Timothy McVeigh

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Timothy McVeigh
McVeigh mugshot.jpg
FBI mugshot of McVeigh in 1995.
Timothy James McVeigh

(1968-04-23)April 23, 1968
DiedJune 11, 2001(2001-06-11) (aged 33)
Cause of deathExecution by lethal injection
Nationality American
Other namesTim Tuttle [1]
Daryl Bridges [2]
Robert Kling
Occupation U.S. Army veteran, security guard
Criminal statusExecuted
MotiveAnti-government sentiment
Retaliation for the Ruby Ridge, Waco siege, other government raids and U.S. foreign policy
Conviction(s) Use of a weapon of mass destruction
Conspiracy use of a weapon of mass destruction
Destructive use of explosives or incendiary devices
8 counts of first-degree murder of 8 federal law enforcement officers
160 counts of first-degree murder
Criminal penalty Death by lethal injection
Partner(s) Terry Nichols
Michael Fortier
DateApril 19, 1995
9:02 a.m. (CDT)
Location(s) Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Target(s)Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, housing Federal government
Killed168 [3]
WeaponAmmonium nitrate and nitromethane truck bomb

Timothy James McVeigh (April 23, 1968 June 11, 2001) was an American domestic terrorist who perpetrated the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people and injured over 680 others. [4] [5] The bombing was the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States prior to the September 11 attacks, and remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in United States history.

Domestic terrorism or homegrown terrorism is terrorism targeting victims "within a country by a perpetrator with the same citizenship" as the victims. There are many definitions of terrorism, and no universally accepted definition. The United States Department of State defined terrorism in 2003 as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience."

Oklahoma City bombing 1995 terrorist attack

The Oklahoma City bombing was a domestic terrorist truck bombing on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States on April 19, 1995. Perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing happened at 9:02 am and killed at least 168 people, injured more than 680 others, and destroyed one-third of the building. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage. Extensive rescue efforts were undertaken by local, state, federal, and worldwide agencies in the wake of the bombing, and substantial donations were received from across the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated 11 of its Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, consisting of 665 rescue workers who assisted in rescue and recovery operations. Until the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United States, and remains the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in the country's history.

September 11 attacks Attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001

The September 11 attacks were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Additional people died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks.


A Gulf War veteran, McVeigh sought revenge against the federal government for the 1993 Waco siege, which ended in the deaths of 86 people—many of whom were children—exactly two years before the bombing; the 1992 Ruby Ridge incident; and the United States' foreign policy. He hoped to inspire a revolt against the federal government, and defended the bombing as a legitimate tactic against what he saw as a tyrannical federal government. [6] He was arrested shortly after the bombing and indicted for eleven federal offenses, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction. He was found guilty on all counts in 1997 and sentenced to death. [7]

Gulf War 1990–1991 war between Iraq and Coalition Forces

The Gulf War, codenamed Operation Desert Shield for operations leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm in its combat phase, was a war waged by coalition forces from 35 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait arising from oil pricing and production disputes. The war is also known under other names, such as the Persian Gulf War, First Gulf War, Gulf War I, Kuwait War, First Iraq War or Iraq War, before the term "Iraq War" became identified instead with the post-2003 Iraq War.

Waco siege conflict

The Waco siege was the siege of a compound belonging to the religious sect Branch Davidians, carried out by American federal and Texas state law enforcement, as well as the U.S. military, between February 28 and April 19, 1993. The Branch Davidians were led by David Koresh and were headquartered at Mount Carmel Center ranch in the community of Axtell, Texas, 13 miles east-northeast of Waco. Suspecting the group of stockpiling illegal weapons, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) obtained a search warrant for the compound and arrest warrants for Koresh and a select few of the group's members.

Ruby Ridge standoff in Idaho in 1992

Ruby Ridge was the site of an eleven-day siege near Naples, Idaho, U.S., beginning on August 21, 1992, when Randy Weaver, members of his immediate family, and family friend Kevin Harris resisted agents of the United States Marshals Service (USMS) and the Hostage Rescue Team of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Following a Marshals Service reconnoiter of the Weaver property pursuant to a bench warrant for Weaver after his failure to appear on firearms charges, an initial encounter between six US marshals and the Weavers resulted in a shootout and the deaths of Deputy US Marshal William Francis Degan, age 42, the Weavers' son Samuel (Sammy), age 14, and the Weaver's family dog (Striker). In the subsequent siege of the Weaver residence, led by the FBI, Weaver's 43-year-old wife Vicki was killed by FBI sniper fire. All casualties occurred on the first two days of the operation. The siege and stand-off were ultimately resolved by civilian negotiators, with the surrender and arrest of Kevin Harris on August 30, and the surrender of Randy Weaver and the surviving Weaver children the next day.

McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. His execution was carried out in a considerably shorter time than most inmates awaiting the death penalty; most convicts on death row in the United States spend an average of fifteen years there. Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier were also convicted as conspirators in the plot. Nichols was sentenced to eight life terms for the deaths of eight federal agents, and to 161 life terms without parole by the state of Oklahoma for the deaths of the others. Fortier was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment and has since been released.

Lethal injection form of execution

Lethal injection is the practice of injecting one or more drugs into a person for the express purpose of causing immediate death. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broader sense to include euthanasia and other forms of suicide. The drugs cause the person to become unconscious, stops their breathing, and causes a heart arrhythmia, in that order.

Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute United States federal prison complex

The Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute is a United States federal prison complex for male inmates in Terre Haute, Indiana. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice, and consists of two facilities:

Capital punishment in the United States Legal penalty in the United States

Capital punishment is a legal penalty in the United States, currently used by 29 states, the federal government, and the military. Its existence can be traced to the beginning of the American colonies. The United States is the only developed Western nation that applies the death penalty regularly. It is one of 54 countries worldwide applying it, and was the first to develop lethal injection as a method of execution, which has since been adopted by five other countries. The Philippines has since abolished executions, and Guatemala has done so for civil offenses, leaving the United States one of 4 countries to use this method, along with China, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Early life

Timothy McVeigh was born on April 23, 1968 in Lockport, New York, the only son and the second of three children of Irish Americans [8] Mildred "Mickey" Noreen (née Hill) and William McVeigh. [1] His parents divorced when he was ten years old, and he was raised by his father in Pendleton, New York. [1] [9]

Lockport (city), New York City in New York, United States

Lockport is a city and the county seat of Niagara County, New York, surrounded by the town of Lockport. The population was 21,165 at the 2010 census, with an estimated population of 20,480 as of 2016. It is named from a set of Erie Canal locks within the city. It is part of the Buffalo–Niagara Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. In order to distinguish the state from the city with the same name, it is sometimes referred to as New York State.

Pendleton, New York Town in New York, United States

Pendleton is a town on the southern edge of Niagara County, New York, United States. It is east of the city of Niagara Falls and southwest of the city of Lockport. The population was 6,397 at the 2010 census.

McVeigh claimed to have been a target of bullying at school, and he took refuge in a fantasy world where he imagined retaliating against the bullies. [10] At the end of his life, he stated his belief that the United States government is the ultimate bully. [11]

Bullying Use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others

Bullying is the use of coercion, force, or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception of an imbalance of physical or social power. This imbalance distinguishes bullying from conflict. There is no universal definition of bullying. It is widely agreed upon that bullying is a subcategory of aggressive behavior characterized by the following three minimum criteria: (1) hostile intent, (2) imbalance of power, and (3) repetition over a period of time. Bullying may thus be defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Most who knew McVeigh remember him as being very shy and withdrawn, while a few described him as an outgoing and playful child who withdrew as an adolescent. McVeigh is said to have had only one girlfriend during his adolescence; he later stated to journalists that he did not have any idea how to impress girls. [12]

While in high school, McVeigh became interested in computers and hacked into government computer systems on his Commodore 64 under the handle The Wanderer, taken from the song by Dion (DiMucci). In his senior year, McVeigh was named Starpoint Central High School's "most promising computer programmer," [13] but he maintained relatively poor grades until his 1986 graduation. [1]

McVeigh was introduced to firearms by his grandfather. He told people he wanted to be a gun shop owner and sometimes took firearms to school to impress his classmates. McVeigh became intensely interested in gun rights, as well as the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, after he graduated from high school, and read magazines such as Soldier of Fortune . He briefly attended Bryant & Stratton College before dropping out. [14] [15] After dropping out of college, McVeigh worked as armored car guard and was noted by co-workers to be obsessed with guns. One co-worker recalled an instance where McVeigh came to work "looking like Pancho Villa" wearing bandoliers. [1]

Military life

In May 1988, at the age of 20, McVeigh enlisted in the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. [16] While in the military, McVeigh used much of his spare time to read about firearms, sniper tactics, and explosives. [17] McVeigh was reprimanded by the military for purchasing a "White Power" T-shirt at a Ku Klux Klan protest against black servicemen who wore "Black Power" T-shirts around a military installation (primarily Army). [18]

He was a top-scoring gunner with the 25mm cannon of the Bradley Fighting Vehicles used by his 1st Infantry Division and was eventually promoted to sergeant. After being promoted to sergeant, McVeigh earned a reputation of assigning undesirable work to black servicemen and frequently used racial slurs against them. [1] He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, before being deployed on Operation Desert Storm.

Speaking of his experience in Kuwait in an interview before his execution, documented in McVeigh's authorized biography American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the Tragedy at Oklahoma City , he stated he decapitated an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day in the war and celebrated. He said he was later 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. McVeigh received several service awards, including the Bronze Star Medal, [1] National Defense Service Medal, [19] Southwest Asia Service Medal, [20] Army Service Ribbon, [20] and the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal. [19]

McVeigh aspired to join the United States Army Special Forces (SF). After returning from the Gulf War, he entered the selection program, but washed out on the second day of the 21-day assessment and selection course for the Special Forces. McVeigh decided to leave the Army and was honorably discharged in 1991. [21]

Post-military life

McVeigh wrote letters to local newspapers complaining about taxes:

Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate "promises," they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight. [...] Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn't come to that. But it might. [22]

McVeigh also wrote to Representative John J. LaFalce ((D) New York), [23] complaining about the arrest of a woman for carrying mace:

It is a lie if we tell ourselves that the police can protect us everywhere at all times. Firearms restrictions are bad enough, but now a woman can't even carry Mace in her purse? [23]

