Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Timothy McVeigh & Terry Nichols: Oklahoma Bombing

Imitating Turner

On September 13, 1994 the gun shows McVeigh attended had become somber occasions. New laws had been passed to stop the manufacture of many types of weaponry, including a range of semi-automatic rifles and handguns. Gun traders and buyers alike were outraged to learn the government was controlling their "right to bear arms."

To McVeigh, it also meant his livelihood was endangered. He had been buying weapons under his own name and charging a brokerage fee to other buyers — those who didn't want their names on government forms.

Paranoia rose on rumors that owners would be subject to surprise searches of their homes and businesses. McVeigh decided that action could no longer be postponed. From the Nichols home in Marion, Kansas, he wrote Fortier. He insisted the time had come for action, and he wanted Fortier to join him and Terry Nichols in their protest. Imitating The Turner Diaries, they planned to blow up a federal building. McVeigh cautioned Fortier against telling his wife Lori — an instruction Fortier ignored.

Furthermore, Fortier said he would never be part of the plan — "not unless there was a U.N. tank in my front yard!" (American Terrorist).

Undeterred, McVeigh and Nichols took advice from various bomb-building manuals. They followed the recipe and stockpiled their materials — bought under the alias Mike Havens — in rented storage sheds. The recipe also called for other ingredients like blasting caps and liquid nitro methane, which they stole. But that's not all they stole.

To pay for their despicable enterprise, Nichols robbed gun collector Roger Moore at gunpoint. Moore claimed the thief had taken a variety of guns, gold, silver and jewels — about 60 thousand dollars' worth. Nichols also stole Moore's van to haul away the loot. When police made a list of visitors to the ranch, McVeigh's name was on it.

Earlier, McVeigh and Nichols traveled to the Fortier's Kingman home and stashed the stolen explosives in a nearby storage shed McVeigh had rented. When Fortier saw the explosives, McVeigh explained his plan. He stayed with the Fortiers, and while there, he designed his bomb. He showed Lori — using soup cans — how the drums he planned on using could be arranged for maximum impact.

A fuel McVeigh wanted for his bomb was the rocket fuel anhydrous hydrazine. He phoned around the country to find some, but its expense was prohibitive. So he settled on a satisfactory equivalent, nitro methane. In the course of trying to locate volatile fuels, McVeigh had phoned from the Fortiers, knowing full well his calls could be traced to the Fortier's telephone number — and the calling card he bought under the alias, Darel Bridges.

In mid-October 1994, McVeigh's plans were suddenly complicated, when he received news his grandfather had died. He headed home to Pendleton, New York. There, he helped sort out his grandfather's estate and further poisoned his young sister against the government. She recalls how they watched a composite tape on Waco, which cast the ATF in the worst possible light. He also explained he had moved from the propaganda to "action" stage. He also used Jennifer's word processor to compose a letter titled "ATF Read." It denounced government agents as "fascist tyrants" and "storm troopers" who had better be ready to pay for their actions at Waco. It warned the ATF, "all you tyrannical mother fuckers will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous actions against the Constitution of the United States."

While McVeigh was in Pendleton, he was unable to reach Terry Nichols. The co-conspirator had gone to the Philippines to see his current wife and baby daughter. But before he left, he visited his son and first wife Lana Padilla. He left her a few items including a sealed package, telling her it was to be opened only in the event he never returned. She opened it anyway. Included in its contents was a letter detailing the location of a plastic bag he'd secreted in Padilla's home. It contained a letter to McVeigh telling him he was now on his own — and 20 thousand dollars. There was also a combination to Nichols' storage locker. When she opened the shed, she found some of the spoils of the Moore robbery.

In mid-December 1994, McVeigh and the Fortiers met in McVeigh's room at the Mojave Motel in Kingman, Arizona. There, he had Lori gift wrap boxes containing blasting caps in Christmas paper. He then promised Fortier a cache of weapons from the Moore robbery if he would accompany McVeigh back to Kansas. On the way, McVeigh drove through Oklahoma City to show Fortier the building he intended to bomb, and the route he would take to walk away from the building before the blast. They parted.

The getaway car would be his 1977 yellow Marquis since his other car had been damaged in an accident. The plan was for Nichols to follow the car in his truck. After McVeigh parked it away from the bombsite, they would drive back to Kansas. The night before the bombing, they left the Marquis after McVeigh removed the license plate and left a note on it saying it needed a battery. Then, they drove away and Nichols dropped him off at his motel.

The next afternoon, McVeigh picked up the Ryder truck and parked it at the Dreamland Motel for the night. The following morning he drove it to the Herington storage unit. When Nichols finally arrived — late — they piled the bomb components in the truck and drove to Geary Lake to mix the bomb. When they were done, Nichols went home and McVeigh stayed with the lethal Ryder vehicle.

He parked in a gravel lot for the night and waited for the dawn — and the drive to his target. He was dressed for the mission in his favorite T-shirt. On the front was a picture of Abraham Lincoln with the motto "sic semper tyrannis," the words Booth shouted before he shot Lincoln. The translation: Thus ever to tyrants.

On the back of the T-shirt was a tree with blood dripping from the branches. It read, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Like his role model in The Turner Diaries, he headed for a federal building where he was convinced ATF agents were working. There, the people of Oklahoma City would pay a terrible price for McVeigh's compulsive and irrational paranoia.


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