During a frantic 9-1-1 call, cult member Wayne Martin claimed government forces fired the first shots in the raid on Mount Carmel, according to a tape played before a congressional committee Wednesday.

Gunfire, sometimes sounding like an explosion of firecrackers, punctuated the tape from beginning to end.

The tape was played at a hearing of the House Appropriations treasury subcommittee. It is investigating the performance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms during the Feb. 28 raid near Waco that left four agents dead, as well as six Branch Davidians.

“I have a right to defend myself,” a nervous Martin, who was a Waco attorney, told Larry Lynch of the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department. “They started firing first.”

Cult leader Vernon Howell, who eventually got on the phone line, implied that the ATF fired first.

“. . . You see, you brought a bunch of guys out here and you killed some of my children,” Howell said. “We told you we wanted to talk. How come you guys try to be ATF agents? How can you try to be so big all the time?”

ATF officials, however, told the subcommittee that cult members fire the first shots, soon after Howell met agents at the compound door.

“He stepped inside the door and firing began,” said Daniel Hartnett, associate ATF director.

Howell also told Lynch during the 9-1-1 call — placed about 10:45 a.m. on Feb. 28 by Martin some 45 minutes after the raid began — that he knew that the ATF had tried to infiltrate the Branch Davidians. He called the agent “Robert.”

“You see, we’ve known about this,” Howell said. “I’ve been teaching about it for four years. We knew you were coming and everything. You see, we knew before you even knew.”

An undercover agent has said in a recently unsealed affidavit that Howell knew the raid was planned and was prepared to resist. ATF officials Wednesday, however, questioned his claim to know the undercover agent’s identity.

Howell displayed an eerie calm during the emergency call.

He joked with Lynch about the appropriateness of his last name for a deputy; called himself “notorious”; and even launched into an oration on the Seven Seals, a time of famine, pestilence and death, which the Branch Davidians believed Howell would one day unleash on mankind.

Howell and Martin were among the 80 to 96 people believed to have died April 19 during the fire that destroyed Mount Carmel.

During the 9-1-1 tape, Lynch tries at least three times to reach ATF officials and negotiate a cease-fire. He apparently wasn’t successful. The tape ends with Lynch asking Martin to count how many Branch Davidians were wounded in the shootout.

Lynch’s last audible words are, “I can’t believe this.”

Selections from the transcript of the 9-1-1 call follow. UI is used in the transcript in places where the tape recording is unintelligible.

Female: 9-1-1. What’s your emergency?

Martin: There are men 75 men around our building shooting at us.

Female: OK! Just a moment.

Lynch: Hello, hello (female in background saying 75 men circling). Hello, hello, this is Lieutenant Lynch. May I help you?

Martin: Yeah, there are about 75 men around our building shooting at us in Mount Carmel.

Lynch: Mount Carmel?

Martin: Tell them there are children and women in here and to call it off!

Lynch: All right, all right . . . hello. I hear gunfire, oh (expletive), hello, who is this, hello?

Martin: Call it off?

Lynch: Who is this, hello, hello. God almighty, hello, who is this coming from?

Female: UI—Wayne Martin.

Lynch: Wayne Martin, hello. Wayne?

Female: UI—He said there were 75 men circling.

Lynch: More than that.

Female: And they’re shooting.

Lynch: You can hear the gunfire. Hello, Wayne, is this Wayne Martin? Wayne, hello.

Female: (background) Did he hang up?

Lynch: No, he’s on the line, can hear the shots in the back.

Female: They better get the kinds out of the way.

* * *

Koresh: Hello, this is David Koresh. We’ve been attempting to call you guys.

911 Female: This is who sir?

Koresh: David Koresh, Mount Carmel Center. We’re being shot all up out here.

911 Female: Okay, where are you?

Koresh: Where am I? I’m at Mount Carmel Center.

911 Female: Okay, hang on just one second.

Koresh: All right.

Background: Go ahead. I can barely hear you, what?

911 Female: Don’t hang up David. I have someone to talk to you.

911 Female: Are you in the complex? Are you in the complex?

Koresh: Yeah. I’ve got a man on a cellular phone.

Lynch: Yeah, this is Lynch.

Koresh: Hey, Lynch, that is a sort of funny name there.

Lynch: (Laughter) Who am I speaking with?

Koresh: This is David Koresh.

Lynch: Okay, David.

Koresh: The notorious, what did you guys do that for?

Lynch: What I’m doing is I’m trying to establish some communications links with you.

Koresh: No no no no. Let me tell you something. You see you brought a bunch of guys out here and you killed some of my children. We told you we wanted to talk. How come you guys try to be ATF agents? How come you try to be so big all the time?

