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Profile: James Elliott
James Elliott was a participant or observer in the following events:
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
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