Jon E. Dougherty is a Missouri-based political science major, author, writer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
A former FBI agent involved in the original Oklahoma City bombing investigation was given details of a relationship between convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh and members of a white supremacist group that may have helped the Gulf War vet commit the April 19, 1995, attack against the Alfred P. Murrah Building.
Investigative journalist J. D. Cash and his employer, Bruce Willingham, editor of the McCurtain Daily Gazette newspaper, told WND they provided their information to former FBI Special Agent Ricardo “Rick” J. W. Ojeda in 1997 – including details that allegedly link McVeigh and members of the Aryan Republican Army to Elohim City, a white supremacist haunt in northeastern Oklahoma.
In an April 14, 1997, meeting at the newspaper’s offices with Ojeda and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Chris Dill, some of the evidence laid out by Cash and Willingham was not yet known to FBI investigators, both men told WND.
Details of that meeting, which included evidence tying McVeigh and ARA members to Elohim City, were documented by Ojeda on a standard FBI Form “302″ – the form used by agents to transcribe the contents of meetings, witness statements and other evidence gathered during investigations. A copy of a portion of that 302 was provided to WorldNetDaily.
Separately, the newspaper also gave the FBI a copy of a surveillance videotape it had obtained, showing a female employee of a Tulsa, Okla., “gentleman’s club” telling co-workers that some of her customers had mentioned an “event” that was to occur on “April 19, 1995,” that would make her customers famous.
The new details come on the heels of complaints made by Ojeda to CBS News’ “60 Minutes II” program on Tuesday, when he said that evidence he obtained during the OKC investigation that may have aided McVeigh’s and convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols’ defense was either ignored or not properly documented by the FBI.
Ojeda has since been fired by the FBI over what he claims was retaliation for charges of racism he leveled at FBI managers. Prior to his firing, Ojeda had received a commendation from the FBI for his work on the case.
It was not known whether the 302 obtained by WND was a document that Ojeda claims may have never been turned over to senior FBI officials. And WND could not confirm that the original 302 is part of the more than 4,000 documents the FBI claimed it had failed to turn over to McVeigh’s original defense team earlier this month.
Descriptions fit McVeigh, ARA members
According to Cash and Willingham, the original surveillance tape came from a Tulsa night spot called “Lady Godiva’s.” The owner of the club, Floyd Ratliff, made the paper aware of the contents of the tape, Cash told WorldNetDaily.
The female employee’s comments were recorded April 8, 1995 – which was a Saturday night just 11 days before the bombing – at around 9 p.m., according to a clock on the wall captured on the video.
After the paper received the tape, Cash said he went to the club to show the female employee and others who were working that night pictures of McVeigh and others he may have associated with.
“She is heard in the tape telling other women in the room that one of her customers told her she would never forget him ‘come April 19,’” Cash told WND. “When we showed her some pictures, she identified McVeigh, [Michael] Brescia, and [Andreas] Strassmeir.”
size="-1">John Doe #2 sketch
Brescia, WND reported earlier this week, was listed in a federal grand jury indictment for bank robbery in 1997 as being a member of the Aryan Republican Army. Strassmeir, a former German army officer, has extensive ties to Elohim City, according to government documents.
“That night, the female employee told us Brescia was paying for the drinks,” Cash said, adding that an investigator from NBC – whom he did not name – accompanied him to Lady Godiva’s to do the interviews.
Willingham, who confirmed Cash’s statements to WND, also noted that during the course of interviewing witnesses at the club, the “head of security” – or bouncer – reported noticing an older Ryder rental truck parked in the club’s lot.
According to evidence presented by the defense during Nichols’ 1997 trial in Denver, Colo., “it was two days later when the sightings of another Ryder truck began [to circulate] in Kansas,” Cash said, adding that the Ryder truck actually used to bomb the Murrah building was “much newer.”
McVeigh, trial transcripts show, wasn’t spotted in Junction City, Kan., until April 14. The same transcripts say that he rented the Ryder truck used in the bombing April 17.
According to Ojeda’s report, another man – Dennis Mahon – who was known to frequent Elohim City, was identified to Cash by unnamed news reporters as having been “involved in the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. …”
“I was told one of the most dangerous guys in the country is right there in Tulsa, so those were some of the early hints” that Mahon may have played a role, Cash told WND.
According to Ojeda’s report, Cash said once Mahon was identified as a suspect in connection with Elohim City, he began to hold a series of interviews with him.
Mahon made references to Brescia, as well as another known ARA member, Mark W. Thomas, Cash told the FBI.
Thomas, along with Brescia and Peter K. Langan, Scott A. Stedeford, Kevin W. McCarthy and Richard Guthrie (now deceased) were indicted by a federal grand jury in Pennsylvania Jan. 30, 1997, for bank robbery.
Mahon, Cash said, was a former Imperial Dragon for the Ku Klux Klan for Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, as well as a “national and international white racist figure.” At the time Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms opened up investigation of Mahon and Elohim City, “he was No. 2 guy in White Aryan Resistance – W.A.R.,” Cash told WND.
Elohim City key to bombing?
Throughout the course of his more than six-year investigation into the bombing, Cash and others say any time evidence of alleged conspirators has pointed to Elohim City, the investigation appears to “just die.”
“Detail after detail of evidence implicated Elohim City, Strassmeir, Mahon, the ARA and McVeigh to the bombing,” Cash said, discussing the contents of his and Willingham’s 1997 meeting with Ojeda. “That’s part of what [federal officials] did not cough up” years ago, prior to McVeigh’s federal trial in Denver later that same year, he believes.
