The boy who sat alone in the school library reading comic books became the soldier hunkered in his barracks reading Guns & Ammo magazine.
Fresh out of high school, Timothy James McVeigh showed up for his first job as a security guard sporting a bandolier of shotgun shells, a symbol of his grim fascination with the instruments of death and of his skill as a marksman.
Both are images that friends and associates summon when asked about McVeigh, the former soldier, convicted of the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil, the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. Here is what the world learned about Timothy McVeigh:
- He was born April 23, 1968.
- McVeigh's parents divorced when he was in early adolescence. It was the final coda to a lengthy separation that sent his mother to Florida, leaving McVeigh to be raised by his father, a Pendleton, N.Y., factory worker.
- He excelled at computer programming. Teacher Ross Wakeman said "It came as a natural thing to him."
McVeigh dropped out of college after a semester, telling a friend he found school "boring," and began working for an armored-car company in 1987.
- On May 24, 1988, McVeigh joined the Army at Ft. Riley, Kan. It was then that McVeigh met Terry Nichols, who was later also charged in connection with the bombing.
- Soldiers who served with McVeigh, including his commanders, depict him as an expert marksman and an ambitious professional, one capable of taking orders and also taking charge. "He was the perfect soldier," his squad mate Robin Littleton told reporters.
- In the 25-ton Bradley Fighting Vehicle he manned during the Persian Gulf war, McVeigh was considered a near-peerless marksman. He won several Army decorations, including a bronze star.
- McVeigh left the gulf in April 1991, a month before his comrades, because he won a place in the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course at Ft. Bragg, N.C. On the second day of the tryout, McVeigh withdrew from the program, frustrated by the rigorous training.
- McVeigh enlisted in a New York National Guard unit, serving from January 1992 to June 1992, when he received an honorable discharge, apparently because he told the guard his duties interfered with a civilian job, said staff Sgt. Thomas Kazmierczak, who oversaw McVeigh's unit.
- He began a life of seemingly aimless wandering that took him from Arizona to Michigan and Florida, and deeper into the rough-hewn and far-flung society of tax protesters and paramilitarists.
- On April 19, 1995, McVeigh was arrested following a routine traffic stop about 90 minutes after the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City exploded.