tv Crimes of the Century CNN July 31, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm PDT
>> it was staggering the potential casualties and deaths. i remember saying god, i don't want to die today. >> it was a terrifying attack that left an entire nation disillusioned. it remains the worst act of domestic terrorism in american history, perpetrated by one of our own. a deck rated army veteran of the first gulf war. the oklahoma city bombing next.
>> an explosion in oklahoma city with worldwide implications and enormous consequences. >> there is increased security nationwide. >> it could be a contractor. it could be a wacko. it could be a professional. you don't have to be a rocket scientists to create this kind of bomb. >> as the smoke began to clear, two questions reverberated across the country, who and why? the answers would be shocking. the man behind the devastation was an american. his name timothy mcveigh. >> tim mcveigh was one of ours. a war hero and grew up in the suburbs of buffalo. we needed to know. it was a sense, obligation to find out who this man was. >> timothy mcveigh was born on april 23rd, 1968, in the town of lockport in upstate, new york. by all accounts, he had an ordinary childhood and adolescence.
>> we were never told anything that would have gave you warning he was going to do something like this. in fact, as a teenager, he was the young man that people in the neighborhood would choose to baby sit their kids. >> he was a good student. he was bright. above average intelligence. sometimes you look at the history of severe criminal conduct and there's childhood abuse or abandonment and you can see how someone developed into it. nothing striking in mcveigh's background. >> the young mcveigh did have a dark side. while still a teenager, he discovered the turner diaries, a venomously racist novel, lead by white supremacists against a federal government. >> it describes a truck bombing of fbi headquarters in washington, d.c., shortly after 9:00 in the morning sounding very similar to what took place in oklahoma city on april 19th,
alfred p. murrah building with the force of roughly two tons of tnt. the air inside was whipped into a turning tornado on glass shards and choking black smoke. one floor pancaked onto the next crushing and trapping men, women and children below. >> the roof has collapsed. >> the second floor held a daycare center. the lucky ones staggered into the street, some barely alive. >> standing by. >> what the heck happened? >> i saw a yellow flash, and then everything went pitch black. >> the force of the blast bent me over my desk. >> the whole back of the building just fell in on us. everyone along our set of offices has back injuries, head injuries, neck, bleeding, glass. >> i felt pain on my left side of my face, and popping noises, and it was the glass shards. >> they just kept falling. it was a horrible noise, horrible noise. ♪ >> i remember saying, god, i don't want to die today, and i don't want to die in this building and if it's all right
with you, i'd like to die later. >> felt like an earthquake. something actually shook our television station, that's five miles away. >> in the first frantic minutes, no one was quite sure what had caused the explosion. >> initially, we thought it might have been a gas explosion because we had to evacuate the office two or three weeks earlier because there was a gas leak downtown. >> i thought that a war had started. i thought that oklahoma city had been bombed, that we had been attacked by another country. >> i thought that the explosion was an atomic blast from tinker air force base. >> i was trying to make sense
out of it. i did not think it was a bomb. >> dog teams here searching for survivors and for bodies. >> scores of people have been killed outright and hundreds more injured. the blast radius encompasses a 16-block area, but the murrah building is ground zero. ♪ >> bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms was headquartered there. some of its members are missing. >> social security was located there, a child care center located there. estimates coming in there had been perhaps a thousand people. it was staggering the potential casualties and deaths that could
have been caused by this bombing. everything around the building was still on fire. cars across the street were on fire. the trees that were there were on fire. >> people at this hour are literally trapped in the alfred murrah building in downtown oklahoma city. >> get back. everybody, get back. >> get back. >> they have found a bomb in the building. >> 90 minutes after the blast, a new panic radiates through the streets when first responders come across what appears to be a second bomb. the rescue operation is suspended and a four-block area is quickly evacuated. it is, thankfully, a false alarm, but precious moments have been lost. by the time the rescue resumes, investigators have swarmed the area. >> first question has been answered, was this just a freak accidental explosion of some kind or was it intentional? we know now. >> it is quickly determined that the explosion at the federal building was caused by a truck bomb. >> there are certain things you can look for, particularly in
the case of a large vehicle bomb. there was roughly a 32-foot crater in the street. it appeared to be just about dead center of the block. >> then investigators get the first big break. they learn that a rear axle housing that probably came from the truck bomb has landed around 200 yards from the bomb site. >> i heard something coming through the air and i looked up and you could see this big object coming straight toward us. when it hit the car, it knocked it back to the other sets of doors back here. i looked at the front of my car and there was an axle laying there. i looked to my wife, it was a car bomb. >> early indications are the bomb was a half-ton homemade bomb made of common fertilizer and fuel oil. >> fortunately, the axle housing contains the truck's confidential vehicle
identification number. >> using that number, we were able to trace the vehicle itself and identify it as a ford motor product made for ryder riddle company. >> the ryder company informs the fbi this particular truck was assigned to elliott's body shop in junction city, kansas. fbi agents found the truck had to be rented two days earlier. >> the rental documents themselves showed that it was rented by a robert bob cling. we had no idea who robert kling was or whether he was a real person. >> an employee provides a detailed description of cling and another man he believed was with him. who was robert kling, and why had he just murdered nearly 200 men, women and children? within 24 hours, the nation would learn the stunning truth. >> let there be no room for doubt. we will find the people who did this.
