Timothy McVeigh selected April 19 1995, exactly two years after agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) raided the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas to set off a massive truck bomb outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
The huge blast collapsed the entire north front of the nine-story building, instantly killing more than 168 people, including 19 children.
Timothy McVeigh, a 27-year-old former U.S. Army soldier was arrested just 90 minutes after the bombing for a traffic offense, but evidence found inside his car incident to that arrest caused him to become a suspect in the bombing. On April 21, 1995, McVeigh attended a court hearing on the gun charges, but before he was released, federal agents took him into custody as a suspect in the bombing.
On that same day, McVeigh’s accomplice in the murders, Terry Nichols, learned that he was being sought as a suspect on the bombing as well, resulting in his surrendering.
Investigators served several search warrants to homes associated with the pair. During these searches, agents discovered ammonium nitrate and blasting caps, books on bomb-making, and a hand-drawn map of downtown Oklahoma City, on which the Murrah Building and the spot where McVeigh’s getaway car had been hidden were marked.
During the investigation, it was learned the two men met while serving in the U.S. Army together, and they became friends, having a strong shared common survivalist interest. Both men were later found to be members of a radical anti-government survivalist group. In early 1991, McVeigh served in the Persian Gulf, but the Army began an effort to downsizing about that time, and McVeigh was discharged as a result.
McVeigh’s ideology seemed to shift after his leaving the service, from defending the US, to his a having a strong and unsubstantiated suspicion of the U.S. federal government.
The August 1992 shoot-out between federal agents and survivalist Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge in Idaho, coupled with Branch Davidian incident, radicalized McVeigh, and Nichols.
Subsequently, on the the second anniversary of the Waco fire, McVeigh parked a Ryder rental truck loaded with a diesel-fuel-fertilizer bomb outside the building, which housed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and he fled the area. Minutes later, he detonated the massive bomb.
McVeigh was convicted on 15 counts of murder and conspiracy, and in August 1997, he was sentenced to die by lethal injection. McVeigh would later petition the court stop all of his appeals, and he asked his execution sentence be carried out. McVeigh’s execution, in June 2001, was the first federal death penalty to be carried out since 1963.
Terry Nichols was found guilty on one count of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter; he was sentenced to life in prison. The State of Oklahoma later charged him with 160 counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree manslaughter for the death of an unborn child, and one count of aiding in the placement of a bomb near a public building. He was convicted of all of those charges and sentenced to 160 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.