This Day in History: Oklahoma Bombing

This Day in History-Apr 19, 1995

A massive explosion at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, kills 168 people and injures hundreds more.

The bomb, contained in a Ryder truck parked outside the front of the building, went off at 9:02 a.m. as people were preparing for the workday.

Among the victims of America’s worst incident of domestic terrorism were 19 children who were in the daycare center on the first floor of the building.

A little over an hour after the explosion, Oklahoma state trooper Charles Hangar pulled over a car without license plates in the town of Perry. Noticing a bulge in the driver’s jacket, Hangar arrested the driver, Timothy McVeigh, and confiscated his concealed gun.

McVeigh was held in jail for gun and traffic violations. Meanwhile, a sketch of the man who was seen driving the Ryder truck in Oklahoma City was distributed across the country.

On April 21, Hangar saw the sketch and managed to stop McVeigh’s impending release. When investigators looked into McVeigh’s background, they quickly learned that he had ties to militant right-wing groups and was particularly incensed by the Branch Davidian incident in Waco, Texas.

The Oklahoma City bomb exploded exactly two years after David Koresh and his followers were killed in the federal government’s raid of the cult compound. Soon, three friends of McVeigh-Terry and James Nichols, and Michael Fortier-were also arrested for their involvement in the bombing.

McVeigh and Terry Nichols had gone through basic training together after joining the Army on the same day in 1988.

Although Nichols was discharged in 1989, McVeigh had served in Operation Desert Storm before quitting the Army when he was rejected for the Special Forces course. Acquaintances of McVeigh knew that he was obsessed with a book called The Turner Diaries, a fictional account of a race war caused by right-wing extremists in the United States. The book begins with the bombing of the FBI headquarters.

McVeigh also told his sister Jennifer that he planned on doing “something big” in April 1995. With Nichols and Fortier’s assistance, McVeigh assembled a bomb that contained nearly 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and racing fuel.

After Fortier testified against his former friend, McVeigh was convicted in June 1997.

The jury imposed a death sentence. Terry Nichols was convicted of being an accessory to the mass murder, and he received a life sentence.

On June 11, 2001, McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, the first federal death penalty to be carried out since 1963.