Waco siege

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco_siege

Waco siege
Mountcarmelfire04-19-93-l.jpg
The Mount Carmel Center in flames during the assault on April 19, 1993
Date February 28 – April 19, 1993
Location Mount Carmel Center, Waco, Texas, USA
31°35′45″N 96°59′17″WCoordinates: 31°35′45″N 96°59′17″W
Result Feb 28 raid: Shootout & ATF retreat
Apr 19 assault: Buildings burned to the ground resulting in deaths.
Belligerents
ATF & FBI
Texas National Guard
Texas Rangers
Branch Davidians
Commanders and leaders
Jeff Jamar (ATF)
Richard Rogers (FBI)
David Koresh 
Casualties and losses
Raid: 4 dead, 16 wounded
Assault: none
Raid: 6 dead, 3+ wounded
Assault: 74 dead
Mount Carmel Center is located in Texas
 
Mount Carmel Center
Location within Texas

The Waco siege began on February 28, 1993, and ended violently 50 days later on April 19.[1] The siege began when the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) attempted to execute a search warrant at the Branch Davidian ranch at Mount Carmel, a property located 9 miles (14 km) east-northeast of Waco, Texas. On February 28, shortly after the attempt to serve the warrant, an intense gun battle erupted, lasting nearly 2 hours. In the aftermath of this armed exchange, four agents and six Branch Davidians had been killed. Upon the ATF's failure to execute the search warrant, a siege was initiated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The siege ended 50 days later when a second assault on the compound was made and a fire destroyed the compound. Seventy-six people (24 of them British nationals)[2] died in the fire, including more than 20 children, two pregnant women, and the sect leader David Koresh.

History

The Branch Davidians (also known as "The Branch") is a Protestant sect that originated in 1955 from a schism in the Davidians. As the group gained members, the leadership moved the church to a hilltop several miles east of Waco, which they named Mount Carmel, after a mountain in Israel mentioned in Joshua 19:26 in the Bible's Old Testament. A few years later, they moved again to a much larger site east of the city.

In 1959 Florence Houteff (widow of founder Victor Houteff) announced that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ was about to take place, and members were told to gather at the center to await this event. Many built houses, others stayed in tents, trucks or buses, and most sold their possessions.[3]

Following the failure of this prophecy, control of Mt. Carmel fell to Benjamin Roden, and, on his death, to his wife, Lois. Lois Roden considered their son, George, unfit to assume the position of prophet. Instead, she groomed Vernon Howell, later known as David Koresh, as her chosen successor. In 1984 a meeting led to a division of the group with Howell leading one faction, calling themselves the Davidian Branch Davidians, with George Roden leading the competing faction. After this split, George Roden ran Howell and his followers off Mt. Carmel. Howell and his group relocated to Palestine, Texas.[4][5]

After the death of Lois and probate of Lois' estate in January 1987, Howell attempted to gain control of the Mt Carmel center by force. George Roden had dug up the casket of Anna Hughes from the Davidian cemetery and had challenged Howell to a resurrection contest to prove who was the rightful heir to the leadership. Howell instead went to the police and claimed Roden was guilty of corpse abuse. By October 31, 1987 the county prosecutors had refused to file charges without proof and so on November 3, 1987 Howell and seven armed companions attempted to access the Mt. Carmel chapel with the goal of photographing the body in the casket. George Roden was advised of the interlopers and grabbed an Uzi in response. The sheriff's department responded about 20 minutes into the gunfight. Sheriff Harwell got Howell on the phone and told him to stop shooting and surrender. Howell and his companions, dubbed the "Rodenville Eight" by the media, were tried on April 12, 1988; seven were acquitted and the jury was hung on Howell's verdict. The county prosecutors did not press the case further.[6]

While waiting for the trial, George Roden was put in jail under contempt of court charges on March 21, 1988 because of his use of foul language in some court pleadings threatening the Texas court with AIDS and herpes if the court ruled in favor of Howell. The next day, Perry Jones and a number of Howell's other followers moved from their headquarters in Palestine, Texas to the Mt. Carmel Center.

In mid-1989, a Davidian named Wayman Dale Adair visited George Roden to discuss Adair's vision of being God's chosen messiah. Roden killed Adair with an axe. Roden was found guilty under an insanity defense and was committed to a mental hospital. Shortly after Roden's commitment, Howell raised money to pay off all the back taxes on Mt. Carmel owed by Roden and took legal control of the property.[7]

On August 5, 1989, Koresh (at that point still legally named Vernon Howell) released the "new light" audiotape in which Koresh stated he had been told by God to procreate with the women in the group to establish a "House of David" of his "Special People." This involved married couples in the group dissolving their marriages and agreeing that only David Koresh could have sexual relations with the wives.[7]

Vernon Howell filed a petition in California State Superior Court in Pomona on May 15, 1990, to legally change his name "for publicity and business purposes" to David Koresh. On August 28, 1990, Judge Robert Martinez granted the petition.[8]

By 1992, most of the land belonging to the group had been sold except for a core 77 acres (310,000 m2). Most of the buildings had been removed or were being salvaged for construction materials to convert much of the main chapel and a tall water tank into apartments for the resident members of the group. Many of the members of the group had been involved with the Davidians for a few generations, and many had large families.[9] The new Mount Carmel Center consisted of a main church building (constructed primarily of thin plywood, administrative and storage buildings, and homes for the leadership and important visitors.[citation needed]

Allegations surrounding the siege
Weapons

In addition to allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct, Koresh and his followers were accused of stockpiling illegal weapons. Authorities investigated these charges and obtained a warrant to search Koresh's compound. Former Davidian Marc Breault claimed that Koresh had "...M16 lower receiver parts"[7] (combining certain M16 components with a modified AR-15 lower receiver possibly constitutes the manufacture of a firearm that would be classified as a machine gun;[10] the Hughes amendment, attached to the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, effectively outlawed civilian ownership of any machine guns manufactured after the date of enactment[11]).

The January 5, 1992 interview of David Koresh by Martin King of Australian TV show A Current Affair included this exchange:

King: "Would you use a gun if someone trespassed?"
Koresh: "They come in here with a gun and they start shooting at us, what would you do?"[12]

According to the Affidavit presented by ATF investigator David Aguilera to US Magistrate Dennis G. Green on February 25, 1993, the Branch Davidian gun business (the "Mag Bag", Route 7, Box 555-B, Waco, Texas, 76705, located on Farm Road number 2491), had purchased many legal guns and gun parts from various legal vendors (such as forty-five semi-automatic AR15 lower receivers from Olympic Arms). Deliveries by UPS for the "Mag Bag" were accepted and paid for at Mount Carmel Center by Woodrow Kendrick, Paul Fatta, David Koresh or Steve Schneider. These purchases were traced by Aguilera through the normal channels used to track legal firearms purchases from legal vendors. None of the weapons and firearms were illegally obtained nor illegally owned by the "Mag Bag"; however, Aguilera affirmed to the judge that in his experience, in the past other purchasers of such legal gun parts had modified them to make illegal firearms. The search warrant was justified not on the basis there was proof that the Davidians had purchased anything illegal, but on the basis that they could be modifying legal arms to illegal arms, and that automatic weapon fire had been reported on the compound.[13] When the reports of automatic fire were first received, Steve Schneider and David Koresh showed the county sheriff department a "Hellfire" device, a quick-firing trigger sold with an ATF letter that the device was not a machinegun.

"Sinful Messiah"

On February 27, 1993, the Waco Tribune-Herald began the “Sinful Messiah” series of articles. It began, "If you are a Branch Davidian, Christ lives on a threadbare piece of land 10 miles east of here called Mount Carmel. He has dimples, claims a ninth-grade education, married his legal wife when she was 14, enjoys a beer now and then, plays a mean guitar, reportedly packs a 9mm Glock and keeps an arsenal of military assault rifles, and willingly admits that he is a sinner without equal." The article alleged that Koresh had physically abused children in the compound and had taken multiple underage brides amounting to statutory rape. Koresh was also said to advocate polygamy for himself and declared himself married to several female residents of the small community. According to the paper, Koresh declared he was entitled to at least 140 wives, that he was entitled to claim any of the females in the group as his, that he had fathered at least a dozen children through the harem and that some of these mothers became brides as young as 12 or 13 years old.[14]

Programming

During the siege the deprogrammer Rick Ross said:

"[Koresh is] your stock cult leader. ... They're all the same. Meet one and you've met them all. They're deeply disturbed, have a borderline personality disorder and lack any type of conscience. ... No one willingly enters into a relationship like this. ... So you're talking about deception and manipulation (by the leader), people being coached in ever so slight increments, pulled in deeper and deeper without knowing where it's going or seeing the total picture."[15]

Prelude

In May 1992, Chief Deputy Daniel Weyenberg of the McLennan County Sheriff's Department called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) notifying that his office had been contacted by a local UPS representative. A UPS driver described a package that had broken open on delivery to the Branch Davidian residence, revealing firearms, inert grenade casings, and black powder. On June 9, 1992, a formal investigation was opened and a week later it was classified as sensitive, [sic]"thereby calling for a high degree of oversight" from both Houston and Headquarters.[16][17]

The documentary Inside Waco claims that the investigation started when in 1992 the ATF became concerned over reports of automatic gunfire coming from the Carmel compound.[18]

On July 30, 1992, ATF agents David Aguilera and Skinner visited the Davidians' gun dealer Henry McMahon, who tried to get them to talk with Koresh on the phone. Koresh offered to let ATF inspect the Davidians' weapons and paperwork and asked to speak with Aguilera, but Aguilera declined.[19][20] Sheriff Harwell told reporters regarding law enforcement talking with Koresh, "Just go out and talk to them, what's wrong with notifying them?"[21]

The ATF began surveillance from a house across the road from the compound several months before the siege. Their cover was noticeably poor (the "college students" were in their 30s, had new cars, were not registered at the local schools, and did not keep a schedule which would have fit any legitimate employment or classes).[22] The investigation included sending in an undercover agent, Robert Rodriguez, whose identity Koresh learned, though he chose not to reveal that fact until the day of the raid.

