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Tag: April 19

The History of April 19th: American Revolution, Waco, Oklahoma Bombing

This column was originally posted on April 14, 2010. Because I thought it continued to be relevant, it was re-posted last year (2013) on April 2. (I had no idea how relevant it would become.) The subject of the column, “April 19th,” first became significant when some New England citizens confronted a unit of the British Army on Lexington green in 1775 – the day the American Revolution began. That Revolution resulted in “… a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Over time that proposition has been fulfilled by establishing the most diverse, open, tolerate society in the world with freedoms enjoyed by all men and women.
But there are those in the world who do not celebrate equal rights and an open society – to the contrary they feel threatened by them. So last year in Boston during the running of the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day, a day meant to celebrate that confrontation on Lexington green, two young men setoff bombs near the finish line of the race. To demonstrate their displeasure with a society that was open to all beliefs, not just theirs, they killed and maimed innocent people.April 19th is significant, but its significance was reinforced last year, it reminds us that we must never take our freedoms for granted. — Greg Stejskal 
 
 
 
By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Listen my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy Five….

Longfellow’s poem forever immortalized Paul Revere’s ride. What the poem does not say is that Revere’s mission that night was to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British soldiers were coming to Lexington to arrest them. It was after midnight, April 19th, when Revere arrived in Lexington and warned Adams and Hancock. Revere also aroused the country side, and that morning the “Minute Men” met the British regulars on Lexington green. No one knows who fired the first shot- “the shot heard around the world”. But on that morning, April 19, 1775, the American Revolution began.

Paul Revere/istock photo

Paul Revere/istock photo

In a perverse twist of fate, on April 19, 1993, it is the 51st day of a siege at the Branch Davidian compound, also known as Mt Carmel, outside of Waco, Texas. It is to be the last day of the siege, a culmination of a series of bad decisions and missed opportunities.

The siege began on February 28th. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) had gone to the Davidian compound to execute search warrants. The warrants were based on affidavits stating the Davidians possessed certain illegal weapons to include fully automatic weapons and components to convert semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic. Some of the Davidians were known to have a propensity for violence including their leader, David Koresh, who had changed his name from Vernon Howell. There had been a power struggle a few years earlier within the Branch Davidians and a gun fight had ensued. The history of the Branch Davidians and how they ended up here, led by Koresh is a long story and won’t be told here. Suffice it to say, Koresh became the leader and subsequently claimed to be a messiah, who could procreate with any women followers irrespective of their age or marital status. The group embraced an apocalyptic philosophy, which relied heavily on the Book of Revelation.

The ATF had been surveilling the compound for several weeks prior to the raid from a home across the road. They had also placed an undercover (UC) agent within the Davidians. However, the surveillance was compromised, and at some point Koresh learned of the UC agent. In addition one of the Davidians was the local postman. On the morning of the ATF raid, a TV crew asked the postman for directions to the compound as they had learned there was to be a raid. The postman gave them directions and took the news of the impending raid back to the compound.

Read more »

15 Years Later: Brother of Oklahoma Bomber Keeps Distance From Limelight

James Nichols/cbc photo

James Nichols/cbc photo

By Allan Lengel
For AOl News

Fifteen years after the Oklahoma City bombing, James Nichols — whose younger brother Terry was convicted in the case — isn’t really talking, except to say he’s still an organic farmer in Michigan.

“I’m not commenting unless you’ve got a big checkbook,” Nichols told AOL News in a phone interview.

Normally, a 15-year milestone of any event — as opposed to 10 years or 25 years — would pass with little fanfare. But recent events have made this one a little different.

Just a few weeks ago, federal agents busted up a Michigan-based Christian militia known as the Hutaree that was accused of plotting to kill law enforcement officers. The arrests triggered chatter on the Sunday talk shows about militias, the potential dangers some might pose and, perhaps inevitably, the Oklahoma City bombing.

Nichols has no ties to the Hutaree, or to any other militia, for that matter. But 15 years ago he found himself in the thick of something like the Hutaree case — only far, far bigger.

The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killed 168 people and sent a shock wave of vulnerability across the nation. Within 90 minutes of the blast, an Oklahoma state trooper stopped a man named Timothy McVeigh for driving his yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis without a license plate, and subsequently arrested him for possession of a 9 mm Glock. McVeigh was quickly linked to the bombing, as was his Army buddy Terry Nichols, who soon surrendered to authorities.

Two days later, an army of FBI and ATF agents raided James Nichols’ farm in Decker, Mich., a small farming community about two hours north of Detroit. Terry Nichols and McVeigh had spent time on the farm, and McVeigh listed it as his home address when he checked into the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kan., right before the bombing.

During the raid on the Decker farm, FBI agents arrested James Nichols on a material witness warrant and soon charged him with illegally possessing unregistered explosives on his farm.

