The ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) raided The Branch Davidians’ complex near Mt Carmel on 28 February 1993. The purpose of the raid was to serve a search warrant to their leader David Koresh to search the premises for illegal weapons.
The process of serving the search warrant descended into a shootout which cost the lives of 4 ATF agents and 6 Branch Davidians.
Following the shootout, a 51-day standoff ensued with the eventual result being the Branch Davidians’ compound being burnt to the ground. The fire claimed the lives of 76 Branch Davidians, including Koresh himself.
Robert White and Blake Boteler, two retired ATF agents who were there the day the standoff began, took part in an interview with KWTX to tell their side of the story, following years of silence and accusations that the ATF were at fault.
“As we stepped off the trailer it was a wall of lead,” said White, recalling his fellow agents knew the raid was a mistake as soon as the now famous horse trailers came to a stop outside the compound.
“We played into Koresh’s hand,” said White, “He said, ‘they’re gonna come for us,’ and that’s what happened.”
“The tactical commander made a choice, and it was the wrong choice, and it cost four agents and six Branch Davidians their lives,” the agents said.
The agents accepted that their tactical commander was at fault in what was the largest shootout in law enforcement’s history.
“I heard one agent, I don’t remember his name, saying, ‘if they know we’re coming, why are we going?’ We felt the same way,” the agents said.
The agents said it was a relief to be able to put out the truth after several misleading documentaries.
“We hope the truth gets out. The American people deserve to know the truth,” the agents said. They also acknowledged that misinformation can come from the top.
“We know what happened the first few days, so it was disheartening to hear leaders from headquarters going up there saying things that were blatantly false. Things like we didn’t know we lost the element of surprise. We all knew it,” the agents said.
The agents then addressed the question of who opened fire first.
“I know. I was there. I heard it from inside. People say, ‘you’re an ATF agent. Of course you’re gonna say that.’ But the media that was there told the Texas Rangers that the Branch Davidians fired first,” one of the agents recalled.
They said the reasons behind the raid were deeper than just a weapon search.
“I’ve had people tell me, why didn’t you just leave them alone? They just had some guns.” Well, their plans were to hurt people and they were putting together a plan to go into Waco – the McDonald’s and bus station where there are a lot of people – and kill the non-believers who didn’t believe Koresh was Christ.”
The agents were asked why Koresh was not arrested during one of his regular trips to the supermarket or bar.
Boteler said this would not have solved the larger problem.
“Even if we arrested him in town, at Chelsea’s or something, we would still have to serve the search warrant because the evidence that was gonna convict David Koresh was still in the compound.”
The agents said they figured out pretty quickly that illegal weapons were being stored in the compound.
“When we rolled up, we were hoping, ‘I hope they have machine guns and hand grenades,’ but as the trailer doors opened up, and they opened up with machine guns, we knew the warrant was good,” the agents said.
The agents believed that a bloody ending was inevitable.
“It played out that way, but I think that it was gonna end that way whether it was Feb. 28, 1993 or later. It was just a matter of what set the powder keg off,” the agents said.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: LUKE MOCHERMAN
PHOTO CREDIT: ATF
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