Diligent cop makes remarkable arrest
Oklahoma State Trooper Charlie Hanger was known to be a hard working and diligent cop. That would be a big part of one of the biggest patrol arrests in the American policing.
On the morning of April 19, 1995, Trooper Hanger was patrolling Interstate 35, about 75 miles north of Oklahoma City. An hour earlier there had been a devastating terror attack at the Alfred Murrah Federal Building there. Information about the bombing was still sketchy and there was no known motive or suspect description.
At about 10:15 Hanger was patrolling north on Interstate 35 when he saw an older car with no plates. The 1977 Mercury Marquis was not speeding or driving recklessly, just didn’t have a tag on the back. Trooper Hanger checked out the driver and initiated a car stop. Given the driver’s military appearance and knowing about the terror attack, Hanger didn’t approach the car. He directed the driver to the rear of the Marquis.
It was a good move. Hanger informed the driver of the fact that he didn’t have a license plate. The driver said he was aware of that, but strangely looked at the rear of the car as if he was not sure. Feeling more suspicious, Hanger asked for the man’s driver’s license. As he removed his wallet, Hanger observed to be what appeared to be the outline of a firearm under his jacket.
Taking control of the situation, Trooper Hanger grabbed the man, put him up against the car, and drew his service weapon. The man was compliant and told Hanger that the gun was loaded. Hanger quickly cuffed the man and placed him under arrest. He removed a Glock 21, .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol loaded with Black Talon rounds, designed to penetrate a bullet proof vest, from the man. Hanger interviewed the man about the car and the gun. He was able to gain consent to search the car, but only found a sealed envelope that he didn’t have cause to open.
He drove the man back to the stationhouse and processed the arrest. Fortunately, there was no judge immediately available and the man was held overnight. He later searched the back of his own car as cops do after transporting a prisoner. He found a business card discarded by the perp while he was squirming and handcuffed in the back seat of the squad car. It was the card of a military surplus store in Wisconsin. Written on the back of the card were the words, “Will need more TNT – $10 a stick/Need more” and “Call After 01, May, See if I can get some more.” This card became a critical piece of evidence.
By this time the FBI had been working on a few names. One of them was Trooper Hanger’s arrestee. It was Timothy McVeigh. He had just killed 168 people in the worst terror attack in American history up to that point. The anti-government radical and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols had devised a massive ammonium nitrate bomb and placed it in a rented Ryder truck. McVeigh had parked the truck outside the federal building and lit the fuse. Ten minutes later the bomb devastated the building and caused over 800 injuries in addition to the 168 fatalities. Trooper Hanger had made one of the biggest collars in American policing off a traffic violation.
The FBI was able to put an airtight case together against McVeigh and Nichols. Both were convicted and McVeigh was sentenced to death and Nichols to life. Trooper Charlie Hanger continued his career with the Oklahoma State Police, and later was elected Sheriff of Noble County. He retired on December 31, 2020.