Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City (Part I of XII)
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, a 7,000-pound truck bomb, constructed of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and nitromethane racing fuel and packed into 13 plastic barrels, ripped through the heart of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The explosion wrecked much of downtown Oklahoma City and killed 168 people, including 19 children in a day-care center. Another 500 were injured. Although many Americans initially suspected an attack by Middle Eastern radicals, it quickly became clear that the mass murder had actually been carried out by domestic, right-wing terrorists.
The slaughter engineered by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, men steeped in the conspiracy theories and white-hot fury of the American radical right, marked the opening shot in a new kind of domestic political extremism — a revolutionary ideology whose practitioners do not hesitate to carry out attacks directed at entirely innocent victims, people selected essentially at random to make a political point. After Oklahoma, it was no longer sufficient for many American right-wing terrorists to strike at a target of political significance — instead, they reached for higher and higher body counts, reasoning that they had to eclipse McVeigh's attack to win attention.
What follows is a detailed listing of major terrorist plots and racist rampages that have emerged from the American radical right in the years since Oklahoma City. These have included plans to bomb government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives and biological and chemical weapons. [Each of these plots aimed to make changes in America through the use of political violence.] Most contemplated the deaths of large numbers of people — in one case, as many as 30,000, or 10 times the number murdered on Sept. 11, 2001.
Here are the stories of plots, conspiracies and racist rampages since 1995 — plots and violence waged against a democratic America.
July 28, 1995
Antigovernment extremist Charles Ray Polk is arrested after trying to purchase a machine gun from an undercover police officer, and is later indicted by federal grand jury for plotting to blow up the Internal Revenue Service building in Austin, Texas. At the time of his arrest, Polk is trying to purchase plastic explosives to add to the already huge arsenal he's amassed. Polk is sentenced to almost 21 years in federal prison.
October 9, 1995
Saboteurs derail an Amtrak passenger train near Hyder, Ariz., killing one person and injuring about 70 others. Several antigovernment messages, signed by the "Sons of Gestapo," are left behind. The perpetrators remain at large.
November 9, 1995
Oklahoma Constitutional Militia leader Willie Ray Lampley, his wife Cecilia and another man, John Dare Baird, are arrested as they prepare explosives to bomb numerous targets, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, gay bars and abortion clinics. The three, along with another suspect arrested later, are sentenced to terms of up to 11 years in 1996. Cecilia Lampley is released in 2000, while Baird and Willie Lampley — who wrote letters from prison urging others to violence — are freed in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
December 18, 1995
An Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee discovers a plastic drum packed with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil in a parking lot behind the IRS building in Reno, Nev. The device failed to explode a day earlier when a three-foot fuse went out prematurely. Ten days later, tax protester Joseph Martin Bailie is arrested. Bailie is eventually sentenced to 36 years in federal prison, with a release date of 2027. An accomplice, Ellis Edward Hurst, is released in 2004.
January 18, 1996
Peter Kevin Langan, the pseudonymous "Commander Pedro" who leads the underground Aryan Republican Army, is arrested after a shootout with the FBI in Ohio. Along with six other suspects arrested around the same time, Langan is charged in connection with a string of 22 bank robberies in seven Midwestern states between 1994 and 1996. After pleading guilty and agreeing to testify, co-conspirator Richard Guthrie commits suicide in his cell. Two others, Kevin McCarthy and Scott Stedeford, enter plea bargains and do testify against their co-conspirators. Eventually, Mark Thomas, a leading neo-Nazi in Pennsylvania, pleads guilty for his role in helping organize the robberies and agrees to testify against Langan and other gang members. Shawn Kenny, another suspect, becomes a federal informant. Langan is sentenced to a life term in one case, plus 55 years in another. McCarthy is released from prison in 2007, while Stedeford's release date is set in 2022. Thomas receives eight years and is released in early 2004.
April 11, 1996
Antigovernment activist and self-described "survivalist" Ray Hamblin is charged with illegal possession of explosives after authorities find 460 pounds of the high explosive Tovex, 746 pounds of ANFO blasting agent and 15 homemade hand grenades on his property in Hood River, Ore. Hamblin is sentenced to almost four years in federal prison, and is released in March 2000.
April 12, 1996
Apparently inspired by his reading of a neo-Nazi tract, Larry Wayne Shoemake kills one black man and wounds seven other people, including a reporter, during a racist shooting spree in a black neighborhood in Jackson, Miss. As police close in on the abandoned restaurant he is shooting from, Shoemake, who is white, sets the restaurant on fire and kills himself. A search of his home finds references to "Separation or Annihilation," an essay on race relations by neo-Nazi National Alliance leader William Pierce, along with an arsenal of weapons that includes 17 long guns, 20,000 rounds of ammunition, and countless military manuals.
April 26, 1996
Two leaders of the Militia-at-Large of the Republic of Georgia, Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr., are charged with manufacturing shrapnel-packed pipe bombs for distribution to militia members. Later in the year, they are sentenced to terms of up to eight years. Another Militia-at-Large member, Troy Allen Kayser (alias Troy Spain), is arrested two weeks later and accused of training a team to assassinate politicians. Starr is released from prison in 2003, while McCranie gets out in 2001. Kayser, convicted of conspiracy, is released in early 2002.
July 1, 1996
Twelve members of an Arizona militia group called the Viper Team are arrested on federal conspiracy, weapons and explosive charges after allegedly surveilling and videotaping government buildings as potential targets. All 12 plead guilty or are convicted of various charges, drawing sentences of up to nine years in prison. The plot participants are all released in subsequent years. Gary Curds Baer, who drew the heaviest sentence after being found with 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a bomb component, is freed in May 2004.