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A number of newsletters released by Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), a self-described libertarian and strict Constitutionalist, contain what many believe to be racially objectionable remarks and claims. Paul’s monthly newsletters are published under a variety of names, including “Ron Paul’s Freedom Report,” “Ron Paul Political Report,” and “The Ron Paul Survival Report.” The newsletters are published by several organizations, including Paul’s non-profit group the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education, and a group called Ron Paul & Associates. For a time, Ron Paul & Associates also publishes “The Ron Paul Investment Letter.” In 1996, a challenger for Paul’s House seat, Charles “Lefty” Morris (D-TX) makes public some of the racially inflammatory content in Paul’s newsletters. The newsletters will be publicly exposed in a 2008 article in the New Republic (see January 8-15, 2008). The content, culled from years of newsletters, includes such claims and observations as:
From a 1992 newsletter: “[O]pinion polls consistently show only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action.” Politically “sensible” blacks are outnumbered “as decent people.” The same report claims that 85 percent of all black men in the District of Columbia have been arrested, and continues: “Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the ‘criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.… [W]e are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, [but] it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.”
The same 1992 edition has Paul claiming that the government should lower the age at which accused juvenile criminals can be prosecuted as adults. “We don’t think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23,” the newsletter states. “That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary, and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such.” The newsletter also asserts that sophisticated crimes such as “complex embezzling” are conducted exclusively by non-blacks: “What else do we need to know about the political establishment than that it refuses to discuss the crimes that terrify Americans on grounds that doing so is racist? Why isn’t that true of complex embezzling, which is 100 percent white and Asian?”
Another 1992 newsletter states, “[I]f you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.”
An undated newsletter excerpt states that US Representative Barbara Jordan (D-TX), who is African-American, is “the archetypical half-educated victimologist” whose “race and sex protect her from criticism.”
The newsletters often use disparaging nicknames and descriptions for lawmakers. Jordan is called “Barbara Morondon.” Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is a “black pinko.” Donna Shalala, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, is a “short lesbian.” Ron Brown, the head of the Department of Commerce during the Clinton administration, is a “racial victimologist.” Roberta Achtenberg, the first openly gay public official confirmed by the US Senate, is a “far-left, normal-hating lesbian activist.”
Newsletter items through the early 1990s attack Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., renaming him “X-Rated Martin Luther King” and labeling him a “world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours,” “seduced underage girls and boys,” and “made a pass at” fellow civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy. One newsletter ridicules black activists who wanted to rename New York City after King, suggesting that “Welfaria,” “Zooville,” “Rapetown,” “Dirtburg,” and “Lazyopolis” were better alternatives. The same year, King is described as “a comsymp [Communist sympathizer], if not an actual party member, and the man who replaced the evil of forced segregation with the evil of forced integration.” One 1990 excerpt says of the King holiday: “I voted against this outrage time and again as a congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day!”
An undated excerpt from a newsletter entry titled “Needlin’” says: “‘Needlin’,’ a new form of racial terrorism, has struck New York City streets on the tony Upper West Side. At least 39 white women have been stuck with used hypodermic needles—perhaps infected with AIDS—by gangs of black girls between the ages of 12 and 14. The New York Times didn’t find this fit to print for weeks and weeks, until its candidate David Dinkins [New York City’s first African-American mayor] was safely elected. Even then the story was very low key, with race mentioned many paragraphs into it. Who can doubt that if this situation were reversed, if white girls had done this to black women, we would have been subjected to months-long nationwide propaganda campaign on the evils of white America? The double standard strikes again.” The excerpt is presumably published sometime after 1989, when Dinkins is elected mayor of New York City. In 2011, NewsOne reporter Casey Gane-McCalla will write, “I could find no evidence of this ‘epidemic’ and the article seems to have no point other than to make white people scared of black people.”
A December 1989 “special issue” of the Investment Letter addresses what it calls “racial terrorism,” and tells readers what to expect from the 1990s: “Racial Violence Will Fill Our Cities” because “mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in stealing from mostly white ‘haves.’” In February 1990, another newsletter warns of “The Coming Race War.” In November 1990, an item advises readers: “If you live in a major city, and can leave, do so. If not, but you can have a rural retreat, for investment and refuge, buy it.” In June 1991, an entry on racial disturbances in Washington, DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood is titled, “Animals Take Over the DC Zoo,” calling the disturbances “the first skirmish in the race war of the 1990s.”
In June 1992, the Ron Paul Political Report publishes a “special issue” that explains the Los Angeles riots, claiming, “Order was only restored in LA when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began.” The looting, the newsletter writes, is a natural byproduct of government indulging the black community with “‘civil rights,’ quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for government contracts, gerrymandered voting districts, black bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black TV shows, black TV anchors, hate crime laws, and public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda.” It also denounces “the media” for believing that “America’s number one need is an unlimited white checking account for underclass blacks.” The newsletter praises Asian merchants in Los Angeles for having the fortitude to resist political correctness and fight back. Koreans, the newsletter writes, are “the only people to act like real Americans” during the riots, “mainly because they have not yet been assimilated into our rotten liberal culture, which admonishes whites faced by raging blacks to lie back and think of England.” Another newsletter entry from around the same time strikes some of the same chords in writing about riots in Chicago after the NBA’s Chicago Bulls win the championship: “[B]lacks poured into the streets in celebration. How to celebrate? How else? They broke the windows of stores to loot, even breaking through protective steel shutters with crowbars to steal everything in sight.” The entry goes on to claim that black rioters burned down buildings all along Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile,” destroyed two taxicabs, “shot or otherwise injured 95 police officers,” killed five people including a liquor-store owner, and injured over 100 others. “Police arrested more than 1,000 blacks,” the newsletter claims. In 2011, Gane-McCalla will write that the newsletter entry falsely accuses blacks of perpetuating all of the violence, when in reality, the violence was perpetuated by people of all ethnicities. One thousand people—not 1,000 blacks—were arrested. And, he will write, “two officers suffered minor gunshot wounds and that 95 were injured in total, but the way Paul phrased it, it would seem most of the 95 officers injured were shot.”
An undated newsletter entry says that “black talk radio” features “racial hatred [that] makes a KKK rally look tame. The blacks talk about their own racial superiority, how the whites have a conspiracy to wipe them out, and how they are going to take over the country and wipe them out. They only differ over whether they should use King’s non-violent approach (i.e. state violence) or use private violence.”
An undated newsletter entry discusses “the newest threat to your life and limb, and your family—carjacking,” blaming it on blacks who follow “the hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos.” The entry advises potential carjacking victims to shoot carjackers, then “leave the scene immediately [and] dispos[e] of the wiped-off gun as soon as possible.” The entry concludes: “I frankly don’t know what to make of such advice, but even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self-defense. For the animals are coming.” (Bernstein 5/21/1996; Kirchick 1/8/2008; Gane-McCalla 5/6/2011)
According to author and militia/white supremacist expert David Neiwert, much of Paul’s information about black crime comes from Jared Taylor, the leader of the American Renaissance movement (see January 23, 2005). Taylor, Neiwert will write, cloaks his racism in “pseudo-academic” terminology that is published both in a magazine, American Renaissance, and later in a book, The Color of Crime, both of which make what Neiwert calls “unsupportable claims about blacks.” (David Neiwert 6/8/2007)
Conspiracies, Right-Wing Militias, and Bigotry - The newsletters often contain speculations and assertions regarding a number of what reporter James Kirchick will call “shopworn conspiracies.” Paul, as reflected in his newsletter, distrusts the “industrial-banking-political elite” and does not recognize the federally regulated monetary system and its use of paper currency. The newsletters often refer to to the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations. In 1978, a newsletter blames David Rockefeller, the Trilateral Commission, and “fascist-oriented, international banking and business interests” for the Panama Canal Treaty, which it calls “one of the saddest events in the history of the United States.” A 1988 newsletter cites a doctor who believes that AIDS was created in a World Health Organization laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland. In addition, Ron Paul & Associates sells a video about the Branch Davidian tragedy outside Waco (see April 19, 1993) produced by “patriotic Indiana lawyer Linda Thompson” (see April 3, 1993 and September 19, 1994), as a newsletter calls her, who insists that Waco was a conspiracy to kill ATF agents who had previously worked for President Clinton as bodyguards. Kirchick will note that outside of the newsletters, Paul is a frequent guest on radio shows hosted by Alex Jones, whom Kirchick will call “perhaps the most famous conspiracy theorist in America.”
Connections to Neo-Confederate Institute - Kirchick goes on to note Paul’s deep ties with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank in Alabama founded by Paul’s former chief of staff, Lew Rockwell; Paul has taught seminars at the institute, serves as a “distinguished counselor,” and has published books through the institute. The von Mises Institute has a long history of support for white-supremacist neo-Confederate groups, including the League of the South, led by Confederate apologist Thomas Woods (see October 14, 2010). Paul will endorse books by Woods and other neo-Confederates. Paul seems to agree with members of the von Mises institute in their view that the Civil War was the beginning of a horrific federal tyranny that ran roughshod over states’ rights. Paul, in his newsletters and speeches, has frequently espoused the idea of states’ secession as protest against the federal government.
Lamenting the South African Revolution - In March 1994, a newsletter warns of a “South African Holocaust,” presumably against white South Africans, once President Nelson Mandela takes office. Previous newsletters call the transition from a whites-only government to a majority-African government a “destruction of civilization” that is “the most tragic [to] ever occur on that continent, at least below the Sahara.”
Praise for Ku Klux Klan Leader's Political Aspirations - In 1990, a newsletter item praises Louisiana’s David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, for coming in a strong second in that state’s Republican Senate primary. “Duke lost the election,” the newsletter says, “but he scared the blazes out of the Establishment.” In 1991, a newsletter asks, “Is David Duke’s new prominence, despite his losing the gubernatorial election, good for anti-big government forces?” The conclusion is that “our priority should be to take the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-crime, anti-welfare loafers, anti-race privilege, anti-foreign meddling message of Duke, and enclose it in a more consistent package of freedom.” Duke will in return give support to Paul’s 2008 presidential candidacy.
Attacking Gays, AIDS Research - Paul’s newsletters often praise Paul’s “old colleague,” Representative William Dannemeyer (R-CA), a noted anti-gay activist who often advocates forcibly quarantining people suffering from AIDS. Paul’s newsletters praise Dannemeyer for “speak[ing] out fearlessly despite the organized power of the gay lobby.” In 1990, one newsletter mentions a reporter from a gay magazine “who certainly had an axe to grind, and that’s not easy with a limp wrist.” In an item titled, “The Pink House?” the newsletter complains about President George H.W. Bush’s decision to sign a hate crimes bill and invite “the heads of homosexual lobbying groups to the White House for the ceremony,” adding, “I miss the closet.” The same article states, “Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.” If homosexuals are ever allowed to openly serve in the military, another newsletter item concludes, they, “if admitted, should be put in a special category and not allowed in close physical contact with heterosexuals.” One newsletter calls AIDS “a politically protected disease thanks to payola and the influence of the homosexual lobby,” and alternates between praising anti-gay rhetoric and accusing gays of using the disease to further their own political agenda. One item tells readers not to get blood transfusions because gays are trying to “poison the blood supply.” Another cites a far-right Christian publication that advocates not allowing “the AIDS patient” to eat in restaurants, and echoes the false claim that “AIDS can be transmitted by saliva.” The newsletters often advertise a book, Surviving the AIDS Plague, which makes a number of false claims about casual transmission and defends “parents who worry about sending their healthy kids to school with AIDS victims.”
Blasting Israel - Kirchick will note that the newsletters are relentless in their attacks on Israel. A 1987 issue of the Investment Letter calls Israel “an aggressive, national socialist state.” A 1990 newsletter cites the “tens of thousands of well-placed friends of Israel in all countries who are willing to wok [sic] for the Mossad in their area of expertise.” Of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), a newsletter said, “Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little.” Another newsletter column criticizing lobbyists says, “By far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government” and that the goal of the “Zionist movement” is to stifle criticism.
Violent Anti-Government Rhetoric - In January 1995, three months before the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), a newsletter lists “Ten Militia Commandments,” describing “the 1,500 local militias now training to defend liberty” as “one of the most encouraging developments in America.” It warns militia members that they are “possibly under BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] or other totalitarian federal surveillance” and prints bits of advice from the Sons of Liberty, an anti-government militia based in Alabama—among them, “You can’t kill a Hydra by cutting off its head,” “Keep the group size down,” “Keep quiet and you’re harder to find,” “Leave no clues,” “Avoid the phone as much as possible,” and “Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
Slandering Clinton - Newsletters printed during President Clinton’s terms in office claim that Clinton uses cocaine and has fathered illegitimate children. Repeating the rumor that Clinton is a longtime cocaine user, in 1994 Paul writes that the speculation “would explain certain mysteries” about the president’s scratchy voice and insomnia. “None of this is conclusive, of course, but it sure is interesting,” he states.
Distance from Newsletter - In 2008, Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton will attempt to distance Paul from the newsletters, saying that while Paul wrote some of their content, he often did not, and in many instances never saw the content. Benton will say that the frequent insults and vitriol directed at King are particularly surprising, because, Benton will say, “Ron thinks Martin Luther King is a hero.” In 1996, Paul claims ownership of the content, but says that Morris took the newsletter quotes “out of context” (see May 22 - October 11, 1996). In 2001, Paul will claim that he did not write any of the passages, and will claim having no knowledge of them whatsoever (see October 1, 2001). Most of the newsletters’ articles and columns contain no byline, and the Internet archives of the newsletters begin in 1999. In 2008, Kirchick will find many of the older newsletters on file at the University of Kansas and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Kirchick will note the lack of bylines, and the general use of the first person in the material, “implying that Paul was the author.” Kirchick will conclude: “[W]hoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul’s name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him—and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays.” Paul, Kirchick writes, is “a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.” Kirchick will conclude: “Paul’s campaign wants to depict its candidate as a naive, absentee overseer, with minimal knowledge of what his underlings were doing on his behalf. This portrayal might be more believable if extremist views had cropped up in the newsletters only sporadically—or if the newsletters had just been published for a short time. But it is difficult to imagine how Paul could allow material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if he did not share these views. In that respect, whether or not Paul personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you would think that at some point—over the course of decades—he would have done something about it.” (Kirchick 1/8/2008; Gane-McCalla 5/6/2011) In 2008, Paul will deny writing virtually any of his newsletters’ various content (see January 8-15, 2008 and January 16, 2008).
