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April 14, 2014

Histories collected of Indiana courthouse bombing

KOKOMO (AP) — The experiences of those who survived a bomb blast that rocked a central Indiana courthouse 27 years ago are being preserved with an oral history project.

The Howard County Historical Society identified and interviewed 19 people who were at the downtown Kokomo courthouse at the time of the April 1987 explosion or were directly affected by it, the Kokomo Tribune said.

The explosion killed Robert Gray Sr., who was on trial for drug dealing charges, when he set off a bomb in the county sheriff's office on the third floor of the courthouse during a break in his trial, according to authorities. The blast injured 20 people including Gray's attorney, Charles Scruggs; Kokomo police Officer Jack Adams, and then-Sheriff J.D. Beatty.

Dave Broman, executive director of the Historical Society, said the project began two years ago on the 25th anniversary of the bombing.

"The stories they told give relevance and humanity to the artifacts and documents that are also part of the courthouse bombing collection," Broman said.

Witness Barbara Todd recalled being in a courtroom when the explosion happened.

"All of a sudden there was the loudest, loudest — I wish I could convey how loud it was — but the bomb went off and the whole wall of the courtroom, where the double French doors with the glass were, exploded," she told an interviewer for the project. "The whole wall just disintegrated, and just came inward toward the courtroom."

The society is recognizing the oral history project participants with a public reception on May 1.

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