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The student who blew himself up outside a packed Oklahoma University football stadium Saturday night tried to buy large quantities of ammonium nitrate – a key ingredient in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing – the week before, according to a new report.
Also, Joel “Joe” Henry Hinrichs III attended a Norman, Okla., mosque near his university-owned apartment – the same one attended by Zacharias Moussaoui, the only person charged in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to a report by KWTV-News 9 in Oklahoma City.
Furthermore, Hinrichs was a roommate of a Pakistani student, who was not identified in the News 9 report. Though there were few additional details about that relationship, analysts examining all the evidence say it indicates at least a tenuous connection between the suicide bomber and Middle East Muslims.
And one investigator examining the incident says there are some indications authorities may have had prior knowledge of the event.
Chain of events
At the time of his death, Hinrichs, who killed himself by detonating a bomb strapped to his body, was a junior at OU studying mechanical engineering. The News 9 report said he received a scholarship to attend OU and began his academic career right out of high school, in 2002.
He joined the Triangle Fraternity in 2003 – an engineering student organization – but, the report said, he never actually lived there, though it was a normal fraternity “house” with full living accommodations. It was unclear where he actually lived during that time.
Shortly thereafter, Hinrichs dropped out of school for a year, but again, the report said, though he was doing “odd jobs in the state” it was unclear what types of jobs he was doing and where.
In the spring of 2005, Hinrichs moved into university-owned apartments, where witnesses reported seeing him visit the Norman mosque Moussaoui attended.
Four days before Hinrichs was killed, the report said, he attempted to buy an undetermined amount of ammonium nitrate at a Norman feed store. Federal courts convicted Army buddies Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, in which ammonium nitrate was used as an explosive.
As WorldNetDaily reported, investigators say they found “Islamic jihad” material in Hinrichs’ apartment when they searched it.
One investigator familiar with the case who spoke to WorldNetDaily on condition of anonymity suggested authorities may have known some sort of attack was coming, because witnesses reported tighter-than-usual security for the OU football game against Kansas State, which was under way at the time Hinrichs was killed.
For instance, the investigator said, witnesses reported that security guards were patting down and searching many of the more than 84,000 spectators who attended the game before allowing them inside the stadium – not a normal occurrence.
The investigator went on to say witnesses told him no such “frisking or patting down” occurred when they attended the OU-Tulsa football game Sept. 10, the last home game before the Hinrichs incident, according to OU’s football schedule.
“[Stadium personnel] were looking for whiskey flasks under ball caps and ice chests, but no frisking or patting down,” said the investigator.
Also, according to a statement from the office of OU President David Boren, bomb squads searched the Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
“Prior to the game, the entire stadium was swept by the expert bomb teams with the help of dogs,” the statement said.
Catherine Bishop, vice president of public affairs at OU, declined to directly answer whether deploying bomb-sniffing dogs was standard operating procedure before every OU football game. In an e-mail response, Bishop referred WND to the Sooners’ Football Game Day Information website, which contains information about banned items but does not say whether bomb searches are routine.
“The only change, beginning at the next home football game,” Bishop said, “is that there will be no pass-outs through the remainder of the season.” So-called “pass-out checks” are issued to spectators who want to leave the stadium and re-enter, usually at halftime. In his statement, Boren said halftime pass-outs were suspended the day of the Hinrichs incident.
But a spokesman for the Norman Police Department told WND the stadium is swept for explosives two hours before every home game – a policy that was adopted in 2001.
After the 9-11 attacks, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, issued recommendations that law enforcement officials and security personnel prohibit backpacks, fanny packs, oversize purses, coolers and other similar items from being taken inside stadiums – all items OU bans at its stadium – out of fear they could contain explosives. Some universities and colleges continued implementing those guidelines in subsequent seasons.
Also, most likely because the threat of terrorism remains high, the National Football League adopted a new policy this year requiring all 32 teams to subject fans to searches before allowing them inside stadiums. One NFL team, the Cincinnati Bengals, have elected to ignore the rule, however.
Gail Dent, a spokeswoman for the NCAA, told WND her organization differs from the NFL in that the latter is a professional organization and the NCAA is a membership group. Therefore, she said, under “regular season play,” stadium security normally falls to individual universities.
“We have guidelines in place for NCAA championships, and we’ve even had meetings with officials from the [U.S.] Department of Homeland Security,” she said. “But when incidents take place during the regular season, they are generally handled by the member institution.
“We can still be an additional resource,” she said.