Man who helped ID Oklahoma City bombers reflects on investigation

By Stephanie Casanova

Every time Pat Livingston talks about the day he identified the Oklahoma City bombers, he mentions the specific date agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms visited Livingston’s store, Pat’s Pawn and Gun Shop, in Ogden.

The agents collected records of the gun sale that helped lead to the arrest of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

“I provided those gun records and all those documents on 4-21-95 to the ATF and the FBI agents that came to my store,” he said Wednesday, the 22nd anniversary of the attack of the Oklahoma City bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people.

Livingston remembers every detail, including the names of every agent, detective and police officer he talked to during the investigation and the badge number (4857) of an officer Reid, he talked to in Kansas City after hearing rumors that the militia were going to bomb a government building there. He later heard the target had changed from Kansas City to Oklahoma City, Omaha and Dallas, he said. Livingston was
afraid someone would think he was a “nut job” for reporting unsubstantiated rumors, but he felt the need to tell someone what he had heard during a surplus sale at Fort Riley.

“It was in the back of my mind all the time,” Livingston said. “You just couldn’t get rid of it, you know the horrible thing. I just couldn’t believe that a soldier would blow up a building with children. It was the most disgusting thing I could possibly imagine.”

McVeigh was executed in 2001, and Terry Nichols is spending life in prison in Colorado.

Livingston helped agents in the investigation by providing records from April to August of 1995. McVeigh, who was a soldier stationed at Fort Riley before the bombings, bought the .45-caliber Glock pistol he was carrying when he was arrested for a traffic violation, from Livingston’s gun shop in 1991. Nichols also bought two .45-caliber Glocks in January and February of 1995.

The record that helped Livingston identify McVeigh was his purchase of a Tec-9 assault pistol for which McVeigh wrote Livingston a bad check.

The day before the FBI and ATF agents went to Livingston’s store, military investigators went to him with composite drawings of McVeigh and Nichols. Livingston remembered McVeigh and dug up the bad check.

“That’s why I remembered him. As soon as I found that bad check a picture lit up in my mind,” Livingston said. “Somebody stiffs you for $300, you remember that.”

Later that day, his wife saw the same composite drawings on the news, Livingston said. Livingston said his conscience is clear because the gun had nothing to do with the bombing.

In addition to McVeigh’s gun purchase, he and Nichols had extensive ties to the area.

The two met at Fort Riley when they were stationed there in 1988 and 1989. They served in the 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division.
McVeigh stayed at the now razed Dreamland Motel in Junction City prior to the bombing.

During his trial, prosecutors alleged Nichols frequented several Manhattan- area businesses in the days before the bombing.

On April 15, four days before the bombing, Nichols bought diesel fuel at a Conoco station in Manhattan, according to receipts authorities say they found. Prosecutors say the bomb that blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City was made of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

It’s not clear which station made the transaction, although there was only one Conoco station at the time that sold diesel. That was the Klepper Korner Store at 206 Leavenworth. The FBI said in one affidavit that ammonium nitrate fertilizer was bought from an unspecified AmPride store in Manhattan. A receipt for the purchase was found in Nichols’ storage unit.

Records for a telephone calling card show a call placed on April 11, 1995, from a Manhattan phone registered in the name of Falley’s Incorporated to a hotel in Arizona. Falley’s owned the local Food 4 Less grocery stores; store officials at the time said the phone was probably a pay phone outside. McVeigh was staying in Arizona at the time. The calling card was registered in the name of Daryl Bridges, which prosecutors said was a fake name used by both McVeigh and Nichols as a dodge. Nichols, who lived in Herington, regularly picked up mail at a rented box at Mailboxes, Etc. in Westloop. He rented the box under the fake name “Joe Rivers,” according to receipts obtained by law enforcement officials. A Mailboxes employee called the FBI in July of 1995 after discovering mail addressed to Nichols.

Recovered from the box were letters from a gas utility company and something called the Defense Logistics Agency, FBI records show.

Nichols also did business occasionally in Manhattan, and at one point wanted to live here. The FBI found receipts from Wal-Mart, Kinko’s, Furniture Warehouse and Midwest Appliance, all in Manhattan.

He also rented a house — records do not indicate exactly which one — in Manhattan in 1989. When he moved back to Kansas in 1994, he wanted to live in Manhattan or Junction City, he told police in an interview when he turned himself in after the bombing. He said he talked to Realtors here and checked into the price of both houses and guns, but decided things were too expensive here — so he moved to Herington.

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