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terrifying days in american history. >> this is just devastating. smoke and debris and fire on the ground. there are numerous injuries. >> the human toll is overwhelming. 168 people killed, at least 650 injured. among the dead are 19 children. >> there is very little hope for those that are left in that building. >> the oklahoma city bombing will go down in history as one of those elemental moments that people will remember where they were at the time. >> this is the grisly, meticulous search effort to find bodies. >> less than 90 minutes after the blast, about 75 miles north of oklahoma city, state trooper charlie hanger stops a 1977 mercury marquis for not having a license plate. the driver of the car is one timothy james mcveigh.
>> when he got out of the car, he looked like a clean-cut young man, military-type appearance. he had a short haircut and a light windbreaker jacket on zipped up at the bottom. as he removed the wallet, that jacket tightened up and i saw a budge that appeared to be a. en and i grabbed the budge on the outside of the jacket and i instructed him to get his hands up and he said my weapon is loaded and i nudged him and said, so is mine. >> he arrested mcveigh for carrying a concealed weapon, never imaging his prisoner is the oklahoma city bomber. initially, the name mcveigh means nothing to bombing investigators. they're looking for robert kling, the man who rented the ryder truck in junction city, kansas.
>> it seems hard to believe that all this destruction was the work of only two men. >> the next day armed with sketches of kling and a suspected companion, law enforcement officers canvass the entire area. >> one agent was assigned the dreamland motel and when he walked in, he talked to the owner of that particular place and he asked her, has anyone been in here that had a ryder truck with them? actually, there was recently. the agent decided to show her the artist conception and she looked at and it said that really looks like the fellow who rented room 25. >> he had rented the room in the name of tim mcveigh. the ryder rental truck had been rented in the name of robert kling so there was some question which is the true name, if either were the true name. >> so we do a record search to see if any timothy mcveighs have been arrested anywhere in the united states recently, and to
our surprise, we learned that a timothy mcveigh has been arrested in noble county which is about 75 miles north of oklahoma city and was arrested the morning of the bombing. it turned out that he was still there but he was getting ready to be released on bail, but we put a hold on him until our agents could get there to interview him. was this the same timothy mcveigh that was at the dreamland motel? at this point, we don't necessarily know.
i remind everyone that john doe number two remains at large. >> you murderer! >> when mcveigh is taken from the local courthouse to be transported to oklahoma city, he is met by an angry crowd and screams of "baby killer." >> rot in hell. >> is it the act of someone which the united states government in its entire ill? >> i was so hoping that it was not an american. it's hard to believe americans blowing up americans.