While visiting friends in Decker, Michigan, McVeigh reportedly complained that the Army had implanted a microchip into his buttocks so that the government could keep track of him. [1] McVeigh worked long hours in a dead-end job and felt that he did not have a home. He sought romance, but his advances were rejected by a co-worker and he felt nervous around women. He believed that he brought too much pain to his loved ones. [24] He grew angry and frustrated at his difficulties in finding a girlfriend and he took up obsessive gambling. [25] Unable to pay back gambling debts, he took a cash advance and then defaulted on his repayments. He then began looking for a state without heavy government regulation or high taxes. He became enraged when the government told him that he had been overpaid $1,058 while in the Army and he had to pay back the money. He wrote an angry letter to the government inviting them to:

Go ahead, take everything I own; take my dignity. Feel good as you grow fat and rich at my expense; sucking my tax dollars and property. [26]

McVeigh introduced his sister to anti-government literature, but his father had little interest in these views. He moved out of his father's house and into an apartment that had no telephone, which had the advantage of making it impossible for his employer to contact him for overtime assignments. He also quit the NRA, viewing its stance on gun rights as too weak. [27]

1993 Waco siege and gun shows

In 1993, he drove to Waco, Texas, during the Waco siege to show his support. At the scene, he distributed pro-gun rights literature and bumper stickers bearing slogans such as, "When guns are outlawed, I will become an outlaw." He told a student reporter:

The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control. [28] [29]

For the five months following the Waco siege, McVeigh worked at gun shows and handed out free cards printed up with Lon Horiuchi's name and address, "in the hope that somebody in the Patriot movement would assassinate the sharpshooter." Horiuchi is an FBI sniper and some of his official actions have drawn controversy, specifically his shooting and killing of Randy Weaver's wife while she held an infant child. He wrote hate mail to the sniper, suggesting that "what goes around, comes around". McVeigh later considered putting aside his plan to target the Murrah Building to target Horiuchi or a member of his family instead. [30]

McVeigh became a fixture on the gun show circuit, traveling to forty states and visiting about eighty gun shows. McVeigh found that the further west he went, the more anti-government sentiment he encountered, at least until he got to what he called "The People's Socialist Republic of California." [31] McVeigh sold survival items and copies of The Turner Diaries . One author said:

In the gun show culture, McVeigh found a home. Though he remained skeptical of some of the most extreme ideas being bandied around, he liked talking to people there about the United Nations, the federal government, and possible threats to American liberty. [32]

Arizona with Fortier

McVeigh had a road atlas with hand-drawn designations of the most likely places for nuclear attacks and considered buying property in Seligman, Arizona, which he determined to be in a "nuclear-free zone." McVeigh lived with Michael Fortier in Kingman, Arizona, and they became so close that he served as best man at Fortier's wedding. McVeigh experimented with cannabis and methamphetamine after first researching their effects in an encyclopedia. [33] He was never as interested in drugs as Fortier was, and one of the reasons they parted ways was McVeigh's boredom with Fortier's drug habits. [34]

With Nichols, Waco siege, radicalization and first explosive devices

In April 1993, McVeigh headed for a farm in Michigan where Terry Nichols lived. In between watching coverage of the Waco siege on TV, Nichols and his brother began teaching McVeigh how to make explosives out of readily available materials; specifically, they combined household chemicals in plastic jugs. The destruction of the Waco compound enraged McVeigh and convinced him that it was time to take action. Particularly, the government's use of CS gas on women and children angered McVeigh; he had been exposed to the gas as part of his military training and was familiar with its effects. The disappearance of certain evidence, [35] such as the bullet-riddled steel-reinforced front door to the complex, led him to suspect a cover-up.

McVeigh's anti-government rhetoric became more radical. He began to sell Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) hats riddled with bullet holes and a flare gun, which, he said, could shoot down an "ATF helicopter". [7] [36] He produced videos detailing the government's actions at Waco and handed out pamphlets with titles like "U.S. Government Initiates Open Warfare Against American People" and "Waco Shootout Evokes Memory of Warsaw '43." He began changing his answering machine greeting every couple of weeks to various quotes by Patrick Henry such as "Give me liberty or give me death." [37] He began experimenting with pipe bombs and other small explosive devices. The government also imposed new firearms restrictions in 1994 that McVeigh believed threatened his livelihood. [34]

McVeigh dissociated himself from his boyhood friend Steve Hodge by sending him a 23-page farewell letter. He proclaimed his devotion to the United States Declaration of Independence, explaining in detail what each sentence meant to him. McVeigh declared that:

Those who betray or subvert the Constitution are guilty of sedition and/or treason, are domestic enemies and should and will be punished accordingly.

