Why delay?

Now that Mount Carmel has burned to the ground and 17 children suffered a horrid death, a review has begun of the government’s actions that started on an infamous February morning.

Also, Attorney General Janet Reno, along with some elected officials in Washington, is stressing the need to look ahead, toward improving the government’s capability for dealing with standoffs with heavily armed cults.

The problem that I see is that the review of the government’s actions should begin years before Feb. 28.

Two years ago extensive information was provided to federal, state and local authorities concerning a cult leader’s sexual and physical abuse of children, bogus marriages, polygamy, stockpiling weapons and [possibility of] mass suicide. These reports were given by insiders, former cult members of that same cult, who were genuinely concerned about the well-being of those still brainwashed, and, moreover, the safety of the children.

Warrants should have been served on Vernon Howell long before Feb. 28. Whenever authorities are informed of such illegal activities inside a fanatical cult, an immediate investigation must take place to ensure us of never having a standoff with heavily armed cults.

Why, after all the history lessons, particularly the Guyana tragedy, did our chosen and elected officials choose to procrastinate a thorough investigation?

Scott W. Brill


Glad it’s over

Like many, I express my sympathy for the little children who had no choice but to die. Then I’d like to say what a fine job the ATF and FBI did trying to bring this thing to a rest.

If it hadn’t happened when it did, who knows? Five more years down the road, Howell would have had hundreds to murder. I know that I would not want to be in the shoes of ATF, FBI, negotiators and all involved, who did the best they could.

All you people out there pointing fingers need to back off. Let God be judge to all. He’s done a great job so far.

We live four miles from the compound. We have two beautiful granddaughters who visit with us, and I’m just thankful this B.S. is not in my backyard anymore.

Gayle Winkelmann


War casualties

I was born in Waco and have lived here all but a few years of my 60 years. These people at Mount Carmel have been here near Waco since 1934. Some came into the city to work, never causing trouble except among themselves.

I feel the government is the criminal in the Waco Branch Davidian tragedy. The ATF went across a prairie with armed men to serve a search warrant. They expected to surprise people who had a watch tower.

I think I would have reacted in the same way as the Davidians did. I would feel I have the right to religious freedom, to have private property that no one has the right to come in and destroy.

The ATF-FBI first destroyed trees, then private vehicles and finally their home by running tanks into them. My home would explode, too, if a tank ran into it because we have natural gas with burning pilots in several parts of the house.

I believe no murder was committed but all who died were casualties of a war perpetrated by the ATF and condoned by the Justice Department.

Virginia McGraw


Lost a client

Molly Ivins [April 21] said about the Branch Davidians compound. “That is all they did there, just read the Bible.”

That is absolutely the first time I have ever heard of girls and women getting pregnant by just reading the Bible. Maybe the medical profession should look into this — could it be a new way of birth control.

I can certainly think of something good about the way the law officers handled the Branch Davidians incident. It gave the columnists and news reporters something to write about.

I can understand why Dick DeGuerin was in “shock” about the fire. He lost a client and maybe the rights to a book, movie and no telling how many other money-making things that would keep reminding us of David Koresh for years to come.

Jimmie Liles


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.