>> it just boggled my mind. >> what tim mcveigh did was the worst act of domestic terrorism in american history. the entire country was shocked and riveted that somebody could come from white-bred suburbia and create such a hellacious act. >> i have a daughter that's 3 and to think she'll grow up in this is scary. >> investigators are certain that mcveigh is the john doe number one in the police sketch, but they still have not identified john doe number two. >> john doe number two, if the fbi can't find him, does he exist? >> fbi chief louis bree sent him this message, "there is no place on earth where you will be safe." >> the michigan address on mcveigh's driver's license is the home of a man named james nichols. it's a critical development.
nichols' brother, terry, has been close friends with mcveigh since they served together in the army. like mcveigh, nichols is known to harbor anti-government views. >> terry nichols four days before the blast took out a new insurance policy on his pickup truck. >> an arrest warrant is quickly issued and later that same day nichols turns himself in. by now, the rescue operation at the murrah building has become a recovery effort. >> authorities in this building behind me are coming across more bodies. >> the search for bodies will last for two full weeks. >> most of the survivors wanted to go to most of the funerals, and that's tough going to 16 funerals, let me tell you. that was really hard, but we needed to do it. >> two women are believed to be still in the building with an elderly man. >> timely on may 5th, 1995, with 3 victims still buried in the rubble, the search comes to an end. >> this was not two or three people from this city or two or three people from that city. this was oklahoma city. the terrorism was directed at the city. the terrorism was directed at its people. it was a sword at the heart of oklahoma city. on april 21st, 1995, timothy mcveigh is arrested and charged with the bombing of the alfred p. murrah federal building in oklahoma city. oklahoma attorney stephen jones is appointed as mcveigh's public defender. jones immediately rejects the possibility of an insanity defense.
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mcveigh is arrested and charged with the bombing of the alfred p. murrah federal building in oklahoma city. oklahoma attorney stephen jones is appointed as mcveigh's public defender. jones immediately rejects the possibility of an insanity defense. >> timothy mcveigh was not insane. he was rational. he was interviewed by several psychologists and psychiatrists and didn't have any obvious mental disorder or emotional disorder. >> the question comes up, why is a non mentally ill individual going to conduct a bombing which kills hundreds of people? >> i don't want people to misread what i'm about to say, but i was surprised at how affable and likable he appeared to be for a man who had killed 168 people in cold blood. >> reporters dan herbeck and lu michelle spent more than 7 0 hours interviewing mcveigh trying to gain some insight into what led him to become a domestic terrorist. by all accounts, an early turning point for mcveigh comes in 1988 when he joins the army. while stationed at ft. benning, georgia, he and his roommate michael fortier bond with their platoon leader nickles over a distrust of the federal government. >> mcveigh took an instant
liking to him and loved hearing nichols spout off about his theories about government and politics. >> mcveigh serves during operation desert storm in 1991 and is awarded a bronze star for valor. during his service, he kills at least two enemy combatants. >> one thing he bragged about in saudi arabia in war he was a gunner on a bradley and told me one time about when he was shooting at a bunker and a guy came out waving his hands trying to surrender and stuff and mcveigh started shooting at him with .25 millimeter. he said there was 1,100 meters
and the first round hit the guy in the head. >> after returning from the war, mcveigh hopes to join the special forces but quits because he's physically unprepared. >> one of mcveigh's goals from early on in entering the army was special forces. when it didn't work out for him with the special forces, he lost his focus. >> mcveigh is discharged from the army on december 31st, 1991. he begins to drift around the country taking odd jobs and attending gun shows. >> he was totally against any kind of gun control. he was totally in favor of government leaving people alone, and letting them do what they want to do. >> distrust of a large central government goes back to our independence. it is written into our constitution. the problem is when it's taken to it's extremes and timothy mcveigh was the extreme of that ideology. >> but he doesn't seem to be destructive until two tragic events in the early 1990s excite mcveigh to embrace violence.
