Who Was Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh?

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On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murray Federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killing 168 people and wounding several hundred others. 

At the time, it was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Here's what to know about McVeigh.

McVeigh was born in Lockport, New York, a working-class town near Niagara Falls. His parents divorced when he was 16 and he had an interest in guns. He also took a liking to “The Turner Diaries,” an anti-government book by neo-Nazi William Pierce. The book discusses the government’s urge to repeal the Second Amendment and describes bombing a federal building. 

McVeigh was reportedly a recluse and was bullied during his teenage years. He was also a bright student and even earned a partial scholarship to college after graduating high school. He dropped out of college and enlisted in the Army in 1988, where he would earn a Bronze Star for bravery during combat in the Persian Gulf War. 

He was also invited to join the Army’s Special Forces but quit after two days of training and was ultimately discharged from the Army in 1991. 

By the spring of 1993, the media had put all of its attention on a small Texas compound in the town of Waco, where religious leader David Koresh and his followers known as Branch Davidians lived. Authorities wanted to arrest Koresh for illegal weapons and the media coverage resulted in supporters of the leader also flocking to the area, one of them being McVeigh.

On April 19, 1993, federal agents stormed the compound, resulting in a gunfight between the followers, their leader and authorities. Dozens, including children, were killed and the compound was set on fire.

In September 1994, seeking revenge following Waco, McVeigh began to put together a plan to blow up the Murray building because he believed it would send an anti-government message also give him tremendous media coverage. Prosecutors said he enlisted a friend, Terry Nichols, to help put together the explosives and carry out the plan, which would take place in the coming months. 

Exactly two years after the Waco incident, McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma City federal building. Just before 9 a.m., McVeigh parked a truck with explosives in front of the building and walked away. As people were still arriving for work, the truck exploded, destroying the north wall of the building. Altogether, McVeigh killed 168 people including 19 children and wounded over 650. 

McVeigh was coincidentally already in police custody just after the bombing following being found with an illegally concealed gun after being pulled over for a license plate violation. Within days, McVeigh was considered the primary suspect in the bombing and eventually charged. Nichols was also eventually arrested.

Nearly two years after the explosion in Oklahoma City, McVeigh spent five weeks on trial and was convicted after the jury deliberated for 23 hours. He was sentenced him to death. In 1999, McVeigh appealed for a new trial. His appeal went directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, who denied him that March. Nichols was sentenced to death as well.

Anthony Cooper, who lost his daughter-in-law and grandson in the bombing, says he doesn’t blame the McVeigh family for what happened but did want to see Timothy executed. 

“Tim not only killed my family but basically, he injured his own family that basically, they will be grieving for the rest of their lives,” he told Inside Edition in 2001. 

Days before McVeigh was set to be executed in May 2001, Inside Edition caught up with his father and people who knew him in Upstate New York.

The family priest told Inside Edition that  McVeigh’s father, Bill McVeigh, would quietly sit in church and would appear calm during Mass as his son was making headlines across the country. 

Bill, who spoke with Inside Edition off camera, said that when he visited his son in prison, Timothy seemed like the same boy he watched grow up. Bill said that he will never understand how his son or anyone could carry out an attack like the one that happened in Oklahoma City. 

Bill recalled that during one visit to his son, he asked if he was ready to apologize. The distraught father said that his son replied, “Dad, I would make a lot of people happy if I apologized but if I apologized, I would be lying.” 

Timothy’s mother, Mildred McVeigh, declined to be interviewed by Inside Edition but sent a letter in which she described her life since the bombing. 

“I’ve had to give up everything,” she wrote. “I had to start a new life.” 

She added that she has been “harassed” and treated as a “nothing,” adding that people have been “mocking my family as if we were criminals.” 

Prior to his execution, Timothy spoke to “60 Minutes” and was asked if he was prepared for death, to which he answered he was. 

“I came to terms with my mortality in the Gulf War; after that it is not that hard to be prepared for death,” he said. 

The last time Bill saw his son was April 10, 2001, nearly six years to the day since the Oklahoma City bombing. They saw each other through the prison glass, which Timothy pressed his hands against and his father did the same. Then, Timothy walked away. 

He was executed on June 11 of that year. 

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