The affidavit of ATF investigator David Aguilera for the search warrant claimed that there were over 150 weapons and 8,100 rounds of ammunition in the compound. The paperwork on the AR-15 components cited in the affidavit showed they were in fact legal semi-automatics; however, Aguilera told the judge: "I know based on my training and experience that an AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle practically identical to the M-16 rifle.... I have been involved in many cases where defendents, following a relatively simple process, convert AR-15 semi-automatic rifles to fully automatic rifles of the nature of the M-16. ... Often times templates, milling machines, lathes and instruction guides are used by the converter."[23] Aguilera stated in the affidavit and later testified at trial that a neighbor had heard machine-gun fire. However Aguilera failed to tell the magistrate that the same neighbor had previously reported the noise to the local Waco sheriff, who investigated the neighbor's complaint. Paul Fatta, who was also involved in the failed takeover of the group in 1987, told the New York Times that Koresh and he had visited the sheriff after the surveillance had been spotted and claimed that the sheriff's office told them their guns were legal.[24]

Using the affidavit filed by Aguilera, alleging that the Davidians had violated federal law, the ATF obtained search and arrest warrants for Koresh and specific followers on weapons charges due to the many firearms they had accumulated (Search Warrant W93-15M for the "residence of Vernon Wayne Howell, and others" signed by "Dennis G. Green (U.S. Judge or Magistrate)" dated 25 February 1993 8:43 p.m. at Waco, Texas).[25] The search warrant commanded a search "on or before February 28, 1993" in the daytime 6:00 am to 10:00 pm.

ATF obtained training for the raid from Special Forces at Fort Hood, Texas, February 25 though 27, by making a false claim that David Koresh was operating a methamphetamine lab. This provided the drug nexus necessary to obtain military assets under the "War on Drugs".[26]

ATF had planned their raid for Monday, March 1, 1993, with the code name "Showtime".[27] The ATF would later claim that the raid was moved up a day, to February 28, 1993, in response to the Waco Tribune-Herald "Sinful Messiah" series (which the ATF had tried to prevent from being published).[18] The plain text of the search warrant said it expired February 28 at 10:00 pm which meant if the raid had been carried out on March 1, it would have been on an expired warrant. Also, in meeting with Tribune-Herald personnel a week before the raid (before a date had actually been set), ATF agent Cavanaugh felt the newspaper had held off publication at the request of the ATF for at least three weeks, but ATF could not give the newsmen a clear idea of what action was planned or when. The Tribune-Herald informed ATF they were publishing the series, which included an editorial calling for local authorities to act. Personnel of the Tribune-Herald found out about the imminent raid after the first installment of "Sinful Messiah" had already appeared on February 27.[28] (Many of the ATF press releases on the Waco siege were written at HQ and given to the news media without consulting the agents involved in the raid.)

Although the ATF preferred to arrest Koresh when he was outside Mount Carmel, planners received inaccurate information that Koresh rarely left it.[29]

The Davidian members were well known locally and had cordial relations with other locals. The Davidians partly supported themselves by trading at gun shows and took care always to have the relevant paperwork to ensure their transactions were legal.[30] Davidian Paul Fatta was a federal firearms licensed dealer (FFL) and the Davidians operated a retail gun business called the Mag Bag. When shipments for the Mag Bag arrived, they were signed for by Fatta, Steve Schneider or Koresh. The morning of the raid, Paul Fatta and son Kalani were on their way to the Austin, Texas gun show to conduct business.[31]

The raid

The ATF attempted to execute their search warrant on a Sunday morning, February 28, 1993. Any advantage of surprise was lost as a reporter, who had been tipped off about the raid asked for directions from a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier who was coincidentally Koresh's brother-in-law.[18] Koresh then told the ATF agent Robert Rodriguez, who had infiltrated the Branch Davidians (to his astonishment as he was not aware that his cover had been blown), they knew a raid was imminent. The agent made an excuse and left the compound. When asked later what the Davidians had been doing when he left the compound, Rodriguez replied, "They were praying."

Davidian survivors have written that Koresh ordered selected male followers to begin arming and taking up defensive positions, while the women and children were told to take cover in their rooms.[18] Koresh told them he would try to speak to the agents and what happened next would depend on the agents' intentions.

Despite being informed that the Davidians knew a raid was coming, the ATF commander ordered that the raid go ahead, even though their plan depended on reaching the compound without the Davidians having been armed and prepared.[18] While not standard procedure, ATF agents had their blood type written on their arms or neck after leaving the staging area and before the raid because it was recommended by the military to facilitate speedy blood transfusions in the case of injury.[32][33]

Agents approached the site in cattle trailers pulled by pickup trucks owned by individual ATF agents.

It is not known who fired the first shots, but each side later claimed it had been the other.[18] ATF agents stated they heard shots coming from within the compound, while Branch Davidian survivors claimed that the first shots came from the ATF agents outside.

A suggested reason may have been an accidental discharge of a weapon, possibly by an ATF agent, causing the ATF to respond with fire from automatic weapons.[34] Other reports claim the first shots were fired by the ATF "dog team" sent to neutralize the dogs in the Davidian kennel.[35] Three army helicopters were used as aerial distraction and all took incoming fire, but they did not return any shots.[36]

During the first shots, Koresh was wounded.[37] Within a minute of the raid starting, the Davidian Wayne Martin called emergency services, pleading for them to stop shooting. The resident asked for a ceasefire, and audiotapes record him saying "Here they come again!" and "That's them shooting, that's not us!"

The first ATF casualty was an agent who had made it to the west side of the building before he was wounded and toppled into a muddy ditch. Agents quickly took cover and fired at the buildings while the helicopters began their diversion and swept in low over the complex, 350 feet away from the building.[36] The Davidians fired on the helicopters and hit them, without injuring the crew, and the helicopters immediately stopped the mission and landed.[36] On the east side of the compound agents hauled out two ladders and set them against the side of the building.

Agents then climbed onto the roof with the objective of securing the roof within thirty seconds to reach David Koresh's room and the arms storage. On the west slope of the roof three agents reached Koresh's window and were crouching beside it when they came under fire. One agent was killed and another one wounded. The third agent scampered over the peak of the roof and joined other agents attempting to enter the arms room. The window was smashed, a flashbang grenade thrown in and three agents entered the arms room. When another tried to follow them a hail of bullets penetrated the wall and wounded him but he was able to reach a ladder and slide to safety. An agent fired with his shotgun at Davidians who were shooting at him until he was hit in the head and killed. Inside the arms room the agents killed a Davidian gunman and discovered a cache of weapons but came under heavy fire and two were wounded. As they escaped the third agent laid down covering fire and killed a Davidian. As he made his escape, he hit his head on a wooden support beam and fell off the roof, but survived.

An agent outside provided them with covering fire but was shot by a Davidian and killed instantly. Dozens of ATF agents took cover, many behind Davidian vehicles, and exchanged fire with the Davidians. The number of ATF wounded increased and an agent was killed by gunfire from the compound as agents were firing at a Davidian sniper perched on top of the water tower. The exchange of fire continued but 45 minutes into the raid the gunfire began to slow down as agents began to run low on ammunition. The shooting continued for two hours.[38]

The local sheriff attempted to contact the ATF force but initially could not get through because the ATF communications officer had turned his radio off. Eventually Lt. Lynch of the McLennan County Sheriff Dept. got through and negotiated a ceasefire.[18] Sheriff Harwell states in William Gazecki's documentary, Waco - The Rules of Engagement, that the ATF agents withdrew only after they were out of ammunition.[39] ATF agent Chuck Hustmyre later wrote: "About 45 minutes into the shootout, the volume of gunfire finally started to slacken. We were running out of ammunition. The Davidians, however, had plenty." After the ceasefire the Davidians allowed the ATF dead and wounded to be evacuated and held their fire during the ATF retreat.

