Lost their right

I am astonished by the public outcry and placement of guilt upon the federal agencies of the FBI and ATF for the more than 70 apparent deaths at Mount Carmel.

I am as grieved and saddened as any for the loss. However, David Koresh and he alone stands guilty for the deaths suffered — with the only possible exception being the adults who chose of their own free will to follow him to his grave.

More specifically, in response to Cheryl K. Mead’s letter [April 20] the Branch Davidians were not simply practicing their religion. She is correct in assuming they have the right to do so, however, all “rights” must remain within the confines of the law. They violated that law when they killed four federal agents, attempted to kill others and wounded dozens more.

The “wake up” call Mead is requesting need be done by religious affiliations (of which I am very active within myself) to realize they cannot hide behind the “freedom” shields — no one is above the law — including churches as well as private citizens.

The Davidians lost their right to “peaceably assemble” when they ceased to do it “peaceably.” Although the operation was not perfect, I commend all law enforcement involved for it handling it as well as any could. Let’s not lose sight of the more than 30 safely extrapolated from the compound — 20-plus of whom were children.

Lee J. Hartigan

Waco

Sour grapes

Poor Dick DeGuerin. That poor excuse for a lawyer is flapping his gums all over national television denouncing the federal government’s actions on the Mount Carmel compound on April 19.

It is truly a tragedy of great proportions. Yet, despite the loss of innocent children’s lives, the sour grapes of David Koresh’s attorney remain a bitter aftertaste on the palate. The only reason DeGuerin is so visibly “upset” over the tragedy is that he lost the opportunity to gain a fortune in fees from Koresh and put another notch in his legal agenda to gain his 15 minutes of fame.

Watching him argue with Attorney General Janet Reno on ABC’s “Nightline” was moot, at best. The unflappable Reno was not taken aback by this legal zealot: She has small-potato lawyers like DeGuerin for breakfast.

Carol McCarley

Hewitt

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.