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Oklahoma City bombing: FBI agent reflects on response to attack 29 years later

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Nearly 30 years ago, Ret. FBI Special Agent Barry Black responded to the worst homegrown terrorist attack in U.S. history with just a year of experience as a bomb technician under his belt.

Black was one of two FBI bomb techs in the entire state of Oklahoma, including Jim Norman, when he arrived at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which housed offices for approximately 500 government employees, around 9:30 on April 19, 1995. Nearly half an hour earlier, at 9:02, ex-Army soldier Timothy McVeigh ignited a bomb that took a third of the nine-floor building, killing 168 victims.

“It was horrific and chaotic. The scope and magnitude of the destruction was something like I had never seen before,” Black told Fox News Digital of his memories of the attack 29 years later. “{I’ve] sadly seen similar since. But other than the first World Trade Center attack, the U.S. had not seen an attack like this.”

Black’s responsibility as a bomb tech was to “assess the scene,” he said.

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Ret. FBI Special Agent Barry Black remembers what it was like to respond to the Oklahoma City bombing 29 years later. (FBI)

“We were told maybe it was an airplane crash or a gas main explosion. Clearly it was not. And … the scale was something that few had seen in this country,” the former special agent said.

The explosion registered a 6.0 on the Richter scale and was felt an estimated 55 miles from the scene, according to the Justice Department. It left cars upturned and damaged more than 320 nearby buildings.

The destroyed Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building

The explosion registered a 6.0 on the Richter scale, according to the Justice Department.  (FBI)

Among the 168 who perished in the attack, 19 were children, as the Murrah building housed a daycare on the second floor. The last of the deceased was a nurse who had been responding to the emergency when a piece of falling debris struck and killed her.

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Black went into the building every week to pick up a paper paycheck. The tellers who handed him that paycheck every week “were all killed,” Black recalled.

Photos of victims who died during the Oklahoma City bombing in a memorial museum

Among the 168 who perished in the attack, 19 were children. (Joe Raedle)

His wife, a federal probation officer, was also in the building that morning, but she drove out at 9 a.m., two minutes before the explosion.

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“I have been to a number of these catastrophic events. What makes this a little different is: this was in my backyard. These were people I knew. My wife was in the building. At 9:00, she drove out — two minutes before the detonation — and it was about an hour and a half before I knew she was OK,” Black recalled.

When he arrived, “the devastation was overwhelming,” he said.

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Oklahoma City bombing

Ret. FBI Special Agent Barry Black said “the devastation was overwhelming” at the scene of the Oklahoma City bombing. (FBI)

“But as I did what we call the initial survey — kind of a walkabout to try to assess the damage and get a handle on what may or may not have occurred — I asked some of the security people … if they’d seen my wife, and I recall one specifically said, ‘Yep, I’ve seen her and she’s fine.’ Well, that sort of freed me up. He later told me that he had not. He just thought I needed to hear that she was OK. So, good, bad or indifferent, that’s what he told me. And it took a little of the load off.”

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While sorting through rubble for evidence a day after the attack, investigators came across the rear axle of a Ryder rental truck used to detonate the bomb with an identification number on it.

Barry Black stands next to the rear axle of the Ryder rental truck now displayed in a museum

While sorting through rubble for evidence a day after the attack, investigators came across the rear axle of a Ryder rental truck used to detonate the bomb with an identification number on it. (FBI)

“That morning, a reserve deputy called myself and the other bomb tech, Jim Norman, to that rear … axle, and he wiped away some grease, and we wrote down that CBI and then physically gave it to a runner who … took it to the command post,” Black recalled. 

From there, investigators were able to track down the fake name McVeigh used to rent the vehicle, and employees at the rental shop were able to help investigators put together a composite sketch of their suspect. Once the sketch was released to the public, a hotel employee in Junction City, Kansas, identified the suspect as 27-year-old McVeigh.

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A composite sketch of Timothy McVeigh next to a photo of McVeigh

Authorities were able to identify Timothy McVeigh just 54 hours after the Oklahoma City bombing thanks to a composite sketch. (FBI)

By April 21, authorities learned McVeigh was already in jail after a state trooper pulled him over about 80 miles north of Oklahoma City, just 90 minutes after the bombing, for a missing license plate, according to the FBI. He had a concealed weapon on him at the time and was detained.

Later on, federal agents found evidence of the chemicals used for the bomb on McVeigh’s clothing and a business card on which he had written, “TNT @ $5/stick, need more,” according to the FBI. Authorities also arrested Terry Nichols, who helped McVeigh make the deadly bomb.

