Jim Norman, Case Agent, Oklahoma City Bombing Investigation
Jim Norman describes events leading up to the capture to Timothy McVeigh for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
We found out that an Oklahoma highway patrol trooper had made an inquiry on Tim McVeigh within about 90 minutes of the bombing. So we had one of the people working on our taskforce, an ATF agent named Mark M. contact highway patrol and identify the person who’s badge number was in that inquiry.
Because when you make an inquiry you have to list an identifier for yourself as a law enforcement official. So he found out that that badge number belonged to a trooper named Charlie Hanger.
And so once we had Hanger’s name we had someone contact him and they found out that Hanger had been heading south toward Oklahoma City based on a highway patrol dispatcher call for all available troopers to head to Oklahoma City to assist. He had gotten a discontinue. He was about 62 miles north of Oklahoma City and he turned around in the median on Interstate 35 and as he is starting to head back north he is passed by this yellow Mercury Marquis that’s missing its rear license plate. And so he pulls that car over and the driver gets out of the car and Hanger has to order him to stay by the door of his car.
So Hanger gets out, tells the guy to back up toward him and as McVeigh is backing up toward him he notices that McVeigh has a bulge under his left jacket and he reaches out and grabs it and McVeigh says it’s a gun and it’s loaded and Hanger has his gun next to McVeigh’s head and says, “so is mine.” And he relieved McVeigh of his gun, which was loaded with those rounds that can shoot through an armored vest. Once he had that gun and a knife that McVeigh had hidden on his person, he took McVeigh into custody and took him to the Noble County jail in Perry, Oklahoma.
So our investigator asked Hanger what happened to him. He said, “I don’t know. He may still be in custody; he may not.” So one of our investigators contacted Sheriff Jerry Cook and talked to him and he said, “Well McVeigh is in custody, but he’s going to be released within probably an hour.” So we put a federal hold on him and at that point myself and several other agents got into a helicopter and flew up to Perry and when we got up there myself and another agent interviewed the different people that had been in McVeigh’s cell.
We were asking them questions. You know, “Has McVeigh say anything? Did he comment on the bombing or anything of that nature?” They said no he was just attentive to the radio that was giving updates on what was going on with the bombing investigation. Finally McVeigh was brought into an office that Sheriff Cook gave us and I asked McVeigh, I said, “Do you know why we are here?” He said, “That thing in Oklahoma City, I guess.” And I said what he meant by that? And he said “That bombing, I want an attorney.”
One of the really beneficial things of Trooper Hanger taking him into custody was the fact that when they lodged him in the Noble County jail, they collected all of his clothing and put it in paper bags. When we sent that clothing back to the FBI Laboratory and they did a chemical analysis test on the clothing, they determined that he was basically the explosive equivalent of a powdered sugar doughnut. He had PETN all over his clothing.
Five years after the bombing, I brought my wife and children to the dedication ceremony of the memorial. We could have gone in with Clinton, but we chose to go in with the victims and I wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact that hit me when we walked in there and I saw the people who had lost kids, putting stuffed animals and flowers on the little seats.
There’s big seats for adults and little seats for the kids. And when they went in there and put the stuffed animals and the flowers on the little seats, I couldn’t talk. I said I can’t talk and I just walked on the hill for a few minutes until I kind of composed myself. It was so sad what happened with those kids.
It’s still the defining moment in Oklahoma City. When you try to talk about when something happened—let’s see, that was before the bombing or that was after the bombing? It’s a measure of time like BC and AD. Throughout the country, news stories went in different directions and they didn’t keep having that, but in Oklahoma City they did.
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