Two of three mercenaries accused of plotting to overthrow the government of the tiny Caribbean island nation of Dominica are found guilty of conspiracy and violation of the Neutrality Act. Stephen Don Black, a prominent Alabama Ku Klux Klan leader, and Joe Daniel Hawkins, a Klansman from Mississippi, are found guilty of the charges. Both are found not guilty of violating five firearms statutes. The plot began in 1979, when the neighboring island country of Grenada was taken over by a socialist regime with ties to the Communist government of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. Mike Perdue, a former Marine and prominent white supremacist, discussed retaking Grenada with ousted former Prime Minister Eric Gairy. Perdue sought out Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke, who put him in touch with white supremacist Donald Clarke Andrews, then living in Canada. Andrews had led the white supremacist group Western Guard, and after serving a jail sentence for neo-Nazi activities, founded a new pro-Aryan group, the Nationalist Party of Canada. Andrews convinced Perdue that Dominica might be a good place from which to stage a coup in Grenada. Dominica was in the grip of grinding poverty, having been devastated by a hurricane in 1979 and plagued with racial violence from a splinter group of Rastafarians called the Dreads. The island’s government was unstable and, Perdue and Andrews believed, ripe for overthrow. Perdue partnered with another supremacist, Wolfgang Droege, and began planning to stage a coup that would place former Prime Minister Patrick John back in power. Even though John was something of a leftist, and wanted to displace the much more right-wing and pro-American Prime Minister, Eugenia Charles, in September 1980 Perdue and John agreed in writing to commence what they called “Operation Red Dog,” a violent coup with the goal of placing John back in charge of the government. The Washington Times will later report: “The coup forged some odd alliances. [It] united right-wing North Americans and Caribbean leftists, white nationalists and black revolutionaries; First World capitalists and Third World Socialists.” Canadian writer Stewart Bell later describes Perdue as a man of no real political convictions and a lust for money who routinely lies about his Vietnam experience (he never served in Southeast Asia, and did not tell his companions that he was a homosexual), and Droege as a German-Canadian high school dropout with neo-Nazi sympathies. Others involved in the putative coup are nightclub owner and white supremacist Charles Yanover, gunrunner Sydney Burnett-Alleyne (who supplied the initial connection to John), Black, Hawkins, and a small number of others. The mercenaries’ plan was to put John back in power; in return, John would give them license to use the island as a haven for casinos, drug smuggling, and money laundering. Almost from the outset, the conspiracy was infiltrated by two agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), John Osburg and Wally Grafton, who were alerted to the planned coup by charter boat captain Mike Howell. Perdue had tried to hire Howell to take the mercenaries to Dominica, and told Howell that his was a CIA operation. Members of the operation also talked to others about it; one even gave a “secret” interview to a radio reporter in Hamilton. Osburg and Grafton alerted law enforcement authorities; on the night of the raid, federal authorities overwhelmed the small band of mercenaries, arrested them all, and confiscated a large number of firearms, 10 pounds of dynamite, over 5,000 rounds of ammunition, and a large red-and-black Nazi flag. The operation was later derisively termed the “Bayou of Pigs,” a joking reference to the 1961 attempt by right-wing American mercenaries to overthrow Castro’s government. John was arrested in Dominica. Perdue and six other participants have already pled guilty to violating the Neutrality Act. Before his sentencing of three years in prison, Black says, “What we were doing was in the best interests of the United States and its security in the hemisphere, and we feel betrayed by our own government.” (Time 5/11/1981; United Press International 6/21/1981; Abel 2/19/1998; Weisman 10/5/2008; Winnipeg Free Press 11/2/2008) After serving his jail term, Black will go on to found the influential white supremacist organization Stormfront (see March 1995 and June 22, 2008).
Sergeant Timothy McVeigh (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990) gives three months of military service in the Persian Gulf War as a gunner on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle before returning home; during his time there, he paints the name “Bad Company” on the side of the vehicle. “He was a good soldier,” Sergeant James Ives, who serves with McVeigh, will later recall. “If he was given a mission and a target, it’s gone.” (McFadden 4/23/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 34; Douglas O. Linder 2001; CNN 2001) McVeigh earns a Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal while overseas, along with a number of citations and ribbons. (Serrano 1998, pp. 25-26) Staff Sergeant Albert Warnement, the commander of McVeigh’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Kuwait, later recalls: “He was against the National Command Authority’s decision to go to war. McVeigh did not think the United States had any business or interest in Kuwait, but… he knew it was his duty to go where he was told, and he went.” (Stickney 1996, pp. 110)
Experiences in Kuwait, Iraq - Fellow soldier Todd Regier later recalls that McVeigh was “definitely excited about going to Desert Storm. He was a perfect gunner. He was the best gunner we had.” McVeigh is part of a Bradley crew which spends its first few weeks sitting idly in the Saudi Arabian desert while American aircraft attack Iraqi defenses (see January 16, 1991 and After). Sergeant Anthony Thigpen later recalls that while the other soldiers play cards, write letters, and chat to relieve their boredom, McVeigh spends his time cleaning his weapons. The 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry Regiment, McVeigh’s unit, is one of those that makes the initial drive into Kuwait when the invasion begins (see February 23, 1991 and After). McVeigh’s unit sees less intense action than some, and fellow soldier Roger L. Barnett will later recall that McVeigh shows little interest in shooting unarmed and defenseless Iraqis. At one point, McVeigh shoots an Iraqi soldier from some 2,000 yards away in the head, using the Bradley’s 25mm cannon. McVeigh wins a medal for the shot. He later recalls of the shooting: “His head just disappeared.… I saw everything above the shoulders disappear, like in a red mist.” He becomes angry when he learns that many Iraqis do not want to fight, and are equipped with inferior gear. According to an aunt, McVeigh is deeply disturbed about the fighting in Iraq. “When he came back, he seemed broken,” she later tells a reporter. “When we talked about it, he said it was terrible there. He was on the front line and had seen death and caused death. After the first [killing], it got easy.” While posted in Kuwait, McVeigh writes to a friend in the US that he hates Saddam Hussein: “Chickensh_t b_stard. Because of him, I killed a man who didn’t want to fight us, but was forced to.” However, a fellow soldier, Kerry Kling, later recalls McVeigh being proud of the shot that killed the Iraqi. Sergeant Royal L. Witcher, McVeigh’s assistant gunner on the Bradley, later recalls the soldiers’ dismay at their experiences with Iraqi soldiers. “I think it kind of shocked most of us,” he will say. “We had thought that they were our enemies, and then for us to encounter something like that with a mass of people giving up.” After the offensive, McVeigh’s unit is assigned to guard duty, and spends the remainder of the war relatively inactive. (McFadden 5/4/1995; Stickney 1996, pp. 113; Serrano 1998, pp. 36-38; CNN 12/17/2007) McVeigh will later recall being angry at the situation in Kuwait. In a letter to a reporter, he will write: “We were falsely hyped up [about the enemy]. And we get there and find out that they are normal like you and me. They hype you up to take those people out. They told us we were to defend Kuwait where the people had been raped and slaughtered (see October 10, 1990). War woke me up. War will open your eyes.” Of the Iraqi soldiers, he will write, “I felt the army brainwashed us to hate them.” (Serrano 1998, pp. 36-37)
Withdraws from Special Forces Training - After returning to the US, McVeigh begins 21 days of Special Services training at Camp McCall, west of Fort Bragg, North Carolina (see October 1990). He is thrilled to be joining Special Forces, and is confident that he will pass the grueling physical and psychological assessments. However, he leaves the training at Camp McCall during the second day. He later tells people he withdraws because of a leg injury. Some military officials will say that preliminary psychological screening shows him to be unfit for Special Forces, leading some reporters to conclude that McVeigh was kicked out of training, but those conclusions are inaccurate: McVeigh’s screenings are not processed until long after he leaves, and his withdrawal is entirely voluntary. McVeigh later says that he begins training with a friend, Specialist Mitchell Whitmire (one source spells his name “Whitmyers,” apparently in error), days after returning from overseas duty. He will say that he is in poor physical condition, mentally and physically exhausted from his time in combat, and unready for the physical demands of Green Beret training. He does not accept an offer extended to him and other combat veterans to take some time off and try again at a later date. Instead, after two arduous days of physical workouts, McVeigh and Whitmire leave the training program before McVeigh’s assessments can be graded and reviewed. On his Statement of Voluntary Withdrawal, McVeigh writes, “I am not physically ready, and the rucksack march hurt more than it should.” Ives will recall McVeigh as being “extremely disappointed.” Thigpen later recalls: “Everybody knew he was highly upset. We never knew the reason why he didn’t make it. We figured, you don’t make it, you don’t make it. But he was definitely angry. He was upset, very upset.” Fellow soldier James Fox later tells a reporter that McVeigh’s withdrawal from Special Forces training was a defining moment for him, saying, “Whether he withdrew or was kicked out, it still was a failure and very easily he could externalize blame.” McVeigh then takes a 30-day leave to visit his sister Jennifer in Florida, and to spend some time in upstate New York, where he grew up (see 1987-1988). (McFadden 4/23/1995; McFadden 5/4/1995; Kifner 7/5/1995; Stickney 1996, pp. 115-119; PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 41-42) Author Brandon M. Stickney later writes, “It was revealed in confidence to [me] that answers McVeigh gave on the psychological tests were apparently a bit off-center, not the answers of a man capable of long-term assignments with the exclusive and tight Special Forces.” Stickney will also write that McVeigh may be suffering from “Gulf War Syndrome,” a mysterious series of maladies apparently caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. (Stickney 1996, pp. 117-118) In 1993, McVeigh will write a letter to his sister Jennifer giving a very different explanation of his reason for withdrawing from Special Forces tryouts (see October 20, 1993). After he returns from active duty, he begins displaying increasingly eccentric behavior (see March 1991 and After). McVeigh will go on to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Sergeant Timothy McVeigh, a decorated Army gunner, returns from serving three months in Operation Desert Storm (see January - March 1991 and After). Disillusioned and discouraged by his experiences and his failure to succeed in Special Forces training, McVeigh returns to Fort Riley, Kansas, and begins displaying increasingly odd behavior, always carrying a weapon and talking incessantly about the constitutional right to bear arms. His friend and fellow soldier Bruce Williams later recalls that McVeigh is no longer the “Iron Mike” that he had known during training at Fort Benning. “I’d hang out and go to the parties and drink Budweiser,” Williams will recall. “Tim just stayed in his room playing Nintendo.” McVeigh rents a house off post with two fellow soldiers, Corporal John Edward Kelso and Sergeant Rick Cerney, in Herington, Kansas, some 40 miles from Fort Riley. Kelso later recalls he and Cerney trying to “josh with him” and get him to relax. “It was so easy to put him over the edge,” Kelso will recall. “He was so gullible, so vulnerable. He was so unbalanced about being tough. He was just kind of a nerd.” Sergeant Royal L. Witcher, McVeigh’s assistant gunner during active duty in Kuwait and Iraq, later recalls that McVeigh is uncomfortable sharing the house with the two, and persuades Witcher to let him move in with him instead. McVeigh moves into Witcher’s Herington home and immediately claims the larger of the two bedrooms, blocking the window with a camouflage poncho. Witcher later says he knew better than to enter McVeigh’s room. McVeigh keeps at least 10 guns in the house, Witcher will recall, saying: “They weren’t exposed, they were hidden. He had a couple in the kitchen, a couple in the living room under the couch. I think there was one in the bathroom, behind the towels. As you go up the steps there was a little ledge and he kept one in there, a .38 revolver.” McVeigh also keeps two guns in his car and a shotgun at the home of a sergeant who also lives off post. Witcher never asks why McVeigh keeps so many guns. “I don’t know if he was paranoid or what,” Witcher will recall. “Or maybe he had some friends that were after him. I don’t know.” On occasion, McVeigh sells guns to fellow soldiers. He cleans all of his weapons twice a week, and takes them to a lake to shoot every weekend. Witcher never recalls McVeigh having any dates. On a few occasions, the two have conversations. “He was a very racist person,” Witcher will recall. “He had very strong views against, like, political things, like that.” Witcher will say he does not share McVeigh’s racist views: “He pretty much knew my views and he didn’t talk too much about it around me.” McVeigh constantly complains about government intrusiveness, Witcher will recall, taking umbrage with items he reads in the newspaper on a daily basis. Witcher will remember McVeigh dropping out of the National Rifle Association (NRA) when that organization seems to be softening its stance on the banning of assault rifles. He begins spending more and more time poring over gun magazines, and spends more and more time in the pawnshops and gun dealerships in nearby Junction City. (McFadden 4/23/1995; McFadden 5/4/1995; Kifner 7/5/1995; PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 42; Douglas O. Linder 2001; CNN 2001)
