Edmond police chief ends 47 year career
EDMOND — Bob Ricks turned to prayer on the morning of April 19, 1995, after first seeing the devastation done by a truck bomb parked outside the Oklahoma City federal building. The blast would result in the deaths of 168 people.
Ricks, then the FBI agent in charge for Oklahoma, said he was overwhelmed when he realized this domestic terrorism investigation was on his shoulders.
"I said, 'Lord, I know this is overwhelming and I know I can't do it by myself,'" said Ricks, 72. "I just hoped that we could obtain justice in the process and there would be some sense of comfort for all the victims and the victims' families."
Ricks will end his 47-year law enforcement career on Friday as he retires as the police chief of Edmond, a job he has held 13 years.
He also served Oklahoma for eight years as Public Safety commissioner, Safety and Security cabinet secretary and director of Homeland Security.
Ricks spent 26 years with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, a tenure that saw him span the world working on high-profile cases that highlight history books.
He became a television icon after Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and six members of the Branch Davidians religious sect were killed Feb. 28, 1993, as agents attempted to serve warrants.
Ricks was named the FBI spokesman when the gunfire led to a 51-day standoff that ended with some 80 people, including sect leader David Koresh, being killed when the compound near Waco, Texas, burned April 19, 1993.
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Two years later, but on the same day, the Oklahoma City bombing happened in his hometown.
"The bombing was the most noteworthy case in my career," Ricks said. "Obviously, when you talk about memories it would be Waco, but unfortunately those memories are not pleasant memories.
"There are a lot of unpleasant memories about the bombing; all the dead, injured and the horrific damage that was done to Oklahoma City.
"I think it was memorable how the city was able to recover after the tragedy. I think the efforts of the FBI helped."
Ricks at first didn't realize the Oklahoma City bombing had occurred on the anniversary of the Waco ordeal.
"The first year after the anniversary of Waco we were on high alert throughout the entire federal government," Ricks said. "We were cautious and we were hearing something could happen."
After his first look at the Oklahoma City damage, Ricks said, he knew it was a terrorist attack.
"I had worked bombing cases all over America," Ricks said. "It looked extremely like the bombings we had in Beirut."
The bombing led to three convictions. Bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001. An accomplice, Terry Nichols, is serving life sentences without the possibility of release in federal prison.
A friend, Michael Fortier, served years in prison for not telling authorities in advance about the bomb plot. He testified against McVeigh and Nichols at trials.
"Looking back over 20-something years, I think the proper verdicts were given," Ricks said.
Ricks joined the FBI on July 14, 1969, as an agent in Southern California. He was later transferred to Washington, D.C., where his work became more demanding and challenging.
"I was able to direct some of the major cases that the FBI had at the time," said Ricks, who later became the FBI deputy assistant director. One of the bigger cases he supervised was the FBI's Abscam sting using fake Arabs to bribe federal elected officials.
Six congressmen, a U.S. senator and about 20 other public officials were convicted of bribery and conspiracy in 1980.
The first response to downed Pan Am Flight 103 was organized by Ricks on Dec. 21, 1988. The bombing left 243 passengers and 16 crew members dead. Another 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland, also died. A bomb in the cargo area brought down the Boeing 747 flying from London to New York.
Ricks chaired the Joint Terrorism Task Force that led the investigation of Yu Kikumura, a Japanese Red Army member, who was en route to bomb the U.S. Navy recruitment office in Manhattan in 1988. Yu Kikumura had gone to 13 states to put together materials to carry out the bombing.
President Ronald Reagan appointed Ricks to head up Operation Goldenrod, which resulted in the first extraterritorial rendition of an international terrorist.
For a while, Ricks conducted background checks for presidential, cabinet and U.S. Supreme Court justice appointees. He played a huge role in the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who was surrounded by multiple false accusations that had to be investigated.
Ricks has seen a lot. Twice in history, he has seen times when people were ambushing American law enforcement officers.
"I saw a time like this before in the late '60s and '70s when I started with the FBI," Ricks said. "It was primarily happening in the big cities.
"You had the same political rhetoric being spouted by the left wing. They were calling police pigs and almost cheering when one got killed. It was more dangerous back then.
"It wasn't unusual to go into the projects and rounds would be going past your head."
This turned around, he said, at the end of the Vietnam War.
Ricks said he has been blessed with three law enforcement careers, starting with the FBI and ending his tenure as a police chief.
"At the federal level you are looking at the national impact, and you don't see the impact on the individuals," Ricks said. "As chief of police in a community, everything you do affects the community, and you see directly the impact of what we are doing. You see the lives that are affected."
Ricks, who plans to remain in Edmond, his home for the last 27 years, said he knows it's time to retire. He said he has seen enough and doesn't want to stay too long. He is reminded of that each day when he gets a report of all the arrests his officers made in the last 24 hours.
"I am tired of seeing faces that we have arrested," Ricks said. "I get so tired of people that are destroying their lives being stupid, and throwing away so much promise for drugs, for spite and for a rage of temper.
"I'm getting to the point I want someone else to have that responsibility. I have seen it too long.
"I have seen too many bad things that has happened in the world. It is time to move on down the road. Not that I didn't enjoy it."