FBI agents stand next to Timothy McVeigh wearing an orange jumpsuit

Federal agents found evidence of the chemicals used for the bomb on McVeigh’s clothing and a business card on which he had written, “TNT @ $5/stick, need more,” according to the FBI. (FBI)

Following 28,000 interviews that were conducted across the world, investigators were able to piece together McVeigh’s and Nichols’ motives for the horrific act: They were angry about the April 19, 1993, Waco siege, as well as the August 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge, according to the FBI and DOJ.

“I’m confident we know his motivation. It was intended to be the first blow in an upheaval and overthrow of the federal government,” Black said. “Intent is one of those things that’s intangible but required to prove. So there was a great deal of time spent looking into why he would do this. And the same is true whether it’s domestic or international terrorism. But his motivation was proven clearly.”

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Constance Favorite, the mother of bombing victim Lakecha Richardson, prays in front of her daughter's chair in the Field of Empty Chairs sector of the Oklahoma City National Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City 11 June 2001.

Black said lessons from the FBI’s investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing are still relevant today,  (ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)

Black said lessons from the FBI’s investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing are still relevant today, and those lessons are part of what he teaches as a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma Forensic Science Institute.

 

“There are specific things we would look for on scene, like parts of the bomb, parts of the vehicle that carried the bomb. And that information needs to get relayed quickly to the command post so that the larger, broader external investigation can begin. And that’s how we had McVeigh and Nichols in custody in about 54 hours after detonation,” Black explained. “It was a massive undertaking with law enforcement work[ing] very, very well together.”

McVeigh was executed in 2001 at age 33.

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Los Angeles, Ca

Baby mountain lion stalking Southern California neighborhood

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Baby mountain lion stalking Southern California neighborhood

A young mountain lion roaming a Thousand Oaks neighborhood has residents on alert, especially after it was captured on home surveillance cameras chasing a family’s house cat.  

While the baby couguar may look cute at first glance, residents in the area quickly realized the small mountain lion is hungry and looking for food.  

“I saw it and I looked again because we do have house cats go across the front door,” Thousand Oaks resident Kelly McGee told KTLA’s Carlos Saucedo. “I looked again and I was like, ‘No, the ears are round. That’s not a cat.’”  

Kelly and Mark McGee spotted the cougar on their home’s motion activated cameras earlier this when it was on their front porch.  

“It wasn’t full size, so we had to re-look at it and zoom into it and stuff and then we realized, ‘Oh my God, it’s a baby mountain lion,’” Mark explained.  

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  • Baby mountain lion stalking Southern California neighborhood
  • Baby mountain lion stalking Southern California neighborhood
  • Baby mountain lion stalking Southern California neighborhood

Cameras at their neighbor’s home across the street also captured the young mountain lion as it was chasing after a cat and it’s unclear what happened to the wild cat’s prey.  

“We hope it’s okay,” Kelly said. “We haven’t heard of any neighbors missing a cat yet, so hopefully he made it home.”  

The McGee’s and their neighbors live near Los Padres trail, a wildlife preserve. So, residents in these foothills are used to seeing all sorts of animals, including coyotes who routinely visit homes in the area.  

“We’ve been here since 1987,” Esther O’Connor told KTLA. “Basically, the only wildlife we’ve ever seen, up until I would say a couple of years ago, were birds and squirrels and racoons, but never a mountain lion.”  

The recent cougar sightings have residents on edge, particularly those with small pets.  

“They can jump the fence pretty easy and get in the backyard,” Mark explained. “We let our dogs out late. I always worry about that.”  

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It’s also unclear if this young mountain lion has any siblings, who are also out on the hunt.  

“Just a little baby, but we haven’t seen mom yet on the prowl,” Kelly said. “It would be cool to see mom, but at the same time, it’d be a little scary.”  

Experts say these sightings are a good reminder to secure your pets and stay vigilant.  

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Southwest

Native American tribes unanimously approve Colorado River water rights proposal that would cost Congress $5B

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  • The Navajo Nation Council has unanimously approved a proposed water rights settlement. The Navajo, Hopi and San Juan Southern Paiute tribes are seeking more than $5 billion as part of their settlement, more than any such agreement enacted by Congress.
  • The Navajo Nation has one of the largest single outstanding claims in the Colorado River basin and has worked for generations to secure water deliveries for tribal communities.
  • Nearly a third of homes in the Navajo Nation don’t have running water. Many homes on Hopi lands are similarly situated.

The Navajo Nation Council has signed off on a proposed settlement that would ensure water rights for its tribe and two others in the drought-stricken Southwest — a deal that could become the most expensive enacted by Congress.

The Navajo Nation has one of the largest single outstanding claims in the Colorado River basin. Delegates acknowledged the gravity of their vote Thursday and stood to applause after casting a unanimous vote. Many noted that the effort to secure water deliveries for tribal communities has spanned generations.

Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley and other officials stood outside the chamber in Window Rock, Arizona, under a clear blue sky as the wind whipped. She recalled learning about the fight over water rights in school when she was a girl.

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Momentous is how she described the day, before she put her pen to the legislation and nearby vehicles honked their horns in celebration.

“This is an opportunity to think 100 years ahead for our children,” said Curley, a mother and soon-to-be grandmother.

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“The time is now and we have to make our footing for the future,” she continued.

A windmill draws water for livestock in Leupp, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation, on March 9, 2024. In a vote on May 23, 2024, the Navajo Nation Council unanimously approved a proposed water rights settlement that carries a price tag larger than any such agreement enacted by Congress. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca, File)

The San Juan Southern Paiute Tribal Council also voted to approve the settlement Thursday, while the Hopi tribe approved it earlier this week. Congress will have the final say.

For Hopi, the settlement is a path to ensuring a reliable water supply and infrastructure for the health, well-being and economic prosperity of the tribe for generations to come, Hopi said in a statement late Thursday.

“Most importantly, this settlement provides a way for Hopi to fulfill its covenant with Maasaw (guardian) to live as stewards of Hopitutskwa (Hopi land),” the statement read.

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Congress has enacted nearly three dozen tribal water rights settlements across the U.S. over the last four decades and federal negotiation teams are working on another 22 agreements involving dozens of tribes. In this case, the Navajo, Hopi and San Juan Southern Paiute tribes are seeking more than $5 billion as part of their settlement.

About $1.75 billion of that would fund a pipeline from Lake Powell, one of the two largest reservoirs in the Colorado River system, on the Arizona-Utah border. The settlement would require the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to complete the project by the end of 2040.

From there, water would be delivered to dozens of tribal communities in remote areas.

Nearly a third of homes in the Navajo Nation — spanning 27,000 square miles of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — don’t have running water. Many homes on Hopi lands are similarly situated.

Navajo President Buu Nygren plans to sign the settlement legislation as soon as it hits his desk, likely Friday. He told The Associated Press it had been a long road to get everyone to the table and the next step will be knocking on the doors of Congress.

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A century ago, tribes were left out of a landmark 1922 agreement that divided the Colorado River basin water among seven Western states. Now, the tribes are seeking water from a mix of sources: the Colorado River, the Little Colorado River, aquifers and washes on tribal lands in northeastern Arizona.

The latest settlement talks were driven in part by worsening impacts from climate change and demands on the river like those that have allowed Phoenix, Las Vegas and other desert cities to thrive. The Navajo, Hopi and San Juan Southern Paiute tribes are hoping to close the deal quickly under a Democratic administration in Arizona and with Joe Biden as president.

Without a settlement, the tribes would be at the mercy of courts. Already, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government is not bound by treaties with the Navajo Nation to secure water for the tribe. Navajo has the largest land base of any of the 574 federally recognized tribes and is second in population with more than 400,000 citizens.

A separate case that has played out over decades in Arizona over the Little Colorado River basin will likely result in far less water than the Navajo Nation says it needs because the tribe has to prove it has historically used the water. That’s hard to do when the tribe hasn’t had access to much of it, Navajo Attorney General Ethel Branch has said.

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Arizona — situated in the Colorado River’s Lower Basin with California, Nevada and Mexico — is unique in that it also has an allocation in the Upper Basin. The state would get certainty in the amount of water available as it’s forced to cut back as the overall supply diminishes.

Navajo and Hopi, like other Arizona tribes, could be part of that solution if they secure the right to lease water within the state that could be delivered through a canal system that already serves metropolitan Tucson and Phoenix.

Arizona water officials have said the leasing authority is a key component of the settlement.

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Los Angeles, Ca

Carjacking suspect taken into custody after pursuit in Southern California

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Carjacking suspect taken into custody after pursuit in Southern California

A driver suspected of carjacking a Toyota pickup truck Monday evening, who then led authorities in a pursuit has been taken into custody.  

Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division initiated the pursuit and chased the suspect into eastbound lanes of 10 Freeway through Crenshaw and then to the 110 and 405 Freeways, where officers from the California Highway Patrol took over.  

The suspect remained on the 405 at moderate speeds of around 60 miles per hour when authorities successfully deployed a spike strip, taking out the passenger tires near Springdale Street.  

The suspect eventually came to a stop in Huntington Beach, near Beach Boulevard, where he was not initially complying with officers’ commands to exit the vehicle.  

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Several CHP, using a shield, approached the suspect and took him into custody. The suspect later fought officers as they were attempting to put him into the back of a CHP cruiser.

Sky5 was overhead.

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