Becomes Conspiracy-Minded, Involved with Extremist Groups - Ives will recall that after his failed attempt to join Special Forces, McVeigh becomes involved with extreme right-wing political groups off-post. Ives cannot identify the groups, but, he will say, “cults is what I call them.” Witcher will recall nothing of any such involvement. (McFadden 4/23/1995; McFadden 5/4/1995) Ives may be referring to a group of soldiers who begin meeting off-base to take action against gun control and government interference in their lives, a group McVeigh meets with at least once. His unit member Robin Littleton later recalls McVeigh becoming increasingly “bitter” and conspiracy-minded, reading books about the Kennedy assassination and becoming “convinced that the government was behind it all. He also started reading a lot of fiction, all of it to do with big business and the military planning on overthrowing the government. He started to rant on about the private armies that were springing up inside the federal government, and how the CIA and FBI were out of control.” At least one local girl, Catina Lawson, shows some interest in McVeigh, but his anti-Semitic rants and his professed admiration for Adolf Hitler quickly terminate her interest. (Stickney 1996, pp. 120, 125-127) Warnement later recalls corresponding with McVeigh in 1992 and 1993, after Warnement is transferred to Germany. “He sent me a lot of newsletters and stuff from those groups he was involved in,” Warnement will recall. He will say that because the literature is so extremist, he throws it away rather than being caught with it. “There were newsletters from [militia leader] Bo Gritz’s group, some other odd newsletters, some from the Patriots; then he sent that videotape ‘The Big Lie’ about Waco. He seemed quite a bit different after the war than he’d been before.” The Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993) infuriates McVeigh, Warnement will recall (see April 19, 1993 and After). McVeigh is also angered by the use of Army units for drug-enforcement duties on the US-Mexican border, the deployment of infantry during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and UN command over US forces during fighting in Somalia. “He thought the federal government was getting too much power,” Warnement will recall. “He thought the ATF [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] was out of control. Then, of course, when Waco happened, he really felt the ATF was out of control.… He wasn’t happy about Somalia, that if we could put the United States under basically UN command and send them to Somalia to disarm their citizens, then why couldn’t they come do the same thing in the United States?… It had a kind of logic to it, but it really didn’t take into account the flip side of things. I kind of had the feeling that he might be headed for trouble because he was never the type of person to back down.” (Kifner 7/5/1995) In February 1992, McVeigh sends Warnement a copy of The Turner Diaries, a racially inflammatory novel about a white supremacist genocide in the US (see 1978). He also includes a news article concerning a black militant politician. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996)
Accepts Early Discharge - Like many soldiers, McVeigh is encouraged to leave as part of the military’s postwar “drawdown.” McVeigh soon takes an early discharge and leaves the Army entirely (see November 1991 - Summer 1992). Sergeant James Hardesty, who served in Kuwait with McVeigh, later says that many soldiers such as McVeigh and himself felt like “discarded baggage.” (McFadden 5/4/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 42-43) Fellow soldier Roger L. Barnett later recalls: “He wasn’t the same McVeigh. He didn’t go at things the way he normally did. It used to be, a superior commanding soldier would tell him to do something and he’d do it 110 percent. He didn’t have the same drive. He didn’t have his heart in the military anymore.” (Kifner 7/5/1995)
Future Oklahoma City Bomber - McVeigh will go on to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Statistics from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms cite 149 acts of arson against abortion providers, and 47 abortion clinic-related bombings between 1992 and 1998. (Clarkson 12/2002)
Texas law enforcement officers conduct SWAT training near the Mt. Carmel compound of the Branch Davidian sect near Waco, Texas. The Davidians are led by David Koresh (see November 3, 1987 and After), whose teachings of imminent apocalypse and the need to wage armed resistance against the forces of evil seem to be borne out by the days of gunfire and paramilitary activities near the compound. According to a later report by the Treasury Department, Koresh reacts to the SWAT training by: bringing back members from California and England to swell the Davidian ranks; purchasing large amounts of weaponry, weapons parts, and ammunition; acquiring chemicals that can be used for making explosives; and purchasing night vision scopes and sensors. These actions bring the Davidians, and Koresh, to the attention of both local and federal authorities, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF—see June-July 1992). (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995)
The Austin, Texas, office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated to ATF) receives a call from Chief Deputy Daniel Weyenberg of the McLennan County, Texas, Sheriff’s Department. Weyerberg tells BATF agents of information he has received from a local UPS employee, who told him that he’d delivered a package to Mt. Carmel, the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (see November 3, 1987 and After). The UPS employee said that the package had broken open and he could see firearms, inert grenade casings, and black powder inside. Local law enforcement agencies have been investigating the possibility of the Davidians’ creating a large and possibly illegal cache of weapons for months (see March 5-9, 1992). (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF, sometimes known as the ATF) opens an investigation of the Branch Davidian sect near Waco, Texas, after learning that a resident had mail-ordered a box of dummy grenades. Lieutenant Gene Barber of the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department meets with BATF agent Davy Aguilera; Barber, a recognized explosives expert, tells Aguilera that the United Parcel Service (UPS) package delivery service has delivered a number of packages containing firearms components and explosives (see May 1992) to the “Mag-Bag,” the UPS nickname for the Davidian tract, in the names of David Koresh and Mike Schroeder. Koresh is the leader of the religious community that lives on the tract (see November 3, 1987 and After), which is also known to area residents as Mt. Carmel. UPS employee Larry Gilbreath reported the suspicious deliveries to the local sheriff’s department. Gilbreath also informed Barber that the compound seems to be patrolled by armed guards. In May 1992, UPS delivered two cases of inert hand grenades and a quantity of black powder to the compound; in early June, UPS delivered 90 pounds of powdered aluminum, 30 to 40 heavy cardboard tubes, and 60 M-16/AR-15 ammunition magazines. Barber also gives Aguilera aerial photos of the compound, taken by the sheriff’s department, which depict a buried bus near the main structure and a three- to four-story tall observation tower. He tells Aguilera that neighbors have heard machine-gun fire coming from the property. Aguilera determines that in late 1992, the Davidians spent over $44,000 on parts for M-16/AR-15 machine guns, as well as a variety of other weaponry and weapons parts. Some of the parts come from an Illinois firm under investigation for selling illegal guns and gun parts. (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 2/25/1993; Dick J. Reavis 7/19/1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995) Aguilera officially opens a BATF investigation on Koresh and the Davidians on June 9. Within a week, Philip Chojnacki, the special agent in charge of the Houston BATF office, classifies the case “sensitive,” thereby calling for a high degree of oversight from both Houston and BATF headquarters in Washington, DC. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) In 1996, a Congressional investigation will find that the BATF investigation is “grossly incompetent” (see August 2, 1996). (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Davy Aguilera of the Austin, Texas, office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), as part of an ongoing BATF investigation into the weapons allegedly owned by the Branch Davidian religious sect living outside Waco, Texas (see June-July 1992), visits the shop of a local gun dealer, Henry McMahon. Aguilera is accompanied by BATF compliance officer Jimmy Ray Skinner. During the visit, Aguilera and Skinner find that weapons parts for AR-15 assault rifles are listed in McMahon’s inventory, but are not on the premises nor are they listed as sold. McMahon admits that the parts were sold to Davidian sect leader David Koresh (see November 3, 1987 and After). McMahon calls Koresh, who offers to let the BATF agents inspect the Davidian compound for possible weapons violations. The agents decline the invitation. Shortly afterwards, McMahon tells Koresh that he is suspicious that the BATF is investigating Koresh and the Davidians. The 1996 House investigation of the Davidian situation (see August 2, 1996) will express the investigators’ confusion as to why the agents do not accept Koresh’s invitation, and finds, “The agents’ decline of the Koresh offer was a serious mistake.” (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, sometimes known as the ATF) resumes its investigation into the Branch Davidian sect living in a compound, known as Mt. Carmel, outside Waco, Texas (see June-July 1992 and July 30, 1992). The investigation is spearheaded by BATF Special Agent Davy Aguilera, who has reason to believe that the Branch Davidians, under the leadership of David Koresh, are stockpiling a large amount of guns, weapons, and other military materiel. Neighbors have spoken of hearing machine-gun fire at the Mt. Carmel site. Aguilera learns that one of the Davidians is Marshal Keith Butler, a machinist capable of creating illegal guns from the parts bought by the Davidians; Butler has an extensive criminal record, mostly for drug possession. Aguilera also talks to a McLennan County deputy sheriff, Terry Fuller, who heard a loud explosion and saw a large cloud of grey smoke over the northeastern part of the Davidian property. (Fuller investigated and learned that the Davidians had been using dynamite for construction, a fact Aguilera does not elicit.) He learns from BATF Special Agent Carlos Torres that the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS) has investigated the Davidians, and their leader David Koresh (see November 3, 1987 and After), on suspicion of physically and sexually abusing children (see April 1992), and learns from former Waco Davidian Robyn Bunds that she had a child by Koresh, and she left because of Koresh’s increasingly abusive behavior towards herself and other community members. Bunds also tells Aguilera that she found what she later learned was a machine gun conversion kit. Her mother Jeannine Bunds, another former resident of the Mt. Carmel community, tells Aguilera that she frequently saw the men practicing with AK-47 and AR-15 machine guns, and that Koresh has fathered children with women and girls as young as 12 years of age, indicating that he may be guilty of statutory rape, a felony in Texas. Aguilera confirms that some 40 of the Mt. Carmel residents are foreign nationals, and that many of them either entered the country illegally or overstayed their visa; he will write in an affidavit for a search warrant (see February 25, 1993) that “it is a violation of Title 18, U.S.C. Section 922, for an illegal alien to receive a firearm.” BATF agents speak to Poia Vaega, a former Davidian now living in New Zealand, who makes further allegations of physical and sexual abuse. Vaega confirms what both Bunds have already said, that Koresh enforces a strict rule that only he can have sexual relations with the females of the community, and that he routinely has sex with girls as young as 11. Several BATF agents confirm that the Davidians have the proper parts, chemical compounds, and equipment to create a wide array of illegal guns, bombs, and explosives, and that in the past BATF agents have seized a number of illegal weapons from the Davidians. David Block, a former Waco Davidian, tells Aguilera that he has seen copies of books in the main building that tell the reader how to manufacture illegal bombs and explosives. Another source tells the BATF that the Davidians have made live grenades and are attempting to make a radio-controlled aircraft for carrying explosives. Documents show that Koresh has spent $199,715 on weapons and ammunition in the past 17 months, including M-16 automatic rifles and parts necessary for turning semiautomatic rifles into machine guns. (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 2/25/1993; Smolows, Riley, and Woodbury 5/3/1993; Conway and Siegelman 1995, pp. 244; Dean M. Kelley 5/1995; Dick J. Reavis 7/19/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) Koresh and the Davidians have also buried a bus in the ground and stocked it with food for a year; members practice daily military drills, and both children and adults are taught how to commit suicide with a gun. (Conway and Siegelman 1995, pp. 244) In 1996, a Congressional investigation will find that the BATF investigation is “grossly incompetent” (see August 2, 1996). (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Davy Aguilera, a senior agent of the Texas branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) and the lead investigator in the bureau’s Branch Davidian/David Koresh probe (see June-July 1992 and November 1992 - January 1993), interviews BATF Special Agent Carlos Torres about his knowledge of the Davidians. Torres says that on December 4 he interviewed Joyce Sparks, an investigator for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS), who has twice visited the Mt. Carmel compound of the Davidians outside of Waco to check on allegations of child abuse (see April 1992). According to Torres, Sparks said that on her last visit to the compound on April 6, “Koresh told her that he was the ‘messenger’ from God, that the world was coming to an end, and that when he ‘reveals’ himself, the riots in Los Angeles would pale in comparison to what was going to happen in Waco, Texas.” According to Sparks, Koresh’s self-revelation “would be a ‘military type operation’ and… all the ‘non-believers’ would have to suffer.” In 1993, columnist Daniel Wattenberg will dispute Sparks’s claim, noting that the Los Angeles riots began on April 29, 1992, more than three weeks after Sparks’s last visit to the compound. (Wattenberg 8/1/1993)
Eight agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) take up surveillance on the Branch Davidian compound just outside of Waco, Texas, after compiling evidence of illegal gun caches and child abuse among the community (see November 1992 - January 1993). The agents assume undercover identities as students at Texas State Technical Institute and rent a ramshackle house directly across from the front driveway leading into the Davidian property. One of the agents pretends to be interested in the Davidians’ religious teachings in order to gain access to the compound itself. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Weapons Observed - The agents who manage to gain access to the compound find a large cache of semi-automatic weapons, including AK-47’s, AR-15’s, M-16’s, 9-millimeter handguns, Israeli assault rifles, and others. (Labaton and Verhovek 3/27/1993)
Undercover Identities Compromised - Many of the Davidians believe the men to be federal agents, correctly surmising that they are too old and too affluent to be college students. The 1995 House investigation of the Davidian debacle (see August 2, 1996) will determine that “a series of mistakes” by the agents alerts the Davidians to their true identities; a 1996 House committee report will find, “At least some of the breaches of security were so serious, and obvious, that they should have been recognized as such by [B]ATF, and become the basis for modifying the nature and timing of any subsequent action against [Davidian leader David] Koresh.” Koresh tells his next-door neighbor of his suspicions, and says he believes the “college students” to be federal agents. The agents are told by another neighbor that Koresh suspects them of being undercover agents. On one occasion, some Davidians visit the agents’ house with a six-pack of beer to welcome their new neighbors, but the agents refuse to let them in. One of the agents, Robert Rodriguez, will later testify that “all of [the undercover BATF agents], or myself, knew we were going to have problems. It was just too—too obvious.”
