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Context of '3:30 a.m. April 18, 1995: Witness Sees Oklahoma City Bomber in Ryder Truck before Dawn'

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Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992, February - July 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, and September 12, 1994 and After), plotting to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), sends a letter to his Army buddy Michael Fortier (see February - July 1994). He tells Fortier that he and his friend Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994) plan to take “some type of positive offensive action” against the government. [Washington Post, 12/24/1997] Fortier will later say that a week after receiving the letter, McVeigh tells him what sort of “positive action” he means. Fortier will say, “He told me that him and Terry were thinking of blowing up a building.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 79] Subsequent analysis by FBI behavioral analyst Jack Douglas will indicate that part of McVeigh’s impetus for deciding on “positive action” is the signing of a crime bill into law that bans the ownership and distribution of 19 types of assault weapons (see September 13, 1994). [New York Times, 12/31/1995] It is around this time that Terry Nichols’s brother James (see December 22 or 23, 1988) tells McVeigh and his brother that they are heading down the wrong path with their paramilitary actions. According to neighbor Philip Morawski, “[James] believed that there were other ways of bringing about change.” [People, 5/8/1995]

Entity Tags: John E. (“Jack”) Douglas, James Nichols, Terry Lynn Nichols, Michael Joseph Fortier, Timothy James McVeigh, Philip Morawski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, actively engaged in plotting to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), drive by the building. They park in front of the building, get out of their car, and time the distance to the place McVeigh plans to be at the time the bomb will be set to explode. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001] They go through Oklahoma City on their way to buy racing fuel, an essential ingredient for their bomb (see October 21 or 22, 1994). [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Murrah Federal Building, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A large Ryder truck similar to that rented by Timothy McVeigh.A large Ryder truck similar to that rented by Timothy McVeigh. [Source: RevGalBlogPals (.com)]Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, April 13, 1995, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) stays in his room at the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, for most of the day. Around 3:00 p.m., he walks to a convenience store and calls a taxi. The taxi drops him off at a McDonald’s restaurant on the corner of I-40 and Washington Street. A security camera films McVeigh buying a fruit pie and walking out of the restaurant around 3:57 p.m. McVeigh walks from the McDonald’s to Elliott’s Body Shop, where he has reserved a 20-foot rental Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995). It is raining; McVeigh has no hat. A young man in a Pontiac Fiero picks up McVeigh and drives him to Elliott’s. The manager, Eldon Elliott, is in the shop, along with an employee, Vicki Beemer. Beemer asks McVeigh for his driver’s license number, and he gives her the number he has memorized from the fraudulent license he has made for “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995). The information he provides is: Bob Kling, Social Security Number 962-42-9694, South Dakota driver’s license number YF942A6, home address 428 Malt Drive, Redfield, South Dakota. The listed designation is 428 Maple Drive, Omaha, Nebraska. While McVeigh is waiting for the transaction to process, he makes small talk with Beemer about Easter and paying taxes; Beemer will later remember smiling at McVeigh, and after seeing the birth date of April 19, 1972 on the Kling license, telling him, “I’ve been married longer than you’ve been alive.” McVeigh had asked for a dolly, but the shop has none to provide him; instead, Beemer calls Waters TruValue Hardware and reserves a dolly for him. McVeigh takes possession of the Ryder truck, and drives to the hardware store to pick up the dolly, in the process making an attempt to avoid being filmed by the store’s security camera. He is given the dolly, throws it in the truck, and drives back to the motel. By now it is around 5:00 p.m. He sees Eric McGown, motel owner Lea McGown’s son, who tells him he cannot park the truck near the swimming pool. Instead, McVeigh parks the truck in front of the motel against the sign. He returns to his room, where he stays the night. During the evening, according to one source, he destroys the Kling ID by peeling back the plastic and burning the paper, then throwing the ashes and the plastic in the toilet. [New York Times, 4/26/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 148-149; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] (When McVeigh is arrested, he apparently presents the Kling driver’s license to the state trooper who pulls him over—see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995. Either the reports that McVeigh destroys the Kling driver’s license are incorrect, or McVeigh destroys another Kling ID.)
Garbled Recollection of Taxi Drive - Taxi driver David Ferris takes McVeigh to the McDonald’s. It is a short drive, and the fare is only $3.65; McVeigh gives Ferris no tip. Ferris will later be questioned by FBI agents, and the taxi driver will tell a garbled, contradictory story. At first, he breaks down and tearfully denies ever seeing McVeigh, saying, “I never picked up McVeigh.” Later he will change his story and tell of taking a man strongly resembling McVeigh, wearing a white T-shirt and Levis, from the convenience store to the McDonald’s. He will recall the man as having a military bearing and a crew cut, and being very polite. Asked if it was McVeigh, Ferris will say, “In all probability, yes.” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 148]
Second Man Sighting Begins 'John Doe No. 2' Controversy - Residents and visitors to the motel later testify to seeing McVeigh and another, unidentified man with the Ryder truck well before 5:00 p.m, a man described as lantern-jawed, with a tattoo on his upper arm, and wearing a baseball cap; it is this sighting that begins the controversy of “John Doe No. 2,” McVeigh’s supposed accomplice (see 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Beemer and Elliott later tell investigators that they believe McVeigh is in the company of a second man, though they will be unable to provide a description of any kind. Elliott will later say: “There was another gentleman standing there in the corner. I just barely glanced at him as I walked by.” Beemer will say: “I don’t know who he was. It was just another man. They just came straight to the counter. They were both in the office.” Another shop employee, Tom Kessinger, will later say he, too, saw the second man, remembering the blue-and-white baseball cap and the tattoo, but Kessinger will fail to provide an accurate description of McVeigh, saying that he was wearing “military camo” and khaki pants, both of which are inaccurate. FBI investigators will later tell Robert Millar, the leader of the white supremacist community living at Elohim City (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, and April 8, 1995), that McVeigh calls the community on April 18, in an effort to tie the “John Doe No. 2” sighting to someone in the community. It is possible the FBI mistakes that alleged call for one McVeigh makes to an old Army buddy (see April 17-21, 1995). [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 149] Author Richard A. Serrano will later note: “The FBI was able to show that McVeigh had ridden alone in a taxi that afternoon from the Dreamland Motel to a McDonald’s restaurant near the Ryder agency. And at the McDonald’s, McVeigh was caught on camera—again alone. From there, the FBI assumed, he walked along the frontage road to the Ryder shop. Why would he need anyone with him at all?” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 260]