James Nichols, who would contend the explosive materials were for farm use, was held in prison for about a month before he was released. The charge was eventually dropped, and authorities — certainly not for lack of trying — failed to find any evidence linking him to the Oklahoma City bombing.

Most of the world knows what became of McVeigh and Terry Nichols since that time. Both men were convicted of the crime; McVeigh was executed in 2001 by lethal injection, while Nichols is serving life in a Colorado federal penitentiary.

But these days, at least outside the town of Decker, few know what has become of James Nichols, who turned 56 this month.

His lawyer says he married a few years back. Residents say he’s gone on with life as usual: farming corn and beans, showing up at occasional farm auctions, stopping for a burger and fries at Kayla’s Kafe, a small roadside diner just down the road from his farm.

“He’s always friendly with everybody,” says Kayla Nolan, owner of Kayla’s Kafe. “Nobody ever talks about (the bombing). I don’t think anybody thought he had anything to do with it. He’s a good guy.”

“It’s sort of all blown over,” Decker resident Phil Rockwell says. But he adds, “Nobody really knows if he had a part in it or not. Everybody has got their own opinion. I don’t have any problems. A person is innocent until proven guilty.”

Even in Decker, it seems, some may still wonder about Oklahoma City, even if they don’t talk about it. But James Nichols himself has nothing to say — at least not to the public at large.

Why? Maybe because the last time he did, it turned into a messy ordeal.

In the fall of 2000, filmmaker Michael Moore asked to interview Nichols for a project he was working on, the anti-gun documentary called “Bowling for Columbine.” Nichols agreed, thinking Moore simply wanted to “learn more about the Oklahoma bombing and his brother Terry Nichols’ pending trial,” according to the lawsuit Nichols would later file.

Soon afterward, Moore showed up at the Decker farm and conducted a three-hour interview, according to Nichols’ lawsuit. And Nichols, then not shy about espousing anti-government views, spoke his mind as the camera rolled.

“Them people, law enforcement, if you want to call them that, were here and they were shaking in their shoes, they were physically shaking, scared to death,” Nichols said in the interview, discussing the raid on his farm after the bombing. “Because they thought this was going to be another Waco, because certain people, namely my ex-wife and other people, said I’m a radical, I’m a wild man, I got a gun under every arm, down every leg and every shoe, every corner of the house — ‘You say anything to me, I’ll shoot you.’

“If people find out how they’ve been ripped off and enslaved in this country by the government, by the powers to be,” Nichols went on, “they will revolt with anger, merciless anger. There’ll be blood running in the street. When the government turns too radical, it is your duty to overthrow it.”

“Bowling for Columbine” debuted on Oct. 28, 2002, in Moore’s hometown of Flint, Mich., about 65 miles west of Decker. The film would go on to earn international critical acclaim and the Academy Award for best documentary feature.

But Nichols was none too happy with the finished product. In the film, Moore said McVeigh and the Nichols brothers made practice bombs on the farm “but the feds didn’t have the goods on James, so the charges were dropped.”

After the film’s debut, Nichols’ quiet life in the country was under siege. He was deluged with “hate mail and threatening phone calls,” says his attorney, Stephani Godsey. “It was a terrible ordeal to go through.”

On Oct. 27, 2003, Nichols filed a $100-million-plus lawsuit claiming defamation as a result of comments Moore made about him both in the film and on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” In 2005, however, a U.S. district judge in Detroit dismissed the suit, saying Moore’s statements were “factual and substantially true.” Nichols appealed, but to no avail: He lost in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in 2007.

“Michael Moore tried to portray him as the mastermind behind the bombing,” Godsey says, adding that her client was “really upset.” She says Nichols agreed to the interview because he thought Moore wanted to hear his side of the story, “but it was far from the case.”

Since Nichols didn’t have the resources to keep battling in court, they decided to give up the lawsuit. Still, to this day, she says of the film: “It wasn’t based on the truth.”

As for James Nichols, Godsey says, “I haven’t spoken to him very recently. But he’s doing well and getting on with his life.”

The History of April 19th: American Revolution, Waco, Oklahoma Bombing

Listen my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy Five….

Longfellow’s poem forever immortalized Paul Revere’s ride. What the poem does not say is that Revere’s mission that night was to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British soldiers were coming to Lexington to arrest them. It was after midnight, April 19th, when Revere arrived in Lexington and warned Adams and Hancock. Revere also aroused the country side, and that morning the “Minute Men” met the British regulars on Lexington green. No one knows who fired the first shot- “the shot heard around the world”. But on that morning, April 19, 1775, the American Revolution began.

