Oklahoma Bombing Case Analysis

Oklahoma Bombing Case Analysis


The Oklahoma City Bombing that took place on 19 April, 1995 was the worst terrorist attack that ever took place on the American soil until the 9/11 attacks took place in the year 2001. It happened in Oklahoma City in a building that was known as Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The bombing took away 168 lives, left 680 people both severely and partially injured, left 86 cars burnt and others badly destroyed, left 258 buildings with no windows and another 354 damaged. The total amount of damage caused cost not less than $652 million (Lou & Herbeck, 2001). Although there have been other unsuccessful terrorist attacks on the American soil in the past decade, this attack is one of the worst attacks to be remembered by the Americans. This analysis gives the occurrences, the problems, the causes and the recommendations of this event.

Cause of Attack

The attack was led by Timothy McVeigh with his other accomplices Terry Nichols, Michael Fortier and Lori Fortier. The two latter accomplices were husband and wife. Mr. Fortier was McVeigh’s roommate in a U S Army basic training camp in Fort Benning in the year 1988, while Nichols just met with him during the same training. According to the investigations conducted, Nichols and McVeigh were supporters of the militia movement, were against gun control and believed in survivalism. What mainly made them come together was dissatisfaction with the federal government. They wanted to retaliate for the Ruby Ridge, Waco Siege, Turner Diaries, general US foreign policy, amongst other crimes. In summary they wanted to revenge on the way the standoff between the Branch Dividian and the FBI was handled. This is why McVeigh targeted the federal building (Lou & Herbeck, 2001).

McVeigh’s initial target was the federal building. However, he changed his mind before the attack when he felt that more people had to die so that his message could be well delivered. In his plan, he wanted the building targeted to hold at least two out of the three agencies of law enforcement. These agencies were The Drug Enforcement administration, The Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives and Firearms. The US Marshals Service and the Secret Service were regarded as a bonus.

Attacks Plan and Execution

            The bomber, McVeigh assembled the bomb by buying the separate components needed. McVeigh bought the bomb components with the help of his accomplice Nichols. These purchases took place on different occasions and in different places. On 30 September, 1994, fifty-pound ammonium nitrate bags that amounted to forty bags were purchased by Nichols. Another bag of similar quantity was added on 18 October 1994 (Briley, 2007).

The bomb intended to be constructed contained ammonium nitrate amounting to five thousand pounds, liquid nitromethane amounting to 1,200 pounds and Trovex amounting to 350 pounds. The bomb would weigh approximately 7000 pounds with the inclusion of the fifty-five United States gallon drums. Initially, McVeigh wanted to use hydrazine. He changed his mind after he realized it was too expensive. All these contents were stored in rented sheds. Finally, he was able to build the bomb as Nichol rejected his request of helping him in the assembling work. Apart from Nichols awareness, Mr. and Mrs. Fortier were also aware as he had once gone to their place to show them the drawn sketch of the bomb.

The bomb was to be detonated at 11.00 am on the morning of 19 Aril, 1995. However, for whatever reasons, he decided to detonate it at 9.00 am. He used Ryder truck to execute his plans. The five minute fuse was lit in Murrah building at 8.57 am while the two minute fuse was lit a block away at 9.00 am. The excess ammonium nitrate was detonated in front of the federal building. The bombers (McVeigh and Nichols) chose Murrah building because it was made of a glass front and the parking lot that was across the street (Briley, 2007). The glass font was expected to shatter and the parking lot was expected to dissipate by absorbing some force. McVeigh’s main intention was to kill as many federal agents as possible and leave out as many civilians as he could.


            Approximately six hundred and forty six people were in the federal building that day by the time the building exploded. By the evening of that particular day, twenty people were confirmed dead who included six children (there was a day care involved). Over one hundred people were also reported injured. After people were confirmed out of danger, 168 people were reported dead. There was an unmatched leg that could have belonged to a 169th victim. It is reported that majority of the people perished because of the collapse of the building rather than the bomb itself. The 168 deaths constituted 163 deaths from the federal building, one death from the parking lot, one death from the Athenian building two deaths from the Oklahoma Water Resources and another death that took place when a rescue worker got hit by debris on the head (North, 2010).

The bomb blast victims ranged from a three month old child to a seventy three year old man. There were also three pregnant women in the vicinity. Among those who met their deaths were eight federal agents, nineteen children and ninety-nine federal government workers.  At the scene, a temporary morgue was set up in order to make the identification of the bodies easier. Full body X-rays had to be used in order to aide in the body identification. The injuries identified were on more than 680 people (Lou & Herbeck, 2001). These injuries included bone fractures, severe burns and abrasions.

When asked about the death of the innocent children, McVeigh justified his actions by saying that he had not defined the rules in the conflict. According to him the rules were set by the aggressor because they were not written down. He further stated that there were children and women who were killed during the Ruby Ridge and the Waco. The government should be handed what it had offered (Lou & Herbeck, 2001).


            McVeigh was arrested by Charlie Hanger who was a state trooper in interstate 35 while traveling north, ninety minutes after the bombing. He was arrested because he was driving a car with no license plate. He was also caught with a card with words enquiring for more TNT sticks. The other three accomplices were linked to the attack and were given different trials. McVeigh was executed using a lethal injection in the year 2001; Terry Nichols was given a life sentence while Michael Fortier was given a twelve year prison term. Michael was given the sentence even after he had testified against the former two for failing to give the government a warning. Lori Fortier was offered immunity for testifying. According to Briley (2007), the agencies involved in the investigation used harassments and he still feels that everybody involved was not brought to justice. There were 28,000 interviews conducted 3.2 tons of evidence and almost one billion information pieces.


            The most affected were those left behind after the attacks. It was identified that majority of the children involved suffered from post-traumatic depression (North, 2010). More programs should be offered for the therapy and the recovery of the survivors and the close people of the victims together with the survivors (Landal, 2007). The rescue effort was in plenty. However there should be more organization since there seemed to be confusion at the sight. The carrying out of the investigation was not done in the right way. Although the matter at hand was sensitive, the interviewers should not have been as brutal to the all the interviewees (Briley, 2007). An alarm should be raised in case of suspicion. A secretary had seen suspicious looking men in front of the building before the attack. She said nothing.


















Briley, P. B., (2007). The Oklahoma City Bombing Case Revelations. Retrieved from www.devvy.com/briley/OKC_Bombing_Revelations.pdf.

Landal, M., (2007). Identity Crisis: Defining the Problem and Framing a Solution for Terrorism Incident Response. Journal of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Vol. III (3).

Lou, M & Herbeck, D., (2001). American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. New York, NY: Harper.

North, C. S., (2010). A Tale of Two Studies of Two Disasters: Comparing Psychosocial Responses to Disaster Among Oklahoma City Bombing Survivors and Hurricane Katrina Evacuees. Rehabilitation Psychology, 55 (3), 241-246.

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