Entity Tags: Eric McGown, Elliott’s Body Shop (Junction City, Kansas), Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), David Ferris, Eldon Elliott, Vicki Beemer, Waters TruValue Hardware (Junction City, Kansas ), Timothy James McVeigh, Robert Millar, Richard A. Serrano, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lea McGown, Tom Kessinger

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

According to documents later filed with a federal court, witnesses see a large Ryder truck parked behind Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols’ house in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995) and (6:00 p.m.) April 17, 1995), late in the evening. Nichols is working with Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, April 13, 1995, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) to carry out the bombing, though he does not want to take a direct part in the bombing itself (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995). [New York Times, 5/12/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] It is hard to reconcile this sighting with McVeigh’s own recollections of the timeline of events; McVeigh has the Ryder truck at a Junction City motel until around 5:00 a.m. (see 3:30 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995).

Entity Tags: Terry Lynn Nichols, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

David King, staying at the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, later tells investigators that around 3:30 a.m. he is drinking beer and watching movies with a friend when he hears a noise. He looks out of his motel room window and sees a man he later identifies as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) sitting in the passenger seat of a large Ryder truck (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). According to King, the dome light is on, the glove compartment is open, and McVeigh is poring over a map. King leaves the motel just before dawn and sees McVeigh still sitting in the Ryder truck. When King returns between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m., he notices that the truck is gone. Federal investigators later determine that McVeigh leaves the motel for good sometime before 5:00 a.m. McVeigh will later tell his lawyers that he wakes up around 4:00 a.m. and leaves the motel around 5:00 a.m., but does not sit in the truck as King says. [New York Times, 4/30/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] King saw McVeigh at the motel the day before (see 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995). Another witness, motel owner Lea McGown, will say that she wakes up around 4:00 a.m. and sees McVeigh in the driver’s seat of the Ryder truck (not the passenger seat as King alleges). The dome light is on, she will recall, and McVeigh is hunched over as if he is studying a map. By 5:00 a.m., she will recall, the truck is gone. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 150]