Paul Revere/istock photo

Paul Revere/istock photo

In a perverse twist of fate, on April 19, 1993, it is the 51st day of a siege at the Branch Davidian compound, also known as Mt Carmel, outside of Waco, Texas. It is to be the last day of the siege, a culmination of a series of bad decisions and missed opportunities.

The siege began on February 28th. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) had gone to the Davidian compound to execute search warrants. The warrants were based on affidavits stating the Davidians possessed certain illegal weapons to include fully automatic weapons and components to convert semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic. Some of the Davidians were known to have a propensity for violence including their leader, David Koresh, who had changed his name from Vernon Howell. There had been a power struggle a few years earlier within the Branch Davidians and a gun fight had ensued. The history of the Branch Davidians and how they ended up here, led by Koresh is a long story and won’t be told here. Suffice it to say, Koresh became the leader and subsequently claimed to be a messiah, who could procreate with any women followers irrespective of their age or marital status. The group embraced an apocalyptic philosophy, which relied heavily on the Book of Revelation.

The ATF had been surveilling the compound for several weeks prior to the raid from a home across the road. They had also placed an undercover (UC) agent within the Davidians. However, the surveillance was compromised, and at some point Koresh learned of the UC agent. In addition one of the Davidians was the local postman. On the morning of the ATF raid, a TV crew asked the postman for directions to the compound as they had learned there was to be a raid. The postman gave them directions and took the news of the impending raid back to the compound.

The ATF was aware of the Davidian’s potential for violence and obviously knew they had a large stockpile of firearms and ammunition. Consequently the element of surprise was an important aspect of their raid plan. However, surprise was an early casualty. ATF’s leadership was aware their plan had been compromised, but chose to proceed anyway.

waco-branch-davidians

The ATF agents were met at the front door of the compound by Koresh and some of his “Mighty Men” (that’s how Koresh referred to his young male followers). There was a short stand-off . A shot or shots was fired. It has never been determined who fired the first shot-both sides claim it was the other. Whoever fired it, it escalated into a gun battle resulting in the deaths of four ATF agents (16 wounded) and six Davidians. Koresh was wounded along with several of his followers. Thus began the siege of the Branch Davidian compound.

The FBI was given control of the siege. Negotiations between the Davidians and the FBI began and continued throughout the siege. Although the FBI was thrust into a situation not of its making, it learned valuable lessons. Unfortunately many of the lessons were learned from mistakes.

Ultimately it became clear Koresh was not negotiating in good faith. Koresh had said that he would surrender, but he needed to finish his own scripture, something he called the “Seven Seals”. But surreptitiously placed microphones inside the compound had picked up conversations indicating that Koresh was stalling and did not intend to surrender.

The FBI with concurrence of Attorney General Reno and President Clinton decided to pressure Koresh and his followers into surrender by punching holes into the compound walls and injecting tear gas. The conventional way to place tear gas is to fire projectiles containing tear gas into the target area. These projectiles explode on impact and expel tear gas, but this process also produces heat which can result in fire. The method devised for the compound entailed the use of converted tanks to spray the tear gas directly into the holes made in the walls. The error was not how the tear gas was injected, but rather underestimating the potential for mass suicide of an apocalyptic cult. The FBI was warned of this potential, but it was discounted- what person would choose suicide over surrender, not only for themselves, but for their children?

Then there were the fires that ultimately consumed the entire compound. Although a Congressional investigation determined the fires were actually set by the Davidians, the anti-government conspiracy minded will forever believe that they were set or caused by the government. Seventy six Davidians including Koresh died on that day at least twenty of those were killed by self-inflicted gunshot wounds or consensual execution (suicide by proxy). Nine people escaped from the fire and presumably others could have if they wanted. (One woman ran out of the compound and was tackled by a FBI agent to keep her from going back.)

Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber witnessed part of the siege. McVeigh was sympathetic with the Davidians and was outraged that the siege ended in the conflagration and death of Koresh and most of his followers. It’s not clear when McVeigh’s anti-government beliefs began, but those beliefs were growing and becoming an obsession.

Federal Building in Oklahoma at time of explosion/fbi photo

Federal Building in Oklahoma at time of explosion/fbi photo

It’s difficult to encapsulate McVeigh’s philosophy. It was clearly anti-government and became virulently so. It was an amalgamation of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and fear of a “New World Order”, i.e., a belief in a world-wide conspiracy to take over the world and the US Government’s leadership being in league with this conspiracy. If there was an over-riding theme to McVeigh’s beliefs, it was probably his trying to replicate the plot of The Turner Diaries, a 1978 novel written by William Luther Piece (a white supremacist) under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald. The book depicts a violent revolution in the US ignited by the bombing of the FBI headquarters, which leads to the overthrow of the US Government, nuclear war and ultimately to a race war resulting in the extermination of all Jews and non-whites.