ATF agents Steve Willis, Robert Williams, Todd McKeehan and Conway LeBleu were killed during the raid. Another sixteen were wounded. The five Davidians killed in the 9:45 am raid were Winston Blake, Peter Gent, Peter Hipsman, Perry Jones, and Jaydean Wendel; two at the hands of the Davidians themselves.[40] Nearly six hours after the 11:30 am ceasefire, Michael Schroeder was shot dead by ATF agents who alleged he fired a pistol at agents as he attempted to re-enter the compound with Woodrow Kendrick and Norman Allison.[18] The news media initially reported Schroeder was shot breaking out of Mt. Carmel. His wife claimed that he was merely returning from work and had not participated in the day's earlier altercation.[39]

The local sheriff, in audiotapes broadcast after the incident, said he was not apprised of the raid.

Alan A. Stone's report states that the Davidians did not ambush the ATF, that they "apparently did not maximize the kill of ATF agents" and that they were "willing to kill but (were) not cold-blooded killers." It explains that they were rather "desperate religious fanatics expecting an apocalyptic ending, in which they were destined to die defending their sacred ground and destined to achieve salvation."[41]

A 1999 federal report noted: "The violent tendencies of dangerous cults can be classified into two general categories--defensive violence and offensive violence. Defensive violence is utilized by cults to defend a compound or enclave that was created specifically to eliminate most contact with the dominant culture. The 1993 clash in Waco, Texas at the Branch Davidian complex is an illustration of such defensive violence. History has shown that groups that seek to withdraw from the dominant culture seldom act on their beliefs that the endtime has come unless provoked."[42]

Chronology of events February 28
Time Event
05:00 76 agents assemble at Fort Hood for the drive to the staging area at the Bellmead Civic Center. According to a later Treasury Department Review, the agents drove in an 80-vehicle convoy that stretched for a mile (1.6 km) with a cattle trailer at either end.
09:45 ATF agents move in on the compound. A gun battle begins.
09:48 Branch Davidian Wayne Martin, a Waco attorney, calls 9-1-1.
11:30 Ceasefire reached.
16:00 The first message from Koresh is relayed over KRLD Radio In Dallas.
16:55 Michael Schroeder is shot dead returning to the compound.
17:00 ATF spokesman Ted Royster says gunfire has continued sporadically through the afternoon.
19:30 David Koresh is interviewed by CNN. The FBI instructs CNN not to conduct further interviews.
20:15 ATF spokesperson Sharon Wheeler says negotiations continue with Davidians and gunfire has ended.
22:00 By now 4 children have exited (2 Sonobe children, 2 Fagan children).
22:05 Koresh talks for about 20 minutes on KRLD, describing his beliefs and saying he is the most seriously wounded of the Davidians.
Fatalities

Following the February 28, 1993 raid, the dead included:
ATF fatalities:

  1. Special Agent Todd McKeehan
  2. Special Agent Conway LeBleu
  3. Special Agent Robert Williams
  4. Special Agent Steve Willis

Davidian fatalities:

  1. Winston Blake, 28, British
  2. Peter Gent, 24, Australian
  3. Peter Hipsman, 28, American
  4. Perry Jones, 64, American
  5. Jaydean Wendell, 34, American
  6. Michael Schroeder, 29, American
The siege

ATF agents established contact with Koresh and others inside the compound after they withdrew. The FBI took command soon after as a result of the deaths of federal agents. FBI placed Jeff Jamar, head of the Bureau's San Antonio field office, in charge of the siege as Site Commander. The FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) was headed by HRT Commander Richard Rogers, who had previously been criticized for his actions at the Ruby Ridge incident. As at Ruby Ridge, Rogers often overrode the Site Commander at Waco and Rogers had mobilized both the Blue and Gold HRT tactical teams to the same site, which ultimately created pressure to resolve the situation tactically due to lack of HRT reserves.

At first, the Davidians had telephone contact with local news media and Koresh gave phone interviews. The FBI cut Davidian communication to the outside world. For the next 51 days, communication with those inside was by telephone by a group of 25 FBI negotiators.[18] The final Justice Department report found that negotiators criticized the tactical commanders for undercutting negotiations.[43]

In the first few days the FBI believed they had made a breakthrough when they negotiated with Koresh an agreement that the Davidians would peacefully leave the compound in return for a message, recorded by Koresh, being broadcast on national radio.[18] The broadcast was made, but Koresh then told negotiators that God had told him to remain in the building and "wait".[18]

Despite this, soon afterwards negotiators managed to facilitate the release of 19 children, ranging in age from five months to 12 years old, without their parents.[3] These children were released in groups of two. This was considered an allusion to Noah's Ark by Koresh, while 98 people remained in the building.[18] The children were then interviewed by the FBI and Texas Rangers, some for hours at a time.[3] Allegedly, the children had been physically and sexually abused long before the standoff.[44] Although allegations of child abuse were never substantiated, this was the key justification offered by the FBI, both to President Bill Clinton and Janet Reno, for launching tear gas attacks on the compound to force the Davidians out.[45]

During the siege, the FBI sent a video camera to the Davidians. In the video tape made by Koresh's followers, Koresh introduced his children and his "wives" to the FBI negotiators including several minors who claimed to have had babies fathered by Koresh. (Koresh had fathered perhaps 14 of the children who stayed with him in the compound.) Several Davidians made statements in the video.[46] On day nine, Monday March 8, the Davidians sent out the video tape to show the FBI that there were no hostages, but in fact everyone seemingly was staying inside on their own free will. This video also included a message from Koresh.[18] The negotiators' log showed that there was concern when the tape was reviewed, that release of the tape to the media would gain sympathy for Koresh and the Davidians.[47] Videos also showed the 23 children still inside Ranch Apocalypse, and child care professionals on the outside prepared to take care of those children as well as the previous 21 released.[3]

As the siege continued, Koresh negotiated more time, allegedly so he could write religious documents he said he needed to complete before he surrendered. His conversations, dense with biblical imagery, alienated the federal negotiators who treated the situation as a hostage crisis.

As the siege wore on, two factions developed within the FBI,[18] one believing negotiation to be the answer, the other, force. Increasingly aggressive techniques were used to try to force the Davidians out (for instance,sleep deprivation of the inhabitants by means of all-night broadcasts of recordings of jet planes, pop music, chanting and the screams of rabbits being slaughtered). Outside the compound nine Bradley Fighting Vehicles carrying M651 CS tear gas grenades and Ferret rounds, as well as five M-60 combat engineering vehicles (CEVs) obtained from the US Army began patrolling.[18] The armored vehicles were used to destroy perimeter fencing and outbuildings and crush cars belonging to the Davidians. The tanks repeatedly drove over the grave of Davidian Peter Gent despite protests by the Davidians and the negotiators. Two of the three water storage tanks on the roof of the main building had been shot at and holed in the initial ATF raid. Eventually the FBI cut all power and water to the compound, forcing those inside to survive on rain water and stockpiled United States Army Meal, Ready-to-Eat rations.[18]

Criticism was later leveled at the tactic of using sleep and peace-disrupting sound against the Davidians by Schneider's attorney, Jack Zimmerman:

The point was this - they were trying to have sleep disturbance and they were trying to take someone that they viewed as unstable to start with, and they were trying to drive him crazy. And then they got mad 'cos he does something that they think is irrational![48]

Despite the increasingly aggressive tactics, Koresh ordered a group of followers to leave. Eleven people left and were arrested as material witnesses, with one person charged with conspiracy to murder.[18]

The children's willingness to stay with Koresh disturbed the negotiators who were unprepared to work around the Davidians' religious zeal. However, as the siege went on, the children were aware that an earlier group of children who had left with some women were immediately separated, and the women arrested.

During the siege a number of scholars who study Apocalypticism in religious groups attempted to persuade the FBI that the siege tactics being used by government agents would only create the impression within the Davidians that they were part of a Biblical "end-of-times" confrontation that had cosmic significance.[49] This would likely increase the chances of a violent and deadly outcome. The religious scholars pointed out that while on the outside, the beliefs of the group may have appeared to be extreme, to the Davidians, their religious beliefs were deeply meaningful, and they were willing to die for them.[49]

Koresh's discussions with the negotiating team became increasingly difficult. He proclaimed that he was the second coming of Christ and had been commanded by his father in heaven to remain in the compound.[18]

One week prior to the April 19, 1993 assault, FBI planners considered using snipers to eliminate David Koresh and possibly other key Davidians.[50]

The final assault

The FBI suggested that the Davidians might commit mass suicide, as had happened at Jonestown where 918 people killed themselves at their leader's behest, although Koresh had repeatedly denied any plans for this when confronted by negotiators during the standoff, and people escaping the compound had not seen any such preparation.[51] Newly appointed U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno approved recommendations by the FBI to mount an assault after being told that conditions were deteriorating and that children were being abused inside the compound.[44] (Over the next several months, Janet Reno's reason for approving the final tank-and-gas attack varied from her initial claim that the FBI had told her that Koresh was sexually abusing children and beating babies [the FBI later denied evidence of child abuse during the standoff] to her claim that Linda Thompson and her one-woman "Unorganized Militia of the United States" was on their (her) way to Waco to aid or attack Koresh.[52])

