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McVeigh Considered Suicide Bombing, Witness Testifies

By Lois Romano
The Washington Post
DENVER

Timothy J. McVeigh was so determined to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City that he considered driving the truck packed with explosives through the front door on a suicide mission, according to a former Army buddy, who also said he cased the site with McVeigh.

Michael J. Fortier, 28, testifying in chilling detail before a federal jury here, said that when he raised concerns about innocent government workers being killed in a bomb attack, McVeigh, 29, told him their deaths would be justified because "they were part of the evil empire."

Fortier provided the court with the clearest picture so far of McVeigh's alleged motives and plans for carrying out the deadliest domestic terrorist attack in the United States, the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in which 168 people were killed and about 500 injured. McVeigh could face the death penalty if found guilty.

"He told me he wanted to do it at 11 a.m. because everyone would be getting ready for lunch," said Fortier, who has plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his testimony. Fortier said he cased the building with McVeigh in December 1994, and asked McVeigh about all the people in the building. McVeigh, he said, told him that they were like the storm troopers in "Star Wars."

"They may be individually innocent," Fortier quoted McVeigh as saying, "but they were part of a evil empire, they were guilty by association." The bomb, packed in a yellow Ryder rental truck, was ultimately detonated at 9:02 a.m.

Fortier, the star witness in the case against McVeigh, also testified - as others have - that McVeigh had chosen April 19 to detonate the bomb because it was the second anniversary of the government assault on Branch Davidian cultists near Waco, Tex., in which at least 76 people died. Fortier said his former friend also believed, wrongly, that officials in the Murrah building were somehow involved in ordering that attack.

Fortier's appearance was startlingly different from the time of his arrest 21 months ago. Gone was the scraggly beard, stringy hair and earrings. Today, Fortier was clean shaven, sported short hair and wore a brown suit and white bottom-down shirt. Fortier rarely made eye contact with McVeigh, who stared intently at him from the defense table.