On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, security guard and former U.S. Army soldier, performed the deadliest terrorist attack on the territory of the United States, which remained in this status until September 11, 2001. The bombing killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured more than 500 (Jenkins, n.d.). The bomb detonated in front of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, immediately destroying a third of the building and damaging more than 300 buildings in the area (FBI, n.d. a). The attack was committed using a heavy homemade bomb built from agricultural fertilizers, fuel, and other chemicals. The explosion registered 3.2 on the Richter scale – it felt like an earthquake and was detected throughout the city.
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The FBI was the leading agency conducting the investigation of the Oklahoma bombing. Enormous resources were involved – “Bureau conducted more than 28,000 interviews, followed some 43,000 investigative leads, amassed three-and-a-half tons of evidence, and reviewed nearly a billion pieces of information” (FBI, n.d. a). The FBI quickly identified the source of the explosion – the truck bomb, and collect the pieces of the vehicle. The vehicle identification number survived the blast, and it was possible to find the place where it was rented. With the help of employees at the car renting facility, the sketch of the bomber was drawn, and he was identified by the Dreamland Motel owner in Junction City (FBI, n.d. b). It turned out that McVeigh was already arrested and put into jail in Perry, Oklahoma, by a state trooper who stopped him for missing a license plate and discovered a concealed firearm. More evidence was found later – McVeigh’s fingerprints on the receipt for fertilizer and chemical residues on his clothes that matched those used in the bomb (FBI, n.d. b). Shortly after, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier were identified as accomplices in the crime.
Both of the main suspects – Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols – were members of the “extreme right-wing and militant Patriot movement” (Jenkins, n.d.). McVeigh believed that the American government and corporate elites were becoming more authoritarian, and they attacked people’s rights and freedoms. One incident that influenced him a lot was an armed standoff in Waco, Texas, when the religious sect members opened fire at law enforcement officers. As a result of 51 days long siege of their compound, 76 members of the sect died, and many believed that this happened because of the federal officers (FBI, n.d. b). McVeigh shared that belief and decided to strike against the state he perceived as authoritarian.
McVeigh stated that his bombing was to avenge for deaths at Waco; moreover, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was targeted because it was full of government workers. 98 of 168 killed were government employees, as fourteen federal agencies had offices in the building (FBI, n.d. b). Terry Nichols, McVeigh’s Army buddy, was also known for his anti-government position. Due to terrorists’ backgrounds, the attack was planned for April 19, as this day was important for McVeigh for two reasons. Firstly, this was the Patriots’ Day; secondly, it was the date on which the Waco sieged ended two years before.
In the end, in August 1995, both McVeigh and Nicols were charged for eleven federal crimes that included first-degree murder, destruction of property, usage of a weapon of mass destruction. McVeigh was found guilty of all counts on June 2, 1997, and subsequently executed nine days later (FBI, n.d. b). Nichols was found guilty of manslaughter and conspiracy in December 1997 and sentenced to prison (FBI, n.d. b). Fortier was sentenced to twelve years in jail for failing to report the crime.
FBI. (n.d. a). Oklahoma City bombing.
FBI. (n.d. b). The Oklahoma City bombing: Twenty years later.
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Jenkins, J.P. (n.d.). Oklahoma City bombing. Britannica.