Reno made the FBI case to President Bill Clinton. Recalling the April 19, 1985 CSAL siege in Arkansas which was ended without loss of life by a blockade without a deadline, President Clinton suggested similar tactics against the Davidians. Reno countered that the FBI was tired of waiting; that the standoff was costing a million dollars a week; that the Davidians could hold out longer than the CSAL; and that the chances of child sexual abuse and mass suicide were real because Koresh and his followers were crazy. "Finally, I told her that if she thought it was the right thing to do, she could go ahead."[53]

Because the Davidians were heavily armed, the FBI's arms included .50 caliber (12.7 mm) rifles and armored vehicles (CEVs). The assault took place on April 19, 1993. Combat Engineering tanks used booms to puncture holes in the walls of buildings of the compound so they could pump in CS gas ("tear gas") and try to flush out the Davidians without harming them. The stated plan called for increasing amounts of gas to be pumped in over two days to increase pressure. Officially, no armed assault was to be made, and loudspeakers were used to tell the Davidians that there would be no armed assault and to ask them not to fire on the vehicles. When several Davidians allegedly opened fire, the FBI's response was to increase the amount of gas being used.[18]

FBI also delivered 40-millimetre (1.6 in) CS grenade fire from grenade launchers; very early in the morning, the FBI fired two military M651 rounds at the Davidian construction site. About mid-morning the FBI began to run low on 40mm Ferret CS rounds and asked Texas Ranger Captain David Byrnes for tear gas rounds; the tear gas rounds procured from Company "F" in Waco turned out to be unusable pyrotechnic rounds and were returned to the Company "F" office after the fire.[54] 40mm munitions recovered by the Texas Rangers at Waco included dozens of plastic Ferret Model SGA-400 Liquid CS rounds, two metal M651E1 military pyrotechnic teargas rounds, two metal NICO Pyrotechnik Sound & Flash grenades and parachute illumination flares.[54][55]

After more than six hours no Davidians had left the building, sheltering instead in a cinder block room within the building or using gas masks.[56] The FBI claim that CEVs were used to punch large holes in the building to provide exits for those inside.

A propane tank explodes

At around noon, three fires broke out almost simultaneously in different parts of the building. The government maintains the fires were deliberately started by Davidians.[18][57] Davidian survivors maintain the fires were accidentally or deliberately started by the tank assault.[58][59] As the fire spread, Davidians were prevented from escaping; others refused to leave and eventually became trapped. In all, only nine people left the building during the fire.[18][57]

The remaining Davidians, including the children, were either buried alive by rubble, suffocated by the effects of the fire or shot. Many who suffocated from the fire were killed by smoke or carbon monoxide inhalation[57] and other causes[57] as fire engulfed the building. Footage of the incident was being broadcast worldwide via television. In all, 75 died (50 adults and 25 children under the age of 15) and nine survived the fire on April 19 (on February 28 five had been killed in the initial ATF raid and buried on the grounds, one killed by ATF after the raid while returning to Mt. Carmel and 35 had left during the FBI standoff).[57]

Nothing remains of the buildings today other than cement foundation components, as the entire site was bulldozed by the ATF two weeks after the end of the siege. Only a small chapel, built years after the siege, stands on the site.[60] Despite significant primary source video, much dispute remains as to the actual events of the siege.

Chronology of events April 19
Time Event
05:50 Agents call Davidian compound to warn they are going to begin tank activity and advise residents "to take cover". Agents say the Davidian who answered the phone did not reply, but instead threw the phone and phone line out of the front door.
05:55 FBI Hostage Rescue Team deploys two armored combat engineering vehicles (CEV) to the buildings. CEV1 goes to the left of the buildings, CEV2 to the right.[61]
06:00 FBI surveillance tapes from devices planted in the wall of the building record a man inside the compound saying "Everybody wake up, let's start to pray", then, "Pablo have you poured it yet" ..."Huh" ... "Have you poured it yet"... "in the hallway"... "things are poured, right?" CEV1 receives orders to spray two bottles of tear gas into left corner of building.[61]
06:04 Armored vehicle with ram and delivery device to pump tear gas into building with pressurized air rips into front wall just left of front door leaving a hole 8 feet (2.4 m) high and 10 feet (3.0 m) wide. Agents claimed the holes not only allowed insertion of the gas, but also provided a means of escape. Agent sees shots from inside the compound directed at CEVs.[61]
06:10 FBI surveillance tapes record "don't pour it all out, we might need some later"... "throw the tear gas back out" FBI negotiator Byron Sage is recorded saying "It's time for people to come out." Surveillance tapes[specify] records a man saying "what?" then, "no way."
06:12 FBI surveillance tapes record Davidians saying "They're gonna kill us", then "They don't want to kill us."
06:31 The entire building is gassed.[61]
06:47 FBI fires plastic, nonincendiary tear gas rounds through windows.[61]
07:23 FBI surveillance tapes record a male Davidian saying, "The fuel has to go all around to get started." Then a second male says, "Well, there are two cans here, if that's poured soon."
07:30 CEV1 is redeployed, breaching the building and inserting tear gas. Davidians fire shots at CEV1.[61]
07:48 On FBI tapes of agents recorded during the siege, FBI agent requests permission to fire military-style tear gas shells to break through underground concrete bunker. Gets permission, fires two shells.[61]
07:58 CEV2, with battering ram, rips hole into second floor of compound and then minutes later another hole is punched into the backside of one of the buildings of the compound. The vehicles then withdraw.[61]
08:08 Three pyrotechnic military tear gas rounds are shot at the concrete construction pit (not the concrete bunker), away and downwind from the main quarters, trying to penetrate the structure, but they bounce off.[62]:28-32Agent in CEV reports that one military shell bounced off bunker, did not penetrate.[61][62]:30
08:24 Audio portion of FBI videotape ends, at request of pilot.[61]
09:00 The Davidians unfurl a banner which reads "We want our phone fixed."
09:13 CEV1 breaks through front door to deliver more gas.[61]
09:20 FBI surveillance records a meeting starting at 7:30 AM between several unidentified males.[63]
UM: "They got two cans of Coleman fuel down there? Huh?"
UM: "Empty"
UM: "All of it?"
UM: "Nothing left."
10:00 A man is seen waving a white flag on the southeast side of the compound. He is advised over loudspeakers that if he is surrendering he should come out. He does not. At the same time a man believed to be Schneider comes out to retrieve the phone and phone line.
11:30 Original CEV2 has mechanical difficulties (damaged tread), replacement breaches through back side of compound.[61]
11:17 - 12:04 According to the goverment, a series of remarks like "I want a fire (...)", "keep that fire going" and "do you think I could light this soon?" indicate the Davidians have started setting fire to the complex around 11:30.[62]:15-19[63]:287 Surviving Davidians testified that Coleman fuel had been poured, and fire experts in Danfort's report agree "without question" that people inside the complex had started multiple accelerated fires.[62]:15-19, appendixes D and E
11:43 Another gas insertion takes place, with the armored vehicle moving well into the building to reach the concrete interior room where the FBI believe Davidians are trying to avoid gas.
11:45 Wall on right rear collapses.[61]
12:03 Armored vehicle turret knocks away first floor corner on right side.
12:07 First visible flames appear in two spots in the front of the building, first on the left of the front door on the second floor (a wisp of smoke then a small flicker of flame) then a short time later on the far right side of the front of the building, and at a third spot on the back side.

A FBI agent reported seeing a Branch Davidian member igniting a fire in the front door area.[62]:18

12:09 Ruth Riddle exits with computer disk in her jacket containing Koresh's Manuscript on the Seven Seals. Third fire detected on first floor.[61]
12:10 Flames spread quickly through entire building, fanned by high winds. The building burns very quickly.
12:12 Emergency telephone number call placed for fire department. Two Waco FD trucks are dispatched. Shortly after, Bellmead FD dispatches two trucks.
12:22 Waco fire trucks arrive at checkpoint where they are halted;[citation needed] Bellmead follows shortly after.
12:25 There is a large explosion on the left side. One object hurtles into air, bounces off the top of white bus and lands on grass.
12:30 Part of the roof collapses. Around this time there are several further explosions and witnesses report the sound of gunfire, attributed by the FBI to live ammunition cooking off throughout the buildings because of fire.
12:43 Fire trucks arrive in compound according to fire department logs.
12:55 Fire begins to burn out, compound leveled.
15:45 Law enforcement source says David Koresh is dead.
Fatalities April 19

In the April 19, 1993 final assault, the Davidian dead included:
 

