* History Commons: Timothy McVeigh: Nov 1991 – Summer 1992: Future Oklahoma City Bomber Leaves Army, Joins National Guard, Becomes Increasingly Radicalized and Depressed.
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Future Oklahoma City Bomber Leaves Army, Joins National Guard, Becomes Increasingly Radicalized and Depressed.
Nov 1991 – Summer 1992, Timothy McVeigh; History Commons
Timothy McVeigh, a nascent white supremacist and survivalist (see March 24, 1988 – Late 1990) who is in the process of taking “early termination” from the US Army after being denied a position in Special Forces (see January – March 1991 and After), moves back in with his father in Pendleton, New York. Initially, he joins a National Guard unit and tries unsuccessfully to join the US Marshals. He is formally discharged from the Army on December 31, 1991. His final psychological assessment from the Army shows him to be under extreme stress and experiencing a powerful sense of disillusionment with the federal government. In January 1992, he goes to work for Burns International Security Services in Buffalo after leaving the Guard (see June 1992), and quickly rises to the rank of inspector.[NEW YORK TIMES, 5/4/1995; PBS FRONTLINE, 1/22/1996; MICKOLUS AND SIMMONS, 6/1997, PP. 810; SERRANO, 1998, PP. 48; DOUGLAS O. LINDER, 2001; CNN, 2001; CNN, 12/17/2007]
(A New York Times report later says McVeigh leaves the Army in early 1992. A book about McVeigh, One of Ours, claims that McVeigh returns to Pendleton after leaving the Army around Christmas of 1991.) [NEW YORK TIMES, 5/4/1995; SERRANO, 1998, PP. 44]
Depressed, Suicidal, Detached, Enraged
Over time, McVeigh becomes increasingly depressed and reportedly considers suicide; friends and colleagues will describe him as deteriorating both mentally and physically, and, in the words of the New York Times, will describe him as “an increasingly unstable man who wavered between gloomy silences and a hair-trigger temper, who lost so much weight he seemed anorexic, and who could follow simple orders but could not handle pressure or take independent action.” Lynda Haner-Mele, a supervisor for Burns Security in Kenmore, New York, later recalls working with McVeigh at the Niagara Falls Convention Center. She remembers calling him “Timmy” and worrying about his weight loss. “He seemed almost lost, like he hadn’t really grown up yet,” she will say. She is unaware of his Army service, later recalling: “He didn’t really carry himself like he came out of the military. He didn’t stand tall with his shoulders back. He was kind of slumped over.… That guy did not have an expression 99 percent of the time. He was cold. He didn’t want to have to deal with people or pressure. Timmy was a good guard, always there prompt, clean, and neat. His only quirk was that he couldn’t deal with people. If someone didn’t cooperate with him, he would start yelling at them, become verbally aggressive. He could be set off easily. He was quiet, but it didn’t take much.”
McVeigh becomes increasingly radicalized, growing more disenchanted with the idea of a federal government and distressed about the possibility of a federal crackdown on gun ownership. He talks about the government forcibly confiscating the citizenry’s guns and enslaving citizens. He writes angry letters to newspapers and his congressman on subjects such as his objection to inhumane slaughterhouses and a proposed law prohibiting the possession of “noxious substances,” and warns against an impending dictatorship if action is not soon taken (see February 11, 1992).