While in the military, McVeigh met Terry Nichols. They became friends and their friendship continued after they left the military. Nichols was a follower and embraced McVeigh’s philosophy and paranoia. After the Davidian compound siege ended, McVeigh began to develop a plan to destroy a Federal Building- an act of retaliation for what had occurred at Waco. Initially the plan was to destroy the building when it was unoccupied, but McVeigh decided he needed to send a stronger message and that would require people to die. Later McVeigh would say, “Kids and women are fair game”.

McVeigh and Nichols plan coalesced into the selection of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as the target. The plan was to build a bomb and place it in the back of a truck. McVeigh and Nichols researched how to construct a large bomb and experimented with making and detonating explosives at the Nichols’ farm in Decker, Michigan.

In April, 1995, McVeigh, using another name, rented a truck in Junction City, Kansas. McVeigh and Nichols had previously obtained and stored the components for the bomb. In a park outside of Junction City, they assembled the bomb in the back of the rental truck. The bomb consisted 13-55 gal. drums: 9 containing ammonium nitrate (fertilizer) and nitromethane (racing fuel); 4 had fertilizer and diesel fuel. Also with the drums was about 350 lbs of Tovex, a commercial explosive. TheTovex would act as primary or initiator. McVeigh ran 2 fuses from the cargo bay to the cab of the truck. The fuses were attached to blasting caps that would set off the Tovex. The bomb weighed about 4,800 lbs. and cost about $5,000.

Prior to April 19th, Nichols and McVeigh drove to Oklahoma City and parked the getaway car several blocks from the Murrah Federal Building. They then drove back to Junction City. McVeigh stayed at a motel in Junction City. Although McVeigh used another name when he rented the truck, at the motel he used his true name with the Decker farm as his permanent address.

On April 19th, McVeigh drove the bomb laden truck to Oklahoma City. A few blocks from the Federal Building, he lit one fuse. Then just prior to parking the truck at the Federal Building, he lit the back-up fuse. He exited the truck and ran the few blocks to the getaway car. When the bomb exploded, it did so with the force of 5,000 lbs of TNT.

It destroyed the Federal Building and killed 168 people and injured over 700. It also damaged or destroyed 324 other buildings. Among the fatalities were children as the Federal Building housed a child care center on the street level. McVeigh had known of the child care center.

Within hours the FBI had identified the rental truck (from the VIN on an axle that had been blown some distance from the site) and knew it had been rented in Junction City. Agents dispatched to Junction City discovered the truck was rented under a false name, but the same person used a different name, Timothy McVeigh, at a nearby motel. A BOL (BE On The Lookout) bulletin was broadcast, and it was learned McVeigh had been arrested by the Oklahoma State Police driving a car without a license plate. An alert trooper also saw that McVeigh was carrying a concealed handgun. McVeigh was about to be released, but a hold was placed, and FBI agents took him into custody.

Two days later, the FBI went to the Decker farm to execute search warrants. The Detroit FBI SWAT team was sent in first to secure the farm as there was a concern about armed co-conspirators (The extent of the conspiracy was not yet known.) and explosives at the farm. I was one of the SWAT team leaders involved. The farm was operated by James Nichols, Terry’s brother. It was known James had anti-government sentiments, but there was never sufficient evidence to prosecute him for being involved in the conspiracy. The search of the farm did find bomb making materials and evidence bombs had been tested there.

McVeigh had picked April 19th for the bombing because it was second anniversary of the end of the siege at the Davidian compound. It also happened to be the 220th anniversary of that shot heard around the world. When McVeigh was arrested he had a quote from Samuel Adams (one of the men Paul Revere was sent to warn): “When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Underneath McVeigh had scrawled, “Maybe now there will be liberty.” McVeigh also had pages from the Turner Diaries, the racist/anti-Semitic diatribe masquerading as a novel.

It dishonors our founding fathers when McVeigh and some militias try to cloak themselves in the legitimacy of the men who valiantly fought for our independence and at the same time embrace the ideology of the white supremacy movement. It is perverse to equate what our founding fathers did and endured to establish a Constitutional government with the bombing of a Federal building- killing 168 people, whose only crime was being in or near that building.

The lesson that was learned on April 19, 1995, was that we in law enforcement or as citizens have to take the anti-government movements seriously. Their ideology may seem foolish, historically and theologically spurious, but that does not diminish their potential for harm.

I think the action taken against the Hutaree Christian Militia last month in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana demonstrates that the lessons of Waco and Oklahoma City have not been forgotten. The Hutaree had allegedly planned to kill a police officer then bomb his funeral procession thereby killing many police officers and innocent people. It should be noted that during the search of one of the Hutaree member’s home, among other things, was found a plaque which said, “Remember Waco”.

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