It also stands to reason that anyone who sympathizes with the enemy or gives aid or comfort to said enemy is likewise guilty. I have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic and I will. And I will because not only did I swear to, but I believe in what it stands for in every bit of my heart, soul and being. I know in my heart that I am right in my struggle, Steve. 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.[ citation needed ]

McVeigh felt the need to personally reconnoiter sites of rumored conspiracies. He visited Area 51 in order to defy government restrictions on photography and went to Gulfport, Mississippi to determine the veracity of rumors about United Nations operations. These turned out to be false; the Russian vehicles on the site were being configured for use in U.N.-sponsored humanitarian aid efforts. Around this time, McVeigh and Nichols also began making bulk purchases of ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer, for resale to survivalists, since rumors were circulating that the government was preparing to ban it. [38]

Plan against federal building or individuals

McVeigh told Fortier of his plans to blow up a federal building, but Fortier declined to participate. Fortier also told his wife about the plans. [39] McVeigh composed two letters to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the first titled "Constitutional Defenders" and the second "ATF Read." He denounced government officials as "fascist tyrants" and "storm troopers" and warned:

ATF, all you tyrannical people will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous actions against the Constitution of the United States. Remember the Nuremberg War Trials. [2]

McVeigh also wrote a letter of recruitment to a customer named Steve Colbern:

A man with nothing left to lose is a very dangerous man and his energy/anger can be focused toward a common/righteous goal. What I'm asking you to do, then, is sit back and be honest with yourself. Do you have kids/wife? Would you back out at the last minute to care for the family? Are you interested in keeping your firearms for their current/future monetary value, or would you drag that '06 through rock, swamp and cactus... to get off the needed shot? In short, I'm not looking for talkers, I'm looking for fighters... And if you are a fed, think twice. Think twice about the Constitution you are supposedly enforcing (isn't "enforcing freedom" an oxymoron?) and think twice about catching us with our guard down – you will lose just like Degan did and your family will lose. [40]

McVeigh began announcing that he had progressed from the "propaganda" phase to the "action" phase. He wrote to his Michigan friend Gwenda Strider, "I have certain other 'militant' talents that are in short supply and greatly demanded." [41]

McVeigh later said he considered "a campaign of individual assassination," with "eligible" targets including Attorney General Janet Reno, Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Federal District Court, who handled the Branch Davidian trial, and Lon Horiuchi, a member of the FBI hostage-rescue team who shot and killed Vicki Weaver in a standoff at a remote cabin at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992. [42] He said he wanted Reno to accept "full responsibility in deed, not just words." [43] Such an assassination seemed too difficult, [44] and he decided that since federal agents had become soldiers, it was necessary to strike against them at their command centers. [45] According to McVeigh's authorized biography, he ultimately decided that he would make the loudest statement by bombing a federal building. After the bombing, he was ambivalent about his act; as he expressed in letters to his hometown newspaper, he sometimes wished he had carried out a series of assassinations against police and government officials instead. [46]

Oklahoma City bombing

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building two days after the Oklahoma City bombing Oklahomacitybombing-DF-ST-98-01356.jpg
The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building two days after the Oklahoma City bombing

Working at a lakeside campground near McVeigh's old Army post, he and Nichols constructed an ANNM explosive device mounted in the back of a rented Ryder truck. The bomb consisted of about 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane.

On April 19, 1995, McVeigh drove the truck to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building just as its offices opened for the day. Before arriving, he stopped to light a two-minute fuse. At 09:02, a large explosion destroyed the north half of the building. It killed 168 people, including nineteen children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others. [47]

McVeigh said that he had no knowledge that the federal offices ran a daycare center on the second floor of the building, and that he might have chosen a different target if he had known about it. [48] [49] Nichols said that he and McVeigh knew there was a daycare center in the building, and that they did not care. [50] [51]

McVeigh's biographers, Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, quote McVeigh, with whom they spoke for 75 hours, on his attitude to the victims:

To these people in Oklahoma who have lost a loved one, I'm sorry but it happens every day. You're not the first mother to lose a kid, or the first grandparent to lose a grandson or a granddaughter. It happens every day, somewhere in the world. I'm not going to go into that courtroom, curl into a fetal ball and cry just because the victims want me to do that.

During an interview with Ed Bradley for television news magazine 60 Minutes in 2000, Bradley asked McVeigh for his reaction to the deaths of the nineteen children. McVeigh stated:

I thought it was terrible that there were children in the building. [52]

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 quoted a well-known line from the film A Few Good Men , "You can't handle the truth!" and added "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?" [53]

Arrest, trial, conviction and sentencing

FBI forensic sketch of McVeigh, and his FBI mugshot Aa McVeigh sketch and pic.jpg
FBI forensic sketch of McVeigh, and his FBI mugshot

By tracing the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of a rear axle found in the wreckage, the FBI identified the vehicle as a Ryder Rental box truck rented from Junction City, Kansas. 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. Lea McGown, manager of the local Dreamland Motel, identified the sketch as Timothy McVeigh. [54] [55]

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. [56] Hanger had passed McVeigh's yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis and noticed that it had no license plate. McVeigh admitted to the state trooper (who noticed a bulge under his jacket) that he had a gun and McVeigh was subsequently arrested for having driven without plates and illegal firearm possession; 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 ('Thus always to tyrants'), the supposed words shouted by John Wilkes Booth after he shot Lincoln. [57] 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." [58] Three days later, while still in jail, McVeigh was identified as the subject of the nationwide manhunt.

