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Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh executed

This Day in World History

11 June 2001

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh executed


Early in the morning of 11 June 2001, Timothy McVeigh was executed for planning and carrying out the worst terrorist attack in United States history to date: the bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City in April 1995. Eleven children in an-office daycare center were among the 168 people killed in the blast. Five hundred more people were wounded.

Timothy McVeigh. FBI mugshot. 1995.

McVeigh said nothing, though he did leave a written statement that quoted two lines from the poem “Invictus”: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Witnesses to the execution who included survivors of the bombing and family members of victims said that he looked at them after receiving the injection and then stared at the ceiling as he died.

As a youth, McVeigh was attracted to militant conservative ideologues who believed that the federal government was bent on depriving Americans of their freedoms and their right to bear arms. After medal-winning service in the Persian Gulf War of 1990–1991, he left the army and drifted for a few years.

In 1993, he watched the federal government’s attack on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, which confirmed his radical views. The following year, he began planning his destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building.

With the help of Terry Nichols, a former army buddy, McVeigh used a truck bomb to blast the façade off the building. The 19 April date of the bombing coincided with the second anniversary of the Branch Davidian attack.

McVeigh was arrested soon after the attack on an unrelated gun charge. Within two days, he was identified as the prime suspect in the bombing. McVeigh was tried in the spring of 1997 and found guilty of multiple charges of murder and conspiracy. He was the first person to be executed under federal law in more than thirty years.

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