Elk residents Sunday dedicated a memorial to four slain ATF agents, a monument a local priest said is the tiny community’s “gift to the ATF, that we all have a place to mourn.”

The names of the four agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are engraved on the monument placed in front of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Elk.

Agents Conway C. LeBleu, Todd W. McKeehan, Robert J. Williams and Steven D. Willis died Feb. 28 near Elk when the ATF raided Mount Carmel in an attempt to serve an arrest warrant on cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh.

“Six and a half months later, we’re almost back to normal,” Father Isidore said at the memorial dedication service. “A lot of things happened just down the road.”

Elk is about 10 miles east of Waco and three miles east of the ashes of Mount Carmel.

The monument was a project of the community, dedicated Sunday with little advance fanfare or publicity.

“You have humbled us at the ATF and we are deeply thankful for this memorial,” Richard L. Garner, ATF Chief of Special Operations, told the gathering of about 50 Sunday.

Joining Garner at the ceremony were about five ATF agents and five FBI agents.

Garner said that in times of tragedies like the Mount Carmel raid, “God has raised up people in communities to reassure us in the law enforcement agencies.”

Remembering siege

Rozycki said that in addition to grief over the deaths at Mount Carmel, Elk residents also “felt the impact of what was taking place with having to go around roadblocks to get to our homes and the pressure of the media standing in our front lawns.”

The monument was an idea launched by one brother and carried off by another after the two lived through the months of mayhem, roadblocks, interviews and final flaming horror April 19 that was the Mount Carmel standoff.

“It was a thought that my brother had,” Dan Pechacek said before the dedication. “He came up with the idea that we need something out there to permanently mark the event.”

Harry (Fuzzy) Pechacek, Dan’s brother, was critically injured July 7 when he fell off a ladder and hit his head. He remains in a coma at a hospice.

Before his accident, Harry Pechacek stirred up interest for the monument among others. Donations from Elk residents started coming in. The community wanted the project to be funded solely from within except for the donation from Phipps Memorial, which arranged for a quarry in Georgia to donate the stone.

“We pitched in a little bit for the engraving,” Dan Pachecek said. “When it was all said and done, it cost us about $700.”

Pechacek said he and his brother Harry had thought about putting up a marker “more out near the compound, say where 2491 and 2957 split by the Y there.”

Vandalism feared

But the two feared it could be vandalized at that location.

“We thought since Elk got so much publicity out of it, good or bad, we could put it on the church property and it would probably be more safe,” Pechacek said.

The 4-foot by 3-foot monument rests next to a flagpole in front of the church.

Pechacek said it was unfortunate that his brother “started all this and he’s not going to be there to see how it all turned out.

“I think this is going to be a fitting tribute.”

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.