McVeigh about to be led out of a Perry, Oklahoma, courthouse two days after the Oklahoma City bombing TimothyMcVeighPerryOKApr2195.jpg
McVeigh about to be led out of a Perry, Oklahoma, courthouse two days after the Oklahoma City bombing

On August 10, 1995, McVeigh was indicted on eleven federal counts, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction with the use of explosives and eight counts of first-degree murder. [59]

On February 20, 1996, the Court granted a change of venue and ordered that the case be transferred from Oklahoma City to the U.S. District Court in Denver, Colorado, to be presided over by U.S. District Judge Richard Paul Matsch. [60]

McVeigh instructed his lawyers to use a necessity defense, but they ended up not doing so, [61] because they would have had to prove that McVeigh was in "imminent danger" from the government. (McVeigh himself argued that "imminent" did not necessarily mean "immediate.") They would have argued that his bombing of the Murrah building was a justifiable response to what McVeigh believed were the crimes of the U.S. government at Waco, Texas, where the 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian complex resulted in the deaths of 76 Branch Davidians. [62] As part of the defense, McVeigh's lawyers showed the jury the controversial video Waco, the Big Lie . [63]

On June 2, 1997, McVeigh was found guilty on all eleven counts of the federal indictment. [64] After the verdict, McVeigh tried to calm his mother by saying, "Think of it this way. When I was in the Army, you didn't see me for years. Think of me that way now, like I'm away in the Army again, on an assignment for the military." [65]

On June 13, 1997, the jury recommended that McVeigh receive the death penalty. [66] The U.S. Department of Justice brought federal charges against McVeigh for causing the deaths of eight federal officers leading to a possible death penalty for McVeigh; they 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. [67] Before the sentence was formally pronounced by Judge Matsch, McVeigh addressed the court for the first time and said:

If the Court please, I wish to use the words of Justice Brandeis dissenting in Olmstead to speak for me. He wrote, 'Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.' That's all I have. [68]

Incarceration and execution

Florence ADMAX USP, where McVeigh was incarcerated Florence ADMAX.jpg
Florence ADMAX USP, where McVeigh was incarcerated

During his incarceration, McVeigh was issued Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) register number 12076-064. [69] McVeigh's death sentence was delayed pending an appeal. One of his appeals for certiorari , taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, was denied on March 8, 1999. McVeigh's request for a nationally televised execution was also denied. An Internet company also unsuccessfully sued for the right to broadcast it. [70] [71] At ADX Florence, McVeigh and Nichols were housed in "Bomber's Row", the same cell block as Ted Kaczynski, Luis Felipe and Ramzi Yousef. Yousef made frequent, unsuccessful attempts to convert McVeigh to Islam. [72]

McVeigh said:

I am sorry these people had to lose their lives, but that's the nature of the beast. It's understood going in what the human toll will be. [73]

He said that if there turned out to be an afterlife, he would "improvise, adapt and overcome", [73] noting:

If there is a hell, then I'll be in good company with a lot of fighter pilots who also had to bomb innocents to win the war. [74]

He also said:

I knew I wanted this before it happened. I knew my objective was state-assisted suicide and when it happens, it's in your face. You just did something you're trying to say should be illegal for medical personnel. [71]

United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, the site of the federal death row for men and the federal execution chamber TerreHauteUSP.jpg
United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, the site of the federal death row for men and the federal execution chamber
Death Certificate of Timothy McVeigh Timothy McVeighDeathCert.gif
Death Certificate of Timothy McVeigh

The BOP transferred McVeigh from ADX Florence to the federal death row at United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1999. [75]

McVeigh dropped his remaining appeals, saying that he would rather die than spend the rest of his life in prison. [76] On January 16, 2001 the Federal Bureau of Prisons set May 16, 2001, as McVeigh's execution date. [77] McVeigh stated that his only regret was not completely destroying the federal building. [78] Six days prior to his scheduled execution, the FBI turned over thousands of documents of evidence it had previously withheld to McVeigh's attorneys. As a result, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced McVeigh's execution would be stayed for one month. [76]

The execution date was reset for June 11, 2001. McVeigh invited California conductor/composer David Woodard to perform pre-requiem Mass music on the eve of his execution. He requested a Catholic chaplain. He requested two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream for his last meal. [79]

McVeigh chose William Ernest Henley's poem "Invictus" as his final statement. [80] [81] Just before the execution, when he was asked if he had a final statement, he declined. Jay Sawyer, a relative of one of the victims, wrote, "Without saying a word, he got the final word." Larry Whicher, whose brother died in the attack, described McVeigh as having "a totally expressionless, blank stare. He had a look of defiance and that if he could, he'd do it all over again." [82]

McVeigh was executed by lethal injection at 7:14 a.m. on June 11, 2001, at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, the first federal prisoner to be executed by the United States federal government since Victor Feguer was executed in Iowa on March 15, 1963.

On November 21, 1997, President Bill Clinton had signed S. 923, special legislation introduced by Senator Arlen Specter to bar McVeigh and other veterans convicted of capital crimes from being buried in any military cemetery. [83] [84] [85] His body was cremated at Mattox Ryan Funeral Home in Terre Haute. His ashes were given to his lawyer, who "said that the final destination of McVeigh's remains would remain privileged forever." McVeigh had written that he considered having them dropped at the site of the memorial where the building once stood, but decided that would be "too vengeful, too raw, too cold." [6] He had expressed willingness to donate organs, but was prohibited from doing so by prison regulations. [46]

Psychiatrist John Smith concluded that McVeigh was "a decent person who had allowed rage to build up inside him to the point that he had lashed out in one terrible, violent act." [12] McVeigh's IQ was assessed at 126. [86]


