Timothy McVeigh has claimed responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombing, according to two people who have talked with him in jail since his arrest.
He has told them that the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was chosen as a target because it housed so many government offices and because it was more architecturally vulnerable than other federal buildings, the two people said.
McVeigh also has said he did not know there was a day-care center in the building and was surprised when he learned from newspapers that children had been killed in the bombing, according to these two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
McVeigh has told them he was not “directly involved” with armed civilian paramilitary groups, one person said. In describing his life over the last year or two, he has mentioned “relationships and acquaintances with a few people who have similar views,” primarily people he had met at gun shows, the source said.
McVeigh is being held at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., on charges of carrying out the April 19 bombing, which killed 168 people, including 19 children. His lawyer, Stephen Jones, has said he will plead not guilty.
The people who have talked with McVeigh said that although he acknowledged responsibility for the bombing, he does not believe he has committed a crime.
The defense, which has hired investigators and begun interviewing people in Kansas, Oklahoma and elsewhere, will try to show that the government’s evidence is weak or circumstantial, say people familiar with the McVeigh team’s legal strategy.The defense team will try to show that government witness accounts are contradictory or implausible, and it will attempt to discredit testimony from witnesses who claim to have seen McVeigh at the federal building and in other places before or after the bombing.
The people who have talked to McVeigh in jail said he indicated that planning for the bombing had begun at least nine months ago and that Oklahoma City was one of several cities that had been considered in a swath of the country stretching from Denver to Kansas City and from Texas to South Dakota.
The people who have talked with McVeigh said he was motivated by anger over the federal government’s actions in the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, and the 1992 killing of the wife and son of Randy Weaver during federal agents’ siege of the Weaver family’s home in North Idaho.
But he also was motivated, they said, by a more general hostility toward the government, a sentiment that seemed to take shape toward the end of his years in the Army and might have been fueled by his inability to get a well-paying job when he left the military in 1991.
As a result, they said, McVeigh explained that the bombing had not been specifically directed at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, some of whose agents in Oklahoma City participated in the government’s siege at Waco.