From the Oklahoma City Bombing to the Desert of Afghanistan
By Jeff Murphy
A serene weekday morning in downtown Oklahoma City turned into a time of shock and loss for the city's residents April 19, 1995, when an explosion ripped off the north face of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. It was considered the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil up to that time.
One hundred sixty-eight people perished, including 19 children at a daycare center, when a rented van carrying 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer was detonated at a parking space near the front of the building. The persistent "no stones unturned" investigation that ensued led federal agents to Timothy McVeigh. He was convicted two years later on murder and conspiracy charges partly due to key evidence uncovered by a team commanded by a University of Central Missouri graduate.
When he got the call to assist with the case, Kerry Myers was a long way from his high school stomping grounds in Independence and the dusty gravel road leading to the family farm in Centerview. He had joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1990 and was working as a special agent in the Tampa, FL, office, having been certified as a bomb technician and hazardous materials operator two years before.
Kerry Myers and members of a U.S. Air Force explosive ordnance disposal unit prepare to destroy a cache of explosives that troops recovered from insurgents.
"I had a technical expertise in bombing matters, so they sent me to Oklahoma City, where I was in charge of about 100 people at the crime scene," he says.
For approximately five weeks, the team that included members of the FBI, Army and Air Force National Guard sifted through 3,500 tons of dust and rubble searching for clues. As they sorted through the debris, the crew uncovered a truck axle and serial number that provided an important break in the case.
"With the serial number we were able to trace that rear axle to a brand new Ford truck, which Ford Motor Company said was sold to Ryder Rental Company in Miami, FL. The rental company traced it to their store in Johnson City, KS," Myers recalls. He adds the signed rental agreement led them to McVeigh.
"Because of the importance of that evidence, they had to get it into the trial," Myers says. "I testified against Tim McVeigh, who was convicted and got the death penalty."
As a bomb expert and government witness, he also testified against co-defendant Terry Nichols, who also was sentenced to life in prison on murder charges for helping McVeigh to plan and execute the bombing.