Agents Unprepared with Basic Intelligence - Moreover, the agents’ preparation was so poor that they do not even know what Koresh looks like; their single means of identifying him is an old driver’s license photograph. The House investigation will find that the “lack of such basic and critical intelligence clearly undermined the ability of the undercover operation to fulfill its mission.” (Hinds 3/6/1993; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Surveillance Fails to Find Evidence of Criminal Activity - The surveillance, including film from cameras peering into the Davidian compound, produces no evidence of criminal activity. What surveillance material that is created—some 900 photographs and other materials—is largely ignored. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
'Grossly Incompetent' - In 1996, the House committee investigation will find that the BATF investigation is “grossly incompetent” (see August 2, 1996). (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) asks the Army for assistance in raiding the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see November 1992 - January 1993 and 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). The request is not acknowledged by federal or military officials for over six years. Army officials will note that such involvement is illegal unless the president personally makes the request; they say that no such request was ever considered. In 1999, the General Accounting Office (GAO) will find that military personnel were called to the scene after the BATF “cited possible drug-related activity” at the Davidian compound. The BATF makes the request through Operation Alliance, an agency that coordinates law enforcement requests for military help in fighting drugs. The BATF requests training by special forces troops, instruction in driving Bradley Fighting Vehicles (BFVs), and the loan of seven BFVs. Operation Alliance will forward the request to Fort Bliss, the home of Joint Task Force 6 (JTF-6), the military’s headquarters for domestic anti-drug efforts. JTF-6 officials are told that the requested assistance is “in direct support of interdiction activities along the Southwest border.” However, Major Mark Petree, the commander of the Army’s special forces, questions the legality of the request. His legal adviser, Major Phillip Lindley, writes a memo stating that the BATF request would make the military an active, illegal partner in a domestic police action. JTF-6 officers accuse Lindley of trying to undermine the mission, and Lindley refers the matter to Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Andrews, the deputy staff judge advocate. Andrews says that the military could probably evaluate the BATF plan of attack (see February 24-27, 1993), but cannot intervene to cancel or revise it. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996; Associated Press 10/31/1999) In 1996, a Congressional investigation will find that the BATF deliberately misrepresented the Davidians as a drug cartel in order to receive military assistance and avoid reimbursing the military for that assistance (see August 2, 1996). (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, sometimes known as the ATF) begins preparing for a large-scale raid on the Waco, Texas, compound, Mt. Carmel, owned by the Branch Davidian sect. The BATF has evidence that the Davidians and their leader, David Koresh, own a large amount of possibly illegal weapons, are committing statutory rape and child abuse against the female children of the group, and are possibly beating the children as a means of discipline (see November 1992 - January 1993). The raid is approved by BATF Director Stephen Higgins, after a recommendation from Philip Chojnacki, the senior BATF agent in the Houston office. Undercover BATF agents who have infiltrated the Davidian community recommend that the assault take place on a Sunday morning, because during Sunday morning prayer services the men are separated from the women and children, and do not have easy access to the Davidians’ cache of weapons. (Labaton 3/3/1993; Dick J. Reavis 7/19/1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995)
Significant Lack of Planning - Information compiled after the raid, in which the Davidians kill four BATF agents (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), is somewhat contradictory; a Treasury Department report issued after the April conflagration at the compound (see Late September - October 1993) will claim there is no written plan for the “dynamic entry” to be executed by BATF agents, and that the raid is code-named “Trojan Horse.” Agents who participate in the assault will later say the raid is code-named “Showtime.” (Labaton 3/3/1993; Dick J. Reavis 7/19/1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995) According to the Treasury Department report, acting Special Agent in Charge Darrell Dyer, assigned as support coordinator for the operation, arrived in Waco from his Kansas City office on February 23, asked to see the documents for the plan of attack, and was told none had been drawn up. Dyer and agent William Krone draw up a plan on their own, though they have little knowledge about the work performed by the tactical planners. The two manage to generate a rough plan, but the plan remains on Krone’s desk and is never distributed or referred to during the actual raid. (New York Times 10/1/1993)
Element of Surprise Key - According to later testimony before a House investigative committee (see August 2, 1996), the element of surprise is so integral to the raid that if it is lost, the raid is to be aborted. Ronald Noble, assistant secretary-designate of the treasury for law enforcement, will testify that on-site BATF commanders knew of the provision. Noble will say in 1995, and will be quoted in the 1996 House investigative report, “What was absolutely clear in Washington at Treasury and in Washington and ATF was that no raid should proceed once the element of surprise was lost.” However, Dan Hartnett, deputy director of the BATF for enforcement, will contradict Noble’s assertion, saying that while “secrecy and safety” were “discussed over and over again,” the provision that the raid should be called off if the Davidians were alerted to it beforehand was not in place; Hartnett will accuse Noble of trying to deflect blame away from the Treasury Department and onto the BATF. The report will conclude that no such provision was in place. The BATF commanders will order the raid to go forward even after learning that the Davidians know it is coming. The House report will conclude that the lack of such a provision was a critical failure of the plan. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
No Alternatives Considered - BATF agents will also later claim that the raid was necessary because Koresh never left the compound. However, evidence will show that at least three times between January 17 and February 24, Koresh did exit the compound, where agents could have easily apprehended him; among other examples, Koresh is a regular patron of the Chelsea Bar and Grill in Waco, and leaves the compound regularly to jog. According to the Treasury Department report and a 1996 report by the House investigative committee, other options are considered but rejected. The first is to avoid violence and merely serve the warrants by visiting the compound. This is rejected because of Koresh’s history of antipathy towards law enforcement and his propensity towards violence (see November 3, 1987 and After). A second option, arresting Koresh while he is away from the compound, is rejected because, according to subsequent testimony by Chojnacki, Koresh supposedly never leaves the site. A third option, a plan to besiege Mt. Carmel, is rejected because of the possibility that the Davidians might destroy the illegal weapons, commit mass suicide, or both. (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995; Dick J. Reavis 7/19/1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Warnings of Violent Response Ignored - The Congressional report will find, “The [B]ATF chose the dynamic entry raid, the most hazardous of the options, despite its recognition that a violent confrontation was predictable.” Before the raid, BATF agents discussed the idea of launching a raid with Joyce Sparks, a Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS) caseworker who has spent a considerable amount of time with Koresh and the Davidians (see April 1992). Sparks is familiar with the Davidians’ apocalyptic religious beliefs, and warned the agents that to launch a raid on the compound would invite a violent response. “They will get their guns and kill you,” she told the agents. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Plans, Execution Botched - The Congressional investigation will find that the BATF plan for attacking the Davidian compound was “significantly flawed… poorly conceived, utilized a high risk tactical approach when other tactics could have been successfully used… drafted and commanded by [B]ATF agents who were less qualified than other available agents, and used agents who were not sufficiently trained for the operation.” (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) Reflecting on the planning 10 years later, Robert White, a senior BATF agent wounded in the raid, will recall: “The people actually calling the shots, whether to go or not, did not have the tactical training necessary to make those kind of decisions. They had the authority to make those decisions simply because of their rank.” White will say that because of the botched raid, the agency will revise its tactical procedures: “Now, before any decision is made, a leader of one of the tactical teams, someone who has been trained specifically for that purpose, will make the call.” (Anderson 3/16/2003)
Top Treasury Officials Not Informed - The report also expresses surprise at BATF Director Higgins’s failure to appraise either Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen or Deputy Secretary Roger Altman of the raid. The report will state, “Neither [Bentsen] nor his deputy knew anything about an imminent law enforcement raid—one of the largest ever conducted in US history—being managed by his department, which would endanger the lives of dozens of law enforcement agents, women, and children.” (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated ATF) agent Davy Aguilera obtains a warrant, or affidavit as it is sometimes called in law enforcement terminology, to search the Branch Davidian compound, known to many as Mt. Carmel, just outside of Waco, Texas. Aguilera, a BATF agent out of Austin, Texas, secures the warrant from US Magistrate Judge Dennis Green in Waco. Aguilera says the evidence for the warrant comes from his own investigation, “as well as information furnished to me by other law enforcement officers and concerned citizens” (see March 5-9, 1992, June-July 1992, November 1992 - January 1993, December 7, 1992, January 11, 1993 and After, and January 22 - Early February, 1993). Aguilera’s warrant gives legal standing for the BATF’s upcoming raid on the Davidian compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). Aguilera writes, “I believe that Vernon Howell, aka David Koresh and/or his followers who reside at the compound known locally as the Mt. Carmel Center are unlawfully manufacturing and possessing machine guns and explosive devices.” (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 2/25/1993) The legitimacy of the BATF affidavits and warrants will be disputed. After the events of the final assault (see April 19, 1993), a retired FBI agent will examine the original BATF affidavits and say that the agency lacked probable cause for them. In 1996, a Congressional investigation will find that the warrant is replete with “an incredible number of false statements” (see August 2, 1996); one example is its claim, based on witness statements, that the Davidians own a British Boys anti-tank .52 caliber rifle, when in fact they own a Barret light .50 firearm. Possession of the British Boys constitutes a felony, while ownership of the Barret is legal. The affidavit relies heavily on information provided by former Davidian Marc Breault (see February 27 - March 3, 1993); it does not note that Breault left the compound as an opponent of Koresh, a fact that might affect his motives in speaking against Koresh. Nor does the affidavit note that Breault is almost completely blind, but instead claims that he was a bodyguard who “participated in physical training and firearm shooting exercises conducted by Howell. He stood guard armed with a loaded weapon.” Aguilera repeatedly misrepresents and misstates the facts of weapons laws in the affidavit, and misstates the types of weapons parts that Koresh and the Davidians are known to have purchased. The investigation will find that while legitimate evidence exists that would constitute probable cause for a warrant, the BATF agents “responsible for preparing the affidavits knew or should have known that many of the statements were false.” (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
The day before the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco is slated to happen (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), BATF public information officer Sharon Wheeler calls editors at the ABC and NBC affiliates in Dallas to alert them to the impending raid. Gary Nichols, assignment editor for the Dallas ABC news affiliate, will later recall, “Sharon said, ‘We have something big going down.’” (Labaton and Verhovek 3/27/1993)
The Waco Tribune-Herald begins what it calls the “Sinful Messiah” series of articles on Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, formerly Vernon Howell (see November 3, 1987 and After). Based on interviews with former members of the sect, the series accuses Koresh of being a “cult leader” who physically abuses children and takes underage brides, even raping one of them. (England and McCormick 3/3/1993; XTimeline 7/2010) Two weeks into the standoff, Newsweek will publish an article on Koresh and the Davidians that draws heavily on the Waco Tribune-Herald series. (Kantrowitz et al. 3/15/1993) An August 1992 investigation by the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS) found no evidence of such claims (see April 1992).
Sexual Abuse Claims - Koresh, the series claims, advocates polygamy for himself, declaring himself the husband of multiple females of the community. The articles say he claims to be entitled to 140 wives or more, can legitimately claim any of the women in the community, has fathered at least a dozen children, and that some of his brides are as young as 12 or 13. The sources claim that Koresh annulled all the marriages among the Davidians, and told the men that they would receive their “perfect mates” in heaven. For the time they are on Earth, he told them, only he would have wives. Koresh keeps the men and women rigidly separated except during Bible studies. (England and McCormick 3/3/1993; XTimeline 7/2010)
Physical Abuse Claims - The articles claim that Koresh beats children as young as eight months of age. Former Davidian Michelle Tom testified in a Michigan court custody case that Koresh beat her daughter Tarah Tom with a wooden spatula until the girl’s bottom was bruised and bloody. The girl had cried when placed on Koresh’s lap, Tom testified. A former Davidian who refuses to be identified confirms Tom’s story, saying that the little girl’s “bottom was completely black and blue.” During the same court case, Tom and other former Davidians claimed that Koresh was particularly harsh with his own son Cyrus. When Cyrus was three and living with Koresh (then Howell) in Pomona, California, Koresh once tied him to the garage for the night, after telling him that there were rats in the garage who liked to eat children. Tom and others recall hearing Cyrus scream as his father beat him.
Bringing the Apocalypse - Koresh, according to the articles, claims to be the Lamb of Heaven whose mystical task it is to open the Seven Seals of the Biblical Apocalypse, thus bringing about the end of the world. The Davidians, according to the articles, intend to slay all non-believers (whom Koresh calls “the Babylonians”) once the Apocalypse begins, and Koresh’s male children will rule at his side thereafter. Koresh says: “If the Bible is true, then I’m Christ. But so what? Look at 2,000 years ago. What’s so great about being Christ? A man nailed to the cross. A man of sorrow acquainted with grief. You know, being Christ ain’t nothing. Know what I mean?… If the Bible is true, I’m Christ. If the Bible is true. But all I want out of this is for people to be honest this time.” The sources say Koresh uses “mind control” techniques to indoctrinate his followers, including marathon sermons and Bible study sessions lasting up to 15 hours at a stretch. One former member who refuses to be named says of the sessions: “You don’t have time to think. He doesn’t give you time to think about what you’re doing. It’s just bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.” Other methods employed by Koresh include confusing, rapid-fire discourses about abstruse Biblical topics, and a propensity to force community members to listen to sermons at odd hours of the night. Another former member, also refusing to be named, says: “You felt like you were in the know. Others in the world might consider you average. Let them. They were unbelievers. But you knew something they didn’t—something that put you into the ultimate In Crowd, the ones who wouldn’t be taking a dip in the Lake of Fire.”
