McVeigh’s last minutes silent

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 11, 2001

The Associated Press


Monday, June 11, 2001

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Six years after he blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh spent this morning being put to death by the government he mistrusted and despised.

McVeigh was administered a lethal injection at the federal prison in Terra Haute, Ind. He was pronounced dead by Warden Harley Lappin at 8:14 a.m. EDT. McVeigh’s life was taken in exchange for the 168 people, including 19 children in the building’s daycare center, killed in what has been touted as the worst act of terrorism on American soil.

The injection was administered in McVeigh’s right leg. McVeigh is reported to have made eye contact with his four witnesses, then with 10 media witnesses, then squinted toward the tinted window shielding the 10 victims’ witnesses from his view.

Media witnesses reported McVeigh looked pale as he awaited his final moments. His hair was cropped short and he was wearing a white T-shirt. A white sheet was pulled up to his chest as he lay on the gurney.

When the first drug was administered, he let out a few deep breaths, then a fluttery breath. His head moved back, his gaze fixed on the ceiling, and his eyes were glassy.

Although McVeigh did not offer a final statement, he issued a hand written copy of the 1875 poem ”Invictus,” which concludes with the lines: ”I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

Yesterday, his attorneys said that McVeigh was sorry for those who suffered but that he didn’t regret detonating a massive bomb at the federal building.

”He never, I think, has been the type of guy to tell people what he thinks that they want to hear,” attorney Robert Nigh said. ”I think that he tries to be honest about his true feeling of sympathy and empathy without being inaccurate about them.”

McVeigh had told those close to him in his final days that he still considered himself the victor in his one-man war against a government he labeled a bully for its disastrous raids at Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge in Idaho.

Prison officials said the decorated Gulf War veteran spent Sunday writing letters, sleeping, watching television and meeting with Nigh and Chambers.

Less than 24 hours before his death, McVeigh’s mood had been upbeat, his attorneys said.

”He continues to be affable,” Chambers said. ”He continues to be rational in his discourse. He maintains his sense of humor.”

McVeigh was transferred from his 8-by-10-foot cell to an isolation cell near the death chamber at 5:10 a.m. EDT Sunday.

”He was able to look up in the sky and see the moon for the first time in a number of years,” Nigh said. McVeigh, he added, slept a few hours Saturday night and planned to do the same before the execution.

McVeigh was served his final requested meal at 1 p.m. EDT Sunday, eating two pints of mint-chocolate chip ice cream.

In Oklahoma City, about 300 survivors and victims’ relatives gathered this morning to watch a closed-circuit TV broadcast of the execution, sent from the prison in a feed encrypted transmission to guard against interception.

Among those allowed to witness the execution at the prison were 10 victims’ representatives, 10 news media members and McVeigh’s personal witnesses – Nigh, defense attorney Nathan Chambers, former defense team member Cate McCauley and Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel, who co-wrote a recent book on the bomber.

No members of McVeigh’s family traveled to Terre Haute, at McVeigh’s request.

McVeigh was born in Pendleton, N.Y., near Buffalo, in 1968 and raised Roman Catholic in a middle-class environment. At a young age, he developed a keen interest in guns from his grandfather.

As he grew up, he developed a distrust of the government, yet he joined the Army and went on to serve in the Gulf War. He returned more disillusioned with the United States, viewing its treatment of the Iraqi people as that of a schoolyard bully.

Drifting across the country and taking on an increasingly survivalist mentality, he stewed over what he saw as government encroachment on the right to bear arms. The federal raids at the Branch Davidian compound at Waco and the cabin of white separatist Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge brought his hatred to a head.

He decided it was time for actions, not words.

McVeigh set his sights on the Oklahoma City federal building. He packed his anger at the government into a Ryder truck, lit the fuses on the explosives, parked the truck outside the glass-front federal building and walked away without looking back, leaving Oklahoma City – and the nation – to deal with the tragedy.

He was condemned to die for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement agents buried in the rubble, but jurors in the death penalty phase of his 1997 trial labeled him responsible for all 168 deaths.

McVeigh’s original execution date was May 16, but it was delayed after the FBI revealed it had withheld more than 4,500 documents from the defense during McVeigh’s trial. The Justice Department said nothing in the documents cast doubt on the bomber’s guilt.

Defense attorneys sought an additional delay but were turned down. McVeigh then decided to halt all appeals.

During the morning hours, those affected by the terrorist act gathered to console and remember. Janice Smith, whose brother Lanny Scroggins died in the bombing, prayed with her children at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, then left after getting word that McVeigh was dead.

”It’s over,” she said. ”We don’t have to continue with him anymore.”

McVeigh is the first federal prisoner to be executed in 38 years.