BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Detailing his motives in the Oklahoma City bombing for the first time publicly, Timothy McVeigh says he pulverized the federal building to avenge Waco and Ruby Ridge — and that he regrets having killed children only because it undercut his cause.
"I recognized beforehand that someone might be bringing their kid to work," McVeigh says in a new book. "However, if I had known there was an entire day-care center, it might have given me pause to switch targets. That's a large amount of collateral damage."
In 75 hours of prison interviews, McVeigh talked to Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, reporters for The Buffalo News, near his hometown of Pendleton, about how and why he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The April 19, 1995, attack killed 168 people, 19 of them children.
In the interviews, which began in May 1999, McVeigh got choked up while talking about killing a gopher in a field but never expressed remorse for the bombing.
"I understand what they felt in Oklahoma City. I have no sympathy for them," he told the authors of "American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing."
Before deciding to bomb the Murrah building, McVeigh says he considered a number of possibilities, including assassinating elected officials.
But he chose the bombing, in part, for its visual impact and decided on the Murrah building because it had federal agents and glass in the front, making it vulnerable and giving TV cameras a good shot.
Michel told ABC's "PrimeTime Thursday" that McVeigh's only regret was that the children's deaths proved to be a public relations nightmare.
CNN on Wednesday quoted Danny Defenbaugh, the FBI's lead investigator in the case, saying he had no doubt McVeigh knew children would be among his victims.
"No matter what and how you go by that building, if you look at the building, you're going to see all the little cut-out hands, all the little apples and flowers showing that there's a kindergarten there — that there are children in that building," Defenbaugh said.
Defenbaugh also said the FBI found evidence that McVeigh may have considered other attacks in Dallas and Omaha, CNN reported.
McVeigh, 32, told the authors he was disappointed when part of the building remained standing after his 7,000-pound bomb went off. "Damn, I didn't knock the building down. I didn't take it down," he said.
Authorities have said the bomb was between 4,000 pounds and 4,800 pounds, but McVeigh told the authors it was heavier by more than 1 ton.
He said he was the sole architect of the plan and resorted to threats against Terry Nichols' family when his Army buddy, also convicted in the attack, hesitated before helping to load the explosives into a rental truck.
McVeigh is scheduled to be executed May 16; Nichols is serving life in prison.
McVeigh was in the living room of Nichols' Michigan home when the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, burned to the ground in 1993 during an assault by federal agents, killing about 80 members of the cult. It brought him to tears.
The model soldier had left the Army disillusioned, unable to live with the thought that he was an ally of "the biggest bully in the world, the U.S. government," according to Herbeck. Then when Congress banned certain assault weapons, "I snapped," McVeigh said.
The morning of the Oklahoma City bombing he had cold spaghetti for breakfast. "Meals ready to eat ... are meant for high intensity. I knew I was going through a firestorm and I would need the energy," the Gulf War veteran said.
McVeigh was two blocks away when the bomb exploded and was lifted off the ground by the force of the blast. As he fled, he thought of the song "Dirty for Dirty" by Bad Company. "What the U.S. government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge was dirty. And I gave dirty back to them at Oklahoma City," he said.
In 1992 at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, the wife and son of white separatist Randy Weaver were killed during a standoff with federal agents.
McVeigh told the authors he knew he would get caught and even anticipated execution as a form of "state-assisted suicide." Yet he worried initially about snipers as he was being charged.
"He was ready to die but not at that moment — he wanted to make sure that his full message got out first," Herbeck said.
The authors also talk of McVeigh's regrets over not having a family, saying he has thought about smuggling sperm out of prison. Overall, he has found prison bearable. "I lay in bed all day and watch cable television. ... I don't pay the electrical bill or the cable bill," he said.
McVeigh dismisses those who believe foreign terrorists or domestic militias helped him with the bombing. "The truth is, I blew up the Murrah building," he said, "and isn't it kind of scary that one man could reap this kind of hell?"
In Oklahoma City, bombing memorial foundation chairman Bob Johnson said the organization would not accept proceeds from the book because it appears to contradict the center's goals.
"Any time you give McVeigh or (Terry) Nichols an opportunity to talk about what led them to do what they did, you are furthering their cause, in my mind, to become a national martyr," Johnson said.
Johnson said the foundation was offered an advance copy of the book but never got one because he refused to sign a confidentiality agreement. Johnson said he saw the back cover, which he said includes a photograph of the memorial and a mention that proceeds from the book will go to the center.
The memorial's museum opened Feb. 19 with a dedication by President Bush.