Sources - The sources for the article include Australians Marc Breault, described as a former “confidant” of Koresh’s who has spoken against Koresh since 1990; Breault’s wife Elizabeth Baranyi; and Jean Smith. Breault, an aspiring musician, admits to feeling resentment towards Koresh—he joined the group in hopes that he and Koresh, himself an accomplished musician, would form a successful rock band, an aspiration that would not be fulfilled. They are joined by former Indiana disk jockey David Jewell, who was never a member of the sect but who sued his ex-wife, Davidian Sherri Jewell, for custody of their daughter Kiri. Breault and other former members say Sherri Jewell was one of Koresh’s wives. Kiri lives in Michigan with her father, while Sherri remains with Koresh. (In 1995, Kiri Jewell will testify that she was raped by Koresh between the ages of 10 and 14—see July 21, 1995). Other sources include Robyn Bunds, one of Koresh’s first “wives” among the community (married to him at age 17, she says, when Koresh and his small group of followers lived in Pomona and La Verne, California). Bunds claims that Koresh told her he raped the 12-year-old sister of his wife Rachel Howell, who, Bunds says, crawled into bed with him to “get warm” and was forced to have sex with him. Koresh has denied the story, and claims to have had only two children, Cyrus and Star, both with his wife Rachel. However, birth certificates for many Davidian children are incomplete; the sources say that Koresh is the father of many of the children, and routinely has the mothers leave his name off the certificates. Bunds tells reporters: “When Vernon came along, he… said you had to give him all your money. You had to live on the property. You had to give up everything else. You had to give him your mind… your body.” She claims her parents gave well over $10,000 to Koresh’s sect and bought a house in Pomona for $100,000 in Koresh’s name (then Howell). She admits to having been jealous over having to share Koresh with his other wives, and says Koresh is the father of her son Shaun, whose birth name was Wisdom Bunds; she says Shaun is terrified of Koresh because he beat him. (Koresh says Bunds, not him, beat her son, an allegation which she admits, though she says Koresh also beat the child.) She says she left Koresh in Pomona after he began having sex with her mother Jeannine, and when he attempted to kidnap Shaun and raise him among the Waco Davidians. Jeannine Bunds is also a source, having left the Waco community shortly after her daughter left Koresh. (Don Bunds, Jeannine’s husband and Robyn’s father, remains in Waco with the Davidians.) Another source is Karl Henning or Hennig (the article uses both spellings), a Vancouver teacher who lived with the sect for two months. He says Koresh holds a “truly amazing accumulation of knowledge.” Also, the article relies on the recollections of Bruce Gent, a former Davidian who says he allowed Koresh to sleep with his teenaged daughter Nicole. Yet another source is Barbara Slawson, a member during the time of Koresh’s predecessors Lois and George Roden, who says she was never impressed with Koresh and left during the time he was solidfying his grasp on the leadership of the group. Slawson says she has two grandchildren in the group. “My primary reason for trying to help is the children,” Breault says. “They have no one else to help them. If people say we were stupid, well, that may be true. But the children aren’t.” Breault says he finally left the group after Koresh had sex with a 13-year-old Australian girl he had brought to Waco merely for sexual purposes. “I realized it wasn’t a matter of Biblical anything,” Breault later testifies during the Jewell custody case. “He just wanted to have sex with her.” Koresh says that Breault sees himself as a rival prophet attempting to convince his followers to join with him against Koresh, and says that Breault is the source of the stories of his alleged sexual relations with underage girls. Breault admits telling Australian Davidians that he, too, is a prophet, though he says he eventually confessed that he had lied to get the Davidians away from Koresh, and that for a time he attempted to create a breakaway, rival sect of the Davidians.
Emotional Control - Jeannine Bunds says Koresh does not physically restrain his members. “I’m over 21, intelligent,” she says. “I could have walked at any time. I chose to stay. He doesn’t keep you. You can leave. What you have to understand, though, is he keeps you by emotion. When you’re down there, it’s all so exciting. You don’t know what he’ll come up with next. I guess everyone is looking for Utopia, Shangri-La. You don’t want any problems. It wasn’t all bad times, you know. The people in this are great. They’ll give you the shirt off their back. They’re nice, like everyone else in the world. Except they believe this.”
Newspaper Asked to Hold Off Publishing Stories - Tribune-Herald managing editor Barbara Elmore says the newspaper put eight months of research into the stories, and held off printing them after federal authorities asked her “not to run anything.” The head of the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) task force investigating Koresh (see June-July 1992) says the stories did not influence the agency’s decision to raid the Davidian compound near Waco (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). (England and McCormick 3/3/1993) After the BATF raid, Tribune-Herald editor Bob Lott defends his newspaper’s decision to publish the story, saying: “We’d been working on this story for eight months. It contained a lot of information the public ought to know. We decided it was time to let the public know about this menace in our backyard.… I’m under siege. There has been the suggestion that somehow we are responsible for this tragedy.” BATF spokeswoman Sharon Wheeler says the bureau has no complaints about Lott or the Tribune-Herald, but an unidentified BATF agent has allegedly said part of the responsibility for the deaths of four BATF agents during the raid rests on the local press. The bureau asked Lott to hold off publishing the series a month before the raid; the newspaper gave the bureau a day’s warning before running the first installment. (Carter 3/1/1993; Kantrowitz et al. 3/15/1993)
The Branch Davidians and their leader, David Koresh (see November 3, 1987 and After), are warned of an impending raid on their compound outside Waco, Texas, by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). For several days, BATF agents have come into Waco from all over Texas; the day before the raid, BATF official Sharon Wheeler alerted news outlets in Dallas that “something big” was in the offing (see February 27, 1993). The morning of the raid, medical personnel alert Waco-area press and television personnel that the “feds” are preparing a large-scale exercise of some sort; some reporters and producers see evidence of the preparations for themselves. A large number of news reporters begin scouting the area for more information. Jim Peeler, a cameraman for Waco’s KWTX-TV, knows the Davidians are to be involved in the raid; he finds himself on a rural road near Mt. Carmel, the Davidian compound, where he encounters US mailman David Jones. Peeler asks directions from Jones, who, unbeknownst to Peeler, is Koresh’s brother-in-law and a Davidian affiliate. Peeler will later say that Jones seems to be doing some sort of reconnaissance when they stop their cars for their chat. Peeler tells Jones he is looking for Mt. Carmel, and they briefly discuss the “Sinful Messiah” series on Koresh that has been running in the Waco Tribune-Herald (see February 27 - March 3, 1993). Both hear the National Guard helicopters beginning their patrol. Jones asks Peeler: “Are there helicopters out here? Something’s gonna happen out here today. There’s too much traffic on the road.” Jones tells Peeler he is going home to watch television and see what is going on. Instead, he races to the compound and alerts Koresh; Jones will join the Davidians in the compound, and perish in the blaze that kills Koresh and others 51 days later (see April 19, 1993). (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995; Bryce, Ellis, and Moore 6/23/2000) Seven years later, the media learns that Peeler had been alerted to the raid by local law enforcement official Cal Luedke (see June 23, 2000). Peeler will later admit to tipping off Jones, but will claim he knew nothing of Jones’s affiliation with Koresh or the Davidians. He will say that he is sent to drive down the road until he encounters a roadblock put up by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and film whatever may happen. He will say he gets lost trying to find the road leading to the compound. Lawyer Richard DeGuerin, who will represent Koresh in the following weeks, will give a different version of Peeler’s words to Jones. DeGuerin will say: “David Jones had been out to get a paper. On the way back he was driving his car and saw someone that looked lost. He saw a newsman. After being satisfied that David was a mailman, the newsman said, ‘Well, you better get out of here because there’s a National Guard helicopter over at [Texas State Technical Institute], and they’re going to have a big shootout with the religious nuts.’” Jones drives to Mt. Carmel and alerts Koresh and his father, Koresh’s top aide Perry Jones, to the impending raid. (Smolows, Riley, and Woodbury 5/3/1993; Hancock 8/28/1993; Chua-Eoan 10/11/1993) Later allegations that the Davidians were tipped off by Peeler’s colleague, KWTX-TV reporter John McLemore, will be disproven. (Hancock 8/28/1993) Lieutenant Gene Barber of the Waco Sheriff’s Department will later testify that local police believe another possible source of information for KWTX-TV was an “informant” at the local ambulance company. Barber will say that on several earlier occasions, when police had put the ambulance company on standby, a KWTX-TV camera crew was sent to the site of the police activity even though the police had not disclosed it to the station. A 1996 House investigation of the Davidian debacle (see August 2, 1996) will conclude that not only were the Davidians aware of the impending raid, but many of them quickly prepared to “ambush” the raiders. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) After the raid, Virgil Teeter, the vice president of news for KWTX-TV, says he decided to send a camera crew to the Davidian compound only because of the “Sinful Messiah” articles on Saturday and Sunday morning. “We just thought it would be wise to be in the area,” he says. Teeter says no one from the station began videotaping until after the shooting started. “We didn’t go in before the agents,” he says. “We had no live coverage till long after the shooting started. There is no issue of criticizing us for our actions.” WFAA-TV in Dallas will broadcast some live footage from the raid and its aftermath, and that footage is broadcast nationally on CNN. (Carter 3/1/1993)
Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated ATF) prepare to serve arrest and search warrants against members of the Branch Davidian religious sect, housed in a compound they call Mt. Carmel, on a hill just outside Waco, Texas (see November 1992 - January 1993). The Branch Davidians are a Christian group currently led by David Koresh (see November 3, 1987 and After), who is the prime focus of the arrest and search warrants. Koresh and the Davidians are known to have large stashes of firearms, many of which authorities suspect are illegal to own by US citizens—automatic rifles, machine guns, and the like. Koresh has preached that the End Times, or Apocalypse, will begin sometime around 1995, and the Davidians must arm themselves to prepare for the coming conflict. As a result, Koresh and a number of Davidians have been amassing weapons since 1991, along with gas masks, bulletproof vests, and military-issue MREs, or “meals ready to eat.” (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995; US Department of Justice 7/16/1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995)
Large-Scale Raid Launched - After four days of preparation (see February 24-27, 1993), the BATF forces close on the compound: some 80 government vehicles, including two covered cattle trailers containing 70 BATF agents in full SWAT gear, reach the staging area near the compound by 7:30 a.m. Two or perhaps three Texas National Guard helicopters are deployed. (Labaton and Verhovek 3/27/1993; Dean M. Kelley 5/1995; Bryce, Ellis, and Moore 6/23/2000) The raid was originally planned for March 1, but was moved forward when the Waco Tribune-Herald began publishing its “Sinful Messiah” series about Koresh (see February 27 - March 3, 1993). BATF spokesman John Killorin will later say the BATF feared the cult might become more alert to the possibility of a raid once the series started. Tribune-Herald editor Bob Lott will say that the newspaper alerted federal authorities the day before the first installment ran, giving the BATF a chance to review its raid plans. (Labaton and Verhovek 3/27/1993)
Davidians Alerted - A local news reporter’s discussion with a US postal official inadvertently “tips off” the Davidians to the impending raid (see Before 9:45 a.m. February 28, 1993).
BATF Decides Element of Surprise Unnecessary - Koresh is visibly agitated at the news of the impending raid; he tells Robert Rodriguez, whom many Davidians correctly suspect to be a BATF undercover agent (see January 11, 1993 and After): “Neither the ATF nor the National Guard will ever get me. They got me once, and they’ll never get me again.” Looking out of a window, he adds: “They’re coming, Robert, they’re coming.… The time has come.” Fearing that he will be caught on the premises when the raid begins, Rodriguez makes an excuse and hurriedly leaves. Once off the grounds, he alerts the BATF raid commanders that Koresh knows the agents are on their way. Rodriguez reports via telephone to his immediate superior, BATF tactical coordinator Charles Sarabyn, who relays word to Philip Chojnacki, the agent in charge of the raid. The commanders ask if Rodriguez has seen any signs of alarm or guns being distributed. Rodriguez says he has not, though he tells them that Koresh is so agitated that he is having trouble speaking and holding on to his Bible. According to a Treasury Department report (see Late September - October 1993): “Sarabyn expressed his belief that the raid could still be executed successfully if they hurried. Chojnacki responded, ‘Let’s go.’ A number of agents informed the Treasury investigative panel that Sarabyn said things like, ‘Get ready to go; they know we are coming.’” Chojnacki and Sarabyn decide to rush the raid, hoping to deploy before the Davidians are mobilized. (Smolows, Riley, and Woodbury 5/3/1993; Hancock 8/28/1993; Chua-Eoan 10/11/1993; Dean M. Kelley 5/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) Rodriguez will testify that he attempts to find Sarabyn and appraise him of his fears that the Davidians are preparing to resist with violence, but will say that by the time he arrives at the BATF command post, on the Texas State Technical College campus, Sarabyn and his companions have already departed. Rodriguez will testify: “At that time, I started yelling and I said: ‘Why, why, why? They know we’re coming, they know we’re coming.‘… [E]verything was very quiet, very quiet, and if I remember right, everybody was really concerned. I went outside and I sat down and I remember starting to cry.” Sarabyn and Chojnacki will later testify that while they understood Rodriguez’s fears, neither of them believe Koresh is aware of the impending raid; testimony from Rodriguez and another BATF agent, Roger Ballesteros, will contradict their claims. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) A Los Angeles Times report later makes a similar claim, apparently based on Rodriguez’s recollections; the BATF will deny that report entirely. A Waco Tribune-Herald article later reports that just before the raid, a voice comes over BATF radios saying: “There no guns in the windows. Tell them it’s a go.” Two weeks after the raid, Newsweek will incorrectly report that Rodriguez, whom the article does not identify, “apparently thought little of the call [alerting Koresh of the impending raid] at the time,” left the compound, and reported an “all clear” to his colleagues. (Kantrowitz et al. 3/15/1993) Other reports have Davidians telling one another, “The Assyrians are coming,” and making preparations to resist an assault. (Smolows, Riley, and Woodbury 5/3/1993) In 1996, a Congressional investigation will find that Chojnacki and Sarabyn’s decision to go ahead with the raid even though the element of surprise had been lost was a “reckless” error: “This, more than any other factor, led to the deaths of the four ATF agents killed on February 28” (see August 2, 1996). (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Davidians Resist - The Davidians successfully resist the raid (see 9:30 A.M. and After, February 28, 1993), in the process killing four BATF agents (see 11:00 A.M. and After, February 28, 1993) and bringing about a standoff between themselves and the FBI (see 12:00 p.m. February 28, 1993).