Entity Tags: Lea McGown, David King, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) leaves the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas (see 3:30 a.m. April 18, 1995), and drives his rented Ryder truck (see 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. April 17, 1995) to Herington, Kansas, where he has planned to meet with his co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see (February 20, 1995)) at 6:00 a.m. The plan is for McVeigh and Nichols to meet in the parking lot of the Pizza Hut near the storage unit where they have stored materials for the bomb (see September 22, 1994), leave Nichols’s truck at the Pizza Hut, and ride in the truck to the storage shed. Nichols, who has told McVeigh he does not want to participate directly in the bombing (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), does not appear. Nichols will later tell FBI investigators that around 6:00 a.m., McVeigh calls him asking to borrow his pickup truck to pick up some items and look at vehicles, and asking him to pick up McVeigh on his way to an auction in Fort Riley, Kansas (see November 20-21, 1997). At 6:15 a.m., McVeigh begins loading the truck himself, first loading empty drums and then beginning to load the seven boxes of fuel-oil gel. At 6:30 a.m., Nichols arrives in his truck. McVeigh has already loaded 20 50-pound bags of fertilizer into the truck. Nichols wants to leave and wait until sunrise to finish loading the truck, but McVeigh refuses. Nichols drives his truck to the Pizza Hut and walks back to the shed. Nichols then helps McVeigh load another 70 bags of fertilizer and three 55-gallon drums of nitromethane. McVeigh and Nichols leave in the shed a Ruger Mini 30 rifle, a duffel bag, LBE rifles and extra magazines for the guns, a smoke grenade, a hand grenade, a CS gas grenade, a shortwave radio, three KinePal explosive sticks similar to dynamite sticks, two changes of McVeigh’s clothing, three license plates, and a shovel. McVeigh tells Nichols, “If I don’t come back for a while, you’ll clean out the storage shed.” Nichols and McVeigh drive to Geary Lake State Park, Nichols in his pickup truck, McVeigh in the Ryder. [New York Times, 4/26/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 150; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Nichols Tells Different Story - Nichols will later describe to investigators (see April 25, 1995) a somewhat different chain of events. According to Nichols, McVeigh calls him at 6 a.m. and asks him to come to Junction City; according to Nichols’s statement, he drives to Fort Riley, where he intends to spend most of the day at an auction (see November 20-21, 1997), and lets McVeigh have the truck. Nichols will say that McVeigh returns the truck later this afternoon and the two drive to a storage shed, where McVeigh instructs Nichols to clean out the shed if he does not “come back in a while.” [New York Times, 4/26/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]
Witnesses See McVeigh in Junction City, McVeigh Will Say Witnesses Are Mistaken - Two witnesses will later say they see McVeigh and another, unidentified man park a Ryder truck in front of a Hardee’s restaurant in Junction City sometime during the morning, but McVeigh will later tell his lawyers that this does not occur. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996]

