Trooper Says Circumstances Leading To McVeigh's Arrest Were 'Divine Intervention'

Trooper Says Circumstances Leading To McVeigh's Arrest Were 'Divine Intervention'

Friday, April 24th 2020, 10:23 am

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who arrested mass-murderer Timothy McVeigh says the circumstances leading up to his arrest were "divine intervention."

State Trooper Charlie Hanger anticipated the call to respond to Oklahoma City, where a blast could be heard and felt for miles.

"Just as I started south on Interstate 35, I get a second radio call telling me to disregard," Hanger said.

So, Hanger changed his course near Perry, and thereby changed the course of history.

"That's why I am so convinced of the divine intervention," he said.

The trooper returned to his patrol, stopping along I-35 to help two women with car trouble.

"Little did I know while I was sitting there, Tim McVeigh and that old yellow Mercury had passed by our location," Hanger said.

He jumped back onto the interstate, and as he drove north, something caught his eye.

"I pass this old yellow Mercury, but as I go by and I look at the rear bumper where his license plate should be, there was no license plate there. I had to slow down and change lanes and get in behind him so I could initiate what I thought was just another routine traffic stop," Hanger said.

The driver -- later determined to be America's most wanted domestic terrorist -- pulled over for the trooper.

"I yelled for the driver to get out of his car. He didn't get out immediately," he said.

But McVeigh eventually complied.

"This is a clean cut-looking guy. He looked like he could be recent military," he said.

And as McVeigh handed him a driver's license, Hanger became more suspicious.

"I say, 'I want you to take both hands, and I want you to slowly unzip the jacket,'" he said.

McVeigh looked Hanger straight in the eye. And he said, "I have a weapon."

Hanger reached up to grab the bulge on the outside of his jacket.

"I'm spinning him around and telling him, 'Get your hands up!' I pull my weapon, and I stick it to the back of his head," he said.

Hanger guided McVeigh to the back of his car.

McVeigh said, "My weapon is loaded," prompting Hanger to nudge him in the back of the head with his pistol.

"Well, so is mine," Hanger replied.

A search revealed McVeigh was armed with a pistol, an extra magazine and a knife. The car yielded little else in the way of evidence, but Charlie Hanger had enough to arrest Timothy McVeigh right there only 80 miles north of Oklahoma City.

But what Hanger did wasn't heroic, according to Hanger.

"I was just doing my job like officers do every day, but I was glad to be the representative that had the opportunity to stop him and arrest him," he said.

As Hanger drove McVeigh to the Noble County jail to book him for illegally carrying a handgun, no one except McVeigh himself knew the significance of the arrest. The trooper led McVeigh to the top floor of the county courthouse and into his cell.

Hanger said he McVeigh didn't put up a fight.

"I think he was a coward. He ambushed the victims in the Murrah Building. He knew I was armed. I don't think he wanted to put himself in harms way," he said.

While McVeigh sat in the Noble County jail, in Oklahoma City, FBI agents made a critical find -- the axle from the truck bomb, which led them to the place where the truck was rented and to the man who rented it. On April 21, shortly before McVeigh was to be released from the jail in Perry, the FBI moved in, naming him the prime suspect in the bombing.

The media quickly assembled as did a vocal crowd, all eyes wanting to see the face of a terrorist.

Timothy McVeigh emerged as the man responsible for the killing of 168 people, including 19 children.

"I can't imagine what kind of person could do that," Hanger said.

A quarter-century later, it's still just as difficult to imagine what kind of person McVeigh was, how he could justify taking so many innocent lives.

"That's the scary part, to think that someone could commit that type of act, a heinous act, hurting and killing so many people, and you can't see it," Hanger said.

If anyone could have seen it, it would have been Charlie Hanger in that fateful first encounter.

"When you look into someone's eyes, you feel like maybe that's the window to their soul. I didn't see anything in his eyes," Hanger said.



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