“I never dreamed it might not be getting to FBI investigators,” he added.
Cash said he could not disclose who helped him infiltrate the white supremacist movement in order to learn so much about Elohim City and those who frequented the community in the time leading up to the bombing.
But, he did say that “Ojeda is a good cop,” and that the former special agent, “on more than one occasion during [our] interview … slammed his fist down on the table and looked at the other agent and said, ‘This is the key. This is the key. This is the key to the whole thing.’”
“And he added, ‘Strassmeir is central to all of this.’ But he was completely frustrated” by the FBI’s lack of progress or misdirection.
“He really wanted to solve this case,” Cash said.
Yesterday, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the Justice Department would continue to oppose another stay in McVeigh’s execution.
“No document in this case creates any doubt about McVeigh’s guilt or establishes his innocence. To overturn the jury’s verdict or to force a new trial, McVeigh must prove that the documents establish his innocence,” Ashcroft said in a statement.
“Based on overwhelming evidence and McVeigh’s own repeated admissions, we know that he is responsible for this crime, and we will continue to pursue justice by seeking to carry out the sentence that was determined by a jury,” the statement said.
Nevertheless, McVeigh, now 33, authorized his attorneys yesterday to seek a delay to his June 11 execution, accusing the U.S. government of fraud for failing to turn over evidence it had collected before his trial.
“He is convinced … that the Department of Justice and the FBI will not otherwise be held to account unless he takes this action,” Rob Nigh, one of McVeigh’s attorneys, told reporters Thursday.
Nigh and another McVeigh attorney, Richard Burr, said they would file a 40-page application for a stay of execution along with 300 pages of back-up material with Judge Richard Matsch of the U.S. District Court in Denver, Reuters reported.
One source, who asked not to be identified, said some of Cash’s findings – perhaps even Ojeda’s 302 – could be part of a stash of new documents being gathered by McVeigh’s attorneys.
“There are other agents besides Ojeda that will confirm McVeigh’s links to Elohim City,” Cash said. “They turned all of this stuff over to their superiors, but did not show up either” in the documents given to Jones, McVeigh’s original attorney.
“I want to see these agents step forward now,” Cash said. “I talked to those agents who turned this stuff in – but where is it?”
Racist, Elohim City connection substantiated
“Ojeda probably does have some bad feelings” with the FBI because of his firing, Willingham told WND. “But the other side of that is that at the time the [night club surveillance] tape was revealed to him … he said he was surprised that [the FBI] wasn’t taking more interest in it.”
“That stuck in my mind, because you normally don’t hear a federal agent say something like that,” Willingham added. “After we gave him the tape, I was kind of curious what the FBI’s reaction to it was.”
Mark Hamm, an Indiana State University criminologist who is writing a book about the white supremacist connection to the OKC bombing, substantiated much of what Cash has discovered regarding Elohim City, McVeigh, and the ARA.
“Based on the FBI 302 from one Richard Guthrie [an ARA member] and his unpublished memoir before he killed himself in jail,” Hamm told WND, “as well as some interviews I’ve done with other surviving members of the ARA and a death-row inmate in contact with McVeigh, I’ve been able to put McVeigh and the ARA together starting as early as October 1993, around the Elohim City/Fort Smith [Arkansas].”
Hamm said both McVeigh and Aryan Republican Army members were in “about a half dozen different geographical locations at the same time, where bank robberies or armored car robberies are either being carried out or planned.”
The criminologist said McVeigh and the other ARA members operated under the concept of “leaderless resistance,” whereby “one cell did not know about other cells,” and “of those cell members who were known, perhaps they were only known by their first name or code names.”
“The theory I’m working on is this,” Hamm said. “If you take those half dozen meetings surrounding the robberies … beginning as early as October 1993, extending up until February or March of 1995, if you believe that – that there was a conspiracy going on between these guys during that time – then I don’t think it is an enormous leap of faith to assume that there was something going between April 5 and April 19, 1995, surrounding the bombing.”
Hamm said his research has shown that McVeigh and other ARA members were in close proximity in the days leading up to the actual bombing.
“They were either in Kansas, Oklahoma or Elohim City,” he said. “Evidence does show they are switching cars, buying cars under false identification. And I’m convinced they got a hold of a second Ryder truck … which has been confirmed” in newly released FBI 302s, he claimed.
“The government claims that McVeigh and Nichols built the truck bomb at Geary Lake, near Junction City, Kansas,” Hamm said. “Other evidence” from witnesses indicates that more than one Ryder truck “and a number of vehicles and people are seen in and around Geary Lake in the days leading up to the bombing,” he added.
“I believe it’s some kind of elaborate shell game,” Hamm said. “The ARA operated under decoys, ruses and deceptions, garnered from examples” learned from tactics used by the Irish Republican Army.
FBI evidence logs obtained by WND earlier this week show that IRA-related books, as well as Irish media and newspapers, were discovered in the possession of ARA members when they were arrested in January 1997.
“We had been providing information, as we found it out, to the FBI for some time,” McCurtain Gazette editor Willingham told WND. “Some of it they knew about, but some of it they clearly did not know.”
Willingham said the FBI contacted him and “asked for a meeting” with reporter Cash once they discovered he may have evidence they didn’t have.
McVeigh’s attorneys indicated yesterday that they could be in possession of some of this evidence.
“We are confident that if the evidence comes out as we believe it is there, that there will be some credible evidence that other people were involved,” McVeigh attorney Richard Burr said.