Monday’s developments

  • Vernon Howell says he has been preparing for war since 1985 and at times seems eager to provoke another gunbattle to fulfill his apocalyptic prophecies, according to the FBI. “He has made such statements as: ‘We are ready for war. Let’s get it on. Your talk is becoming in vain. I’m going to give you the opportunity to save yourselves before you get blown away,’ “ said FBI spokesman Bob Ricks.
  • Negotiators and Howell agree for the cult to conduct a funeral and bury the body of a cult member killed in the shootout. The victim’s identity is being withheld pending notification of relatives.
  • No more children have been released from the compound since Friday. So far, 21 of the 38 children thought by officials to be inside have been freed.
  • Worried by Howell’s claim to have explosives that would blow the FBI’s Bradley armored personnel carriers “40 to 50 feet into the air,” the agency moves in several 67-ton Abrams main battle tanks to protect law officers.
  • The ATF executes a search warrant at a rural Waco business called the Mag Bag, which officials say was used by Howell to obtain arms. Only some shotgun shells were found.
  • Cult members have, at times, poked automatic rifles out of port holes in the compound walls. “We’ve told them it’s such a tense situation, they must refrain from all . . . of that type of conduct,” Ricks said.
  • Attorney Gary Coker, representing Catherine Mattson, who emerged from the compound voluntarily, said that an informal hearing with U.S. Magistrate Dennis Green was held Monday. The judge indicated that Mattson, 77, who is jailed as a material witness, probably will be released today.

Wounded agent recalls raid

A federal agent wounded when authorities raided Mount Carmel says the assault didn’t go as planned because the cult was forewarned.

“We lost the element of surprise,” said Jerry Petrilli, an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent from Albuquerque.

“Without surprise you’re going to lose, and that’s what happened,” he said.

Petrilli, who was one of the first agents to enter the compound to attempt to serve search and arrest warrants on cult leader Vernon Howell, said he was running toward the front door when bullets began to fly.

“There was an overwhelming amount of bullets coming at us,” he said. “I saw them kicking up dirt all around us and splintering wood fences.”

He said he was hit by some sort of grenade or explosive that injured his left arm, right forearm, wrist and hand. He said he also was hit in the chest but was protected by a bulletproof vest.

He will return to work in Albuquerque this week and plans to return to Waco if the standoff continues into next week.

FBI talks to cult members

Here is a list of the 13 members of the Branch Davidian sect at Mount Carmel whom federal authorities said had been allowed to speak with FBI negotiators:

  • David Thibodeau
  • Jeff Little
  • Margarida Vega
  • Sherri Jewell
  • Mary Jean Borst
  • Graham Craddock
  • Oliver Gyarfas
  • Aisha Gyarfas, 17
  • Rita Riddle
  • Rachel Silva, 13
  • Star Koresh, 5
  • Rachel Koresh (Vernon Howell’s legal wife)
  • Cyrus Koresh, 7

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.