 16, McVeigh , Nichols, and (probably) “John Doe #2” drove to Oklahoma City. McVeigh and John Doe #2 drove in McVeigh’s newly purchased Mercury Marquis, while Nichols followed behind in his pickup.? McVeigh parked the old Marquis, which was to be his getaway car, in a lot near the Murrah Building, and then rode back to the Dreamland Motel with Nichols and John Doe #2.

On the afternoon of April 17, McVeigh pulled out of Elliot’s Body Shop in Junction City with a Ryder rental truck.? In a form he filled out at Elliot’s, McVeigh said he planned to use the truck for a four-day trip to Omaha.? McVeigh left the Dreamland Motel in the Ryder truck about 4:30 the next morning.

Stories of what happened next diverge considerably. Either alone (one story) or after picking up Brescia (another story), McVeigh drove to his Herington storage locker where he (or they) met (depending on which account you believe) either bomb expert Poindexter or Terry Nichols.? (According to?Secrets Worth Dying For, McVeigh said Nichols was “a no-show” at the locker.? McVeigh is said to have complained, “He and Mike [Fortier] were men who liked to talk tough, but in the end their bitches and kids ruled.”)? The men–whoever they were–loaded bags of fuses and drums of nitromethane into the truck.

In his authorized biography, McVeigh claimed that he and Nichols also loaded bags of fertilizer into the truck and then completed the assembly of the bomb later that morning at Geary Park.? In this version of events, McVeigh set off alone later that afternoon, heading south down I-35 for Oklahoma.? He parked the Ryder truck for the night near Ponca City, Oklahoma, sleeping in the cab.

(In his alleged prison revelations to inmates, on the other hand, McVeigh reportedly said that the fertilizer had previously been loaded into a second “decoy” truck, and that two trucks–not one–were driven to Oklahoma City that afternoon.? Assembly of the bomb was said to have been completed that night at a warehouse in the Oklahoma capitol city with the help of Poindexter, McVeigh, and A.R.A. member Richard Guthrie.? In this far more dramatic version of events, related in?Secrets Worth Dying For, Poindexter was killed by a throat slashing administered by an A.R.A. member after bomb assembly was completed.? The explanation given to McVeigh for the killing: “Soldier, he was only hired help, not one of us.”)

FBI interviews provide some support for each of the conflicting stories.? The couple who own the Santa Fe Trail Diner in Herington, the site of McVeigh’s storage locker, told federal interviewers that they saw McVeigh, Nichols, and a third man who resembled John Doe #2 having breakfast in their establishment around 8 a.m. on the morning before the bombing.? Witnesses also reported seeing a Ryder truck and another pickup truck at Geary Lake an hour or two later.? Owners of a steakhouse in Perry, Oklahoma told agents they saw McVeigh and “a stocky companion” eat dinner in their restaurant around 7 in the evening.? What to make of these various sightings? We might never know exactly who assisted McVeigh in the 24 hours leading up to the dreadful events of April 19, but the McVeigh-and-McVeigh-alone theory, and the McVeigh-and-just-Nichols theory, both seem to stretch credulity.

ABC News

ABC News

The bomb consisted of about 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of ammonium nitrate (an agricultural fertilizer) and nitromethane, a motor-racing fuel.

On April 19, 1995 McVeigh drove the truck to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building just as its offices and day care center opened for the day. Prosecutors said McVeigh ran away from the truck after he ignited a timed fuse. At 9:02 a.m., a massive explosion destroyed the north half of the building. The explosion killed 168 people, and 450 were injured. Nineteen of the victims were small children in the day care center on the ground floor of the building. McVeigh did not express remorse for the deaths, what he referred to as “collateral damage”, but said he might have chosen a different target if he had known the day care center was open.

According to the Oklahoma City Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), more than 300 buildings were damaged. More than 12,000 volunteers and rescue workers took part in the rescue, recovery, and support operations following the bombing.