in august 1992, deputy u.s. marshals and fbi agents are involved in a deadly confrontation in northern idaho with an alleged white supremacist named randy weaver. weaver is suspected of selling illegal firearms. during an 11-day standoff, weaver's son, his wife and a deputy u.s. marshal are killed. then on february 28th, 1993, following a gun battle between the atf and members of a religious group called the branch davidians, federal agents lay siege to the group's compound near waco, texas. a suspected cache of illegal weapons is at the center of the controversy. >> mcveigh was just absolutely in a rage over both of those incidents, but the one thing that pushed him over the edge
and turned him into a terrorist was the waco incident. >> at one point, mcveigh drives to waco to observe the siege. >> he went and parked his car nearby and selling anti-government pamphlets, giving interviews to at least one reporter back then about how much he distrusted the u.s. government. >> during an assault by the fbi on april 19th, the branch davidian come pound is engulfed by fire. at least 76 men, women and children die during the inferno. >> mcveigh told us that he was convinced that the u.s. government purposely murdered women and children at the waco compound. it was all part of an effort to destroy gun rights in america. >> the triggering moment was waco. he was there, and he decided
that the government had gone too far. >> he was going to start his own war. >> and the first strike would be aimed at the heart of the country. for mcveigh and his army buddy terry nichols, targeting a government building was dramatic and symbolic. they chose the alfred p. murrah federal building in downtown oklahoma city which housed 14 federal agencies, including the secret service, the d.e.a., and the atf. >> mcveigh believed that his bombing would be the opening salvo in a conflict against an illegitimate tyrannical federal government that needed to be brought down to its knees. on august 10th, 1995, a federal grand jury charges timothy mcveigh and terry nichols with 11 criminal counts,
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federal grand jury charges timothy mcveigh and terry nichols with 11 criminal counts, including 8 counts of murder. that figure is based upon the number of federal law enforcement officials killed in the blast. on april 24th, 1997, 2 years after the bombing, mcveigh's trial begins in denver, colorado. the prosecution presents first, and lays out a timeline of events that led up to the bombing. by mid 1994, mcveigh and nichols, along with their army friend, michael fortier, were
ready to put their army plan into action. mcveigh decided the most effective weapon would be a truck bomb. in september 1994, mcveigh and nichols begin stockpiling ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer often used in truck bombs. >> you combine the ammonium nitrate and fuel and you have an explosive mixture. it's cheap, readily available and not particularly complicated to make. >> over the next few months, the two men start quietly gathering more components, including racing fuel, explosive charges, and 544 blasting caps they steal from a quarry in marion, kansas. then that december, mcveigh and michael fortier going to oklahoma city to case the murrah building.
>> we know for certain that mcveigh examined multiple federal buildings. he, in particularly, scouted out the murrah building on multiple occasions. we know that because he took michael fortier directly to the murrah building and said after his examination of all the potential targets, this is the one he was going to hit. >> mcveigh picks april 19th as the date, known as patriots' day, it's revered by many in the right wing anti-government movement. >> on april 19th, you have the first shot fired at lexington in the american revolution. on that day, waco occurs in 1993. and then two years later,
mcveigh blows up his truck bomb in front of the murrah building. >> at some point, fortier decides to not take part in the bombing. in fact, in a later plea bargain, he will agree to testify against co-conspirators. in march 1995 mcveigh creates a fake driver's license with the name robert d. kling and birth date of april 19th, 1972. on april 14th, mcveigh buys the yellow 1977 mercury marquis from a used car dealer in junction city, kansas. the next day, mcveigh reserves the ryder truck from elliots body shop using the robert d. kling alias. on april 16th, mcveigh and nichols drive the mercury to oklahoma city. mcveigh parks several blocks away from the murrah building. he removes the license plates from the car and leaves a note.
not abandoned. please do not tow. will move by april 23rd. needs battery and table. two days later, mcveigh and nichols rendezvous near junction city where they assemble the bomb in the truck. >> the ammonium nitrate and fuel would have been mixed in some barrels, something akin to a 55 gallon plastic barrel. those barrels were then likely connected with this detonating cord which led to the boosters and ultimately that detonating cord would have come together where the detonators or blasting caps were. >> but at the last minute, terry nichols, like michael fortier,
bails out. >> as time grew near to the time of the bombing, nichols got cold feet. he decided he didn't want to do that. he decided that was going too far. mcveigh screamed at him, threatened him, may have threatened to kill him. >> on the morning of april 19th, mcveigh, now on his own, drives the ryder truck into oklahoma city. at 8:57 a.m., security cameras at the regency tower apartment building a few blocks west of the murrah building catch the ryder truck parked across the street. investigators surmise this is when mcveigh lights the first fuse. a few minutes later, mcveigh moves the truck up, lights the second fuse and parks on the north side of the murrah building. he then exits the truck and begins walking rapidly to the yellow mercury parked four blocks away. at the federal building, the workday is starting. hundreds of people are already inside. >> explosion downtown.
