Michael Kettler wants a career in law enforcement. That didn’t change, he said, on Feb. 28 when four federal agents were killed at Mount Carmel.
“It made me want to do it even more,” said Kettler, 19, a criminal justice student at McLennan Community College.
Ironically, the death of the four agents will make it easier for Kettler and three other MCC criminal justice students to fill their shoes. The four students are the first recipients of scholarships established in the agents’ memory.
Joni Moore agreed that there was no shame in how four U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents — Conway LeBleu, Todd McKeehan, Robert Williams and Steven Willis — died during the botched raid on the Branch Davidian compound.
“It was sad, but they were doing what they were trained to do,” said Moore, 23. “They didn’t go out there to die. They went out there to enforce the law.”
Kettler, Moore, Jody Gonzalez, 19, and John Latham, 19, were honored at a reception Thursday hosted by the Community ATF Memorial Scholarship Advisory Committee. The committee raised more than $33,000 — including $12,500 from ATF agents in Detroit — for the four scholarships.
The audience at Fort Fisher included law enforcement officers from numerous area agencies, as well as Waco Mayor Bob Sheehy and officials with the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.
Also there was David Troy, director of the ATF’s intelligence division.
Troy was the ATF’s principle spokesman at daily news briefings during part of the 51-day-long siege.
According to published reports, Troy and other senior ATF officials may lose their jobs for their handling of the raid and statements made afterwards.
Troy declined to comment on the reports and on a soon-to-be-released Treasury Department investigation of the ATF’s performance.
Troy said several times during the standoff that the ATF would have called off the raid if agents believed they had lost the element of surprise.
Later, however, an undercover agent who had infiltrated the Branch Davidians said in a sworn statement that he had told his superiors before agents arrived at Mount Carmel that cult leader Vernon Howell knew they were coming.
When the agents arrived to serve search and arrest warrants, they were met with a hail of gunfire. In addition to the four agents, at least five cult members were killed during a fierce gun battle.
After the standoff, more than 80 cult members were killed in a fire that engulfed the compound on April 19.
Troy told the four students to learn a simple lesson from the fallen agents.
“Live your lives as Todd, Conway, Steve and Bob lost theirs: doing what they believed in, defending our rights to a safe society and proud to be members of a law enforcement community,” Troy said.
Troy also presented to MCC a large plaque that includes portraits of the four dead agents.
Gonzalez, Kettler and Latham, all from the Waco area, said they want to join a federal law agency, maybe even the ATF.