Lynch: Okay David.

Koresh: There is a bunch of us dead and a bunch of you guys dead. Now that’s your fault.

Lynch: Okay let’s try to resolve this now, tell me this. Now you have casualties. How many casualties? Do you want to try and work something out? ATF is pulling back, we’re trying to.

Koresh: Why didn’t you do that first?

Lynch: Okay, all I’m doing is handling communications. I can’t give you that answer David.

Koresh: Okay.

Lynch: Okay.

Koresh: What is the deal? You pull your guys out, I want to talk but I want to talk. I want to talk on a , on what you call it. . .

Lynch: I couldn’t hear you. I’ve got Wayne Martin on the other phone so go ahead now.

Koresh: Wayne Martin?

Lynch: Yes, he’s on the other phone with me. I’ve been talking with him but you’re the man that I needed to talk to, David.

Koresh: Well, let me tell you something. In our great country here, the United States, you know God’s given us a rich history of patrinich (sic) but we’re not trying to be bad guys.

Lynch: Okay.

Koresh: The thing of it is this look at the God . . . I know it sounds crazy to you but you will find out sooner or later.

Lynch: No no, sure we all will.

Koresh: There are Seven Seals. The question that theology has overstepped . . . not even opened the book, now that’s what I’ve done. It’s your Bible, there are seven seals. Now there things in that Bible that have been held as mysteries about God.

Lynch: Yes, sir.

Koresh: Now what it says in Revelation 22 because I come quickly my reward is with me. The statement is what reward did Christ receive in heaven from the Father? He received the book of the seven seals.

Lynch: Yes, sir.

Koresh: Now when I’m told by the Theological Department that they are going to ruin me because of what I present out of the book just because they can’t present it and I can, there’s a meaning to that.

Lynch: OK.

Koresh: There are prophecies.

Lynch: Let me, can I interrupt you for a minute?

Koresh: Sure.

Lynch: We can talk theology but right now . . .

Koresh: No, this is life this is life and death.

Lynch: That’s what I’m talking about.

Koresh: Theology is life and death.

Lynch: Okay.

Koresh: See, we will serve God first. Now we will serve the God of the church. Now we are willing and we’ve been willing all this time to sit down with anybody. You’ve sent law enforcement out here before.

Lynch: Yes, sir.

Koresh: And I’ve laid it straight across the table. I said if you want to know about me sit down with me and I’ll open up a book and show you the seven seals. Just like I told Robert. You know Robert, don’t you?

Lynch: Yes, sir.

Koresh: The guy that — your agent.

Lynch: Yes, sir.

Koresh: You see we’ve known about this. I’ve been teaching it for four years. We knew you were coming and everything. You see we knew before even you knew.

Lynch: Yes, sir, well.

Koresh: See, there is a spirit of prophecy. This testimony of Jesus Christ is a light that shines in a dark place. You need to learn Deuteronomy 32.

Lynch: Okay, let me ask you this. The present situation. Let’s start resolving it and then we can sit down and talk. Right now we’ve got everybody cease firing. Okay? So that’s what we want. Now we’re pulling the guy back from the door. ATF is going to pull back from the door.

Female: They want to know if they can get their injured officer?

Lynch: Alright. Can they come now, David, with your guarantee and pick up their injured officer without being fired on?

Koresh: Look, I cannot communicate with everybody here.

Lynch: Okay, do you have any way, is there anybody that can, do you have a facility to communicate with the rest of the folks there in your house?

Koresh: Well, we would have if you all guys would have talked with us.

Lynch: Okay. But right now, what ATF is wanting to do is to take their injured troop out of your area. Okay? What you’re telling me is that you can’t control your folks because you have no communications, is that correct?

Koresh: Well if you give us some time we can probably get the message around.

Lynch: Okay would you start?

Koresh: How many individuals are you planning on sending to take the wounded away?

Lynch: Stand by.

Koresh: How many troops are going to remove that injured ATF agent?

Female: UI

Lynch: Stand by. David, we’re having a heck of a problem with communications. Stand by just a second.

All right they are going to send in four men to move — Wayne is shooting again — hold on just a second. Ask Wayne to please cease fire.

Female: He said it’s not his gun shots.

Lynch: No, ATF is not firing. We’re going to send in four ATF agents, can you pass that word?

Koresh: Well, I’ll tell you what, what are they going to be dressed in?

Lynch: Pardon me?

Koresh: Are they going to be dressed in white, unarmed?

Lynch: Allright, stand by. No, they’ll be in their blues or dark blue uniforms.

