Views From Waco

"I find it appalling and ghastly that anyone could even think of, much less discuss with a news reporter, 'movie offers' to a madman such as Vernon Howell. But for a member of the bar to engage in such a discussion so soon following the massacre of four federal agents by this madman is disgustingly sickening."

"The methods used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in the assault on the home of the Branch Davidian sect were criminally reckless and irresponsible."

"What the ATF agents did was reckless and stupid and totally unnecessary. I hope a complete and unbiased investigation of this event is conducted by the Justice Department or by a local grand jury."

"The events in Waco have become so distorted and slanted that it appears the ATF and the media staged the whole event to draw attention to themselves and create misinformation so as to confuse the public to what’s really happening."

"The Grand Wizard of the KKK, Lake Waco Triple Murders, Kenneth McDuff and now Branch Davidians — what is there about this buckle on the Bible belt that nurtures such evil?"

"All you loving, sympathetic people who are praising the kind of people who take up arms against all state and federal law enforcement agents. What in the name of God are you doing?"

"The NRA does not support people who think they have to have .50-caliber machine guns and grenades to protect themselves or to hunt with. These folks are criminals and this is why ATF agents died trying to serve illegal firearms warrants."

"Why was Sunday’s warrant not served two weeks earlier or six days later, rather than on that day after widespread news about the group began? Did then some in Waco seek to avoid bad publicity regarding Waco and the cult and thus pressure law enforcement to do something about the cult’s presence quickly?"

"...construct a high, electrified fence around the premises. Anyone attempting a breakout would have to do so lightly armed and on foot. They should be easy to apprehend. I would expect this to cost what one or two days of the present method is costing."

"It is incredible, and quite sickening, to see that some people are more appalled at the idea of 'invasion of privacy' than knowing that they have been living not more than 10 miles from an arsenal of weapons that not even the feds can handle."

"To all the law-enforcement agencies at Mount Carmel: With all the criticism directed toward you in this terrible and drawn-out situation, I would like to let you know that I and all the people I have spoken with are behind you 100 percent."

"I have not been able to find a scriptural justification supporting the claim of 50 caliber machine guns, (with tripod mount). AK-47s, AR-15s and M-16s, hand grenades, and various and sundry other explosive materials and devices qualify as the 'whole armor of God' Paul spoke of in the 6th Chapter of Ephesians."

"In my opinion, Howell gave up all inalienable rights when he ordered people to stockpile firearms, ordered the murder of four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and declared himself a messiah."

"At this point in time I am very shamed that I am from Waco, and it’s not because of the Mount Carmel compound and the events that have taken place there. I am ashamed that people have the pure lack of morals and ethics to capitalize on these events."

"I have to agree with the people who are writing to you saying that the Tribune-Herald is irresponsible in the reporting of what is going on at Mount Carmel. The thousands upon thousands of words written about someone that a lot of people do not really care about could have been better spent on local investigative reporting."

"I believe in freedom of religion, but when the religion endangers my family, society and life I would want some higher government officials to try to take control of the situation."

"I never thought the FBI and the ATF were so inept at negotiating with murderers. It seems they are going to stand around and wait for the cult to run out of food. In the meantime the media will have to stand around all day waiting for the press conference."

"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."

"What had the people of Mount Carmel actually done to deserve the violent attack? This incident should frighten and anger all U.S. citizens. As proven in many countries throughout history, when the rights of one group are trampled, the rights of none are safe."

"With four dead and 16 wounded ATF members, we find it difficult to believe the Davidian compound members are the innocent victims that the protesters are trying to present to us."

"Waco is a stable city and Waco is a caring city. Thousands here can and do attend church, read their Bibles and express their opinions and beliefs, all without the use of firearms."

"The bad news is, the nuts are still holed up east of Waco. The good news is that all Americans and most of the civilized world know where Waco is and how to pronounce our name."