 1. Katherine Andrade, 24, American
 2. Chanel Andrade, 1, American
 3. Jennifer Andrade, 19, American
 4. George Bennett, 35, British
 5. Susan Benta, 31, British
 6. Mary Jean Borst, 49, American
 7. Pablo Cohen, 38, Israeli
 8. Abedowalo Davies, 30, British
 9. Shari Doyle, 18, American
10. Beverly Elliot, 30, British
11. Yvette Fagan, 32, British
12. Doris Fagan, 51, British
13. Lisa Marie Farris, 24, American
14. Raymond Friesen, 76, Canadian
15. Sandra Hardial, 27, British
16. Zilla Henry, 55, British
17. Vanessa Henry, 19, British
18. Phillip Henry, 22, British
19. Paulina Henry, 24, British
20. Stephen Henry, 26, British
21. Diana Henry, 28, British
22. Novellette Hipsman, 36, Canadian
23. Floyd Houtman, 61, American
24. Sherri Jewell, 43, American
25. David M. Jones, 38, American
 
26. David Koresh, 33, American
27. Rachel Koresh, 24, American
28. Cyrus Koresh, 8, American
29. Star Koresh, 6, American
30. Bobbie Lane Koresh, 2, American
31. Jeffery Little, 32, American
32. Nicole Gent Little, 24, Australian, pregnant
33. Dayland Gent, 3, American
34. Page Gent, 1, American
35. Livingston Malcolm, 26, British
36. Diane Martin, 41, British
37. Wayne Martin, Sr., 42, American
38. Lisa Martin, 13, American
39. Sheila Martin, Jr., 15, American
40. Anita Martin, 18, American
41. Wayne Martin, Jr., 20, American
42. Julliete Martinez, 30, American
43. Crystal Martinez, 3, American
44. Isaiah Martinez, 4, American
45. Joseph Martinez, 8, American
46. Abigail Martinez, 11, American
47. Audrey Martinez, 13, American
48. John-Mark McBean, 27, British
49. Bernadette Monbelly, 31, British
50. Rosemary Morrison, 29, British
 
51. Melissa Morrison, 6, British
52. Sonia Murray, 29, American
53. Theresa Nobrega, 48, British
54. James Riddle, 32, American
55. Rebecca Saipaia, 24, Filipino
56. Steve Schneider, 43, American
57. Judy Schneider, 41, American
58. Mayanah Schneider, 2, American
59. Clifford Sellors, 33, British
60. Scott Kojiro Sonobe, 35, American
61. Floracita Sonobe, 34, Filipino
62. Gregory Summers, 28, American
63. Aisha Gyrfas Summers, 17, Australian, pregnant
64. Startle Summers, 1, American
65. Lorraine Sylvia, 40, American
66. Rachel Sylvia, 12, American
67. Hollywood Sylvia, 1, American
68. Michelle Jones Thibodeau, 18, American
69. Serenity Jones, 4, American
70. Chica Jones, 2, American
71. Little One Jones, 2, American
72. Neal Vaega, 38, New Zealander
73. Margarida Vaega, 47, New Zealander
74. Mark H. Wendell, 40, American
 
Aftermath

The new ATF Director, John Magaw, criticized several aspects of the ATF raid; for instance, he compared the raid leaders Phillip Chojnacki going with a helicopter team and Chuck Sarabyn going in one of the horse trailers to a football team's coach and assistant coach going onto the field with the players. Magaw made the Treasury "Blue Book" report on Waco required reading for new agents.

A 1995 GAO report on use of force by federal law enforcement agencies observed that "on the basis of Treasury’s report on the Waco operation and views of tactical operations experts and ATF’s own personnel, ATF decided in October 1995 that dynamic entry would only be planned after all other options have been considered and began to adjust its training accordingly."[64]

Remains of a swimming pool are left on the grounds.

The Texas Rangers recovered at least two .50 caliber weapons from the remains of the compound.[57][62] There is the question of whether the Davidians actually fired the .50 caliber rifles during the raid or during the assault. Various groups supporting gun bans, such as Handgun Control Incorporated and the Violence Policy Center have claimed that the Branch Davidians had used .50 caliber rifles and that therefore these types of firearms should be banned.[65][66] The ATF claims such rifles were used against ATF agents the day of the search. Several years later, the General Accounting Office in response to a request from Henry Waxman released a briefing paper titled, "Criminal Activity Associated with .50 Caliber Semiautomatic Rifles" which repeated ATF's claims that the Branch Davidians used .50 caliber rifles during the search.[67] FBI Hostage Rescue Team snipers did report sighting one of the weapons — readily identifiable by its distinctive muzzle brake — during the siege.[68]

Trial

The events at Waco spurred both criminal prosecution and civil litigation. On August 3, 1993, a federal grand jury returned a superseding 10-count indictment against twelve of the surviving Davidians. The grand jury charged, among other things, that the Davidians had conspired to, and aided and abetted in, murder of federal officers, and had unlawfully possessed and used various firearms.

The Government dismissed the charges against one of the twelve Davidians, Kathryn Schroeder, pursuant to a plea bargain. After a jury trial lasting nearly two months, the jury acquitted four of the Davidians on all counts with which they were charged. Additionally, the jury acquitted all of the Davidians on the murder-related charges, but convicted five of them on the lesser-included offense of aiding and abetting the voluntary manslaughter of federal agents.[69] Eight Davidians were convicted on firearms charges.

The convicted Davidians, who received sentences of up to 40 years,[70] were:

  • Kevin A. Whitecliff—convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a firearm during a crime.
  • Jaime Castillo—convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a firearm during a crime.
  • Paul Gordon Fatta—convicted of conspiracy to possess machine guns and aiding Davidian leader David Koresh in possessing machine guns.
  • Renos Lenny Avraam (British national) —convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a firearm during a crime.
  • Graeme Leonard Craddock (Australian national) —convicted of possessing a grenade and using or possessing a firearm during a crime.
  • Brad Eugene Branch—convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a firearm during a crime.
  • Livingstone Fagan (British national) —convicted of voluntary manslaughter and using a firearm during a crime.
  • Ruth Riddle (Canadian national) —convicted of using or carrying a weapon during a crime.
  • Kathryn Schroeder—sentenced to three years after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of forcibly resisting arrest.

Six of the eight Davidians appealed both their sentences and their convictions. They raised a host of issues, challenging the constitutionality of the prohibition on possession of machine guns, the jury instructions, the district court’s conduct of the trial, the sufficiency of the evidence, and the sentences imposed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated the defendants’ sentences for use of machine guns, determining that the district court had made no finding that they had “actively employed” the weapons. The Court of Appeals left the verdict undisturbed in all other respects. United States v. Branch, 91 F.3d 699 (5th Cir. 1996), cert. denied (1997).

On remand, the district court found that the defendants had actively employed machine guns, and re-sentenced five of them to substantial prison terms. The defendants again appealed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. United States v. Castillo, 179 F.3d 321 (5th Cir. 1999). The Davidians pressed this issue before the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the term “machine gun” in the relevant statute created an element of the offense to be determined by a jury, rather than a sentencing factor to be determined by a judge, as had happened in the trial court. Castillo v. United States, 530 U.S. 120 (2000). On September 19, 2000 Judge Walter Smith followed the Supreme Court's instructions and cut 25 years from the sentences of 5 convicted Davidians and five years from the sentence of another.[71] All Davidians were released from prison as of July 2007.[72]

Several of the surviving Davidians, as well as more than a hundred family members of those who had died or were injured in the confrontation, brought civil suits against the United States Government, numerous federal officials, the former governor of Texas, and members of the Texas National Guard. They sought monetary damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), civil rights statutes, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and Texas state law. The bulk of these claims were dismissed because they were insufficient as a matter of law or because the plaintiffs could advance no material evidence in support of them.

The court, after a month-long trial, rejected the Davidians’ case. The court found that, on February 28, 1993, the Davidians initiated a gun battle when they fired at federal officers who were attempting to serve lawful warrants[citation needed]. ATF agents returned gunfire to the building, the court ruled, in order to protect themselves and other agents from death or serious bodily harm. The court found that the government's planning of the siege – i.e. the decisions to use tear gas against the Davidians; to insert the tear gas by means of military tanks; and to omit specific planning for the possibility that a fire would erupt – was a discretionary function for which the government could not be sued. The court also found that the use of tear gas was not negligent. Further, even if the United States Government were negligent by causing damage to the buildings before the fires broke out, thus either blocking escape routes or enabling the fires to speed faster, that negligence did not legally cause the plaintiffs' injuries because the Davidians started the fires.

The Davidians appealed. Their only serious contention was that the trial court judge, Walter S. Smith, Jr., should have recused himself from hearing their claims on account of his relationships with defendants, defense counsel, and court staff; prior judicial determinations; and comments during trial. The Fifth Circuit concluded that these allegations did not reflect conduct that would cause a reasonable observer to question Judge Smith’s impartiality, and it affirmed the take-nothing judgment. Andrade v. Chojnacki, 338 F.3d 448 (5th Cir. 2003), cert. denied (2004).