Entity Tags: Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Alfred P. Murrah Building after being bombed.The Alfred P. Murrah Building after being bombed. [Source: CBS News]A truck bomb destroys the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people in America’s worst domestic terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh, later convicted in the bombing, has ideological roots both in the Patriot world and among neo-Nazis like William Pierce, whose novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978), served as a blueprint for the attack. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 127] Initially, many believe that no American set off the bomb, and suspect Islamist terrorists of actually carrying out the bombing (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Their suspicions prove groundless. Investigators will find that the bomb is constructed of some 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, carried in 20 or so blue plastic 55-gallon barrels arranged inside a rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995). The bomb is detonated by a slow-burning safety fuse, most likely lit by hand. The fuse is attached to a much faster-burning detonation cord (“det cord”) which ignites the fertilizer and fuel-oil mixture. [New York Times, 4/27/1995] The Murrah Federal Building houses a number of federal agencies, including offices for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF); the Social Security Administration; the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture departments; and the Secret Service. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995] It encompasses an entire city block, between 5th and 4th Streets and Harvey and Robinson Streets, and features a U-shaped, indented drive on 5th that allows for quick pickup and delivery parking. The entire building’s facade on this side is made of glass, allowing passersby to see into the offices in the building, as well as into the America’s Kids day care center on the second floor, which by this time is filling with children. It is in this driveway that McVeigh parks his truck. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 99-102]
Entering the City - McVeigh drives into Oklahoma City, entering around 8:30 a.m. from his overnight stop in Ponca City, Oklahoma; the details reported of his entrance into the city vary (see 7:00 a.m. - 8:35 a.m., April 19, 1995). At 8:55 a.m., a security camera captures the Ryder truck as it heads towards downtown Oklahoma City [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] , a sighting bolstered by three people leaving the building who later say they saw the truck parked in front of the Murrah Building around this time. At 8:57, a security camera captures an image of McVeigh’s Ryder truck being parked outside the Murrah Building in a handicapped zone. One survivor of the blast, Marine recruiter Michael Norfleet, later recalls seeing the Ryder truck parked just outside the building next to the little circle drive on 5th Street leading up to the main entrance of the building. Norfleet had parked his black Ford Ranger in front of the Ryder.
McVeigh Lights Fuses - McVeigh drives the Ryder truck west past the Murrah Building on NW Fourth Street, turns north on a one-way street, and turns right on Fifth Street. He pulls the truck over and parks near the Firestone store, next to a chain-link fence. He then lights the five-minute fuses from inside the cab (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), sets the parking brake, drops the key behind the seat, opens the door, locks the truck, exits, and shuts the door behind him. A man later claims to have hit his brakes to avoid someone matching McVeigh’s description as he crossed Fifth Street around 9:00 a.m. McVeigh walks quickly toward a nearby YMCA building where he has hidden his getaway car, a battered yellow Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995), in the adjoining alleyway, crossing Robinson Street and crossing another street to get to the alleyway. He begins to jog as he approaches his car. He later says he remembers a woman looking at him as she is walking down the steps to enter the building; he will describe her as white, in her mid-30s, with dirty blonde hair. According to McVeigh’s own recollection, he is about 20 feet into the alley when the bomb goes off. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 184-185; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 158; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Truck Explodes - At 9:02 a.m., the truck explodes, destroying most of the Murrah Building and seriously damaging many nearby buildings. Eventually, it will be determined that 168 people die in the blast, including 19 children. Over 500 are injured. The children are in the second-story day care center just above the parking space where McVeigh leaves the Ryder truck. McVeigh will later tell his biographers that he is lifted off his feet by the power of the blast.
Devastation and Death - When the bomb detonates, the day care center and the children plummet into the basement. The building, constructed with large glass windows, collapses, sending a wave of flying glass shards and debris into the building and the surrounding area. The oldest victim is 73-year-old Charles Hurlbert, who has come to the Social Security office on the first floor. Hurlbert’s wife Jean, 67, also dies in the blast. The youngest victim is four-month-old Gabeon Bruce, whose mother is also in the Social Security office. One victim, Rebecca Anderson, is a nurse who runs towards the building to render assistance. She never makes it to the building; she is struck in the head by a piece of falling debris and will die in a hospital four days after the blast. Her heart and kidneys will be transplanted into survivors of the bombing. [Denver Post, 6/3/1997; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 153-154; Oklahoma City Journal Record, 3/29/2001] Sherri Sparks, who has friends still unaccounted for in the building, tells a reporter in the hours after the blast, “Oh, I can’t stand the thought of… those innocent children, sitting there playing, thinking they’re safe, and then this happens.” The explosion leaves a 30-foot-wide, 8-foot-deep crater in the street that is covered by the wreckage of the building’s upper floors. The north face of the nine-story building collapses entirely. [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; Washington Post, 4/22/1995] Mary Heath, a psychologist who works about 20 blocks from the Murrah Building, says the blast “shook the daylights out of things—it scared us to death. We felt the windows shake before we heard the noise.” In a neighboring building, a Water Resources Board meeting is just commencing; the audiotape of the meeting captures the sound of the blast (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). [Washington Post, 4/20/1995; The Oklahoman, 4/2009] Norfleet, trapped in the Marine Corps office, is thrown into a wall by the explosion. His skull is fractured, and a shard of glass punctures his right eye. Three separate arteries are pierced, and Norfleet begins bleeding heavily. Two supply sergeants in the office are far less injured; Norfleet asks one, “How bad am I hurt?” and one replies, “Sir, you look really bad.” One of the two begins giving Norfleet first aid; Norfleet later recalls: “He immediately went into combat mode and started taking care of me. He laid me on a table and he started looking for bandages to administer first aid. And while I was laying on that table, I just knew that I was losing strength and that if I stayed in the building, I would die.” Norfleet wraps a shirt around his head and face to slow the bleeding, and the two sergeants help him to the stairs, through the fallen rubble, and eventually out. Norfleet will later say that he follows “a blood trail of somebody that had gone down the steps before me” to get outside, where he is quickly put into an ambulance. He loses almost half his body’s blood supply and his right eye. He will never fly again, and will soon be discharged for medical incapacity. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 161-162] Eighteen-month-old Phillip Allen, called “P.J.” by his parents, miraculously survives the blast. The floor gives way beneath him and he plunges 18 feet to land on the stomach of an adult worker on the floor below, Calvin Johnson. Landing on Johnson’s stomach saves P.J.‘s life. Johnson is knocked unconscious by the blast and by the impact of the little boy falling on him, but when he awakes, he carries the toddler to safety. P.J.‘s grandfather calls the child “Oklahoma’s miracle kid,” and media reports use the label when retelling the story of the miraculous rescue. P.J. is one of six children in the day care center to survive the blast. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 275-277] Some people later report their belief that the Murrah Building was rocked by a second explosion just moments after the first one, the second coming from a secure area managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) that illegally stored explosives. Law professor Douglas O. Linder will later write, “Both seismic evidence and witness testimony supports the ‘two blast theory.’” [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] That theory is later disputed (see After 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Explosion's Effects Felt Miles Away - Buildings near the Murrah are also damaged, seven severely, including the Journal Record newspaper building, the offices of Southwestern Bell, the Water Resources Board, an Athenian restaurant, the YMCA, a post office building, and the Regency Tower Hotel. Two Water Resources Board employees and a restaurant worker are killed in the blast. The Journal Record building loses its roof. Assistant Fire Chief Jon Hansen later recalls, “The entire block looked like something out of war-torn Bosnia.” Every building within four blocks of the Murrah suffers some effects. A United Parcel Service truck 10 miles away has its windows shattered by the blast. Cars in parking lots around the area catch fire and burn. Millions of sheets of paper, and an innumerable number of glass shards, shower down for hundreds of feet around the building. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 28-30]
Truck Axle Crushes Nearby Car - Richard Nichols (no relation to bomber Timothy McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols), a maintenance worker standing with his wife a block and a half away from the Murrah Building, is spun around by the force of the blast. They throw open the back door of their car and begin taking their young nephew Chad Nichols out of the back seat, when Richard sees a large shaft of metal hurtling towards them. The “humongous object… spinning like a boomerang,” as Richard later describes it, hits the front of their Ford Festiva, smashing the windshield, crushing the front end, driving the rear end high into the air, and sending the entire car spinning backwards about 10 feet. Chad is not seriously injured. The metal shaft is the rear axle of the Ryder truck. Later, investigators determine that it weighs 250 pounds and was blown 575 feet from where the truck was parked. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) points out the axle to reporters when he walks the scene a day or so later, causing some media outlets to incorrectly report that Keating “discovered” the axle. The scene will take investigators days to process for evidence. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 32; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 187-189]
First Responders Begin Arriving - Within minutes, survivors begin evacuating the building, and first responders appear on the scene (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995).
McVeigh's Getaway - McVeigh flees the bomb site in his Mercury getaway car (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995), but is captured less than 90 minutes later (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995).