In reference to theories that he had assistance from others, McVeigh responded, “You can’t handle the truth. Because the truth is, I blew up the Murrah Building, and isn’t it kind of scary that one man could wreak this kind of hell?”

McVeigh's getaway vehicle parked in front of troopers' cars along an Oklahoma highway in April 1995. McVeigh awakes near Ponca City and about 7 A.M. begins driving toward Oklahoma City. About 8:50 A.M., McVeigh enters Oklahoma City. As he drives the Ryder truck up NW 5th Street shortly before 9:00, he lights two bomb fuses. He parks the truck at a drop-off point in front of the Murrah Federal Building, locks the truck, and walks quickly toward a nearby YMCA building. At 9:02 A.M., the truck explodes, taking with it much of the Murrah Building and seriously damaging many nearby buildings. Eventually, it will be determined that 167 people died, and over 500 were injured, in the explosion. McVeigh hops into his Mercury and heads north out of the city. At 10:20 A.M., while driving north on I-35 about 35 miles from the Kansas border, McVeigh is stopped by trooper Charles Hanger for having no license plates on his vehicle. He is arrested for having no vehicle registration, no license plates, and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. He is booked and lodged in the county jail in Perry, Oklahoma.

McVeigh’s getaway vehicle parked in front of troopers’ cars along an Oklahoma highway in April 1995.?McVeigh awakes near Ponca City and about 7 A.M. begins driving toward Oklahoma City. About 8:50 A.M., McVeigh enters Oklahoma City. As he drives the Ryder truck up NW 5th Street shortly before 9:00, he lights two bomb fuses. He parks the truck at a drop-off point in front of the Murrah Federal Building, locks the truck, and walks quickly toward a nearby YMCA building. At 9:02 A.M., the truck explodes, taking with it much of the Murrah Building and seriously damaging many nearby buildings. ?McVeigh hops into his Mercury and heads north out of the city. At 10:20 A.M., while driving north on I-35 about 35 miles from the Kansas border, McVeigh is stopped by trooper Charles Hanger for having no license plates on his vehicle. He is arrested for having no vehicle registration, no license plates, and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. He is booked and lodged in the county jail in Perry, Oklahoma.

By tracing the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of a rear axle found in the wreckage, the FBI identified a vehicle as a Ryder Rental Junction City agency truck. Workers at the agency assisted an FBI artist in creating a sketch of the renter, who had used the alias “Robert Kling”. The sketch was shown in the area. That day manager Lea McGown of the Dreamland Hotel identified the sketch as Timothy McVeigh.

Shortly after the bombing, while driving on I-35 in Noble County, near Perry, Oklahoma, McVeigh was stopped by Oklahoma State Trooper Charles J. Hanger from Pawnee, Oklahoma. Hanger had passed McVeigh’s yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis and noticed that it had no license plate. While questioning McVeigh, he noticed a bulge under his jacket and ended up arresting him for carrying a loaded firearm; McVeigh’s concealed weapon permit was not legal in Oklahoma.

McVeigh was wearing a T-shirt at that time with a picture of Abraham Lincoln and the motto:sic semper tyrannis, the state motto of Virginia, and also the words shouted by John Wilkes Booth after he shot Lincoln. The translation:?Thus, always, to tyrants. On the back, it had a tree with a picture of three blood droplets and the Thomas Jefferson quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Three days later, while still in jail, McVeigh was identified as the subject of the nationwide manhunt.

Charlie Hanger, the retired trooper who arrested Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on a traffic stop. Wednesday, April 19, 1995, was a cool spring morning. He woke up as usual, put on his state trooper uniform and went to work at 7 a.m. to patrol the rural roads of Noble County. He ended up stopping at turnpike headquarters and learned the Oklahoma Highway Patrol was sending units to Oklahoma City. Then he saw the TV and noticed that one-third of the Murrah building was gone, calling it a ?terrible sight.? ?Not once did I think it was a terrorist attack ? not in the heartland,? he said.

