Steve Steele returned to work within days.

One of 16 federal agents injured in the Feb. 28 raid on Mount Carmel, Steele suffered a bullet wound to his left hand. A lead fragment struck him in the mouth and lodged in his lower lip.

“It really didn’t stop me,” said Steele, 38. “It was in the middle of the first fire-fight.

“I had one of the guys with me check to make sure all my teeth were intact,” he added with a laugh.

But Steele, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, is far from less good-natured when remembering those who will never return to work.

Four agents were killed in the shootout that erupted between Branch Davidians and federal authorities.

“The physical pain never bothered me,” Steel said. “It was just the emotional pain associated with it. Agent LeBleu was a frat brother of mine.”

He referred to Agent Conway C. LeBleu, who was killed in the gun battle.

Of the 16 injured agents, all but five have returned to work, according to ATF officials.

Steele is one of four agents in the Dallas field division to return to work. The other three are Sam Cohen, Gerald Petrilli and Michael Russell.

Glad they’re back

“Their health is improving,” said ATF spokeswoman Sharon Wheeler. “We’re thrilled to have them back.”

In the Houston field division, four of the six agents are back at work, said spokeswoman Franceska Perot. Mark Handley, Claire Rayburn, Roland Ballesteros and Eric Evers have returned to the division.

Larry Shiver, who was shot in the leg, is undergoing physical therapy, Perot said. John Risenhoover is still recuperating from an ankle injury and has not returned to work.

Kenneth M. King, of the New Orleans field division, suffered the worst injuries, officials said.

“Kenny was the most severely wounded,” said Jack Killorin, an ATF spokesman in Washington. “He was shot six times.”

King has not returned to work but is improving, officials said.

“He’s doing good,” said one official, who asked not to be named. “I saw him Monday. He was up moving around, and he’s doing good.”

Keith Constantino remains off duty. Terry Hicks returned to work for a brief period but is now recuperating from neck surgery, said Robert Stellingworth, assistant special agent in charge of the New Orleans field division.

Bill Buford, W. Glen Jordan and Clay Alexander returned to their jobs in the New Orleans division.

Peer support helps

“Physically, they’re all doing well,” Killorin said. “Mentally, they’ve obviously been through a traumatic incident and are working with our peer support people.”

Most agents were eager to return to work, said Richard Cook, national coordinator for the ATF’s peer support program and special agent in charge of the Kansas City field division.

Many came back sooner than they had to, he said.

“That’s your life,” he said. “Your job is an important part of your life. You need to re-establish that connection, particularly in a time of tragedy and grief. Getting back into a network of people who can support you is important.

Meanwhile, Steele, a former Arlington police officer, said he is doing well. The first 10 days, his lower lip was so swollen he could barely eat.

“I ate a lot of soup,” he said.

“I’m fine. I’m glad it’s over.”

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.