Federal, state, and local authorities begin hunting for clues in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995). The FBI has been named the lead investigative agency (see After 9:02 a.m., April 19, 1995). It begins by tracking the Ryder truck that delivered the bomb. At the bomb scene, veteran FBI agents James L. Norman and James Elliott examine the truck axle that had crushed a nearby car; Norman finds a partial vehicle identification number, PVA26007. Elliott begins a database search for the truck through the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and by 2:15 p.m. the FBI learns that the vehicle is registered to a Ryder rental firm in Miami, and the rental agreement is traceable under its registration number, 137328. A quick check with the Miami office shows that the truck, a 1993 Ford with a 20-foot body, was rented from a Ryder rental firm in Junction City, Kansas, for a one-way trip to Omaha, Nebraska (see April 15, 1995). The identification is confirmed by the Florida license plate on the remains of the Ryder truck, NEE26R, which matches the Ford rental truck. The renter is listed as “Robert Kling” (see Mid-March, 1995).
Confirmation of McVeigh as 'Kling' - FBI agents call the Junction City shop; owner Eldon Elliott (no relation to the FBI agent) answers, and the agents tell him to pull the Kling paperwork for them. At 4:30 p.m., Federal agent Scott Crabtree, the resident agent in nearby Salina, Kansas, arrives at the Junction City shop to gather information on the rental and on “Kling,” and to get the documents forwarded to FBI headquarters as soon as possible. Crabtree interviews Elliott, office manager Vicki Beemer, and mechanic Tom Kessinger. They tell him about “Kling,” and about a second man that might have been with “Kling.” From their descriptions, Crabtree gathers enough information to put an FBI sketch artist to work on drawings of two suspects who rented the truck (see April 20, 1995). The artist’s renditions are hampered by discrepancies and confusion among the three’s descriptions. They cannot agree on details about “Kling“‘s height, weight, the color of his eyes, or the look of his face. Their recollections of the second man are even more confusing and contradictory, but all three insist that there was a second man. The FBI quickly learns that the driver’s license used to rent the truck, issued to “Kling,” is false. The issue date of the Kling license is April 19, 1993, the date of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). The next day, interviews with Lea McGown, the proprietor of the Junction City Dreamland Motel (see April 13, 1995 and 3:30 a.m. April 18, 1995), reveal that “Kling” is a man McGown identifies as “Tom McVeigh.” She will also remember his Ryder truck parked in her lot. Shortly afterwards, the FBI learns via a national crime computer check that Timothy (not Tom) McVeigh is in custody in nearby Perry, Oklahoma, on unrelated weapons and vehicle charges (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995), and that McVeigh’s description closely matches that of “Kling.” [New Yorker, 5/15/1995; New York Times, 6/3/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 188-191, 195; Douglas O. Linder, 2001]
Plethora of False Leads - After the sketches are released, the FBI office in Oklahoma City is bombarded with phone calls by people who claim to have seen the person, or both persons, in the sketch before the bombing. A motorist claims he saw a man running across the street near where the Ryder truck had been parked in front of the Murrah Building, and says he had to hit his brakes to keep from running into him. A woman says she saw a man strongly resembling “Kling” at the Murrah Building a week before the bombing, and “possibly again” a few days later. A meter maid tells an agent, and later a USA Today reporter, she nearly ran into the Ryder truck, and claims that the truck was going at an extremely slow speed and made her think the driver was going to stop and ask directions. A man claims to have seen “two individuals” in the Ryder truck 20 minutes before the bombing, and says one resembled the sketch of “Kling.” Another witness claims to have seen a car “speeding” away from the site of the blast, “obviously in an effort to avoid the bomb blast”; the witness is sure two people were in the car, and their testimony is later presented in evidentiary hearings by the FBI. The manager of a Texaco mini-mart in Junction City says the two men in the sketch had been hanging around his store for four months, visiting twice a week and stocking up on cigarettes and sodas. A bartender at the Silverado Bar and Grill in Herington, Kansas, where co-conspirator Terry Nichols lives (see (February 20, 1995)), says he remembers McVeigh and Nichols (both of whom he later identifies) coming into his bar every weekend for the last month, shooting pool and drinking beer. Many witnesses describe McVeigh as “polite,” and some say he comes across as a bit “funny.” At least one says the two smelled bad, as if they had just come from a pig farm—this detail comes after news reports inform citizens that the bomb had been composed of fertilizer. The FBI takes all the tips seriously, but most are quickly proven to be baseless. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 184, 224; Serrano, 1998, pp. 193-194]

