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ATF Denies Mother’s Charge That Office Was Unstaffed During Bombing

May 24, 1995

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Officials from a federal law enforcement agency denied allegations Tuesday from a bereaved mother that the agency’s employees all suspiciously were out of the office when the federal building was bombed.

Les Martz, who oversees Oklahoma operations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said five of the office’s 13 employees were in the office during the blast. ``One of my inspectors almost bled to death,″ he said.

``It seems more than a coincidence to me that the ATF on the ninth floor had zero casualties,″ said Edye Smith during a televised interview after the ruin of the building was imploded. ``They were all gone that day. I want to know where they were.″

Her sons, Chase, 3, and Colton, 2, died in the day-care center, which was located at the front of the building’s second floor.

The ATF office was at the rear of the ninth floor, an area that sustained less damage.

Smith, who planned to meet with ATF officials, said she found it suspicious that agents in crime-scene gear were outside the building just moments after the bombing, which killed at least 167 people.

Martz said two agents had been in the nearby federal courthouse when the blast hit and quickly donned raid gear to help in the rescue.

``I’m disappointed in that statement; and I understand. She’s going through a period of frustration, anger, heartbreak and terrible disappointment,″ said Gov. Frank Keatinng, who also offered to meet with Smith.

Authorities have speculated the bombing was planned for April 19 as retribution for the deadly fire April 19, 1993, at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, during a raid by federal agents.

In the Oklahoma blast, two ATF inspectors suffered head wounds and one had a nail embedded in his arm. Another agent was knocked unconscious and the agent-in-charge was in an elevator that dropped five floors.

Four agents were in court at the time of the bombing. Others were on assignment around the state, Martz said.