SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A police officer who was at the scene of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing said Wednesday during a Utah trial that he saw surveillance cameras at the federal building that may have recorded the attack.
Former Oklahoma City police officer Don Browning testified by video that he saw FBI agents climbing ladders and taking cameras off the federal building shortly after the attack that killed 168 people.
Under cross-examination, Browning acknowledged he doesn’t know if the cameras were operational, or if video was ever collected from them.
Browning was one of several witnesses to take the stand as Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue tries to persuade a federal judge that a video exists showing Timothy McVeigh was not alone in detonating the bomb, and that the FBI has not adequately searched its archives for the security camera video.
Trentadue believes the presence of a second suspect explains why his brother, who resembled a police sketch of a suspect, was flown to Oklahoma months after the bombing. His brother died in a federal holding cell.
Jannie Coverdale, whose two grandsons were killed in the bombing, said there were surveillance cameras on the apartment building where she lived that pointed toward the federal building that should have recorded the bomb going off. Coverdale said she observed a police officer and FBI agent in the building six months later talking about collecting the tapes, but she couldn’t recall their names. Like Browning, she said that she doesn’t know if the camera worked or was filming at the time.
Joe Cooley, whose security company was preparing a bid to handle security for the federal building, said he saw several exterior cameras on the building three months prior to the bombing while getting a tour. He said he didn’t know if they were operational.
The trial will decide whether the FBI must do additional searches for security camera videos. It’s a bench trial, meaning there is no jury and U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups will issue a ruling.
If he wins, Trentadue hopes to be able to search for the tapes himself rather than having to accept the FBI’s answer that they don’t exist.
The case has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others than McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols were involved in the 1995 attack, a theory that has been hovering over the trial.
“Timothy McVeigh wasn’t smart enough to plan that bombing and carry it out by himself,” Coverdale said. “I still believe there are some guilty people walking the streets.”
The trial stems from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit Trentadue filed against the FBI in 2008. Unsatisfied by the FBI’s previous explanations and citing the public importance of the tapes, Waddoups ordered the agency to explain why it can’t find the videos.
The FBI has given Trentadue 30 video recordings, but none shows the explosion or McVeigh’s arrival in the truck.
Kenneth Trentadue bore a striking resemblance to a police sketch based on witness descriptions of “John Doe No. 2,” who was never identified.
The government says McVeigh was alone in the truck, and said it later discovered the suspect in the sketch was not involved.
Trentadue’s belief that the tapes exists stems from a Secret Service document written after the bombing that describes security footage of the attack that shows suspects exiting the truck three minutes before the bomb detonated. A Secret Service agent testified in 2004 that the log does, in fact, exist but that the government knows of no videotape.
The FBI has brought employees to the stand to explain how the agency has searched its archives and found no evidence of more videos. Additional searches would be burdensome and fruitless, they say.
On Thursday, the FBI plans to call a former General Services Administration employee, who managed operations at the federal building when it was bombed. He is expected to discuss whether the surveillance cameras were operational.
Charlie Hanger, the Oklahoma highway patrolman who arrested McVeigh in 1995 and who is now a county sheriff, is also set to testify. Trentadue wants a video taken from Hanger’s patrol car dash camera. An FBI employee testified that the video was returned to Oklahoma highway patrol several years ago.
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