>> about a third of the building has been blown away. >> the whole front of the federal building is gone. >> mcveigh is only two blocks away when the bomb detonates, but he makes it to the getaway car and heads north on interstate 35 where he is soon stopped for driving a vehicle without tags. among the items found after his arrest is a business card for a military supply store. on the back is a handwritten note, "tnt at $5 a stick, need more." >> there's no question in my mind that timothy mcveigh wanted to get caught, wanted to become a martyr. wanted the u.s. government to execute him. he left a trail of breadcrumbs for federal agents.
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begin to settle in for the trial outside the federal courthouse, so is the city of denver. >> during his trial, timothy mcveigh does not deny that he set the truck bomb. he instructs his lawyers to use a necessity defense, that he acted in self-defense against an oppressive federal government. >> mcveigh looked at the federal trial as a multimillion dollar soapbox for his anti-government views.
that he felt he had no choice but to blow up a building and kill 168 people. >> is everything still all right? >> great. >> you have no complaints? >> nothing. they resolve every problem that i bring up. >> okay. so the situation here is a lot better than it was? >> day and night. >> good, good. >> in his distorted world view, his actions were a response to violence perpetrated by the government against its own people. >> defense attorney stephen jones knew a necessity case was unwinnable so he chose a different course, arguing that mcveigh was only part of a much larger conspiracy. >> the greatest mystery of the oklahoma city bombing case is who else, besides tim mcveigh, terry nichols, and michael fortier were involved? because there were most assuredly others. >> much of the speculation centers on the man reportedly seen with mcveigh at the truck rental company. known as john doe number two, the description did not fit either terry nichols or michael
fortier. investigators concluded that john doe number two never existed. >> we found a gentleman that had been in there that generally fit the description of john doe number two but it turned out it had been on a different day. he'd been in there with a friend who had rented a ryder truck. so we now realize it was a misidentification of people transposing two different events and putting two different occurrences together. >> mcveigh swore to us over and over again that there was no john doe number two, no one was with him on the day of the bombing. >> the biggest misconception out there about the oklahoma city bombing, in my view, is this is something that sprang from the brain of timothy mcveigh, was masterminded by timothy mcveigh and substantially carried out by timothy mcveigh with very little
help from terry nichols. >> if there were other people involved with the bombing, who were they? some believe there may have been a connection between mcveigh and elohim city, a so-called christian identity community in northeastern oklahoma, about 170 miles from oklahoma city near the arkansas border. >> it's essentially a religion that says white anglo-saxon americans are the true children of israel and jews are subhuman and essentially black people are not even human at all. >> during the early 1990s a number of far right extremist reportedly spent time in elohim city.
>> this was an interesting time. you had a number of anti-government groups that were taking shape, arming themselves, building compounds throughout the country, establishing their own laws, really setting themselves apart from mainstream cities and locations on purpose and believing, then, that not only people of other faiths or ethnicities or nationalities were the enemy, but that the united states government was the biggest enemy. >> the question that recurs is what was the connection between tim mcveigh and elohim city?
tim mcveigh said he never went there. there are people, however, who claim to have seen mcveigh at elohim city, and probably the strongest evidence that he was there is a ticket he received from an arkansas highway patrolman about four miles into arkansas from oklahoma on a road that takes you straight to elohim city, so if he wasn't at elohim city, where was he? >> timothy mcveigh made some calls to elohim city. he drove near the area, we know, but beyond that, any connection to elohim city or the notion that there were others involved is speculation heaped on top of speculation. >> but even assuming others were involved, why would mcveigh so strongly insist that he acted alone? >> he believed that in lying, he would protect the others, so they wouldn't be convicted. and he spun a series of lies to shield the others. >> i think it's possible that there were other people that helped along the way, but did not know they were helping with the bombing. but i believe that the only one who's actually knew what they were working on were the three men that were punished by the government. >> mcveigh, fortier and nichols. >> we got him. >> two years and 44 days after the worst terrorist attack on united states soil, a verdict has been rendered in the bombing trial of timothy mcveigh. >> on june 2nd, 1997, timothy mcveigh is found guilty on all 11 counts of murder and conspiracy. he is sentenced to death. >> outside the courthouse in denver, tears, smiles, and all emotions in between. >> later that year, on december 24th, terry nichols is also convicted. he is currently serving life at
the federal supermax prison in colorado. for cooperating, michael fortier receives a 12-year sentence. he is now part of the witness protection program. >> people are going to remember timothy mcveigh as a murderer. not a martyr. >> on june 11th, 2001, timothy mcveigh is put to death at the federal correctional complex in terre haute, indiana. >> timothy james mcveigh has been executed by lethal injection. >> it is the first federal execution in 38 years. >> mcveigh, even at the point he was being executed, never flinched, never changed his mind. never expressed regret. but right to the point of his death, mcveigh sustained his belief and did not show remorse. just over a month after the oklahoma city bombing, what was left of the murrah federal building was demolished.
