A tape of a call from Mount Carmel to 9-1-1 reveals that a lieutenant for the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department played a pivotal role in establishing a cease-fire during the Feb. 28 raid.
Waco police Friday made available more than two hours of taped conversations between Lt. Larry Lynch and the Branch Davidians.
A 30-minute segment of the tape was played Thursday in Washington for a House subcommittee over the Treasury Department.
Lynch had to deal with an excited Wayne Martin, the cult member who placed the emergency call; cult leader Vernon Howell, who often wanted to discuss theology and not what was happening; and stunned officials for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Keeping cool throughout the ordeal, Lynch occasionally resorted to folksiness to calm the frazzled nerves of cult members and arrange for ATF agents to remove their wounded.
“We want to be sure everyone is singing out of the same songbook, Wayne, so we make this move and we take care of the injured people,” Lynch told Martin at one point on the tape. “Please stay with me and emphasize no firing.”
Martin called 9-1-1 at 9:48 a.m., according to Waco police logs.
He reported ATF’s raid, in which they sought to arrest Howell for possession of automatic weapons.
Lynch immediately began working with Martin to bring about a cease-fire. Gunfire crackled in the background, sometimes sounding like an explosion of firecrackers. The firing died down several minutes after 10 a.m.
“I haven’t heard any shots, so just stay with me and we’ll work through it, OK?” Lynch asked Martin. “Stay with me, Wayne. Stay with me.”
“Don’t try any of that tear gas stuff,” Martin warned. “I’ve got my mask right here.”
“There’s no firing now,“ Lynch said. “That’s what we want. We don’t want any more shots. I know you don’t. We don’t.”
“We don’t want them on our property,” Martin said.
“We’re going to resolve this an issue at a time,” Lynch said.
“. . . The next step is their backing off,” Martin said. “If they don’t back up, we’re going to have to sweep them off.”
“Wayne, stand by me,” Lynch pleaded. “No more firing. They’re not firing. You’re not firing. Let’s maintain that until we can get some communications established.”
Lynch and Martin forged a peace, but it was as fragile as Martin’s nerves. Throughout the tape, Lynch had to calm Martin and soothe his fears that ATF was preparing to mount another attack on the compound. He did that, while also dealing, at times, with Howell and the ATF, which Lynch finally reached at 10:20 a.m.
“Lynch! Lynch!” Martin screamed later. “Tell them to get off our roof, to get away from our doors, to get away from our windows.”
“They’re breaking out the big stuff, Wayne,” an unidentified man yelled.
“They’re breaking more weapons out,” Martin yelled at Lynch. “They’re breaking out the big stuff. Tell them to stop it.”
“Stand by, Wayne,” Lynch said. “Let me get them on the radio.”
Lynch then talks to an unidentified ATF official.
“They’re wanting everyone to pull back,” Lynch said. “What do you want me to tell them?”
“Let us get our injured people out before you do anything,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Martin screamed at the phone again. “If they attack us, we’re going to fight to the last man,” he promised.
Rapid gunfire broke out again, shattering the lull.
“Lynch, they’re attacking us again,” Martin said.
“No, they’re not,” Lynch said.
“Yes, they are,” Martin said. “Don’t call me a liar.”
After Lynch tried to calm him, a nervous Martin said, “I hear fire.”
“I don’t hear any fire, Wayne,” Lynch said. “Do not fire. They want their wounded.”
Lynch, getting on another line, arranged for Howell and ATF to negotiate for the removal of the wounded federal agents.
In contrast to Martin, Howell was remarkably unaffected by the shootout.
Howell — calling himself “David Koresh, the notorious” — took time to lash out at authorities for the raid.
“You guys are very foolish,” Howell told Lynch, calling 9-1-1 on a cellular phone. “You don’t know what we have. You don’t know what we’ve got.”
“No, sir,” Lynch said.
“You end up like this ATF, BATF,” Howell said. “You guys, you’re going to get a big butt whipping. You need to call the president of the United States and explain to him what you’ve done.”
“Yes, sir,” Lynch said, before asking for his phone number.
After numerous tries, Lynch eventually established a link between the ATF and Howell. But Lynch spent most of his time calming Martin, a Waco attorney apparently leading a group of cult members near the front of the compound.
Lynch’s patience ebbed just once.
“Wayne, we’ve got an agent dying,” Lynch said after the talks dragged on. “We need to knock off the bullshit and get this done quickly, OK?”
“Get OK quickly,” Martin yelled at other Branch Davidians. “. . . Now. Now. Lynch, four of them. It’s OK for four of them. Hold your fire, guys.”
It took more than an hour for negotiations to reach the stage that ATF’s wounded agents could be removed. Lynch frequently found himself having to backtrack when it appeared an agreement had been reached, like when he asked Martin if the ATF would be fired at if they came for their wounded agents.
“I hope not,” Martin said.
“Hope not,” Lynch said, stumbling. “Work with me, Wayne. We can’t send their people out into the open like that.”
“It’s your call . . . I don’t know what to tell you,” Lynch could be heard telling ATF officials on another line.
“Keep in touch with your people, Wayne,” Lynch said, returning. “Please. Please do not let them fire.”
Later, when an agreement had been reached, firing broke out from a cult member stationed upstairs at the compound.
“Lynch, who’s firing?” Martin asked.
“Wayne, stop ‘em,” Lynch said. “Do not let them fire, Wayne.”
“Cease-fire!” Martin yelled. “Cease-fire!”
“Wayne, try to find out who fired,” Lynch said. “No fire came from ATF. It was your folks.”
“They say they did not fire first,” Martin could be heard saying.
“We can’t do anything until the wounded are handled,” Lynch warned.
The shooter turned out to be a wounded Branch Davidian, Martin said. The man, as a result of his wounds, could not hear.
“And you do have him under control and he’s not going to fire?” Lynch said. “Hold on a minute. I’m going to get back to the ATF.”
“Hold your fire,” Martin yelled.
“Please emphasize that,” Lynch said. “Hold your fire. They’re making their move. Stand by.”
“Hold your fire,” Martin said. “They’re making their move. Don’t hurt them.”
“Stay with me now,” Lynch said. “Stay in control. Help us out.”
As ATF agents moved to get their wounded, Steve Schneider, Howell’s top lieutenant, came into the room with Martin. He complained that the rescue effort would have to be called off until ATF moved their agents off Mount Carmel.
“You’re throwing a new wrinkle into this,” Lynch said.
While Lynch tried to work around the new demand, Martin apparently successfully argued for ATF to be allowed to go ahead and pick up their wounded.
“Lynch, ATF’s already got one of their wounded back,” Martin said.
“Steve has changed the rules here somewhat, from what you and I agreed on,” Lynch said. “Let’s get everyone together again and re-establish, so that everyone knows, and we don’t get some more people hurt.”
“OK,” Martin said. “Hold on.”
Later, Martin returned and said, “Lynch, he said they can come for the man in the front now.”
“Ted, Ted,” Lynch said to an ATF official, apparently Ted Royster of the Dallas office. “Steve said come and get the man in the front now, the one that’s critical.”
“They’re coming for the man in the front. Hold your fire.”
Lynch and Martin established a cordial working relationship during the tape and at one point even complimented each other.
“I appreciate your help in this, Wayne,” Lynch said. “You’re helping me immensely by keeping your people calm. I know it’s a situation that’s stressful. We’re stressed. You’re stressed. But I do appreciate what you’re helping me do. And let’s try to avoid any more casualties and resolve this in the most peaceful manner before it goes any further. I do appreciate this.”
“You’re welcome,” Martin said. “It’s mutual.”