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) launches its long-planned raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). About 9:30, the BATF forces arrive at Mt. Carmel, the location of the Davidian compound. Two National Guard helicopters, which had been scheduled to create a diversion in the rear of the compound so as to allow the cattle trucks carrying the BATF agents to arrive unseen, are late in arriving, and fail to carry out their mission. The raid commanders are out of radio range and unable to abort the raid or modify the deployment of agents. Moreover, as some agents will later tell the New York Times (see March 27, 1993), only squad leaders can communicate with their team members, so communications are difficult, and when a squad leader is shot—and one will be shot in the first few minutes of the raid—that leader’s squad can no longer receive or send information. (Labaton and Verhovek 3/27/1993)
BATF Agents Advance, Shots Fired - At least 70 agents wearing bulletproof vests, helmets, and army gear emblazened with “ATF Agent” in yellow and white letters, emerge from the trailers and race towards the buildings in groups. Davidian leader David Koresh opens the front door and shouts: “What do you want? There’s women and children in here!” (Some reports say Koresh is unarmed; others say he is dressed in black and carrying an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.) The lead agent, Roger Ballesteros, brandishes a search warrant and shouts: “Police! Get down!” and Koresh closes the door. Moments later, BATF agents, including Ballesteros (see January-February 1994) and John Henry Williams, and Texas Ranger David Byrnes will report that the Davidians shoot first; Davidians will claim the opposite. One BATF agent will later report that a fellow agent actually shoots first, at a dog he feels is threatening him, but later that agent will retract the claim. A team of agents with a battering ram is slated to burst through the main doors. Two teams of BATF agents with ladders mount to the roof of the first floor and break into windows on the second floor, where they believe the weapons are stored. The ladder and battering ram teams all encounter heavy fire, and several agents are hit, including one on the roof who manages to hobble to a ladder and slide down. Davidians rain bullets from the upper windows onto the agents. One BATF team manages to force entry into the compound, but is unable to advance. Most of the agents are pinned down behind vehicles. The two sides exchange heavy gunfire. (Labaton and Verhovek 3/27/1993; Smolows, Riley, and Woodbury 5/3/1993; Dean M. Kelley 5/1995; Dick J. Reavis 7/19/1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995; LMPD Arcade 2009) A federal law from 1917 mandates that federal agents use what is called the “knock and announce” approach—in essence, a federal law enforcement agent must knock on a door and announce himself and his intentions before entering. Ballesteros and his fellow BATF agents do not follow this legal provision, though the law does have several exceptions that may apply in this instance. A later House investigation will find the BATF’s choice not to “knock and announce” reasonable under the circumstances. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Helicopter Activity - Two of the three helicopters land after taking fire. (Kantrowitz et al. 3/15/1993) Philip Chojnacki, the agent in charge, rides in one of the helicopters; he is almost struck by a Davidian bullet in the first minutes of the raid. (Labaton and Verhovek 3/27/1993) The House investigation will find that Chojnacki’s presence in the helicopter essentially takes him out of the communications loop with the raid commanders and team leaders before the beginning of the raid, and deprives him of any opportunity to learn that the Davidians are planning an ambush. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) Catherine Mattison, a Davidian who will escape the April 1993 conflagration (see April 19, 1993), will say in 2003 that she saw gunfire from the helicopters. “They were shooting when they came in,” she will recall. “I went upstairs to my room and all of a sudden I could see three helicopters in V-formation firing. David’s rooms were in the back of the building and that’s where they were firing. I didn’t realize that for three months afterwards because of all the shock and commotion but they were trying to kill him right then.” (Guardian 10/28/2003) Mattison’s allegations are unconfirmed; testimony from a number of agents will challenge her account, and videotape from the raid shows no gunfire from the helicopters. The helicopters are on loan from the National Guard, and are expressly forbidden to engage in any role save as observational. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Machine-Gun Fire - Reflecting on the raid 10 years later, BATF agent Bill Buford will say: “But before I even got out of the trailer, I could hear machine guns, and I knew we didn’t have any.… I’m an old Vietnam vet, and I can tell you—the firing was intense.” Buford is wounded in the gun battle. “The one thing we had not planned for was to be pinned down by fire right out in front of the building,” Buford will add. “We did not anticipate we would come under such heavy fire, nor did we anticipate we would have such heavy casualties.” Buford will say that after the botched raid, the BATF will all but abandon such “insertion”-type assaults, and rely instead on surrounding a building and negotiating with the inhabitants. (Anderson 3/16/2003)
Failure to Follow Manual - Ballesteros will later testify that no particular agent was assigned to announce their identity and the purpose of the raid. “We basically all announced,” he will say. He will admit that according to the BATF manual, “[o]fficers are required to wait a reasonable period of time to permit the occupants to respond before forcing entry,” and the agents do not follow that mandate. He will testify that the agents expected resistance, but not gunfire, and had not planned for that contingency. BATF agent Kenneth King, one of the two “ladder” team members who attempt to force entry through the second-floor windows, will also testify that the agents did not plan for gunfire, and were unprepared for such a heavy level of resistance. Later testimony also shows that some of the damage suffered by the agents may have been from “friendly fire”; one BATF agent is wounded by what later proves to be a 9mm hydroshock bullet, the ordnance being used by the BATF assault teams. (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995)
During the raid on the Waco, Texas, Branch Davidian compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and 9:30 A.M. and After, February 28, 1993), Wayne Martin, a Davidian and a Harvard-educated lawyer, calls 911. According to a recording of his call, Martin shouts: “There are 75 men around our building and they’re shooting at us! Tell ‘em there are children and women in here and to call it off!” Other similar phone calls are made to the 911 center and to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff attempts to reach the BATF commanders and put them in touch with Martin. (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995) Audiotapes of the phone calls between Martin and McLennan County Sheriff’s Department official Larry Lynch, released months later (see June 2003 and After), show Lynch’s efforts to persuade Martin to have the Davidians stop firing on wounded agents. Lynch asks Martin to let four wounded BATF agents reach another agent shot six times during the battle; Martin suddenly says the others in the compound fear an all-out assault. “We’re worried that the National Guard will fly in here with choppers,” he says. “We’re gonna assume that any chopper that comes in is National Guard.” While Lynch works to calm Martin, a BATF agent on another line tells Lynch: “All of our guys are in the open right now. If they open up, we’re gonna lose 20 guys.” Lynch asks Martin if the authorities can help any wounded Davidians, only to be told: “Here’s the message. We don’t want any help from your country.… I can tell you now. They’re not gonna leave this property.… Nobody wants to leave.… Each man’s making his own decision.… Some of them are dying.” (Hancock 8/7/1993)
A cease-fire ends a violent, bloody conflict between the Branch Davidians, a group of religious separatists in their Waco, Texas, compound, and agents from the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated ATF), who launched a raid on the compound to serve search and arrest warrants on Davidian leader David Koresh (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and 9:30 A.M. and After, February 28, 1993). The cease-fire goes into effect after about 90 minutes of the two sides exchanging gunfire. Four BATF agents are dead and 16 are wounded, some severely. The agents retreat to a safe distance, where they mill around aimlessly; the commanders have not given the agents a plan for retreat or failure. The Davidians also withdraw inside their compound. Five Davidians, including a woman nursing her baby, are dead, and several, including Koresh, are wounded; Koresh suffers gunshot wounds in the hand and the side. (Two of the Davidians may have been killed by their fellows after being gravely wounded by BATF fire.) Three Davidians attempting to get to the main building from a warehouse on the property are apprehended by BATF agents; one is killed, one is arrested, and one escapes. In total, six Davidians are killed. (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Media Contacts - During the raid, CNN receives calls from Davidian Steve Schneider. CNN producers verify that Schneider is indeed inside the compound, and set up an interview with Koresh for this evening (see 5:00 p.m. February 28, 1993 and After). (Carter 3/1/1993)
Negotiations and Implementation - The cease-fire takes some time to implement. Senior BATF agent James Cavanaugh succeeds in convincing Koresh and Schneider to agree to a cease-fire. Schneider has to walk through the main building to tell his people to stop firing; Cavanaugh has no direct radio link to his agents, and has to go through team leaders to tell them to stop firing. The cease-fire has been agreed upon for several minutes before the shooting finally concludes. As part of a 1996 House investigation of the Davidian debacle (see August 2, 1996), Cavanaugh will say: “I called the compound directly on the phone from the undercover house. I reached… Schneider. I told him I was an ATF agent and I wanted to talk to him about this situation. As should be expected, the activity inside the compound was very frantic, people were screaming and yelling, and there was still shooting going on both sides. Steve was very excited and very hostile. I wanted to negotiate a cease-fire, and he [Schneider] was agreeable. I am not going to be good on the time of how long it took, but it took a little while to negotiate that. He had to go throughout the compound, which is very large, telling everyone not to shoot. While he was doing this, there was still shooting going on both sides. I had to get on the command net frequency and tell the commanders on the ground there not to shoot, and they had to relay that to all 100 agents, who were around there, so it took a little time to arrange it. Once I returned to the rear command post I called back in on the telephone to the residence about 2:00 p.m. and I spoke with Steve and David Koresh about what was going on. We had long conversations about the warrant, and we also had a lot of conversations about Biblical passages and Mr. Koresh’s belief that he was the Lamb of God, who would open the Seven Seals. As you might assume, he was very hostile, very angry, and very upset.” (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) In the following days, Koresh will tell local reporters by phone that he is shot in the “gut” and his two-year-old daughter is dead from BATF gunfire. He will also leave a message on his mother’s answering machine in Chandler, Texas, which says in part: “Hello, Mama. It’s your boy.… They shot me and I’m dying, all right? But I’ll be back real soon, OK? I’ll see y’all in the skies.” (Kantrowitz et al. 3/15/1993) The body of the Davidian slain while trying to return to the compound, Michael Schroeder, will lie untouched in a gully for four days before authorities retrieve it; those authorities will wait 11 days before informing Schroeder’s parents of his death (see March 11, 1993).
Death Toll - The four BATF agents slain in the raid are: Conway LeBleu, Todd McKeehan, Robert Williams, and Steve Willis. The six Davidians slain in the raid are Schroeder, Winston Blake, Peter Gent, Peter Hipsman, Perry Jones, and Jaydean Wendell. (Hiott 2/27/2003) (Initial reports of the death toll inside the Davidian compound range from seven to 15; those reports are later determined to be wrong.) (Terry 3/3/1993)
FBI Takes Control - Within hours of the raid’s conclusion, the FBI will take control of the situation and besiege the compound (see 12:00 p.m. February 28, 1993).