"It seems that these officers need our thanks, not our criticism. And to their families, I also want to thank them for allowing a member of their family to place themselves in danger to help those in need on a daily basis."

"Perhaps the media members have a hearing problem or they are so self-involved that little attention is given to what is being said. Perhaps if the agents were allowed to do their job without interference, the human parasite known as Vernon Howell could be subdued. Thank you, agents of the ATF and FBI, for being here when you are needed."

"I believe Waco is at fault for the tragedy of the lives of four federal officers and many of the cult members’ lives at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco."

"Everyone who has put the ATF and FBI down should be ashamed. They are only trying to save the little children who are in there. If not for them I feel they would blow that place to Hades."

"The millions of good things that deeply religious people do go untold because it does not sell papers. Religious fanatics, on the other hand, get plenty of coverage because sensationalism increases sales and viewer participation."

"Stop throwing blame. The FBI, ATF and all other agencies did their best to end this without death. Mr. Howell caused the deaths of all those 90 people."

"As a Christian I have a really hard time dealing with this situation. First, I feel it is in very bad taste for people to sell these T-shirts after such devastation."

"As a mainstream Davidian who does not condone and is not affiliated with David Koresh’s actions, I think that this scenario at Elk could have been resolved peaceably if family members and related religious organizations had been involved in the negotiations."

"Could this have been prevented if some action had been taken over a year ago when complaints were filed locally against David Koresh? Why did it take so long before any results?"

"What is the matter with our local sheriff’s office in handling matters like in this Branch Davidian compound? A precinct constable could have served a summons on Koresh to appear."

"Well, the Mount Carmel thing is over and we can finally go back to being normal. But can we ever really go back to being normal? I don’t think so."

"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."

"No matter how long and loudly some churches strive to distance themselves from Vernon Howell, they need to examine the doctrines they themselves are teaching sensitive, idealistic children."

"If Mount Carmel had been occupied by an armed white supremacy group or an armed drug operation would you be so quick to question the actions of the federal agents?"

"As a committee of one I nominate Dick DeGuerin for an Oscar award for his performance with Diane Sawyer on the episode of 'Prime Time' shown April 22."

"Waco needs a new compound. It’d make a fine place to gather up and put talk-show hosts, irresponsible media folks, and bleeding-heart lawyers."

"I have always been in support of our local law enforcement agencies but am certainly not supportive of recent tactics by our government and the ATF."

"If law enforcement of McLennan County doesn’t take some kind of responsibility for what occurred at Mount Carmel, this community will be doomed to repeat the tragedy."

"I would like to see the governments of this state and nation stop hiding behind the bodies of our slain ATF agents to avoid addressing the fact that Mount Carmel was a civil liberty disaster."

"...the tear gas that was inserted into the compound is scheduled to be banned for military use by the Chemical Weapons Convention signed by the United States and some 130 other nations."

"I am puzzled by the fact that our local and/or state law officials have not arrested any of the federal agents on a charge of murdering the Branch Davidians and their children. When are we going to see justice here?"

"I am very upset about the way in which Waco has been looked upon by other parts of the country and the world ever since the ATF raid at the Branch Davidian compound."

"I do not agree with the Branch Davidians' religious beliefs, but I defend their constitutional right to have those beliefs and to own legal weapons."

"I say the federal agents and law enforcement officials did a super job and may they take care of the next uprising in a harsher manner. Don’t be so patient next time. Get it over with."

25 Years Later

For many locals, the fire that incinerated the Branch Davidian compound near Elk on April 19, 1993, is unforgettable, much like 9/11, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon or the JFK assassination. The Tribune-Herald asked some McLennan County residents where they were and what they were doing … Read more

In the 25 years since that morning in 1993, the public has been bombarded with different versions of the raid, which resulted in the deaths of four ATF agents and six Davidians. Here, the Tribune-Herald tells its story of how the story overtook the storytellers.    

Rowland Nethaway

From the Trib

John Young

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.