Charlie Hanger, the retired trooper who arrested Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh on a traffic stop. Wednesday, April 19, 1995, was a cool spring morning. He woke up as usual, put on his state trooper uniform and went to work at 7 a.m. to patrol the rural roads of Noble County. He ended up stopping at turnpike headquarters and learned the Oklahoma Highway Patrol was sending units to Oklahoma City. Then he saw the TV and noticed that one-third of the Murrah building was gone, calling it a ?terrible sight.? ?Not once did I think it was a terrorist attack ? not in the heartland,? he said.

The national humanitarian response was immediate and, in some cases, even overwhelming. Rescue workers received large amounts of donated goods such as wheelbarrows, bottled water, rain gear, and even football helmets. The sheer number of donated goods caused logistical and inventory control problems until drop-off centres were set up to accept and sort the goods. The Oklahoma Restaurant Association, which was holding a trade show in the city, assisted rescue workers by providing 15,000 to 20,000 meals over a ten-day period. Requests for blood donations were met by local residents Of the 9,000 units of blood donated to the victims, only 131 units were used, the rest saved in blood banks.

In the wake of the bombing, the national media seized upon the fact that 19 of the victims had been children. Schools across the country were dismissed early and ordered closed. A photograph of firefighter Chris Fields emerging from the rubble with infant Baylee Almon, who later died in a nearby hospital, was reprinted worldwide and became a symbol of the attack. The images and thoughts of children dying terrorized many children who, as demonstrated by later research, showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hundreds of news trucks and members of the press arrived at the site to cover the story. The press immediately noticed that the bombing took place on the second anniversary of the Waco incident.

oklahoma-city-bombing

On August 10, 1995, McVeigh was indicted on 11 federal counts, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by explosives, and eight counts of first-degree murder. On October 20, 1995, the government filed notice that it would seek the death penalty.

On June 2, 1997, McVeigh was found guilty on all 11 counts of the federal indictment.

On June 13, 1997, the jury recommended that McVeigh receive the death penalty. The U.S. Department of Justice brought federal charges against McVeigh for causing the deaths of the eight federal officers leading to a possible death penalty for McVeigh; it could not bring charges against McVeigh for the remaining 160 murders in federal court because those deaths fell under the jurisdiction of the state of Oklahoma. Because McVeigh was convicted and sentenced to death, the State of Oklahoma did not file murder charges against McVeigh for the other 160 deaths.

In addition to McVeigh, Terry Nichols was convicted and sentenced in federal court to life in prison for his role in the crime. At Nichols’ trial, evidence was presented indicating that others may have been involved. 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 on April 18, 1995, but left after a group of surly men looked at him aggressively. The operator of the 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. Testimony suggested that McVeigh may have had several other accomplices, but no other individuals have been indicted for the bombing.

Despite an emotional last-minute plea from his parents, Timothy James McVeigh was sentenced to death for his role in the worst case of terrorism in U.S. history — the Oklahoma City bombing.

The seven-man, five-woman panel unanimously chose death by lethal injection for the 29-year-old Gulf War veteran, after deliberating for 11 hours over two days. Anything less than a unanimous verdict would have meant life in prison without parole. The jury also could have opted to send the case back to the judge and let him determine the sentence.

The same federal jury who sentenced McVeigh convicted him of murder and conspiracy in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building that killed 168 people.

He was tried for conspiracy to commit the attack and for the deaths of eight federal law agents who were in the building when a massive diesel fuel-fertilizer bomb ripped the front off the nine-story building. Jurors never heard from McVeigh himself during the four-day penalty phase of the trial. Instead, 27 witnesses were called to portray him as a friendly child and first-rate soldier who left the Gulf War disillusioned and restless. Supporting a contention made by the prosecution, the defense argued that the 1993 siege near Waco, Texas, became a source of bitter anger for McVeigh. About 80 members of the Branch Davidian cult were killed during a federal assault exactly two years before the Oklahoma blast.

