Wrong tactic

It’s easy to second-guess events after they occur, but it is especially easy to second-guess the actions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms against the Branch Davidians.

As a former Texas peace officer I have been concerned for several years with the whole concept of using paramilitary tactics, wearing military uniforms and using military weapons when confronting someone like Vernon Howell. Such an action is particularly stupid when you are simply trying to execute a search warrant.

Had I been consulted beforehand about this matter, I would have suggested that the ATF simply have a local constable, sheriff or Texas Ranger call the Branch Davidians’ compound and say, “Hey, Vern, the ATF has a warrant here, signed by a judge, and I’d like to meet with you and arrange for the search. I’m parked down the road and will knock on your door in five minutes. OK?”

As a second option I would simply put a watch on the place and wait until ol’ Vern drove away from the place, then have a local police officer stop his car, serve the warrant on him and return to the compound with a group of officers to conduct a reasonable search.

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.

Rick D. Manuel

Milwaukee, Wis.

Apology Due

McLennan County taxpayers and voters of good conscience should start asking hard questions of their local newspaper and news media.

How in heaven’s name could these news people have considered themselves to be the higher authority on what is right and wrong in the law enforcement community and how they performed their duties?

How long will it go on? For starters the editor should make a public apology to Sheriff Jack Harwell, a man of high integrity and complete knowledge of his job and the happenings of McLennan County; District Attorney John Segrest, who may possess the power but who also knows when to use this power; Capt. Dan Weyenberg and the complete McLennan County Sheriff’s Department; and the families of the four ATF officers who lost their lives enforcing the law in spite of all the probing and interference they had to contend with from outside parties.

It seems everyone from Washington down to the delivery boy knew about the ongoing investigation, of course with one exception, the news media.

Maybe this slap in the face was what provoked the news media to move up the printing date of the articles that would alert the people of the compound of impending action.

The question everyone is asking: How did the media know to be at the site of the raid?

Linda Goates


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.