Today in History: Timothy McVeigh Convicted of Oklahoma City Bombing (1997)

Aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Business Insider

The Oklahoma City bombing remains one of the most devastating terrorist attacks on American soil ever. According to the US Government, it was the deadliest attack on US soil before September 11, 2001 when terrorists killed almost 3,000 people in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania.

On April 19, 1995, a truck bomb exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It killed 168 people, 100 of whom died instantly. 19 children died in the blast. 600 others were injured. It remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism ever.

Timothy McVeigh after his arrest in 1995. Business Insider

Not long after the attack, investigators had discovered that the perpetrator behind the attack was Timothy McVeigh, a ex-US Army soldier. A massive manhunt followed, resulting in the capture of McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols.

After their capture, the prosecutors in Oklahoma convened a Grand Jury. McVeigh was indicted on eleven federal counts, including use of weapon of mass destruction, destruction with the use of explosives, and eight counts of first degree murder.

The trial was followed by the entire nation. On June 2nd, 1997 McVeigh was convicted of all eleven counts he was charged with. ON June 13 of that year, he was sentenced to death. After a series of appeals, McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001 at 7:14 AM.

In the case of a major attack, there is always the question we all ask: why? Why did McVeigh and his partner do what they did? Almost universally the answers are unsatisfying not only to the public at large, but to the victim’s families.

The answer in this case, is that McVeigh held the US Government accountable for the tragedy at Waco, Texas in 1993. That event surrounded a siege by the US and Texas law enforcement on a sect of religious members who held up at the Mount Carmel Center Ranch in Waco. A stand-off that lasted 51 days followed a shootout that killed four federal agents. In order to end the standoff, law enforcement initiated a tear gas attack in order to remove the residence from the ranch. A fire broke out that killed 76 people.

McVeigh charged the US government with responsibility for those death. The bombing at the Oklahoma City Federal building was his response to the deaths at Waco.

During his trial, his defense team tried to argue that the bombing was a justifiable response to the Waco attack.

After his sentencing, McVeigh had the change to offer several explanations for his actions. “If there is a hell, then I’ll be in good company with a lot of fighter pilots who also had to bomb innocents to win the war” He also wrote, in response to his death sentence: “I knew I wanted this before it happened. I knew my objective was state-assisted suicide and when it happens, it’s in your face. You just did something you’re trying to say should be illegal for medical personnel.”

Terry Nichols, 1995. Wikipedia

Terry Nichols, McVeigh’s partner in all this, was sentenced to 161 terms of live in prison, with no possibility of parole. He is currently housed at the ADX Florence Penitentiary in Fremont County, Colorado.

The attack on April 19, 1995 will go down as one of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil of all time. It is only the size and terror of 9/11 that currently overshadows it. The people of Oklahoma City, however, are unlikely to forget the grief and loss of the 168 men, women and children who died that day.

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