Page 1 of the April 20, 1995, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported the stunning aftermath of an explosion at the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. At 9:02 a.m. the day before, a 4,000-pound truck bomb ripped the front off the building in which 550 people were employed. Nine floors collapsed into a gaping hole.
Thirty-one people were known to have died, and hundreds were missing. It would be weeks before the extent of the loss was clear: 168 lives, including three pregnant women and 19 children.
On inside pages April 20, reporter Jake Sandlin spoke to a law enforcement expert who said government buildings in state capitals like Oklahoma City or Little Rock were soft targets for terrorists. But an expert on international terrorism told Sandlin that “fear and panic” were “an overreaction” and premature, because it was not yet known why the Murrah Building had been hit.
Police reporter Oliver Uyttebrouck and photographer Rick McFarland watched as Little Rock police strung yellow tape and barricades around the federal building and courthouse in the 600 and 700 blocks of West Capitol Avenue. “It’s just a precaution,” police Capt. Charles Holladay said.
Uyttebrouck also reported that police were on the lookout for a 28-year-old man of Middle Eastern descent driving a rented blue Chevrolet Cavalier or Blazer with Texas plates. Within a day, though, federal investigators shifted their focus to domestic terrorists sympathetic to anti-government militia organizations. April 19 was the anniversary of the 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian complex at Waco, Texas, which had become a militia rallying cry. And 12 hours after the bombing, Arkansas had executed militia member Richard Wayne Snell, who had murdered a state trooper, Louis Bryant, during a traffic stop near De Queen.
On Page 9A April 20, The Associated Press reported at least one former Arkansan had been injured in the bombing: Derwin Miller, 27, had survived. Two other Arkansans who were missing would eventually be confirmed among the dead: 50-year-old John C. Moss III, a civilian employee in an Army recruiting office; and 31-year-old Ronota Newberry-Woodbridge, a federal Highway Administration engineer.
Joyce Bolte of Bentonville’s 28-year-old son, Mark Bolte, also was missing. A civil engineer, he worked with the Highway Administration. His body was the last recovered before the building was demolished May 23.
Less than two hours after the blast, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer stopped Timothy McVeigh, a Persian Gulf War veteran and militia sympathizer, for driving without a license plate and arrested him on an illegal weapons charge. Forensic evidence soon connected him to fellow bomber Terry Nichols. Two other accomplices would turn state’s evidence. McVeigh would be executed by lethal injection in an Indiana prison in 2001. Nichols is serving 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.
— Celia Storey
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