Oklahoma City Bombing

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated


OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING (19 April 1995), a devastating act of domestic terrorism, in which political extremist Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. McVeigh's truck bomb, made of fertilizer and diesel fuel, killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured more than 500 others. Television coverage burned the catastrophe into the nation's psyche with chilling images of bodies being removed from the rubble. The mass murderer turned out to be a 27-year-old decorated U.S. Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War with extreme antigovernment views. McVeigh's motive was to avenge a bloody 19 April 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Tex., in which some 80 people died. The Federal Bureau of Investigation tracked McVeigh down through the Ryder rental truck that exploded in Oklahoma City. An accomplice, Terry Nichols, was implicated through a receipt for fertilizer and a getaway map linked to the blast. The FBI also searched unsuccessfully for an unidentified "John Doe" suspect whom eyewitnesses placed at the crime scene. This phantom suspect, and the trials of McVeigh and Nichols—both of whom pleaded not guilty—fueled theories of a larger conspiracy. But prosecutors maintained the men acted alone, and both were convicted. McVeigh was sentenced to death, and eventually admitted he carried out the strike. Nichols was sentenced to life in prison for his role. Just five days before McVeigh was scheduled to die, his case took a final dramatic turn. The FBI admitted it had withheld 3,135 documents from McVeigh's lawyers. The execution was briefly postponed. But on 11 June 2001, in Terre Haute, Ind., McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection. Through a grant of special permission by the U.S. Attorney General, victims and survivors watched the execution on closed-circuit television in Oklahoma City.


Linenthal, Edward T. The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Serrano, Richard. One of Ours: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. New York: Norton, 1998.


See alsoTerrorism ; Waco Siege .

views updated


See terrorism "The Oklahoma City Bombing" (Sidebar); venue "Venue and the Oklahoma City Bombing Case" (Sidebar).