According to CNN, his only known associations were as a registered Republican while in Buffalo, New York, in the 1980s, and a membership in the National Rifle Association while in the Army, and there is no evidence that he ever belonged to any extremist groups. [87]

Religious beliefs

McVeigh was raised Roman Catholic. [88] During his childhood, he and his father attended Mass regularly. [89] McVeigh was confirmed at the Good Shepherd Church in Pendleton, New York, in 1985. [90] In a 1996 interview, McVeigh professed belief in "a God", although he said he had "sort of lost touch with" Catholicism and "I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs." [88] In McVeigh's biography American Terrorist, released in 2002, he stated that he did not believe in a hell and that science is his religion. [91] [92] In June 2001, a day before the execution, McVeigh wrote a letter to the Buffalo News identifying himself as agnostic. However, he took the Last Rites, administered by a priest, just before his execution. [93] [94] [95] [96] [97] [98] Father Charles Smith ministered to McVeigh in his last moments in death row. [99]

Motivations for the bombing

"Why? McVeigh told us at eloquent length, but our rulers and their media preferred to depict him as a sadistic, crazed monster ... who had done it for the kicks".

Gore Vidal, 2002 [49]

McVeigh claimed that the bombing was revenge against the government for the sieges at Waco and Ruby Ridge. [100] McVeigh visited Waco during the standoff. While there, he was interviewed by student reporter Michelle Rauch, a senior journalism major at Southern Methodist University who was writing for the school paper. McVeigh expressed his objections over what was happening there. [87] [101]

McVeigh frequently quoted and alluded to the white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries ; he claimed to appreciate its interest in firearms. Photocopies of pages sixty-one and sixty-two of The Turner Diaries were found in an envelope inside McVeigh's car. These pages depicted a fictitious mortar attack upon the U.S. Capitol in Washington. [102]

In a 1,200-word essay [103] dated March 1998, from the federal maximum-security prison at Florence, Colorado, McVeigh claimed that the terrorist bombing was "morally equivalent" to U.S. military actions against Iraq and other foreign countries. The handwritten essay, submitted to and published by the alternative national news magazine Media Bypass, was distributed worldwide by the Associated Press on May 29, 1998. This was written in the midst of the 1998 Iraq disarmament crisis and a few months before Operation Desert Fox.

The administration has said that Iraq has no right to stockpile chemical or biological weapons ("weapons of mass destruction") — mainly because they have used them in the past.

Well, if that's the standard by which these matters are decided, then the U.S. is the nation that set the precedent. The U.S. has stockpiled these same weapons (and more) for over 40 years. The U.S. claims this was done for deterrent purposes during its "Cold War" with the Soviet Union. Why, then, it is invalid for Iraq to claim the same reason (deterrence) with respect to Iraq's (real) war with, and the continued threat of, its neighbor Iran?

The administration claims that Iraq has used these weapons in the past. We've all seen the pictures that show a Kurdish woman and child frozen in death from the use of chemical weapons. But, have you ever seen those pictures juxtaposed next to pictures from Hiroshima or Nagasaki?

I suggest that one study the histories of World War I, World War II and other "regional conflicts" that the U.S. has been involved in to familiarize themselves with the use of "weapons of mass destruction."

Remember Dresden? How about Hanoi? Tripoli? Baghdad? What about the big ones — Hiroshima and Nagasaki? (At these two locations, the U.S. killed at least 150,000 non-combatants — mostly women and children — in the blink of an eye. Thousands more took hours, days, weeks or months to die).

If Saddam is such a demon, and people are calling for war crimes charges and trials against him and his nation, why do we not hear the same cry for blood directed at those responsible for even greater amounts of "mass destruction" — like those responsible and involved in dropping bombs on the cities mentioned above?

The truth is, the U.S. has set the standard when it comes to the stockpiling and use of weapons of mass destruction.

The essay, which marked the first time that McVeigh publicly discussed the Oklahoma City bombing, continued:

Hypocrisy when it comes to the death of children? In Oklahoma City, it was family convenience that explained the presence of a day-care center placed between street level and the law enforcement agencies which occupied the upper floors of the building. Yet, when discussion shifts to Iraq, any day-care center in a government building instantly becomes "a shield." Think about it.

When considering morality and "mens rea" [criminal intent], in light of these facts, I ask: Who are the true barbarians? ...

I find it ironic, to say the least, that one of the aircraft used to drop such a bomb on Iraq is dubbed "The Spirit of Oklahoma." This leads me to a final, and unspoken, moral hypocrisy regarding the use of weapons of mass destruction.

When a U.S. plane or cruise missile is used to bring destruction to a foreign people, this nation rewards the bombers with applause and praise. What a convenient way to absolve these killers of any responsibility for the destruction they leave in their wake.

Unfortunately, the morality of killing is not so superficial. The truth is, the use of a truck, a plane or a missile for the delivery of a weapon of mass destruction does not alter the nature of the act itself.

These are weapons of mass destruction — and the method of delivery matters little to those on the receiving end of such weapons.

Whether you wish to admit it or not, when you approve, morally, of the bombing of foreign targets by the U.S. military, you are approving of acts morally equivalent to the bombing in Oklahoma City ...

