Federal agents, hoping to uncover one of cult leader Vernon Howell’s arms caches, raided an auto repair garage Monday morning and came away with six shotgun shells.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms spokesmen said agents executed a search warrant at the Mag Bag garage at Loop 340 and FM 2491 about 7:30 a.m. because they thought it was “operated by and for David Koresh and other members of the Branch Davidian group by which they obtained firearms, explosive materials and ammunition.”
Howell, whose Branch Davidian sect members unleashed a barrage of automatic weapons fire Feb. 28 at ATF agents trying to serve arrest and search warrants, changed his name to David Koresh in 1990.
Four ATF agents and an undetermined number of cult members were killed in the bloody siege at the Mount Carmel compound 10 miles east of Waco. Sixteen agents also were wounded.
ATF spokesman Dan Conroy said agents had developed probable cause that there were “possibly firearms, ammunition, possibly explosives and other devices” in the rural garage.
They found only six shotgun shells, said ATF spokesman Tom Hill in Washington, D.C.
Former cult members, who have said that Howell was sort of a “jack-of-all-trades” when he joined the sect in the early 1980s, report that Howell frequently worked on car engines at the garage.
Cult members told a Tribune-Herald reporter trying to reach Howell by telephone Feb. 22. that he was at the garage working on an engine. When asked why agents did not arrest Howell away from the 77-acre cult property instead of storming the compound occupied by women and children, an ATF spokesman said that Howell had not left the compound for “months.”
The next day, the ATF acknowledged that they had not kept Howell under regular surveillance since deciding to raid the Branch Davidian compound.
“He was not under constant surveillance because there are not a lot of businesses, not a lot of trees and not a lot of places for our agents to hide,” Hill said. “I don’t know how you go about keeping someone under constant surveillance in conditions like that.”
The shop, which was occupied only by a small cat and a large brown dog on Wednesday, is owned by cult member Bob Kendrick, who is believed to be in the Mount Carmel compound with Howell and the other Branch Davidians.