Okla. blast's possible link to Army materials probed OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING

April 27, 1995|By Newsday

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Federal agents investigating the United States' worst-ever terrorist bombing are vigorously pursuing the possibility that explosives from the U.S. military supply system were involved in the massive blast, Newsday learned yesterday amid indications that the widely sought "John Doe No. 2" had been identified as an Army buddy of jailed suspect Timothy McVeigh.

According to senior federal officials, dozens of agents were looking through records and files at Fort Riley, Kan., checking the base's inventory of TNT and plastic explosives as well as blasting caps and other detonators.

Investigators also were seeking information on "John Doe No. 2," who a reliable source told Newsday had been identified as a former soldier who had served with Mr. McVeigh in Charlie Company, part of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Division -- "The Big Red One" -- based at the base near Junction City, Kan.

Sources told Newsday that soldiers from Fort Riley have identified a soldier in Charlie Company as having the tattoo that witnesses said "John Doe No. 2" had on his left arm. They also said the man was a close associate of Mr. McVeigh.

"John Doe No. 2" is believed to be the man with whom Mr. McVeigh rented the truck allegedly used to carry the bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Sources told the Associated Press that witnesses saw both men near the building just before the blast.

These disclosures came as sources in the investigation said that traces of TNT, a high explosive widely used by the military, were found in the car of Mr. McVeigh, the only person formally charged in the April 19 bombing.

The name of the suspected "John Doe No. 2" was not divulged by the sources. A senior federal official, asked about the report, would neither confirm nor deny that investigators knew the name of the square-jawed, bushy-browed man depicted in the nationally distributed composite drawing.

And authorities were publicly silent yesterday about the blast's possible link to explosives stolen from the military supply system.

Army statements

At Fort Riley, Capt. John Kiser, deputy chief of public affairs, told Newsday: "I can tell you right now that there are no missing Army stocks, or explosive components, to include blasting caps or any other initiators. . . . That's based on the current inventory."

Army officials at the Pentagon later reported that no evidence had been found linking the bombing to active-duty soldiers or Army explosives. "To date, no active-duty soldier has been identified as a potential suspect in the case," said Maj. Donald Sensing, a spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command. He also said that no fertilizer is missing from the Fort Riley base.

"It's got nothing to do with the Army," said Major Sensing. "No one in the Army taught that young man to blow up federal buildings and day-care centers. He did not learn that here."

Meanwhile, federal sources said investigators still have not determined whether TNT was used as a booster for the bomb that consisted of more than 2 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer mixed with fuel oil.

A private explosives specialist, Tom Dowling of the Washington-based Institute of Makers of Explosives, said that TNT commonly "would be used as a component in some other explosive. It would not be used generally by itself. It would be combined with something else."

Mr. Dowling said, "There's always been a tremendous supply [of TNT] available from government surplus," but he added that "it's a controlled substance . . . you have to have a license to sell it or buy it."

In another development, federal sources said Mr. McVeigh and "John Doe No. 2" were seen running from the bomb scene only two minutes before the blast.

The sources, citing the observations of several witnesses, said the suspects must have put a short fuse on the bomb. "There was probably a very short-fused timing device on it," said a federal source in Washington, who asked not to be identified.

He said investigators had established that a rented Ryder truck used in the bombing was parked at the federal building for only 10 or 15 minutes before the blast.

The sources said that "John Doe No. 2" apparently parked the truck at a metered space in front of the building.

Mr. McVeigh was arrested less than 90 minutes later in a yellow Mercury without license plates near Perry, about 60 miles north of Oklahoma City. He was alone. The sources said they do not believe the second suspect was killed in the explosion, as has been speculated.

'Something big'

Meanwhile, a federal prosecutor said at a hearing for a man held as a material witness in the blast that, three days before the bombing, Mr. McVeigh told the man that "something big is going to happen."

U.S. Attorney Randy Rathbun made the disclosure at a hearing in Wichita, Kan., for Terry Nichols, 40. He said Mr. Nichols told FBI agents about the conversation shortly after he was taken into custody last week.

U.S. District Court Judge Monti Belot ordered that Mr. Nichols be transferred to Oklahoma City, but delayed the order's implementation until May 5 to give defense attorneys time to appeal.

Authorities have said that at least four people, but possibly many more, may have been involved in the Oklahoma bombing plot, which they said appears to have been aimed at avenging the fiery, fatal raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, two years ago.

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