Kingman law enforcement relieved by McVeigh's execution
With the execution of Timothy McVeigh, arguably the most hated man in America, Kingman once again deals with the closing chapter of the worst terrorist act in this country's history.
McVeigh, 33, was executed Monday morning for the April 19, 1995 explosion that blew apart the Alfred P.
Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people, 19 of them children.
The blast wounded more than 700 others.
Two Kingman residents, Michael and Lori Fortier, befriended McVeigh during his stay in Kingman during most of 1994 and early 1995.
Michael Fortier served with McVeigh during the Gulf War.
Fortier, a 1987 graduate of Kingman High School, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in May 1998 for knowing about the bombing but failing to contact authorities.
About a year before the bombing, Bureau of Land Management geologist Art Smith taught a geology class at Mohave Community College.
In the class was a quiet young couple, the Fortiers, who said they were working toward their two-year degree.
Smith said the couple completed the class as a requirement for a degree but did not remember them participating much in the class.
He did remember Michael Fortier asking about what kind of materials went into making explosives used in mining.
Fortier was also skeptical about geology theories like the origins of the planet and its continents, questioning the age of rocks and the earth, Smith said.
When FBI agents first contacted him just two days after the bombing, Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan first thought it had to do with a bank robbery that had occurred at about that time.
"I had no inkling there was a connection with any Kingman residents at the time," Sheahan said.
He met Phoenix-based agents at Kingman's airport and discovered their interest in Fortier who they interviewed that day.
Sheahan said he did not know of Fortier prior to that.
Starting out with about a half-dozen FBI agents, a command post once held at the sheriff's office shifted across the street to the former Kingman National Guard Armory after the area was inundated with more than 150 agents.
Sheahan said there were only rumors of explosions in the desert before the Oklahoma City bombing but there were no substantiated incidents tying anything to McVeigh or Fortier.
When asked of McVeigh's execution, Sheahan said, "The sooner the better."
Sheahan said Fortier's sentence of 12 years was much too lenient and should have received 25 years to life in prison.
"He had the opportunity to stop it and he didn't," Sheahan said.
"He might have prevented the deaths of 168 people.
I know burglars that received more time than that."
He also does not think there are more anti-government sentiment in the Kingman area than anywhere else and that McVeigh was just a transient who stopped here because of his army buddy Fortier.
"Occasionally we have contacts with people who are unhappy with the feds," he said.
"But that can happen anywhere."
MCSO detective Randy McNally, who was one of the detectives assigned to work with the FBI, said the bombing had a negative impact on militias and anti-government activities.
There are still people in the county as well as elsewhere who distrust the government but they have been keeping a lower profile, he said.
He had no recollection of criminal activity involving Fortier prior to the Oklahoma bombing.
An explosion in February 1995 outside an abandoned house near the Canyon West Mobile and RV Park, where McVeigh once stayed, could not be tied to him.
Kingman police Chief Larry Butler, who was on the city council at the time, said the negative spotlight from the world's media did a lot of damage to the city in the months after the bombing.
"Peter Jennings (ABC news anchor) did a real sorry job on Kingman," Butler said.
"We'll probably arrest him next time he comes into town."
Butler said that the negative image was unwarranted since McVeigh was only a transient.
Butler only heard of Fortier through his own children who attended Kingman High School with him.
During those early days after the explosion the FBI seemed suspicious of everyone even including local law enforcement, he said.