Prosecutors, citing vivid testimony from blast survivors and victims, argued that the blast was so lethal and destructive that McVeigh deserved death. Several prosecution witnesses brought jurors to tears with their accounts of mayhem, heroism and random death in Oklahoma City.

Although all of the jurors, before they were selected, told the court they would be willing to consider the death penalty, Colorado juries have tended to be reluctant to sentence defendants to death.

Timothy McVeigh, the American terrorist behind the Oklahoma City bombing, was put to death in Indiana by lethal injection at the age of 33. He was sentenced to death for 168 counts of murder. For his last meal, McVeigh requested two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Photo CBS News

Timothy McVeigh, the American terrorist behind the Oklahoma City bombing, was put to death in Indiana by lethal injection at the age of 33. He was sentenced to death for 168 counts of murder. For his last meal, McVeigh requested two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Photo CBS News

Last / Special Meal:

Two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream

Final Words:
McVeigh made no final remarks but gave witnesses a handwritten copy of English poet William Ernest Henley’s 1875 poem, “Invictus”:

“In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed…” “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

The 33-year-old mass murderer could not see the families of his victims. Maybe, they hoped, he would feel their presence. Ronald Brown of Keystone Heights, near Gainesville, was one of the 10 survivors or relatives of McVeigh’s 168 victims chosen by lottery to attend the execution in Terre Haute, Ind. “I had one thing on my mind,” said Brown, 37, who lost his father-in-law, Robert Westberry, in the blast. “And that was to get through this.”

When Brown caught sight of McVeigh, the killer was dressed in a white shirt and khaki pants, an IV already inserted in his right leg. Warden Harley Lappin, standing with his arms crossed, almost at attention, asked McVeigh if he had any final words.

There was a one-minute pause. McVeigh’s head remained fixed, his eyes still staring in the camera, rarely blinking. “He could not see us, but I was pretty sure he knew what window he was looking into,” Brown said. “He looked toward us first — nonchalant, like — and then nodded at his attorneys.”

Strapped to a gray padded execution table inside the federal government’s sterile, sea green-tiled death chamber, McVeigh received a lethal combination of drugs that rendered him unconscious, arrested his breathing, and stopped his heart.

The witnesses pressed their faces to the glass wall of the death chamber, holding photos of their loved ones as they faced Timothy McVeigh just a few feet away. They could see McVeigh as he lay strapped to a gurney, wrapped in a sheet, waiting to die.

They watched the fluids flow into his body, and they saw the colour of his face change as his life slowly ebbed away.

He died with his eyes open.

In minutes, the small-town boy who became an army of one and ultimately Americas worst mass murderer was forever silenced.

Survivors and family members took solace in McVeigh’s death. Janice Smith, whose 46-year-old brother, Lanny Scroggins, died in the bombing, prayed with her children at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, then left after getting word that McVeigh was dead. “It’s over,” she said. “We don’t have to continue with him anymore.” Earlier, a silent vigil began without fanfare — 168 minutes, one minute for each victim killed in the tragedy.

McVeigh’s execution was witnessed by 10 survivors and victims’ relatives from the bombing of Oklahoma City’s Murrah federal building. Meanwhile, about 600 miles away, an estimated 300 people gathered in a large, square room of a federal prisoner transfer facility near Will Rogers World Airport to watch the execution unfold on a large video screen.

McVeigh was permitted to choose six witnesses and selected five: his lawyers, Robert Nigh Jr. and Nathan Chambers; Cate McCauley, a former member of his defense team; and Buffalo (N.Y.) News reporter and biographer Lou Michel. A fifth witness, author Gore Vidal, announced he could not attend.

The execution took place inside the federal government’s death chamber at Terre Haute’s sprawling, red-brick U.S. penitentiary complex.

Three months after his execution, on September 11, 2001, McVeigh lost his claim to having masterminded the worst terrorist attack in United States history when hijacked airplanes slammed into the two towers of the World Trade Centre.

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