McVeigh included photocopies of a famous Vietnam War-era picture showing terrified children fleeing napalm bombs, and of nuclear devastation in Japan. He said in a preface that the essay was intended to "provoke thought — and was not written with malevolent intent."

On April 26, 2001, McVeigh wrote a letter to Fox News, I Explain Herein Why I Bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which explicitly laid out his reasons for the attack. [104] McVeigh read Unintended Consequences and said that if it had come out a few years earlier, he would have given serious consideration to using sniper attacks in a war of attrition against the government instead of bombing a federal building. [105]


McVeigh's accomplice, Terry Nichols, was convicted and sentenced in federal court to life in prison for his role in the crime. [106] At Nichols' trial, evidence was presented indicating that others may have been involved. [107] Several residents of central Kansas, including real estate agent Georgia Rucker and a retired Army NCO, testified at Terry Nichols' federal trial that they had seen two trucks at Geary Lake State Park, 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. [108] Terry Nichols is incarcerated at ADX Florence in Florence, Colorado. [109]

Michael and Lori Fortier were also considered accomplices due to their foreknowledge of the bombing. In addition to Michael assisting McVeigh in scouting the federal building, Lori had helped McVeigh laminate a fake driver's license which was used to rent the Ryder truck. [110] Fortier agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for a reduced sentence and immunity for his wife. [111] He was sentenced on May 27, 1998, to twelve years in prison and fined $75,000 for failing to warn authorities about the bombing. [112] On January 20, 2006, Fortier was released for good behavior into the Witness Protection Program and given a new identity. [113]

An ATF informant, Carol Howe, told reporters that shortly before the bombing she had warned her handlers that guests of Elohim City, Oklahoma were planning a major bombing attack. [114] McVeigh was issued a speeding ticket there at the same time. [115] Other than this speeding ticket, there is no evidence of a connection between McVeigh and members of the Midwest Bank Robbers at Elohim City. [116]

In February 2004, the FBI announced it would review its investigation after learning that agents in the investigation of the Midwest Bank Robbers (an alleged Aryan-oriented gang) had turned up explosive caps of the same type that were used to trigger the Oklahoma City bomb. [117] Agents expressed surprise that bombing investigators had not been provided information from the Midwest Bank Robbers investigation. McVeigh declined further delays and maintained until his death that he had acted alone in the bombing.

Some witnesses claimed to have seen a second suspect, and there was a search for a "John Doe #2", but none was ever found. [118]

See also

Related Research Articles

Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building former federal building that was bombed by Timothy McVeigh

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was a United States federal government complex located at 200 N.W. 5th Street in Downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States. On April 19, 1995, at 9:02 am the building was the target of the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, 19 of whom were children under the age of six. Half of the building collapsed seconds after the truck bomb detonated. The remains were imploded a month after the attack, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial was built on the site.

Terry Nichols American terrorist and mass murderer

Terry Lynn Nichols is an American domestic terrorist who was convicted of being an accomplice in the Oklahoma City bombing. Prior to his incarceration, he held a variety of short-term jobs, working as a farmer, grain elevator manager, real estate salesman and ranch hand. He met his future co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh, during a brief stint in the U.S. Army, which ended in 1989 when he requested a hardship discharge after less than one year of service. In 1994 and 1995, he conspired with McVeigh in the planning and preparation of the truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 19, 1995. The bombing claimed the lives of 168 people.

Elohim City, Oklahoma Private community

Elohim City also known as Elohim City Inc., and Elohim Village is a private community in Adair County, Oklahoma. The 400 acres (1.6 km2) rural retreat was founded in 1973 by Robert G. Millar, a Canadian immigrant, former Mennonite and once one of the most important leaders in America's Christian Identity movement, a theology common to an assortment of right-wing extremist groups. The community gained national attention for its alleged ties to members of The Order in the 1980s and with convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in the 1990s.

Lon Horiuchi American FBI HRT sniper

Lon Tomohisa Horiuchi is an American FBI agent who killed Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge in 1992. An FBI HRT sniper and former United States Army officer, he was involved in controversial deployments during the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff and 1993 Waco siege. In 1997, Horiuchi was charged with manslaughter for the death of Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge, but the charges were later dropped.

<i>American Terrorist</i>

American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & The Oklahoma City Bombing (2001) is a book by Buffalo, New York journalists Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck that chronicles the life of Timothy McVeigh from his childhood in Pendleton, New York, to his military experiences in the Persian Gulf War, to his preparations for and carrying out of the Oklahoma City bombing, to his trial and death row experience. One of the appendices lists all 168 people killed in the blast, along with brief biographical information. It is the only biography authorized by McVeigh himself, and was based on 75 hours of interviews that the authors had with McVeigh. McVeigh was said to be pleased overall with the book, but disappointed with the way he was portrayed and the explanation of his motive. Coauthor Michel said he viewed McVeigh as a "human being with a limited range of feelings in the areas of empathy and sympathy and with an oversized sense of rage and resentment."

Dan Herbeck is an American journalist and author who is an investigative reporter at The Buffalo News.

Michael William Brescia American bank robber

Michael William Brescia is a convicted bank robber who has also been alleged to have been involved in the Oklahoma City bombing.

