OKC Jury Gets Glimpse Of Terror

Memories of the shock wave of a massive explosion, shards of flying glass and a 250-pound truck axle that fell from the sky have given jurors in Terry Nichols' murder trial a glimpse of the destruction caused by the Oklahoma City bombing.

Richard Nichols, a maintenance worker at the Regency Towers apartment building, testified Thursday about the terror and confusion that followed the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others.

Richard Nichols, who is not related to the defendant, was the 99th witness to testify in the case and the first to give jurors a firsthand account of the devastation caused by the bombing.

The fourth week of testimony in the case will conclude when the trial resumes Friday.

Richard Nichols testified that his wife had pulled their car up to the lobby of the apartment building with their nephew strapped in the back when the bomb went off outside the Oklahoma City federal building.

Jurors were shown surveillance pictures of Richard Nichols as he met his wife in the apartment building's lobby, the final frame the camera took before power was cut off.

"We heard a real, real, real loud explosion," he said, his voice trembling with emotion. "It spun my wife around, almost knocked her down. I hate when my wife gets hurt."

Nichols said the explosion blew shards of glass, concrete and debris at the 24-story apartment building, located one block from the federal building.

"I heard something above us, flying through the air. It sounded like a boomerang sound," he said, fighting back tears. "The way it was spinning, I knew it was big."

He told his wife "to get down" and pushed her down on the rear floorboard of the car. The object, a 7-foot-long, 250-pound piece of mangled metal, struck the hood of the small Ford Festiva, pushing it back 10 feet.

Prosecutor Lou Keel rolled the scorched and shattered truck axle on a dolly within a few feet of the jury.

Jurors also watched video presentations involving other images captured from the Regency's security camera, including a series of frames showing a large Ryder truck parked across the street from the building's lobby shortly before 9 a.m. on April 19. The bombing occurred at 9:02 a.m.

Prosecutors allege the truck carried the 4,000-pound ammonium-nitrate-and-fuel-oil bomb that destroyed the federal building, and claim that Nichols helped build the bomb.

The video surveillance tape indicates the truck was parked outside the apartment building for less than 30 seconds before it pulled away.

FBI agent William Stokes testified that attempts to amplify the image to see who is driving the truck produced nothing useful.

"You can't tell anything in that image," he said. Stokes said the quality of the camera and videotape, the angle of the sun and other factors prevented the image from being enhanced.

Other mangled pieces of the truck that were identified included a brace and a power steering assembly that was embedded in a van located in a parking lot across the street from the federal building, FBI agent Donald Sachtleben testified.

"It had been propelled there at a rather high rate of speed." he said.

Terry Nichols is being tried on 161 counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of 160 victims and one victim's fetus in the bombing. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

He is already serving a life prison sentence on federal bombing convictions for the deaths of eight federal law enforcement officers.