British nationals

33 British citizens were among the members of the Branch Davidians during the siege. 24 British nationals were among the 80 Davidian fatalities (raid Feb 28 and assault Apr 19, 1993), including at least one child.[45] Two more British nationals who survived the siege were immediately arrested as "material witnesses" and imprisoned without trial for months.[70] One, Derek Lovelock, was held in McLennan County Jail for seven months, often in solitary confinement.[70] Livingston Fagan, another British citizen, who was among those convicted and imprisoned, recounts multiple beatings at the hands of correctional officers, particularly at Leavenworth. He claims to have been doused with cold water from a high-pressure hose, which soaked both him and the contents and bedding of his cell, after which an industrial fan was placed outside the cell, blasting him with cold air. He was repeatedly moved between at least nine different facilities. He was strip-searched every time he took exercise, so refused exercise. Released and deported back to UK in July 2007, he still holds on to his religious beliefs.[70]

Controversies
Who fired first?

Rolland Ballestros, one of the agents assigned to the ATF door team that assaulted the front door, told Texas Rangers and Waco police that he thought the first shots came from the ATF dog team assigned to neutralize the Davidians’ dogs, but later at the trial he insisted that the Davidians had shot first.[73] (Ballestros was not called by the government in the later trials.) The Davidians claimed that the ATF door team then opened fire at the door and they returned fire in self-defense.

Helicopters had been obtained from the Alabama and Texas National Guard on the pretext that there was a drug laboratory at Mount Carmel.[26][74] There were, however, no drug related charges on the arrest warrant served on the morning of February 28, 1993."[75][76] The official version of events has always stated that the helicopters were merely used as a diversion, that the crew only had 9 millimeter sidearms, and that no shot was made from them.[36] Conspiracy theorists cite this transcript of the negotiations to say that one negotiator admitted that the occupants might have fired:

Koresh: "No! Let me tell you something. That may be what you want the media to believe, but there's other people that saw too! Now, tell me Jim, again - you're honestly going to say those helicopters didn't fire on any of us?"
Jim Cavanaugh: "What I'm saying is the helicopters didn't have mounted guns. Ok? I'm not disputing the fact that there might have been fire from the helicopters."[77]

An Austin Chronicle article noted, "Long before the fire, the Davidians were discussing the evidence contained in the doors. During the siege, in a phone conversation with the FBI, Steve Schneider, one of Koresh's main confidants, told FBI agents that "the evidence from the front door will clearly show how many bullets and what happened."[78] Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin, who went inside Mount Carmel during the siege, testified at the trial that protruding metal on the inside of the right-hand entry door made it clear that the bullet holes were made by incoming rounds. DeGuerin also testified that only the right-hand entry door had bullet holes, while the left-hand entry door was intact. The government presented the left-hand entry door at the trial, claiming that the right-hand entry door had been lost. The left-hand door contained numerous bullet holes made by both outgoing and incoming rounds. Texas Trooper Sgt. David Keys testified that he witnessed two men loading what could have been the missing door into a U-Haul van shortly after the siege had ended, but he did not see the object itself. And Michael Caddell, the lead attorney for the Davidians' wrongful death lawsuit explained, "The fact that the left-hand door is in the condition it's in tells you that the right-hand door was not consumed by the fire. It was lost on purpose by somebody." Caddell offered no evidence to support this allegation, which has never been proved.[78] However, fire investigators stated that it was "extremely unlikely" that the steel right door could have suffered damage in the fire much greater than did the steel left door, and both doors would have been found together. The right door remains missing, and the entire site was under close supervision by law enforcement officials until the debris—including both doors—had been removed.."[78]

The fire

Critics suggest that during the final raid the CS gas was injected into the building by armored vehicles in an unsafe manner, which could have started a fire. While two of the three fires were started well inside the building, away from where the CS gas was pumped in, survivor David Thibodeau claimed in a 1999 interview with Reason that damage to the building allowed the gas to spread, stating that "They started to break the walls, break the windows down, spread the CS gas out."

Attorney General Reno had specifically directed that no pyrotechnic devices be used in the assault.[61] Between 1993 and 1999, FBI spokesmen denied (even under oath) the use of any sort of pyrotechnic devices during the assault; however, pyrotechnic Flite-Rite CS gas grenades had been found in the rubble immediately following the fire. In 1999, FBI spokesmen were forced to admit that they had used the grenades, however they claimed that these devices, which dispense CS gas through an internal burning process, had been used during an early morning attempt to penetrate a covered, water-filled construction pit 40 yards away,[61] and were not fired into the building itself. According to FBI claims, the fires started approximately three hours after the grenades had been fired.[61] When the FBI's documents were turned over to Congress for an investigation in 1994, the page listing the use of the pyrotechnic devices was missing.[61] The failure for six years to disclose the use of pyrotechnics despite her specific directive led Reno to demand an investigation.[61] A senior FBI official told Newsweek that as many as 100 FBI agents had known about the use of pyrotechnics, but no one spoke up until 1999.[61]

The FBI had planted surveillance devices in the walls of the building which captured a number of conversations which the government claims are evidence the Davidians started the fire.[63]:287 The recordings were imperfect and many times difficult to understand, and the two transcriptions that were made had differences at many points.[63]:287 According to reporter Diana Fuentes, when the FBI’s April 19 tapes were played in court during the Branch Davidian trials, few people heard what the FBI audio expert claimed to hear; the tapes "were filled with noise, and voices only occasionally were discernible. . .The words were faint; some courtroom observers said they heard it, some didn't."[79]

The Branch Davidians had given ominous warnings involving fire on several occasions.[80] This may or may not be indicative of the Davidians' future actions, but was the basis for the conclusion of Congress that the fire was started by the Davidians, "absent any other potential source of ignition." This was prior to the FBI admission that pyrotechnics were used, but a yearlong investigation by the Office of the Special Counsel after that admission nonetheless reached the same conclusion, and no further congressional investigations followed.

During a 1999 deposition for civil suits by Davidian survivors, fire survivor Graeme Craddock was interviewed. He stated he saw some Davidians moving about a dozen one gallon cans of fuel so they would not be run over by tanks, heard talk of pouring fuel outside the building, and, after the fire had started, something that sounded like "light the fire" from another individual.[81]

Professor Kenneth Newport's book The Branch Davidians of Waco attempts to prove that starting the fire themselves was pre-planned and consistent with the Branch Davidians' theology. He cites as evidence conversations the FBI recorded during the siege, testimonials of survivors Clive Doyle and Graeme Craddock and the buying of diesel fuel one month before the start of the siege.[63]

On May 12, less than a month after the incident, Texas state authorities bulldozed the site, rendering further gathering of forensic evidence impossible.

Escaping from the fire

A large concentration of bodies, weapons and ammunition were found in the bunker. The arson report assumes that many of the occupants were either denied escape from within or refused to leave until escape was not an option.[82] The arson report also mentions that the structural debris from the breaching operations on the west end of the building could have blocked a possible escape route through the tunnel system.[82]

An independent investigation, by two experts from the University of Maryland's Department of Fire Protection Engineering, concluded that the compound residents had sufficient time to escape the fire, if they had so desired.[57]

Evaluation by FBI of mass suicide possibility

The FBI received contradictory reports on the possibility of Koresh's suicide and was not sure about whether he would commit suicide.[51] The evidence made them believe that there was no possibility of mass suicide, with Koresh and Schneider repeatedly denying to the negotiators that they had plans to commit mass suicide, and people leaving the compound saying that they had seen no preparations for such a thing.[51] There was a possibility that some of his followers would follow Koresh if he committed suicide.[51]

According to Alan A. Stone's report, during the siege the FBI used an incorrect psychiatric perspective to evaluate Davidians' responses, which caused them to over-rely on Koresh's statements that they would not commit suicide. They treated the Davidians as if they were a band of criminals, a military force or, generically, as the aggressor. The Davidians were instead

"an unconventional group in an exalted, disturbed, and desperate state of mind (...) devoted to David Koresh as the Lamb of God (...) willing to die defending themselves in an apocalyptic ending and, in the alternative, to kill themselves and their children (...) neither psychiatrically depressed, suicidal people nor cold-blooded killers (...) ready to risk death as a test of their faith."

According to Stone, this misevaluation caused the FBI to not make the pertinent questions to Koresh and to others on the compound about whether they were planning a mass suicide. A more pertinent question would have been

"What will you do if we tighten the noose around the compound in a show of overwhelming power, and using CS gas, force you to come out?"[41]
Autopsies

Autopsies of the dead revealed that some women and children found beneath a fallen concrete wall of a storage room died of skull injuries. Photographs taken after the fire show that the M728 CEV that penetrated the building while injecting CS gas did not come close enough to cause the collapse, which was more likely the result of the fire; photographs show signs of spalling on the concrete, which suggests that it was damaged by the intense heat.