He urges friends to read a novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978), which tells the story of a white supremacist revolt against the US government and the extermination of minorities, and gives copies to his friends and relatives. He begins acquiring an arsenal of guns, and sets up a generator and a store of canned food and potable water in his basement so that he would be self-sufficient in case of emergency. He applies to join the Ku Klux Klan, but decides against it because, he believes, the KKK is too focused on race and not enough on gun rights. The Times will later write: “While there was no firm evidence that Mr. McVeigh belonged to any organized right-wing paramilitary or survivalist groups, there was considerable evidence that he sympathized with and espoused their beliefs. He voiced their ideas in conversations, he wrote letters expressing them, he read their literature, and attended their meetings. And he lived, worked, and traded weapons in areas where the paramilitary groups enjoy considerable support, according to numerous interviews.” In the summer of 1992, McVeigh moves to Michigan to stay with his old Army friend Terry Nichols, telling friends he is leaving to find a “free state” in which to live. McVeigh’s and Nichols’s shared hatred of the federal government continues to grow. [NEW YORK TIMES, 5/4/1995; PBS FRONTLINE, 1/22/1996; MICKOLUS AND SIMMONS, 6/1997, PP. 810; DOUGLAS O. LINDER, 2001; CNN, 2001; DOUGLAS O. LINDER, 2006; CNN, 12/17/2007]
Reportedly, McVeigh tells people that the Army has placed a computer chip in his buttocks to keep him under surveillance. [PEOPLE, 5/8/1995]
McVeigh’s fellow security guard, Carl Edward Lebron Jr., later recalls long conversations with McVeigh that center around “politics, secret societies, some religion and conspiracy theories,” UFOs, and government conspiracies to addict its citizens to illegal drugs. Lebron wonders if McVeigh himself might belong to a secret society of some sort, perhaps a Freemason sect. Lebron will recall McVeigh showing him Ku Klux Klan newsletters and gold coins, some minted in Canada. Lebron becomes worried enough about McVeigh’s apparent instability to tape-record some of their conversations, and keep notes of what McVeigh tells him. What seems to worry Lebron the most is McVeigh’s talk about stealing weapons from Army bases. In August, McVeigh quits his job at Burns, telling coworkers: “I got to get out of this place. It’s all liberals here.” Lebron bids him goodbye, saying, “Stay out of trouble,” to which McVeigh replies: “I can’t stay out of trouble. Trouble will find me.” [SERRANO, 1998, PP. 48-57]
Law professor Douglas O. Linder will later speculate that McVeigh’s radicalization may have been triggered, and was certainly deepened, by the FBI’s raid on the Ruby Ridge compound of white supremacist Randy Weaver (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992).[DOUGLAS O. LINDER, 2006]
McVeigh later tells his lawyers that during this time, he became increasingly stressed because of what he will call his “heightened sense of awareness of what the news was really saying.” He becomes increasingly obsessed with the news, raging at politicians for trying to blend politics and the military, and at the government for “strong-arming other countries and telling them what to do.” He becomes increasingly enraged by what he calls the increasing anti-gun sentiment in the US, and the “liberal mindset that all things in the world could be solved by discussion.” He learned in the military that most problems can best be solved by aggression, he will say, citing physical fights he had with fellow soldiers and angry confrontations with fellow security workers.[PBS FRONTLINE, 1/22/1996]
McVeigh’s movements are somewhat cloudy during this period. A New York Times report will say that McVeigh and Nichols may have lived together in Marion, Kansas, not Michigan, and McVeigh may have moved to Kingman, Arizona, during this time or sometime later. [NEW YORK TIMES, 4/23/1995]
Future Oklahoma City Bomber
McVeigh will go on to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City, with Nichols’s aid (see 8:35 a.m. – 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Haner-Mele will have difficulty believing McVeigh orchestrated the bombing. “Timmy just wasn’t the type of person who could initiate action,” she will say. “He was very good if you said, ‘Tim, watch this door—don’t let anyone through.’ The Tim I knew couldn’t have masterminded something like this and carried it out himself. It would have had to have been someone who said: ‘Tim, this is what you do. You drive the truck.’” [NEW YORK TIMES, 5/4/1995]
McVeigh’s cousin Kyle Kraus, who received a copy of The Turner Diaries from McVeigh, puts the book away until after the bombing, when he will reread some of it. Horrified, he will contact the FBI; the copy will become an exhibit in McVeigh’s criminal trial (see August 10, 1995). [SERRANO, 1998, PP. 51]