Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Bombing of Khobar Towers


On the fourth floor of Building 131, Sergeant Harold Jautakis sat in his recliner, watching the evening news on TV.  Down the hall, Senior Airman Eric Castor, 22, was standing up, using  the telephone. 

General Terry J. Schwailer
General Terry J. Schwailer

Across the compound Brigadier General Terry J. Schwailer, the 4404th's' wing commander, was in his room at his desk, writing a note to his successor, Brigadier General Daniel M. Dick, who would be replacing him the next day.  Schwailer had completed his one-year tour.

A half-mile away at Al Rushaid Village No. 3, a residential complex for foreigners, American civilians Ruth and Tom Rosser had just finished their dinner and were about to have dessert.   Tom Rosser worked for a Saudi company in Dhahran. 

Staff Sergeant Guerrero
Staff Sergeant Guerrero

At the same time, on the roof of Building 131, Sergeant Guerrero saw something he didn't like. At about 9:45 p.m., a Datsun drove into the parking lot.  The compact car circled the lot, then stopped and flashed its headlights before leaving.  Two other vehicles then entered the lot a white Chevrolet Caprice and a large sewage tanker truck.  The truck drove down the second-to-last row of the lot, then turned left as if it were heading back in the direction that it had come.  But the truck pulled to a stop, and Sergeant Guerrero heard the grinding of gears as it went into reverse.  The driver started backing up toward the fence directly across from Building 131.

Guerrero and his men wasted no time.  As the truck was still in motion, they contacted the wing operations center to issue an evacuation alert.  Running back into the building, they initiated a "waterfall evacuation," yelling to residents on the top floor to vacate the building.  These airmen were trained to notify the residents on the floor below as they departed, each floor notifying the next until the entire building was empty.  During a false alarm the previous month, Building 129 had been evacuated in five minutes.  But that night only the residents of the top three floors ever received the warning.

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