Autopsy photographs of other children locked in what appear to be spasmic death poses are consistent with cyanide poisoning, one of the results produced by burning CS gas.[39] The DOJ report indicated that only one body had traces of benzene, one of the components of solvent-dispersed CS gas, but that the gas insertions had finished nearly one hour before the fire started, and that it was enough time for solvents to dissipate from the bodies of the Davidians that had inhaled the tear gas.[83]

Autopsy records indicate that at least 20 Davidians were shot, including five children under the age of 14. Three-year-old Dayland Gent was stabbed in the chest. The medical examiner who performed the autopsies believed these deaths were mercy killings by Davidians trapped in the fire with no escape. The expert retained by the Office of Special Counsel concluded that many of the gunshot wounds "support self-destruction either by overt suicide, consensual execution (suicide by proxy), or less likely, forced execution."[62] Another explanation, offered by survivor Clyde Doyle (himself a burn victim) is that the gunshots were mercy killings. In a 1995 press conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, Doyle stated that

"I can understand why someone would end the suffering of someone, especially a child, who had been gassed and was burning to death. That makes more sense than these claims of a 'suicide pact.' The people who are saying that have never been on fire." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Documentary films and related issues

The Waco siege has been the subject of a number of documentary films and books:

The first film was a made-for-television docudrama film, In the Line of Duty: Ambush at Waco, which was made during the siege before the April 19 assault on the church. It essentially promoted the government's view of the initial ambush of February 28, 1993. The scriptwriter, Phil Penningroth, has since disowned his screenplay.

In June 1993, Signet published Inside the Cult co-authored by ex-Davidian Marc Breault who left the group in September 1989 and by Martin King who interviewed Koresh for Australian TV "A Current Affair" in January 1992.

In July 1993, St. Martin's Paperbacks published Massacre at Waco, Texas by true crime author Clifford L. Linedecker.

The first documentary film that was critical of the official reports was Waco: The Big Lie,[84] produced by Linda Thompson followed by Waco II: The Big Lie Continues. The Linda Thompson videos were controversial and made a number of allegations, the most famous of which was footage of a tank with what appears to be light reflected from it; Thompson's narration claimed this was a flame-thrower attached to the tank.

Michael McNulty, of the Citizens' Organization for Public Safety, released footage showing the "flame" to have been a reflection on aluminized insulation that was torn from the wall and snagged on the M728 CEV, which is a vehicle that does not come equipped with a flamethrower. In fact, the Defense Department stopped using flamethrowers in 1978.[85]

Thompson's "creative editing" was exposed by the film Waco: An Apparent Deviation (produced by Michael McNulty, as the result of a comprehensive investigation by people associated with COPS). Thompson worked from a VHS copy of the surveillance tape; McNulty was given access to a beta original.

The next film was Day 51: The True Story of Waco, produced by Richard Mosley and featuring Ron Cole, a self-proclaimed militia member from Colorado who was later prosecuted for weapons violations.[86] The Linda Thompson and Richard Mosley films, along with extensive coverage given to the Waco siege on some talk radio shows, galvanized support for the Branch Davidians among some sections of the right including the Nascent Militia Movement, while critics on the left also denounced the government siege on civil liberties grounds.

In March 1993, Timothy McVeigh drove from Arizona to Waco in order to observe firsthand the federal standoff. Along with other protesters, he was photographed by the F.B.I.[87] McVeigh cited the Waco incident as a primary motivation for the Oklahoma City bombing[88] and was known to be a fan of both the Linda Thompson and Ron Cole videos.[citation needed] It was on the second anniversary of the April 19th Mount Carmel fire that McVeigh detonated his bomb against the Federal target in Oklahoma City.

Mainstream media tended to discount the critical views presented in early documentary films, because they were seen as coming from the political fringes of the right and left.[citation needed] This changed in 1997, when professional film makers Dan Gifford and Amy Sommer produced their Emmy Award winning documentary, Waco: The Rules of Engagement.[75][89] This film presents a history of the Branch Davidian movement and, most importantly, a critical examination of the conduct of law enforcement, both leading up to the raid and through the aftermath of the fire. The film features footage of the Congressional hearings on Waco, and juxtaposition of official government spokespeople with footage and evidence often directly contradicting the government spokespeople. The documentary also shows infra-red footage suggesting that the FBI likely used incendiary devices to start the fire which consumed the building and that the FBI did indeed fire on, and kill, Branch Davidians attempting to flee the fire.

Waco: The Rules of Engagement.[75] was nominated for a 1997 Academy Award for best documentary and was followed by another film in 1999: Waco: A New Revelation.[90] In 2001 another Michael McNulty documentary The F.L.I.R. Project was produced. This effort researched the aerial thermal images recorded by the FBI, and using identical "Flir" equipment recreated the same results as were recorded by federal agencies April 19, 1993.

Subsequent government-funded studies[91] contend that the infra-red evidence does not support the view that the FBI improperly used incendiary devices or fired on Branch Davidians. Infra-red experts continue to disagree, and film maker Amy Sommer stands by the original conclusions presented in the Waco: The Rules of Engagement documentary.

Davidian survivor David Thibodeau wrote his account of life in the Branch Davidian and of the siege in A Place Called Waco, PublicAffairs, 1999.

America Wake Up (Or Waco) was a film released in 2000 by Alex Jones which documents the 1993 Waco incident with the Branch Davidians.

The Assault on Waco was released on September 16, 2006 on the Discovery channel, and details the entire attack on Waco.

Inside Waco is an Anglo-American documentary that attempts to show what really happened inside by piecing together accounts from the parties involved. It was produced jointly by Channel 4 and HBO. It aired on More4 in the UK on February 1, 2007 and then February 10, 2007.

Investigation and the Danforth Report

The Oklahoma bombing in April 1995 made the media revisit many of the questionable aspects of the government's actions at Waco, and many Americans who previously supported those actions were now asking for an investigation.[92] By 1999, as a result of certain aspects of the documentaries discussed above, as well as allegations made by advocates for Davidians during litigation, public opinion held that the federal government had engaged in serious misconduct at Waco. A Time magazine poll conducted on August 26, 1999, for example, indicated that 61 percent of the public believed that federal law enforcement officials started the fire at the Branch Davidian complex. In September of that year, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed former United States Senator John C. Danforth as Special Counsel to investigate the matter. In particular, the Special Counsel was directed to investigate charges that government agents started or spread the fire at the Mt. Carmel complex, directed gunfire at the Branch Davidians, and unlawfully employed the armed forces of the United States.

A yearlong investigation ensued, during which the Office of the Special Counsel interviewed 1,001 witnesses, reviewed over 2.3 million pages of documents, and examined thousands of pounds of physical evidence. In the final Danforth Report of November 8, 2000, Special Counsel Danforth concluded that the allegations were meritless. The report found, however, that certain government employees had failed to disclose during litigation against the Davidians the use of pyrotechnic devices at the complex, and had obstructed the Special Counsel’s investigation. Disciplinary action was pursued against those individuals.

Allegations that the government started the fire were based largely on an FBI agent’s having fired three “pyrotechnic” tear gas rounds, which are delivered with a charge that burns. The Special Counsel concluded that, because the FBI fired the rounds nearly four hours before the fire started, at a concrete construction pit partially filled with water, 75 feet (23 m) away and downwind from the main living quarters of the complex, the rounds did not start or contribute to the spread of the fire. The Special Counsel noted, by contrast, that recorded interceptions of Davidian conversations included such statements as “David said we have to get the fuel on” and “So we light it first when they come in with the tank right . . . right as they’re coming in.” Davidians who survived the fire acknowledged that other Davidians started the fire. FBI agents witnessed Davidians pouring fuel and igniting a fire, and noted these observations contemporaneously. Lab analysis found accelerants on the clothing of Davidians, and investigators found deliberately punctured fuel cans and a homemade torch at the site. Based on this evidence and testimony, the Special Counsel concluded that the fire was started by the Davidians.

Charges that government agents fired shots into the complex on April 19, 1993, were based on Forward Looking Infrared (“FLIR”) video recorded by FBI Nightstalker aircraft. These tapes showed 57 flashes, with some occurring around government vehicles that were operating near the complex. The Office of Special Counsel conducted a field test of FLIR technology on March 19, 2000, to determine whether gunfire caused the flashes. The testing was conducted under a protocol agreed to and signed by attorneys and experts for the Davidians and their families, as well as for the government. Analysis of the shape, duration, and location of the flashes indicated that they resulted from a reflection off debris on or around the complex, rather than gunfire. Additionally, independent expert review of photography taken at the scene showed no people at or near the points from which the flashes emanated. Interviews of Davidians, government witnesses, filmmakers, writers, and advocates for the Davidians found that none had witnessed any government gunfire on April 19. Finally, none of the Davidians who died on that day displayed evidence of having been struck by a high velocity round, as would be expected had they been shot from outside of the complex by government sniper rifles or other assault weapons. In view of this evidence, the Special Counsel concluded that the claim that government gunfire occurred on April 19, 1993, amounted to “an unsupportable case based entirely upon flawed technological assumptions.”

The Special Counsel considered whether the use of active duty military at Waco violated the Posse Comitatus Act or the Military Assistance to Law Enforcement Act. These statutes generally prohibit direct military participation in law enforcement functions, but do not preclude indirect support such as lending equipment, training in the use of equipment, offering expert advice, and providing equipment maintenance. The Special Counsel noted that the military provided “extensive” loans of equipment to the ATF and FBI including, among other things, two tanks the offensive capability of which had been disabled. Additionally, the military provided more limited advice, training, and medical support. The Special Counsel concluded that these actions amounted to indirect military assistance within the bounds of applicable law. The Texas National Guard, in its state status, also provided substantial loans of military equipment, as well as performing reconnaissance flights over the Davidian complex. Because the Posse Comitatus Act does not apply to the National Guard in its state status, the Special Counsel determined that the National Guard lawfully provided its assistance.