* * *

Lynch: Hello, this is Lynch, Sheriff’s office. This is Lieutenant Lynch of Sheriff’s office, pick up the phone. Lieutenant Lynch McLennan County Sheriff’s department pick up the phone this is Lynch, Sheriff’s Department. Hello someone there pick up the phone please.

Voice: Hello.

Lynch: Hello, who is this? Is this Wayne? Hello this is Lynch, Sheriff’s office.

Voice: Tell them to call it off.

Lynch: Wayne?

Voice: Tell them to call it off.

Lynch: Who is this? Wayne?

Voice: Tell them to call it off.

Lynch: What?

Voice: Tell them to call pull back.

Lynch: Who is this, Wayne?

Voice: It doesn’t matter.

Lynch: Listen, calm down and talk to me for a minute. Ok, who is this, calm down and talk to me, who is this?

Martin: Wayne.

Lynch: Tell me, what’s happening? Wayne, this is Lynch at the Sheriff’s Office. Tell me what’s happening, Wayne. Talk to me, Wayne, let’s get this thing resolved, Wayne.

Wayne: We got women and children in danger.

Lynch: OK, Wayne, are there weapons in there with you, Wayne. Talk to me, Wayne, let’s take care of the women and children, Wayne. Let’s not do anything foolish. We’ll be sorry for, talk to me, Wayne, I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me, Wayne. Wayne, please talk to me. Wayne, Wayne.

Martin: Call it off (shooting in background)

Lynch: OK, Wayne, work with me, come to the phone and talk to me Wayne and let’s settle this now before anybody gets hurt. Is anybody hurt there, Wayne?

(Background, Lynch telling someone to get hold of his wife)

Martin: Yeah!

Lynch: Who’s hurt, Wayne?

Martin: A man is screaming.

Lynch: OK, Wayne, talk to me. Let’s get this worked out. How many people are hurt, Wayne (shooting in background). Wayne?

Martin: I’m under fire.

Lynch: OK, Wayne. If, do you have weapons in there, Wayne? Talk to me, Wayne, before this thing gets completely out of hand (shooting in background). Wayne, Wayne talk to me.

Martin: Tell them to cease fire.

Lynch: OK, you cease fire, is that what you said Wayne?

Martin: No!

Lynch: Wayne are there people injured in there?

Martin: Yes.

Lynch: Alright. Wayne what we need you to do, what weapons do you have in there, you need to lay your weapons down and let’s get some help for your people.

Martin: We’re under fire.

Lynch: Ok, I’m fixing to get in touch with them Wayne. Are you, we need you to lay your weapons down. Stand by while I make contact with the forces, ok?

* * *

Martin: I have a right to defend myself. They started firing first.

Lynch: OK, let’s resolve this, Wayne, before someone gets hurt. I’m trying to make contact with the forces outside, OK?

Martin: OK.

Lynch: I don’t hear any gun fire. Are you okay?

Martin: So far.

* * *

Martin: We’re not firing. That’s not us, that’s them.

Lynch: OK, alright, are you ready to come out and give up? Are you ready to terminate this, Wayne?

Martin: We want to cease fire UI.

Lynch: Alright, OK.

Martin: We’ll stop when they stop firing.

Lynch: Alright (background: I gotta get someone in on this cease firing) Stand by, we need to try. Try the Radio van one more time on our frequency (second attempt to reach ATF).

Female: Dispatch to the Radio van (shooting in background).

Lynch: (shooting) Stand, who’s firing now?

Martin: They are.

Lynch: Alright, stand by, I’m trying to reach them. Stand — don’t return fire.

Martin: We haven’t been.

Lynch: What?

Martin: We haven’t been.

Lynch: OK.

* * *

Lynch: OK, alright. We’ll get you someone to talk to here in just a second.

Martin: Hello, Lynch.

Lynch: Yea.

Martin: I gotta pass the word.

Lynch: Ok. Start passing the word, tell them just to hold their fire (shooting in background). Tell them not to return fire (shooting in background) (female dispatch in background)

Martin: OK.

Lynch: OK (female dispatch in background) No, because we don’t know where it is, just hold -UI - I may need him to help me. Ask him to stand by. Wayne, are you getting the word passed? (shooting in background).

Martin: OK

Lynch: Try the Radio van again, alright, are you getting the word out? (third attempt to reach ATF).

Martin: I’m trying.

* * *

Martin: I passed the word.

Lynch: Ok. Wayne how many casualties? Tell so I can help get some help to you when this thing calms down.

Martin: I don’t know yet.

Lynch: Try to get me a head count Wayne. Work with me so we can get some help to people so they don’t lay there without help.

Martin: I’ll do that right now.

Lynch: Ok, thanks. I can’t believe this.

No additional conversation on recording.

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.