Oklahoma City Bombing

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On the morning of April 19, 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. By official figures, 168 people died[1]Until the September 11th attacks in 2001, this was the deadlist terrorist incident in the United States. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were convicted for their parts in the bombing, and Michael Fortier pled guilty after cooperating with the prosecution.

The Bombing

On the days leading up to April 19th, McVeigh and Nichols filled a rented Ryder truck with approximately 5000 pounds of a fuel oil and fertilizer mixture. On the morning of April 19th, Timothy McVeigh drove the truck into downtown Oklahoma City, parking it directly in front of the Murrah Federal Building. At 9:02 am, the bomb detonated, collapsing the front facade of the federal building and severly damaging several surrounding buildings. The explosion could be heard and felt several miles away.

McVeigh intended to avenge the deaths among the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, a third of which were members of minority groups, including 30 blacks, as well as 6 Hispanics and 7 Asians and including a number of interracial marriages. [2] Despite widespread allegations spread through the mainstream media sourced to anti-racist watchdogs groups of racial motivations behind the bombings, Nichols himself was married to a Philippine national. McVeigh had been politically profiled in Brandon Stickney's All-American Monster - The Unauthorized Biography of Timothy McVeigh, allegations which were responded to in an article by Lawrence W. Myers in Media Bypass magazine. [3]

On the day of the bombing, the brown pickup truck was apparently found and cleared, and an additional set of sketches were released, of Johns Doe #1 and #2. These sketches were apparently based on witness reports from the Ryder shop where the truck was rented; the truck had been identified by its VIN found on an axle.

Arrests

Ninety minutes after the explosion, Timothy McVeigh was pulled over by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer for driving a car without a license plate. During the stop, a weapon was discovered, and McVeigh was booked into jail on a weapons charge. Before he was released, he was identified as John Doe #1 in the sketches and was taken into federal custody. Terry Nichols, a known friend of McVeigh's, turned himself in soon afterwards. One of the most extensive FBI investigations ever undertaken has failed to implicate any militia group or any group of any kind. The FBI agent in charge of the Oklahoma City Bombing Task Force recently said:

The investigation, as thorough as it was, was not able to identify other individuals involved other than those who admitted their knowledge or were convicted through two trials. [4]

Charges, Trials, Convictions, and Punishment

McVeigh was charged in Federal court with 8 counts of murder of federal officers, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, and destroying government property via explosive[5]. To avoid a contaminated jury pool, the trial was held in Denver. On June 3, 1997, McVeigh was convicted of all charges.[6] He was sentenced to death and the sentence was carried out on June 11, 2001 by lethal injection in Terre Haute, Indiana[7].

Terry Nichols was convicted of Federal charges of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and 8 counts of involuntary manslaughter of federal officers. He was sentended to life without the possibility of parole. In 2004, he was found guilty on state charges of 161 counts of first degree murder, but the jury deadlocked on sentencing. The judge imposed 161 a sentence of 161 consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole.

Micheal Fortier testified against McVeigh in exchange for a light charge and sentence; he pled guilty to a single charge of failing to warn authorities about the attack and was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $200,000. In January 2006 he was released into the Witness Protection program. Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy by Stephen Jones and Peter Israel

John Doe #2 has never been officially identified; the current FBI theory appears to be that he was an unrelated person who happened to be at the Ryder office about the same time McVeigh was.

Memorial

The site of the Murrah building was converted into a memorial for those who had died. Its most striking feature is 168 chairs, one for each of the deceased.


References

  1. There's an open question about a possible 169th victim. See Others Unknown.
  2. David B. Kopel and Paul H. Blackman, No More Wacos: What’s Wrong With Federal Law Enforcement and How To Fix It, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1997, 409-411.
  3. Lawrence W. Myers, Tim McVeigh: An Interview, Media Bypass, February 1996, pg. 36.
  4. Diana Baldwin, Some Still Hunt For John Doe 2, Sunday Oklahoman, 13 December 1998, A-8.
  5. http://www.oscn.net/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=151372
  6. http://www.rickross.com/reference/mcveigh/mcveigh14.html
  7. http://www.newsok.com/article/701218/

Sources and additional reading

The Daily Oklahoman's archive of their coverage
The decision in McVeigh's appeal
The memorial