Criticism of the Danforth Report

David Koresh's lawyer called the Danforth report a whitewash.[93] Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General, who represented several Branch Davidian survivors and relatives in a civil lawsuit said the report "failed to address the obvious."

"History will clearly record, I believe, that these assaults on the Mt. Carmel church center remain the greatest domestic law enforcement tragedy in the history of the United States."[94]

Equipment and manpower

The ATF suspected that the Branch Davidians could have acquired .50 caliber rifles, so they asked for Bradley armored vehicles, which could resist that caliber. During the siege, Koresh said that he could destroy the Bradleys[citation needed], so they were supplemented with two M1A1 Abrams tanks and five M728 Combat Engineer Vehicles.[95][96]

Government agencies

Raid (February 28): 75 ATF agents,
3 helicopters manned by 10 Texas National Guard counterdrug personnel as distraction during the raid and filming[74][97]
ballistic protection equipment, fire retardant clothing, regular flashlights, regular cameras (i.e. flash photography), shotguns and flash bangs,[98]
9mm handguns, 9mm MP5 submachine guns, .223 AR-15 rifles, .308 bolt-action sniper rifle.[99]

Siege (March 1 through April 18):
hundreds of federal agents,
100 PVF7B5 Night Vision Goggles[100]
2 UH-1 Helicopters[100]

Assault (April 19):
Hundreds of federal agents,
military vehicles (with their normal weapon systems removed[citation needed]): 9-10 M3 Bradleys, 4-5 M728 Combat Engineering Vehicles (CEVs) armed with CS gas, 2 M1A1 Abrams tanks, 1 M88 tank retriever[97][100]

Support:[97]
1 Britten-Norman Defender surveillance aircraft,[101]
unknown number of Texas National Guard personnel, for maintenance of military vehicles and training on the use of the vehicles and their support vehicles (Humvees and flatbed trucks),
surveillance from Texas National Guard Counterdrug UC-26 surveillance aircraft and from Alabama National Guard,
2 members of the British Army's 22 Special Air Service (SAS) regiment as observers,
10 active duty Special Forces soldiers as "observers" (sic) and trainers, also present during assault,
Two senior Army officers as advisers
50+ men (trained in the use of weapons),[102]

Branch Davidians

75+ (including women and children)

Weapons

  • 305 total firearms, including two 50 caliber semi-automatic rifles, numerous tactical rifles (semiautomatic AK-47s and AR-15s), shotguns, revolvers and pistols.[57][62][103]
  • 46 semiautomatic firearms modified to fire in full automatic mode (included on above list): 22 M-16 Type Rifles, 20 AK-47 assault rifles, 2 Heckler and Koch SP-89, 2 M-11/Nine[62][103] (The Texas Ranger does not report the M-16s but it reports "at least 16 AR-15 assault rifles",[57] the AR-15 being a semi-automatic version of the M-16)
  • 2 AR-15 lower receivers also modified to fire in full automatic mode[103]
  • 4 Live M-21 Practice Hand Grenades[103]

Material bought prior to raid

According to the Report to the Deputy Attorney General,[102][104]

  • 16 handguns
  • 10 rifles
  • 39 "full auto sears" devices used to convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons
  • Parts for fully automatic AK-47 and M16 rifles
  • 30 round magazines and 100 round magazines for M-16 and AK-47 rifles
  • Pouches to carry large ammunition magazines
  • Substantial quantities of ammunition of various sizes (including .50 caliber armor piercing ammunition, 10,000 rounds of 9 mm ammunition and 10,000 rounds of .223 caliber ammunition). About 1.9 million rounds of "cooked off" ammunition were found at the compound.[57]
  • Grenade launcher parts
  • Flare launchers
  • Ka-bar fighting knives
  • Night vision equipment
  • Hundreds of practice hand grenades hulls and components (including 200+ Inert M31 Practice Rifle Grenades, 100+ Modified M-21 Practice Hand Grenade bodies, 219 Grenade Safety Pins, 243 Grenade Safety Levers found after the fire),[103]
  • Kevlar helmets
  • Bulletproof vests
  • 88 lower receivers for the AR-15 rifle
  • Approximately 15 Sound suppressors or silencers (found after assault), the Treasury reports lists 21 silencers,[103] , later a Texas Rangers report found that at least six items had been mislabeled and were actually 40mm metal grenades or flash bang grenades from manufacturers who sold those models to ATF or FBI exclusively (part 1 of "Investigative Report #2", EXHNUM 001037, 001383, 001525, and also 000768, 002247, and 002248);[105] Former Davidian Donald Bunds testified he had manufactured silencers under direct orders of Koresh.[32]
Related incidents

Other events sharing the date of the final gas and tank attack on Mt. Carmel have been mentioned in discussions of the Waco siege. Some of the connections appear coincidental. April 19 was the date from the American Revolution of "the shot heard round the world". It was also the date of opening of the siege on the CSAL group in Arkansas in 1985. It was also a date deliberately chosen by self-appointed avenger Timothy McVeigh.

The Oklahoma City bombing was a terrorist attack on April 19, 1995 aimed at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, a U.S. government office complex in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The bomb was detonated by Timothy McVeigh, who testified that he chose this date because it was the second anniversary of the deadly fire at Mount Carmel. McVeigh's attack claimed 168 lives and left over 800 injured. Until the September 11 attacks, it was the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil, and remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in American history.[106] Within days after the bombing, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were both in custody for their roles in the bombing. Investigators determined that McVeigh and Nichols were sympathizers of an anti-government militia movement and that their motive was to avenge the government's handling of the Waco siege and Ruby Ridge incidents.[107]

See also
References
Further reading
Bibliography
Government investigations and hearings
Legal proceedings
  • United States v. Branch, W.D. Texas Criminal Case No. 6:93cr46, trial transcript 1/10/94 - 2/26/94; 91 F.3d 699 (5th Cir. 1996)
  • United States v. Castillo, 179 F.3d 321 (1999); Castillo v. United States, 120 S.Ct. 2090 (2000); on remand, 220 F.3d 648 (5th Cir. 2000)
  • Andrade v. United States, W.D. Texas Civil Action No. W-96-CA-139, trial transcript 6/19/2000 - 7/14/2000; 116 F.Supp.2d 778 (W.D. Tex. 2000)
  • Andrade v. Chojnacki, 338 F.3d 448 (5th Cir. 2003)
  • s: Graeme Craddock Testimony on Waco Fire, October 1999 civil suit deposition regarding April 19, 1993 fire at Branch Davidian home and church.</ref>
Books
  • Anthony, D. and T. Robbins (1997). "Religious totalism, exemplary dualism and the Waco tragedy." In Robbins and Palmer 1997, 261–284.
  • Bell, Randall (2009). Strategy 360. Laguna Beach, CA: Owners Manual Press. ISBN 9781933969169
  • Christopher Whitcomb. Cold Zero: Inside the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. ISBN 0-552-14788-5. (Also covers Ruby Ridge.)
  • Docherty, Jayne Seminare. Learning Lessons From Waco: When the Parties Bring Their Gods to the Negotiation Table (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2001). ISBN 0-8156-2751-3
  • Kerstetter, Todd. "'That's Just the American Way': The Branch Davidian Tragedy and Western Religious History", Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 4, Winter 2004.
  • Kopel, David B. and Paul H. Blackman. No More Wacos: What’s Wrong With Federal Law Enforcement and How to Fix It (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1997). ISBN 1-57392-125-4
  • Lewis, James R. (ed.). From the Ashes: Making Sense of Waco (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1994). ISBN 0-8476-7915-2 (cloth) ISBN 0-8476-7914-4 (paper)
  • Linedecker, Clifford L. Massacre at Waco, Texas: The Shocking Story of Cult Leader David Koresh and the Branch Davidians (New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1993). ISBN 0-312-95226-0
  • Lynch, Timothy. No Confidence: An Unofficial Account of the Waco Incident (Washington: Cato Institute, 2001).
  • Moore, Carol. The Davidian Massacre: Disturbing Questions Abut Waco Which Must Be Answered." (Virginia: Gun Owners Foundation, 1995). ISBN 1-880692-22-8
  • Newport, Kenneth G. C. "The Branch Davidians of Waco: The History and Beliefs of an Apocalyptic Sect" (Oxford University Press, 2006). ISBN 0-19-924574-6, 9780199245741
  • Reavis, Dick J. The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995). ISBN 0-684-81132-4
  • Tabor, James D. and Eugene V. Gallagher. Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). ISBN 0-520-20186-8
  • Thibodeau, David and Leon Whiteson. A Place Called Waco: A Survivor's Story (New York: PublicAffairs, 1999). ISBN 1-891620-42-8
  • Wright, Stuart A. (ed.). Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

06.16.2011. 12:41

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