Old Time Crime: AZ connection to the Oklahoma City bombing

Posted at 10:07 AM, Apr 17, 2016

Some of the planning and fundraising for the deadliest homegrown act of terrorism in the United States happened right here in Arizona. 

Today is the 24 year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, but what some forget is that some of the planning and fundraising took place right here in Arizona.

April 19, 1995at 9:02 a.m.: A large explosion rocked downtown Oklahoma City. The Murrah Federal Building was destroyed. The blast killed 168 people, including 19 children — most of whom were in the building’s daycare center.

About 300 nearby buildings were damaged or destroyed and hundreds of people were injured.

the blast registered 3.2 on the Richter scale

It was later determined that the blast registered a 3.2 on the Richter scale.

The FBI investigation moved quickly as it was determined that a Ryder rental truck filled with 5,000 pounds of fertilizer was used as the bomb. The vehicle identification number on the truck parts linked the truck to one rented by Timothy McVeigh.

Soon there was sketch out of McVeigh.

Later, an Oklahoma state trooper pulled over a car that had no rear license plate. As was normal procedure, the trooper called it in and soon realized he had caught the most wanted man in America at that time.    

Assisting McVeigh in this bombing was Terry Nichols and Kingman resident Michael Fortier.

Fortier was an Army buddy of McVeigh and Nichols. In September of 1994, McVeigh wrote Fortier a letter saying he was going to take “some type of positive offensive action against the federal government.”

Fortier responded by asking what he meant by that statement. McVeigh drove to Fortier's home in Kingman to discuss it.

It was during this meeting in Kingman that Fortier learned of McVeigh’s plans

It was during this meeting that Fortier learned of McVeigh’s plans to destroy a federal building. McVeigh tried to recruit Fortier to help, but he declined.

Later McVeigh shared more details with Fortier telling him exactly which building was to be destroyed and when.

Fortier found out the intended target was the Murrah Federal Building because it was there that the order was given for the raid at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993.

The bombing would take place on the second anniversary of that raid.

Court records show that Fortier expressed concern over the innocent lives that would be lost, but McVeigh considered them "servants of an evil system."

While Fortier did not participate in the bombing itself, he did help in the financing of the operation by selling guns that Nichols had stolen. He accompanied McVeigh on a car trip to Kansas to get the guns and on the way they passed by the federal building in Oklahoma City, where McVeigh and Fortier talked about the specifics of the bombing.

Fortier returned to Kingman alone with the guns to sell.

Over the next few months, Fortier sold some of the weapons and sent the money to McVeigh and Nichols. McVeigh continued to try and recruit Fortier for a more "hands on" role in the plot. He asked Fortier for help in mixing the explosive components and assist in the getaway escape.. Fortier continued to deny those requests.

The last time Fortier saw McVeigh was one week before the bombing in Oklahoma City. McVeigh told him they could no longer be friends.  

Following the bombing scores of federal agents descended on Kingman

Following the bombing scores of federal agents descended on Kingman, seizing evidence from Fortier’s home, the motel McVeigh stayed in when he was there and they talked with anyone who knew Fortier. 

They also scoured the desert around Kingman searching for a duffel bag that Fortier told the FBI about. He said McVeigh was planning to use it to help him hide out in the desert after the bombing.

A federal jury found McVeigh guilty of all counts on June 2, 1997. He was executed four years later.

Nichols is currently serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Florence, Colorado.

As for Michael Fortier, he agreed to testify against Nichols and McVeigh in their trials, in exchange for a sentence of 12 years in federal prison for failing to report the planned attack and for lying to the FBI.

2006: Fortier was released with a new life and a new identity. Kingman continues to push for itself to be remembered as stop along Route 66, rather than a part of a terrorist plot.