Calling the FBI’s actions “senseless” and “aggressive,” attorneys Dick DeGuerin and Jack Zimmermann blamed the agency for causing the violent end to the Branch Davidian standoff.

“The situation changed when the FBI went back and injected tear gas and ripped apart the walls,” said DeGuerin, cult leader Vernon Howell’s attorney.

“I think that could have only been seen by those inside as the Apocalypse coming upon them.”

Also, after interviewing numerous people in the Mount Carmel compound during his five visits with Howell, DeGuerin said he believes agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms fired on the Branch Davidians first in the Feb. 28 raid.

“I saw the bullet holes,” DeGuerin said.

“I saw where David was shot. I saw where other people were shot. I talked to people who saw the events.

“I think there’s ample evidence to support that, and I think that’s going to be a very important part of the trials that are to come.”

The raid resulted in a gun battle that caused the deaths of four ATF agents and perhaps six Branch Davidian cult members.

For 51 days, cult members and federal agents were locked in a standoff at the compound.

On Monday, FBI agents began punching holes in the compound’s walls and pumping tear gas into the building in an effort to force cult members out.

Instead of coming out peacefully, the cult members set fire to the building, killing most of the people inside, according to the FBI.

“Neither Jack Zimmermann or I are here to justify what happened today,” DeGuerin said.

“Rather, what we both feel is that this ripping open the walls and injecting tear gas where there were a number of children and women was senseless and did not serve to bring about the peaceful resolution that everybody wanted,” DeGuerin said.

DeGuerin said the last time he talked “face-to-face” with Howell, the cult leader was in a “good mood” and looking forward to a future beyond the standoff.

Neither attorney said they understood why the FBI decided to act Monday instead of waiting for Howell to finish his interpretation of the Seven Seals.

“I have a lot of questions,” said DeGuerin, who doesn’t believe he was being used by Howell to stall the FBI.

“I question why they couldn’t wait. Why they couldn’t let this standoff at least continue until David told us, in writing, that he was coming out.”

Zimmermann also rebuffed the FBI assertion that it had taken non-aggressive action.

“I did notice that there was some comment…that there was no assault. There was no provocation. That this was a non-aggressive action,” he said.

“Well, it seems to me that there was a tank in their living room. That seems pretty aggressive to me.”

Both attorneys called for a federal investigation and said the FBI and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno had the deaths of the cult members on their hands.

“I think the FBI agents who did go out on the limb for us are going to have a tough time tonight,” Zimmermann said.

“And I think Janet Reno’s going to have a tough time tonight. Because either way you cut it, there are 17 burned babies that are at her feet.”

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.