For Paul and Betty Handley of Belton, Sunday’s raid on the Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel was more than a violent fight between federal agents and religious cult members.
When they realized their son, Mark, was one of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents making the raid on the complex, the battle suddenly became personal.
Mark Handley, 35, of Houston was shot in the right knee Sunday morning as he and other ATF agents tried to serve arrest and search warrants on Vernon Howell for federal firearms violations.
“We didn’t know anything like this was going on,” said Paul Handley, who has lived with wife in Belton for the past 14 years.
“We came home from church and learned about the battle,” he said. “We were just as surprised as anybody.”
When Mark and his partner dropped in to visit with his parents Saturday night, nothing was ever said at the dinner table about the impending raid.
“Mark and his partner ate dinner with us Saturday night, but his mother and I didn’t know they were going into an operation,” Handley said. “We thought they were training at Fort Hood. He’s really tight-lipped about this kind of thing.”
“We went to Providence at first, but we learned he wasn’t there,” Handley said. “So we had to go over to Hillcrest. One of the doctor’s wives from Providence stayed with us. She went over to Hillcrest with us and stayed beside us for 3 ½ hours.
“We’re not familiar with Waco, but the people up there were so nice,” he said. “We just got a surprise with the people of Waco.”
Mark Handley was treated and then subsequently released from the hospital.
He currently is using crutches to get around.
Handley would not comment on his son’s injuries or on the operations.
With his other son, Todd, also in law enforcement, Handley has found life to be a little more nerve-wracking than he would like it to be.
“It’s going to be hard for this fellow to handle having two sons in the police,” Handley said. “They’re both good officers. I told them if that was their desire to be in this, then I would be happy for them and proud of them.”