Criticism of BATF Tactics - Soon after, the FBI publicly criticizes the BATF’s decision to storm the compound in a frontal assault. “It’s against our doctrine to do a frontal assault when women and children are present,” one FBI agent says. BATF spokeswoman Sharon Wheeler explains: “We were outgunned. They had bigger firearms than we did.” But former New York City Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward says of that explanation: “‘Outgunned’ is a euphemism for ‘outplanned,’ or ‘unplanned.’ They did it backwards. The accepted way is to talk first and shoot second.” Vic Feazell, a former district attorney for the area, says of Koresh and the Davidians, “They’re peaceful and nonaggressive unless they are attacked.” By going in, guns blazing, the BATF played right into the group’s apocalyptic vision, he says. “They would see this as a holy war provoked by an oppressive government.” (Kantrowitz et al. 3/15/1993)
Standoff Will End in Fiery Conflagration - Most of the Davidians, including Koresh, will die in a fiery conflagration after a 51-day standoff with FBI agents (see April 19, 1993). After the site is secured, Texas law enforcement officials will recover over 300 firearms from the compound, as well as numerous live grenades, grenade components, and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition. (US Department of Justice 7/16/1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995)
The FBI dispatches agents to the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, the scene of a bloody standoff this morning between the Davidian sect members and a large force of agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), which resulted in the deaths of four BATF agents and six Davidians (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). By the afternoon, the FBI becomes the lead agency for resolving the standoff. (PBS Frontline 10/1995) Jeffrey Jamar, head of the FBI’s San Antonio office, is named the on-site commander. The bureau quickly deploys its own agents, and local law enforcement officials, around the compound to ensure no one tries to escape. The deployment quickly becomes an all-out siege. (PBS Frontline 10/1995) President Clinton was reportedly angered at reports of the botched raid. His chief of staff, Mack McLarty, demanded of a senior Justice Department official, “What the hell happened here?” The order to replace the BATF with the FBI came from Clinton. (Kantrowitz et al. 3/15/1993) FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) personnel are in place by the afternoon, and hostage negotiators spend much of the afternoon talking on the telephone with Koresh. Some bring Bibles, later telling reporters: “This guy’s a Bible-citing machine. We have to speak his language.” As part of the negotiations to persuade Koresh to allow some of the sect members to leave safely, Koresh will be allowed to broadcast his religious teachings on a local radio station (see March 2, 1993) and to give an interview to a CNN reporter (see 5:00 p.m. February 28, 1993 and After). Texas Rangers attempt to begin their own investigation, but are barred by the FBI from continuing. Clinton closely follows the events as they progress. (Kantrowitz et al. 3/15/1993; PBS Frontline 10/1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995)
Marc Breault, a Branch Davidian who lived for years at the Mt. Carmel compound before rebelling against the leadership of David Koresh (see November 3, 1987 and After) in 1990 and leaving for Australia, is contacted by an FBI agent several hours after the failed raid on the Davidian compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). Breault has talked about what he considers the threat of Koresh and the Davidians to US law enforcement authorities and the Australian media, and was interviewed for a series of articles about Koresh in the Waco Tribune-Herald (see February 27 - March 3, 1993). As part of its planning for the raid, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated ATF) talked to Breault and other Mt. Carmel “defectors” to get a sense of the situation. Breault warned the agents not to get overly aggressive with the Davidians. “The ATF agents I spoke with were quite good,” he will later recall. “They said they wanted to get Vernon [Howell, Koresh’s birth name] on his own, to lure him away from Mt. Carmel and arrest him. Their other scenario was a raid on Mt. Carmel. I said if they were going to do a raid they had better have the element of surprise or they would end up with an armed confrontation.” Another “defector,” David Bunds, also speaks with BATF agents before the raid. Bunds will later recall: “I said, ‘Don’t go in there with your guns. It won’t work.’ And they said, ‘Oh, we’re not going to do that.’” Hours after the raid, an FBI agent calls Breault for his take on the siege. “It was pretty chaotic,” Breault will later recall. “I talked with an FBI negotiator for half an hour. He asked what I thought Koresh would do. I said I thought it would end in massive death, a mass suicide. I explained Vernon’s belief about the fifth seal of Revelations, which said there had to be a certain number of martyrs before the end could come.” (Conway and Siegelman 1995, pp. 255) In 1999, Breault will tell a Daytona, Florida, newspaper a similar story. “They [the BATF agents he spoke with] were afraid, based on some of the things he had written, that if they tried to assault the compound, he would start a fire,” Breault will recall. “They were afraid if they sent people into the compound there would be explosions, there would be fires set. They had lots of Scriptures, all [of them] he had gone over with us many times.” Breault will claim to have told BATF agents that fire was very much a part of Davidian prophecy. “There’s a Scripture in Daniel 11 that talks about how the righteous will fall,” Breault will say. “Some are taken captive; some die by the sword; and some die by the flame. Two parts of that prophecy had already been fulfilled, according to their beliefs. That was the problem. The Davidians thought they were seeing prophecy fulfilled before their very eyes. Flames were the only thing left.” Breault will say of Koresh: “I think they decided Vernon didn’t believe any of this stuff. They thought he was a con man. They failed to take into account the level of his belief and that of his followers. They couldn’t believe there was anyone that dedicated to an apocalypse.” He will add that the primary responsibility for the events of the siege, and the final assault, lay with Koresh and the Davidians: “I think people should keep in mind that in his theology, the apocalypse was inseparable from fire. I’ve always believed Vernon started the fire at Mount Carmel or set up a situation where an assault would start a fire. It’s possible the FBI inadvertently—you might say negligently—set the fire. But I think Vernon set it up.” (Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal 9/12/1999)
Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) goes to the site of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and April 19, 1993), to see if the gun ownership rights of the Davidians are being curtailed (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994). Federal agents block his passage to the compound, but McVeigh stays for a few days sellling bumper stickers, pamphlets, and literature; among his offerings are titles such as “Make the Streets Safe for a Government Takeover,” “Politicians Love Gun Control” (featuring a Nazi swastika and a Communist hammer and scythe), “Fear the Government that Fears Your Gun,” and “A Man with a Gun is a Citizen, A Man without a Gun is a Subject.” McVeigh is particularly horrified by the FBI’s use of Bradley fighting vehicles, the tanks he manned during Desert Storm (see January - March 1991 and After), in the siege. He tells a student reporter: “The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.” The normally self-effacing and reticent McVeigh even climbs up onto the hood of his car to be seen and heard better. “You give them an inch and they take a mile,” he says of the federal government. “I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.” McVeigh leaves Waco after a few days and goes to Kingman, Arizona, to visit an Army buddy, Michael Fortier (see May-September 1993); he later goes to Arkansas to meet with a gun-dealing friend, Roger Moore, who calls himself “Bob Miller” at the gun shows they frequent (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994); though he wants to build ammunition with Moore, McVeigh does not stay long, and later recalls Moore as being a dictator and a “pr_ck.” During his time in Waco, McVeigh becomes known to federal agents, in part because of an interview with a reporter from Southern Methodist University’s school newspaper, the Daily Campus. The published interview, printed on March 30, includes a photograph of McVeigh. (PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 67-70; Douglas O. Linder 2001; Southern Poverty Law Center 6/2001; Nicole Nichols 2003; Douglas O. Linder 2006) He is also captured on film by a crew from the Texas television station KTVT, a CBS affiliate, sitting on the hood of his car just outside the compound. (Stickney 1996, pp. 155) Later he will tell friends at a Pennsylvania gun show that he crawled up to the perimeter fence erected by the FBI around the Davidian compound “without being seen by any of the agents,” and will warn one gun dealer, George (or Greg) Pfaff, that the Davidian standoff “could be the start of the government coming house-to-house to retrieve the weapons from the citizens.” (Serrano 1998, pp. 71) The college reporter, Michelle Rauch, will later testify in McVeigh’s criminal trial. She will recall meeting McVeigh on a hill outside the Davidian compound, where protesters and observers are gathered. She will recall that the hilltop was “a few miles” from the compound, making it difficult for the people gathered there to see any of the activities around the compound. McVeigh tells Rauch that the local sheriff should have just gone down with a warrant and arrested Davidian leader David Koresh. Rauch will recall McVeigh as being calm, and finds his statements quite helpful to her understanding of the protesters’ objections to the FBI standoff. Her article quotes McVeigh as saying, “It seems like the ATF [referring to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, sometimes abbreviated BATF] just wants a chance to play with their toys, paid for by government money”; “The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people”; “You give them an inch and they take a mile”; “I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government”; and “The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.” McVeigh, according to the article, considers the BATF mere “pawns” of the federal government, and blames the government for the standoff, saying it violated the Constitution in surrounding the Davidian compound. The standoff, he says, is just the first step in a comprehensive government assault on the citizenry and Americans should be watchful for further actions. (Douglas O. Linder 2006)
President Clinton gives his implicit endorsement for a negotiated solution to the standoff between federal agents and the Branch Davidian sect members near Waco (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and 12:00 p.m. February 28, 1993). By 6:00 a.m., the FBI has assumed formal control of the situation. FBI agents set up a fully functioning command post by the afternoon, and FBI agents in armored vehicles surround the compound. FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Jamar, named site commander, arrives to take charge. Daniel Hartnett, the associate director of enforcement for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) also arrives. The Davidians allow 10 children to leave the compound, apparently as a result of intense hostage negotiations between the Davidians and the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) personnel, who have just arrived on-scene. Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman goes to Waco and meets with BATF agent Bill Buford. Davidian leader David Koresh becomes agitated when he sees the vehicles moving in; he is further angered when he learns that the FBI has blocked all incoming and outgoing telephone calls except for communications between him and the negotiators. Koresh assures the negotiatiors that his Davidians are not contemplating mass suicide. FBI Director William Sessions advises Clinton that a “waiting strategy” to handle the situation is best, and Clinton agrees. (Moore 1995; PBS Frontline 10/1995; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) Some of the agents who surround the compound have black ribbons on their identification badges to memorialize the four BATF agents slain during the raid. (Terry 3/3/1993)
Supplies and Surveillance - Starting today and for weeks to follow, FBI negotiators will provide the besieged Davidians with some requested items, including food and supplies for the children. In some of these provisions, FBI agents insert listening devices, which give the agents a limited amount of knowledge as to topics being discussed among the Davidians. (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995)
Negotiations - The FBI chooses not to retain the services of BATF agent James Cavanaugh, who successfully negotiated the cease-fire between the BATF and the Davidians; Cavanaugh has already gained a measure of trust from Koresh and his aide Steve Schneider, and had successfully convinced the two to let some children leave the compound. The FBI does allow McLennan County Sheriff Jack Harwell to speak with the Davidians, as the Davidians know him and trust him to an extent. The FBI comes to consider Harwell a “natural” at low-key negotiations. However, within two days, it will prevent him from any further contact with the Davidians. The FBI never allows the Texas Rangers to speak with the Davidians, though the Davidians say they trust the Rangers to treat them fairly; Jamar refuses to speak to Rangers chief David Byrnes. The FBI will later say that it was concerned that “third party” negotiators did not have training in FBI negotiation tactics. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
A nine-year-old girl, Heather Jones, leaves the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, currently under siege by the FBI and other law enforcement authorities (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993). She has a note pinned to her jacket written by her mother; the note says that once the children have left the compound, the adults will die. FBI negotiators immediately contact Davidian leader David Koresh; both Koresh and his top aide, Steve Schneider, deny they are contemplating mass suicide. The FBI believes that the Davidian compound contains enough food to last the inhabitants a year. Profilers and experts, including some members of the Davidian sect not immured inside the compound, give conflicting opinions on whether Koresh will lead the group in a mass suicide (see March 5, 1993). (PBS Frontline 10/1995) Federal agents tell reporters that in 1992 they received warnings that the Branch Davidian sect near Waco, Texas, was contemplating mass suicide. The warnings came from Australians formerly connected to the Waco group of the Davidians. An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), the agency that raided the compound, says the Australians warned that Koresh was discussing mass suicide with his fellow members. Another BATF official says the tip, included in a State Department cable, was not a major factor in the bureau’s decision to raid the compound. FBI officials confirm that Koresh has assured them he is not contemplating mass suicide. “He indicates there is no intent on his part to order a suicide, nor does he contemplate suicide,” says FBI agent Bob Ricks. (Hinds 3/6/1993; Hinds 3/7/1993)
Texas Rangers notify the parents of Michael Schroeder, a Branch Davidian slain during the abortive raid on the Davidian’s Waco, Texas compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993), of their son’s death. Sandy and Bill Connizzo, who live in Florida, had driven to Texas to try to rescue their son after hearing news reports of the raid and the subsequent siege, but were not allowed to approach the compound. They located Michael’s two-year-old son, Bryan Schroeder, and retrieved him from a group home where he had been placed after leaving the compound in the early hours of the siege. Finally, a Texas Ranger comes to their hotel room, 11 days after the raid, and informs them of their son’s death. The Ranger also informs them that Schroeder’s body had lain in a gully for four days before authorities retrieved it. His mother asks why they left him there for so long, and the Ranger replies that retrieving Schroeder’s body was not a high priority. The parents heed the advice and do not view the decomposed body of their son; his ashes are shipped to Florida for internment four months later. In 2000, Sandy Connizzo will say, “I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.” The Connizzos will continue to raise Bryan. (Aschoff 2/28/2000) Later, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) agent will claim to have retrieved a gun from Schroeder’s body on March 3, but say he left the body where it lay. (Moore 1995)
John T. Risenhoover, one of the federal agents shot in the February 28 raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), files a lawsuit against the Waco Tribune-Herald alleging that the newspaper bears some liability for his shooting. Risenhoover is an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF); he was shot twice in the ankle and once in the hip during the firefight. He says that the newspaper alerted the Davidians to the BATF raid; the alert, Risenhoover says, led to the Davidians’ ability to shoot him. Risenhoover also alleges that the Tribune-Herald reneged on an agreement with the bureau not to publish a series of articles on the Davidians and their leader, David Koresh (see February 27 - March 3, 1993), until after a federal investigation of the group was complete. Both the bureau and the newspaper have said that the Tribune-Herald honored an informal request to delay publication for several weeks but that it had never made a specific commitment not to publish the series. Risenhoover does not specify the amount of money he is seeking, nor does he offer proof of his allegations; his lawyer, James Dunnam, says he has no intention of trying the lawsuit “in the newspaper,” and will not make his evidence public until the hearing. Tribune-Herald editor Bob Lott denies Risenhoover’s allegations; a BATF spokesman says Risenhoover’s lawsuit is an independent action and has nothing to do with the bureau itself. BATF officials say they do not know who alerted the Davidians to the impending raid. (Verhovek 3/17/1993) It will later be determined that neither the Tribune-Herald nor any of its employees had anything to do with alerting the Davidians to the impending raid (see August 2, 1996).
The New York Times publishes a “special report” that claims the February 28 federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), was “laden with missteps, miscalculations, and unheeded warnings that could have averted bloodshed.” The report is based on interviews with several Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) agents involved in the raid as well as FBI agents and soldiers skilled in military raids. At least one of the BATF agents likens the raid to the infamously unsuccessful Charge of the Light Brigade. Four of the agents say that their supervisors knew the BATF agents had lost the element of surprise, but went ahead with the raid anyway. The Times says the raid was “the costliest and deadliest operation in the history of the” bureau. BATF leaders insist they did nothing wrong, and blame a last-minute warning about the raid to the Davidians for the agents’ failure to apprehend Davidian leader David Koresh. BATF chief Stephen Higgins said recently: “I’ve looked at it and rethought it. There was no problem with the plan.” But, the Times notes, the BATF “has provided only sketchy details of what happened, why the raid was even tried, and why it was carried out when it was.” The warrants that provided the basis for the raids are currently sealed (see February 25, 1993); no criminal charges have yet been filed; no government official has even clearly articulated what laws Koresh or his fellow Davidians are believed to have violated, though BATF officials say they believe Koresh has violated federal firearms and explosives laws, and Higgins told a reporter that it was the illegal conversion of weapons from semi-automatic to automatic that led to the raid.
Problems Underlying the Raid - Based on its interviews with its sources, the Times says the following problems caused the raid to fail:
The BATF did not conduct round-the-clock surveillance on Koresh, so its agents did not know for sure if they could have arrested him while he was out of the compound.
“Supervisors of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms knew they had lost the element of surprise even before the agents tried to surround the compound but ordered agents to move in anyway.” It was common knowledge in Waco and the surrounding area that something large was being prepared. Hotel workers were amazed to see men from Houston, Dallas, and New Orleans descend on their hotels, wearing army fatigues and talking on two-way radios, which area residents could monitor on police scanners. In addition, at least one BATF official alerted Dallas television news stations to the impending raid the day before it took place (see February 27, 1993). At least 11 reporters were at the scene before the raid began, though none have said how they knew to be there. The reporters now say the BATF did nothing to prevent them from watching and videotaping the raid, and add that agents only became hostile after it became clear that the raid was a failure.
“Helicopters carrying [BATF] agents came under fire over the compound before the assault began, yet the bureau pushed ahead with the mission, which relied on an element of surprise.” The helicopters, on loan from the Texas National Guard and used to observe the raid from the air, quickly came under fire; a bullet passed close to the head of Philip Chojnacki, the agent in charge of the raid. When the helicopters were fired upon, several agents tell the Times, the raid should have been aborted. “That was inexcusable,” one career agent says. “As soon as those shots were taken, the raid should have been aborted. Instead, we were ordered to walk right into it.” He and others say that the agents who were heading toward the compound on the ground were not warned that shots were being fired by the cult.
“The operation was hindered by a communications strategy that made it impossible for different squads surrounding the compound to talk to each other after their squad leaders had been wounded.”
