Federal prosecutors talked to three KWTX-TV journalists this week as they readied the criminal cases stemming from the Feb. 28 shootout at Mount Carmel.
Officials for the U.S. Attorney’s office talked to reporter John McLemore and photographers Jim Peeler and Dan Mulloney for several hours each. The government may call the journalists to testify at the upcoming trial against five Branch Davidians charged with conspiracy to murder a federal officer.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Johnston was unavailable for comment.
All three TV journalists were in the vicinity of Mount Carmel — as were journalists from the Tribune-Herald — when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the compound there.
Mulloney shot video of ATF agents entering the second-story bedroom of cult leader Vernon Howell. As one agent waited outside the window, bullets could be seen piercing the wall, eventually hitting him. The agent fell, picking himself up as bullets shredded the roof. Making it to a ladder, the agent slid to the ground.
Peeler was stationed about a mile from the compound and saw none of the fighting.
McLemore, however, drove a Bronco to within yards of the compound. He saw some of the ATF agents hit by fire and did a live report from Mount Carmel minutes after the cease-fire was arranged.
Four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians died in the shootout.
“I probably wouldn’t be testifying to anything I didn’t already say on the air,” McLemore said. “It’s already on the public record that I’ve said I don’t know who fired the first shot. I do know that the minute the ATF pulled up in the cattle cars, the shooting started. But I don’t know who fired the first shot.”
If the TV journalists are asked to testify, it could remove them from covering the trials resulting from what McLemore calls “the biggest news story of the year.”
“I guess I won’t be reporting on any of that,” he said. “I can’t go on the air and say, ‘And then I said.’ The whole thing raises a bunch of interesting ethical questions.”