Entity Tags: James L. Norman, Eldon Elliott, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), James Elliott, Vicki Beemer, Tom Kessinger, Timothy James McVeigh, Scott Crabtree, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Insurance Crime Bureau, Lea McGown, Terry Lynn Nichols

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal authorities investigating the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) find the address left on suspect Timothy McVeigh’s recent hotel registration (see April 13, 1995 and 3:30 a.m. April 18, 1995). The address is of the family farm owned by James Nichols, the brother of McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols. Late in the evening of April 20, FBI investigators speak with two detectives from Sanilac County, Michigan, David Hall and Paul Cowley. Hall and Cowley had gathered information about bombing experiments that had taken place on a farm belonging to James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988 and October 12, 1993 - January 1994). By 9 a.m. on April 21, Hall and Cowley facilitate an interview between the investigators and Kelly Langenburg, James Nichols’s ex-wife. By this time, Langenburg has spoken with her son Chase and gathered more information for the investigators. After speaking with the investigators, the agents tell local police officers that “[t]his is the best information we’ve received so far, and we’re going to run with [James Nichols].” Langenburg also tells the agents that Terry Nichols had been married to her sister, Lana Padilla (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and November 1988). Agents then contact Padilla in Las Vegas, and on April 21, teams of agents interview her and her son Joshua, Nichols’s son. She confirms that she has spoken to Nichols earlier this day, and gives the FBI his address in Herington, Kansas (see (February 20, 1995)). She says that Nichols is “an associate” of McVeigh’s. At this point, the FBI considers James Nichols a more likely suspect for a co-conspirator than Terry Nichols. [New York Times, 6/27/1996; Serrano, 1998, pp. 200]

Entity Tags: Joshua Nichols, Chase Nichols, David Hall, James Nichols, Kelly Langenburg, Terry Lynn Nichols, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lana Padilla, Paul Cowley, Timothy James McVeigh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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