today, the site is home to the oklahoma city national memorial and museum. in addition to a reflecting pool, there is a field of empty chairs. 16 handcrafted sculptures that represent the victims. >> the memorial is a very special place. i think it really is a tribute to those who were killed and those who survived and those changed forever. >> it's just a positive thing that came out of a negative situation that we want people not to forget but realize if a bad thing happens, you can get through it. >> claudia and jim denny's children, brandon and rebecca, were two of six kids at the daycare center who survived the blast. >> rebecca was in the hospital >> rebecca was in the hospital visibility into your business, it can quickly become the only thing you think about. that's where at&t can help. at&t's innovative solutions connect machines and people... to keep your internet of things in-sync, in real-time. leaving you free to focus on what matters most.
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oklahoma city bombing, what was left of the murrah federal building was demolished. today, the site is home to the oklahoma city national memorial and museum. in addition to a reflecting pool, there is a field of empty chairs. 16 handcrafted sculptures that represent the victims. >> the memorial is a very special place. i think it really is a tribute to those who were killed and those who survived and those changed forever. >> it's just a positive thing that came out of a negative situation that we want people not to forget but realize if a bad thing happens, you can get
through it. >> claudia and jim denny's children, brandon and rebecca, were two of six kids at the daycare center who survived the blast. >> rebecca was in the hospital for ten days, released in pretty decent shape. she looked horrible but she was in pretty good shape. brandon in 1995 spent 126 days hospitalized. about the first 45 days, he had 4 major brain surgeries. they could not tell me for 35 days if brandon would live. they informed us that if he did
survive, he would more than likely never walk or talk again. but we have a young man who is now 21 years old and he's a walking and talking example of what miracles are all about. >> the oklahoma city bombing remains the worst domestic terrorist act in american history. it changed the country in ways that are still being felt. >> people forget how different the world was when the bombing happened. and i think it shattered across the world people's feelings of safety and security because if it can happen in oklahoma city, it can happen anywhere. if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. >> we became a more cautious society, barriers went up around federal buildings. you have more security. the seeds of homeland security were actually planted by timothy mcveigh. >> there were other changes, as
well. the attack led to significant engineering improvements that allow buildings to better withstand excessive forces, whether manmade or natural. and legislation passed in the wake of the disaster has given greater voice to the victims and families left behind by attacks like the oklahoma city bombing. timothy mcveigh believed that he was going to cause people to rise up and rebel against their government. this was going to be the start of the revolution. and what happened was the total opposite. you saw a community in total support of its law enforcement, of its firemen, of its government. it shows that when we put our hearts and our minds together, we can make something good happen out of something terrible.
>> but resilience, alone, can't protect against every threat. events continue to demonstrate that free societies must remain vigilant. the tragic bombing that killed 3 and injured 250 at the 2013 boston marathon is a stark example. almost certainly by coincidence, it happened on patriots' day. virtually 18 years to the day after timothy mcveigh attacked oklahoma city. >> god speaks to me. >> in waco, texas. >> he claimed that he was the lamb of god. >> they truly believe that he was the messiah. >> leading his followers to armageddon. >> god's word. all i am is the voice. >> reportedly he believes he was jesus christ. >> i had a radio mic in one ear
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