Oklahoma bomber predicted deaths of children - Records stored at UT show Timothy McVeigh disaffected after Waco incident
t began in high school, with a vague sense that Americans' gun rights were threatened. By April 19, 1995, when he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more, Timothy McVeigh's distrust of government had morphed into a malignant hatred.
That impression emerges from statements McVeigh made under oath to his lawyers in 1995 while he was in a federal prison awaiting trial. McVeigh was convicted in 1997 and executed in 2001. A transcript of the statements was donated to the University of Texas along with thousands of other records in the case by McVeigh's lead counsel, Stephen Jones of Enid, Okla.
Much of the information in the transcript came out in trial testimony, interviews and leaks to media outlets years ago, but the transcript itself, with McVeigh's matter-of-fact language, has not previously come to public light.
McVeigh told his lawyers that his views were influenced by the survivalist movement, by right-wing literature with racist and anti-Semitic overtones, by his experiences in the Army, by the death of his grandfather and by two bloody standoffs involving federal agents, one at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and one near Waco.
It was the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms siege near Waco at a compound occupied by the Branch Davidian religious sect that seemed to cement his anti-government thinking.
McVeigh told his lawyers that he drove from Florida to Waco to check things out and said, "My anger was further heightened when I was stopped on a public road a good five miles from this place and turned around by a group of about six to eight ATF and U.S. marshals sitting there, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, hauling their (expletive) camouflage and telling me I can't go any farther on this public road. ... I just got incensed."
Later, McVeigh said, "tears came into my eyes" when he heard on the radio that the compound was burning down. Seventy-six people, including 21 children, died when federal agents stormed the site. Four agents and six Branch Davidians had been killed weeks earlier.
"Great. There are a bunch of charred babies laying in there," McVeigh said. "So, this just pretty much hammered me down that I would — I was going to do whatever I could to wake people up and help people fight this, because this is wrong."
Even, apparently, if it meant that more children would die.
In another passage, McVeigh recalled mentioning this possibility to two friends, Michael and Lori Fortier, who participated in some of the planning of the Oklahoma bombing.
"I told them, you know, 'Children may die. There may be a pregnant woman working there, or there may be someone walking down the street, or someone may have taken their child to work with them,' " McVeigh said.
Nineteen children were among those killed in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which occurred exactly two years after the assault on the Branch Davidian compound.
Michael Fortier served more than 10 years in prison for failing to warn authorities about the plot. His wife testified in the case but was granted immunity from prosecution. Terry Nichols, who was also convicted in the bombing, is serving two life sentences.
Just for the record
McVeigh apparently didn't think his statements to his lawyers at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., would ever be released publicly.
"It's just for the official record, not for trial purposes," McVeigh said, agreeing with Jones' assertion during the prison interview that the statements would not be "disclosed to anybody without your express written consent and authorization," according to the transcript.
The transcript, correspondence, FBI reports, photographs and other records are stored at UT's Center for American History, where they are available for public review.
Jones said Wednesday that McVeigh waived the attorney-client privilege, leaving Jones free to donate the materials for public inspection.
The lawyer said he does not believe much of what McVeigh said in the statement, adding that McVeigh's claim that he lit the fuse and set off the truck bomb is "open to question." Jones argued in a book that indications of foreign involvement in the plot weren't adequately investigated by the federal government.
Jones sought a tax deduction for his donation of the McVeigh papers to UT but was rebuffed last month by the U.S. Tax Court. He said he plans to ask the court to set aside the ruling and, if that fails, to appeal.
The records at UT include a sworn statement by Jones, apparently filed under seal in federal court in January 1996, in which the lawyer asserts, "The factual and legal guilt of Mr. McVeigh is very much in question."
That affidavit was submitted four months after McVeigh told Jones that he stole explosives, rented a truck and lit the fuse.
UT obtained the McVeigh records in two batches, the first in 1997 and the second in 2002, according to Don Carleton, director of the Center for American History.
'My hero Jean Picard'
In the prison statement, McVeigh, who was a decorated Gulf War veteran, comes across as increasingly disaffected with the government. He had washed out of Special Forces training when blisters kept him from marching, and he eventually became convinced that the United States should not be the world's policeman.
"I would get mad at our strong-arming other countries and telling them what to do, increasing anti-gun sentiment in America, the liberal mind-set ... that all things in the world can be solved by discussion," McVeigh said.
A nonviolent approach is best, he said, citing "my hero Jean Picard," the spaceship captain in the television show "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
"Negotiation can win most (of the time), but the truth is, there are times when negotiation fails. I found this a few times in the military when I would go to fists with a couple of guys, them provoking it first," McVeigh said.
The incidents at Waco and at Ruby Ridge, where a survivalist's wife and son were killed along with a federal agent during a siege in 1992, convinced McVeigh that the government intruded on its citizens too much.
McVeigh hit the gun-show circuit, selling firearms with the notion that he was helping people defend themselves. But he concluded that he needed to do more.
"So I decided we needed to turn the tide and go on the offensive, and that is when we started formulating a plan in August of '94," McVeigh said.
He said he and Nichols rejected Little Rock, Ark., because it was "no good" and Dallas because "there was no one building listed in the phone book," settling on the Murrah building in downtown Oklahoma City. They bought fertilizer, stole explosives and cashed in gold that Nichols owned to help finance the plot.
As the day chosen for the bombing approached, McVeigh said, he more or less resigned himself to getting caught. He didn't bother putting a stolen license plate on his getaway car, driving without a plate out of Oklahoma City.
"There is a little bit of giving up involved there," McVeigh said. "There is a little bit of I had nowhere to go, no allies to continue anything with."
A state trooper noticed that there was no plate, pulled McVeigh over and arrested him for carrying a handgun beneath his jacket. Authorities soon realized that he was suspected in the bombing.
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