United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute Federal prison in Indiana

The United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute is a high-security United States federal prison for male inmates in Terre Haute, Indiana. It is part of the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex and is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. USP Terre Haute houses a Special Confinement Unit for male federal inmates who have been sentenced to death as well as the federal execution chamber. Most inmates sentenced to death by the U.S. Federal Government are housed in USP Terre Haute prior to execution, although there are some exceptions. FCC Terre Haute is located in the city of Terre Haute, 70 miles (110 km) west of Indianapolis.

Stephen Jones, is an attorney best known for taking on a series of high-profile civil rights cases beginning with his defense of a Vietnam War protester, including Timothy McVeigh, and continuing with the fraternity involved in the 2015 University of Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon racism incident.

David Paul Hammer is an American federal prisoner serving life without possibility of parole concurrent with a 1200-year Oklahoma State sentence. He was sentenced to death on November 4, 1998 for the murder of his cell mate, Andrew Marti. He is also a writer and anti-death penalty advocate who achieved media fame for his 2004 autobiography The Final Escape, Secrets Worth Dying For, and 2010's Deadly Secrets: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing, based on information from when McVeigh was a then-fellow death row inmate. Hammer is also known for his appeals against his 1998 federal death sentence and against the death penalty itself. Hammer's federal conviction was vacated in 2005 for the government's Brady violation. After 16 years in isolation on federal death row isolation at Terre Haute prison in Indiana, in 2014 the court resentenced him to life without parole. He is currently serving his sentence at the ADX Florence, Colorado.

Richard Wayne Snell was an American spree killer and white supremacist, convicted for the killing of two people in Arkansas on June 30, 1984. Snell was sentenced to death for one of the murders, and executed by lethal injection in 1995.

Patriot movement

The patriot movement is a collection of conservative, independent, mostly rural, small government, American nationalist social movements in the United States that include organized militia members, tax protesters, sovereign or state citizens, quasi-Christian apocalypticists/survivalists, and combinations thereof. Adherents describe the movement as centered on a belief that individual liberties are in jeopardy due to unconstitutional actions taken by elected government officials, appointed bureaucrats, and some special interest groups outside of government, to illegally accumulate power. Journalists and researchers have associated the patriot movement with the right-wing militia movement and some in the movement have committed or supported illegal acts of violence. United States law enforcement groups "call them dangerous, delusional and sometimes violent".

Sean Connelly (lawyer) attorney at law

Sean Connelly is an American attorney and former judge on the Colorado Court of Appeals. He is a former member of the U.S. Department of Justice trial team and the lead appellate prosecutor in the Oklahoma City bombing cases. He was appointed by then Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to the Colorado Court of Appeals in 2008 and did not seek retention of his appointment in 2011 and returned to private practice.

Roger Dale Stafford American spree killer

Roger Dale Stafford was a convicted spree killer and serial killer executed for the 1978 murders of the Lorenz Family and six employees of a Sirloin Stockade restaurant in Oklahoma. Stafford never acknowledged his guilt, but Stafford's wife, Verna, implicated him in a total of 34 murders in seven different states.

Steve Dasbach was the national director of the Libertarian Party of the United States from 1993 to 1998. He was chair of the Libertarian National Committee from 1993 to 1998 and national executive director from 1998-2002. In 1986, he was the Libertarian Party of Indiana candidate for Indiana's 4th Congressional District U.S. Representative receiving 602 votes for 0.4% of the vote. When Steve Kubby was arrested for cannabis offenses, Dasbach advocated dropping the charges. After Timothy McVeigh self-identified as a libertarian and noted that he had voted for Harry Browne in the 1996 U.S. Presidential election, Dasbach sought to address the public relations implications of the related media coverage. He argued that the necessary reforms to prevent similar violence in the future were to prosecute government officials who commit crimes; embrace an open, vibrant political system; reject violence on principle; repeal the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996; and reduce the size and power of the federal government.

Kenneth Michael Trentadue was an American citizen who was found hanged in his cell at FTC Oklahoma during the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing. His death was officially ruled a suicide three years after it occurred. Trentadue's family maintains that he was murdered by members of FBI who mistakenly believed he was involved in the Oklahoma bombing and that officials at the prison engaged in a cover-up. Oklahoma City's chief medical examiner said of Trentadue that it was "very likely he was murdered". Convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh stated that he believed Trentadue was mistaken for Richard Lee Guthrie Jr., a suspected co-conspirator in the bombing who also died in federal custody, allegedly from suicide by hanging.

A variety of alternative theories have been proposed regarding the Oklahoma City bombing. These theories reject all, or part of, the official government report. Some of these theories focus on the possibility of additional co-conspirators that were never indicted or additional explosives planted inside the Murrah Federal building. Other theories allege that government employees and officials, including US President Bill Clinton, knew of the impending bombing and intentionally failed to act on that knowledge. Government investigations have been opened at various times to look into the theories.

Robert A. Ricks — known as Bob Ricks and "Backdraft Bob" — is an American law enforcement agent and politician from Texas and Oklahoma. He has worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Governor of Oklahoma and in local law enforcement. He is best known as the FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge during the 1993 Waco Siege or as FBI Special Agent in Charge during the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing investigation.

Carol Elizabeth Howe was a former informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Howe became a key figure in Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy theories following her claim that she informed authorities of a right-wing extremist plan to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma a few months before the Oklahoma City bombing.



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Further reading