Legal Warrant

Among all the unproven charges and counter-charges being flung around with abandon in the Branch Davidian incident, we need to remember one basic thing:

The feds had a legal warrant to search the compound for illegal weapons.

Whether the serving of the warrant was ill-timed or not, whether the Davidians were tipped off or not, and no matter how many people served the warrant, the Davidians refused to accept the warrant and started shooting.

The Davidians are the law-breakers, not the feds.

Lin Mills

Waco

Tyrannical

In Rowland Nethaway’s March 6 column, he expresses surprise and dismay that some callers are supportive of the Davidians or at least critical of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

I would not presume to speak for everyone, but I can tell you why I do not support the ATF in this situation, and doubt I am unique.

There is an understood contract between the public at large and law enforcement agencies at all levels, that the agencies will enforce and obey the laws, including constitutional safeguards such as the Fourth Amendment, against unreasonable searches and seizures.

When any agency or officer violates the public trust by ignoring the law, they forfeit the right to be considered legitimate law enforcement and should be dealt with as common criminals.

The ATF has a long record of abuse. They have become a law unto themselves, accountable to no one, ignoring both Congress and the courts.

I believe an out-of-control, tyrannical agency, which ATF has become, is exactly what the authors of the Constitution foresaw, feared and hoped to end with the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Amendments.

Carl E. Long

Waco

Both have rights

I can’t understand people writing in and cutting down the ATF agents for doing their job.

The Davidians have every right to have their own religious group. They have the right to own guns that are legal.

But they do not have the right to own weapons which, in David Koresh’s words, could blow a Bradley personnel carrier 40 feet in the air.

The ATF agents had every right to serve a legal warrant to confiscate illegal weapons and arrest law breakers.

Jerry Willett

Lorena

Afraid of truth

There has been some misunderstanding about my letter printed March 14. I did not call the ATF agents “goons” — only that that is what they possibly looked like to those inside the Mount Carmel compound.

After all, they were not in police vehicles. I fully respect those who choose the law-enforcement profession.

At the time that letter was written (March 3), the news media were reporting that those agents had gone there to serve a search warrant. Now they are reporting that it was an arrest warrant. If those in authority are operating totally within the law, why are they so afraid of the news media giving us the truth?

Certainly, there are some reporters who will deliberately distort the facts for sensationalism and for selfish promotion, but there are also some in the federal government who will misuse their authority.

Also, there are some of us, the general public, who will jump to conclusions before all the facts are known.

Al Vavra

West

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.