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Timothy James McVeigh (April 23, 1968 - June 11, 2001) was an American domestic terrorist convicted and sentenced to die for his part in the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Hundreds were injured and 168 men, women and children died when a truck loaded with improvised explosives was detonated in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building as federal offices began business for the day.
Most accounts say the AMFO explosive device arranged in the back of a rented Ryder truck contained about 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer, and nitromethane, a highly volatile motor-racing fuel. Prosecutors said McVeigh strode away from the truck after he ignited a timed fuse from the front of the truck. In interviews from prison, McVeigh later alluded to collateral damage when asked about children arriving at a day care center behind glass windows that shattered in the explosion.
McVeigh was a decorated veteran of the United States Army, having served in the Gulf War, where he was awarded a bronze star. He had been a top scoring gunner with the 25mm cannon on lightly armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles used by the 1st Infantry Division to which he was assigned. He deployed to Iraq from Fort Riley, in Kansas.
Upon leaving the Army, McVeigh worked for a while in his native Buffalo, New York, as a security guard. He returned to Junction City, Kansas, outside Fort Riley, among other places, in what became an increasingly transient lifestyle in the months before the attack in Oklahoma. Prosecutors said he made the bomb at a lake campground near his old Army post. He was seen renting a Ryder truck identified as the one used for the bombing at Elliots Auto Body in Junction City, and was identified as the main suspect by a motel receipt from the Dreamland Motel in nearby Grandview Plaza. A highway patrolmen stopped the car he was driving for speeding just minutes after the bombing, as he raced toward central Kansas in a car with no license plate. He was arrested for driving without a license and carrying a concealed weapon, and almost released before he was identified three days later as the subject of a worldwide manhunt.
In a book based on interviews before his execution, American Terrorist, McVeigh stated he decapitated an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day in the war, and celebrated. But he said he later was shocked to be ordered to execute surrendering prisoners, and to see carnage on the road leaving Kuwait City after U.S. troops routed the Iraqi army. In interviews following the Oklahoma city bombing, McVeigh said he began harboring anti-government feelings during the Gulf War. He said he was further influenced by the 1993 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms raid on the Waco, Texas residences of the Branch Davidians. He visited Waco, Texas, during the standoff, where he spoke to a news reporter about his anger for what was happening there.
McVeigh was convicted in a United States Court for the murder of eight federal employees who died in the explosion. Justice Department prosecutors could not bring charges against McVeigh for most of the murders because those deaths fell under the jurisdiction of the state of Oklahoma. One of his appeals made it to the Supreme Court of the United States, which on March 8, 1999 upheld his murder convictions. McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001, by lethal injection, at the U.S. Federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was the first execution by the federal government of the United States in more than 38 years.
Before his execution, some speculated McVeigh was framed, or that others were involved. Convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols was sentenced in federal court to life in prison for his role in the crime, but at Nichols' trial, testimony suggested McVeigh had several other accomplices. McVeigh's original trial attorney wrote in a book, Others Unknown, about several other possible suspects, and continued to implicate Terry Nichols' brother James after McVeigh's execution.
Various analysts have suggested the government had a role in a conspiracy behind the bombing, or even planned the attack, so as to have grounds for persecuting right-wing organizations in a manner similar to Nazi prosecution of legislators after the Reichstag fire. Soon after the bombing an analysis by Brigadier General Benton K. Partin (Ret) concluded that "the damage at the Murrah Federal Building is not the result of the truck bomb itself, but rather due to other factors such as locally placed charges within the building itself". Some writers suggested seismograph records from a nearby research station shortly after the explosion indicated the possibility of multiple explosions, but other analysts suggest multiple readings within seconds indicate shock waves from collapse of the building.