Some agents had not been supplied with contingency plans for encountering heavy gunfire, even though supervisors knew that the cult had for years been stockpiling weapons and suspected that sect members had been converting semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons to make them more deadly.”
“Some agents’ requests to take more powerful weapons were denied and many had only handguns to face the cult’s arsenal, which included many rifles and at least one .50-caliber weapon.”
“Some agents had not been briefed about the operation until a day earlier and had never been told of the cache of assault-style weapons they would be facing.”
“The firearms bureau did not bring a doctor or set up a dispensary to treat wounded agents, a practice of the FBI. Wounded agents ended up being carried, some by other agents, others on the hoods of trucks and cars, down a muddy road hundreds of yards to await medical assistance.”
No Faith in Promised Federal Investigation - Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen, whose department oversees the BATF, has promised a full and independent investigation of the raid. But the Times’s sources say they do not trust Bentsen to launch such an investigation; presumably this explains why they agreed to talk to the Times about the raid. The BATF and FBI agents have been ordered not to publicly discuss the raid, and say the orders on the subject implied they would be disciplined and prosecuted for describing the events of the raid. (Labaton and Verhovek 3/27/1993)
Branch Davidian member Rita Riddle, who left the besieged Waco compound days before (see March 21, 1993), says that when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) agents raided the compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993), she saw shots fired from BATF helicopters. BATF and Justice Department officials have denied that any gunfire was delivered from the helicopters, which they say served as observation posts and instruments of intimidation during the raid. Riddle says bullets were coming straight down through the roof, and could only have come from helicopters. “They say these helicopters were not armed. Bull puck,” she tells reporters. “I heard them spraying the building when they went over.” BATF spokesman David Troy says flatly that “the helicopters did not overfly the compound.” The helicopters were made available to the BATF by the Texas National Guard, which had been informed by BATF agents that the compound may have housed a methamphetamine laboratory. Drug interdiction is one reason the National Guard can loan helicopters to another agency. BATF agents told the National Guard that their evidence was based on infrared scans, which located two “hot spots” that sometimes indicate a place where drugs are being manufactured. Riddle says those “hot spots” were places where the Davidians have heaters. “Once they go in there, they’ll be in for a big surprise,” she says. “To my knowledge, there’s nothing illegal in there.” (Kennedy and Sahagun 3/30/1993)
Stephen Higgins, the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), defends the bureau’s raid on the Branch Davidian compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), and disputes accounts by some agents that the raid was poorly planned and executed (see March 27, 1993). “We did it in what we thought was the safest way, and we had a tragedy,” Higgins says on NBC’s Today show. Higgins and the BATF are weathering a pointed lack of support from Clinton administration officials. “If people want to re-examine us as an agency, that’s fine; we’re not afraid of that,” he says. “We think we’re an agency that does good work, that the people who were there that day performed bravely.” Higgins refuses to directly address the accounts of agents who say that the raid went poorly in part because the BATF lost the element of surprise before the raid began, saying: “This was a plan that depended on the element of surprise. We would not have executed the plan if our supervisors felt like we had lost that element. So my position has been and continues to be that we did not believe that we had lost that element of surprise.” He does admit that some agents had asked to carry heavier firearms than handguns and were turned down by their supervisors. (Labaton 3/30/1993; Labaton 4/3/1993)
Stephen Higgins, the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), sends an internal memo to BATF agents and personnel entitled “Rumor Control.” It denies that senior BATF officials are involved in any sort of cover-up in response to accusations of poor planning and execution in regards to the February 28 raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas (see March 30, 1993). In the memo, Higgins admits that BATF supervisors lost the element of surprise in the minutes leading up to the raid; many feel that the raid should have been aborted once it became clear that the Davidians knew it was about to commence. Higgins writes: “I’ve said in numerous interviews that the plan depended upon the element of surprise, and it seems clear we lost that crucial element. How we lost it, and should we have or did we realize we lost it before the raid commenced, are obviously two very important questions that still remain to be answered.” In recent interviews such as the one he gave to NBC’s Today Show, Higgins has denied that the BATF supervisors lost the element of surprise (see March 30, 1993). (Labaton 4/3/1993) Two days later, Higgins will hedge his public denials in Senate testimony (see April 2, 1993).
Stephen Higgins, the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), now admits that some elements of the BATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) may have been flawed. Days before, Higgins told an interviewer that the raid went off as planned, and did not end well because someone alerted the Davidians to the impending raid (see March 30, 1993). Testifying before a Senate subcommittee, Higgins says, “We probably will find things we did right and things we did wrong, and we will respond accordingly.” Higgins refuses to answer specific questions about the events leading up to the assault on the compound, but he now admits that BATF supervisors may have decided to stage the raid even after losing the element of surprise, as a number of BATF and FBI agents have claimed (see March 27, 1993). That is “an open question” under review, he testifies. He also admits that the Davidians may have known there were federal agents mounting an undercover operation (see January 11, 1993 and After). “I can’t say to my knowledge it’s not true,” he says. Previously, Higgins denied that the undercover agents were discovered. (Labaton 4/3/1993)
Lawyers for the two Branch Davidian leaders besieged along with almost 100 of their followers in their compound outside Waco, Texas (see March 29-31, 1993), make assertions about the February 28 raid on the compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) that contradict the government’s version of events. Richard DeGuerin represents Davidian leader David Koresh and Jack Zimmerman represents Koresh’s lieutenant, Steve Schneider. DeGuerin and Zimmerman say that, according to their clients, four federal agents were captured in the raid, disarmed, and later released, and that helicopters flying over the main compound building fired shots. Federal authorities deny both claims. Both lawyers have met with their clients today, and one says details of a surrender have been worked out, with a surrender coming after the group celebrates Passover. DeGuerin and Zimmerman refuse to provide any personal observations about conditions inside the compound, saying they fear that such reports could jeopardize their status as lawyers and force them to be witnesses. They refuse to confirm or deny reports by a Davidian who recently left the compound, Rita Riddle (see March 21, 1993), who has said that six Davidians were killed in the raid, including one woman who was slain in her bed.
Government Denies Helicopters Fired into Compound, BATF Agents Captured - A spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), Jerry Singer, denies that BATF helicopters had flown over the cult’s compound or fired into it (see March 30, 1993). He also denies that any BATF agents were either captured or released. “No,” he says. “It did not happen.” Both DeGuerin and Zimmerman believe that the helicopters did fire into the upper floors of the compound from above; Zimmerman says: “An expert will be able to tell from the angle of the trajectory plus the pattern whether there are entry or exit holes. If it’s in the ceiling and it’s clearly an exit hole, it had to have come from above. How else could it have come in?”
Koresh Wounded, Not in 'Great Pain' - Both confirm that Koresh was wounded during the firefignt (see April 1, 1993). “I saw the wounds and he did not appear to be in great pain,” Zimmermann says. “But he certainly had his movement restricted and had to shift positions carefully. The wound is a through-and-through flesh wound. For a layman, it would be a wound in the side.”
Lawyers: FBI 'Destroying Evidence' - Both lawyers are concerned with the FBI’s decision to use bulldozers and armored personnel carriers to remove trees, buses, automobiles, boats, and scrub brush from the area surrounding the main buildings. FBI officials say the efforts are “defensive maneuvers,” intended to provide a clear field of fire into the compound. Zimmerman says the FBI is destroying evidence. “When you clear a field of fire it can go both ways,” he says. “There is no question that the FBI is destroying evidence. If nothing else they’ve moved the location of physical objects from a crime scene before they had been photographed.” DeGuerin agrees, saying: “They’re destroying evidence with the bulldozers. That’s what they’re doing.”
Surrender Plans - The Davidians show some desire to surrender, but are “still intimidated by the FBI,” according to Zimmerman, who adds that the Davidians will not surrender “until we know the media are going to be there.” The plans for surrender, Zimmerman says, feature Koresh and DeGuerin walking out in front of the group, with the other sect members in the middle, and ending with Schneider walking out with Zimmerman. “They want the two leaders on either end with Mr. Koresh in front, so that symbolically everyone inside understands it’s okay,” Zimmerman says. “Everyone else comes out single-file and gets processed humanely one at a time. Mr. Schneider stays to the end with me and once we’re out, everyone knows everything is safe and clear and they can come in with their search teams.” Neither DeGuerin nor Zimmerman will say when the standoff may end, only saying that the surrender will come after Passover, and that the group does not celebrate Passover by the traditional Jewish calendar (see April 1-4, 1993). “They’re ready for this to be over but they have a very important agenda with Passover and their holiday,” DeGuerin says. (New York Times 4/5/1993)
After bringing religious audiotapes into the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993), Richard DeGuerin and Jack Zimmerman, two attorneys who represent Davidian leaders David Koresh and Steve Schneider (see April 1-4, 1993), tell New York Times reporters that agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) fired gunshots from helicopters into the compound during the February 28 raid, proven by bullet holes in the roof. The Times carries the story, along with denials from the BATF. DeGuerin’s and Zimmerman’s claims echo those made earlier by Davidian Rita Riddle (see March 30, 1993). (Moore 1995)
Lawyers for two of the Branch Davidians currently besieged inside their compound by FBI forces ask a federal magistrate to impound a videotape of the federal raid on the compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993). Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, also abbreviated as ATF) say they have already turned the videotape over to Texas law enforcement authorities. The videotape, shot from a National Guard helicopter which served as a BATF “command post” for the raid, may help determine whether the Davidians or BATF agents fired the first shots of the firefight, which claimed 10 lives. The tape has not been made public. BATF spokeswoman Sharon Wheeler says, “All I can tell you is that the tape is in the custody of the Texas Rangers.” The Rangers have been investigating the shootout as a possible prelude to state charges against cult members. Jack Zimmerman, representing Davidian aide Steve Schneider (see March 29-31, 1993), says the BATF “is not a disinterested party,” and may be attempting to edit or alter the videotape. “Should the videotapes and audiotapes reveal shortcomings on the part of the ATF,” Zimmerman says, “it would not be in the interest of the ATF to retain unaltered damning videotapes and audiotapes.” BATF officials say such assertions are groundless. (Verhovek 4/7/1993) Zimmerman and fellow lawyer Richard DeGuerin claim that BATF agents fired first, and that agents fired on the compound from helicopters; the bureau denies both assertions (see April 4-5, 1993).
The day of the Branch Davidians’ promised departure from their compound (see April 1-4, 1993 and April 8, 1993) arrives. No one departs. The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) members begin installing razor-sharp concertina wire around the compound. FBI agents intend to prevent Davidians from sneaking out of the compound, perhaps to assault the agents besieging it (see March 1, 1993); they also intend to keep others from sneaking in, as has already happened twice (see March 24, 1993 and March 26, 1993). The wire may allow the FBI to relieve some of the agents, many of whom have been on-site for five weeks. Officials also admit that the wire is a tacit admission that they expect the Davidians to remain immured in their compound for an indefinite period of time. The FBI is reluctant to mount an assault, spokespersons say, because of its concerns over the welfare of the children inside (see March 28, 1993 and April 9, 1993). Concerns include the effect of tear gas on the children; one agent explains that the amounts necessary to irritate adults enough to drive them out of the compound could prove harmful or even lethal to small children. Moreover, two of the women inside are pregnant, with one expected to deliver sometime in May. Two senior FBI officials have visited Waco in recent days to discuss a possible “end strategy,” including the idea of assaulting the compound with tear gas or other chemicals to drive the Davidians out (see April 7, 1993). FBI officials in Washington say all the options under discussion have flaws, and the only option that could be mutually agreed upon was the installation of the razor wire. Lloyd Bentsen, the secretary of the Treasury, who supervises the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993), says he is intensely worried that any such assault will cost lives, and he has already spoken against escalating the pressure on the Davidians. “I spent most of one night trying to be sure there was not an additional use of force at that situation,” he says. (Verhovek 4/13/1993; PBS Frontline 10/1995)
Louis Alaniz, a Houston resident who sneaked into the besieged Branch Davidian compound less than a month after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF)‘s failed raid (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993, March 1, 1993, and March 24, 1993), leaves the compound and talks to FBI agents. He wears a shirt that proclaims “David Koresh God.” Alaniz hopes to act as a mediator between the Davidians and the FBI. In 1999, he will recall: “I asked for a pad and paper. I drew a diagram of the building. I wanted to help resolve it. I gave them a complete layout. I told them, ‘These people don’t want to fight. But if you go in, do it in a way that you don’t hurt anyone.‘… I told them there was hay up against the wall and in the foyer trying to stop bullets. They thought they were going to be shot at again.” A Texas law enforcement official will confirm that the Davidians are using hay as a barricade. Alaniz is particularly worried about the children in the compound. He tells authorities that there is a nursery on the second floor where the babies sleep. Lanterns are often alight in the nursery to help mothers see to bathe the children. He will later recall being shocked when, on April 19 (see April 19, 1993), he watches a tear gas boom on an armored vehicle rip into the wall of the nursery. “Why did they have to hit that spot?” he will ask. “That told me they didn’t care. If they did, they wouldn’t have pumped gas inside there where the infants were. No, sir, they can’t lie to me no more about caring about those kids. They wanted them all dead.” (New York Times 4/17/1993; Moore 1995; Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal 9/12/1999)
Many white separatists and right-wing militia members are aghast, appalled, and infuriated by the violent end to the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). Two of those are future Oklahoma City bombers Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995); when McVeigh watches the flames devour the Davidian compound, he stands in Nichols’s living room and weeps. McVeigh has already visited the compound during the siege (see March 1993); in the following weeks, he revisits the scene, collecting pamphlets from the Davidians, taking photographs, and even taking samples of the charred wood left behind. McVeigh begins wearing, and selling at gun shows, caps that depict the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) logo with bullet holes in them (see August 26 - September 15, 1994). He sells flares that can be used as missiles. Moreover, he and Nichols soon begin practicing with explosives and agitating for violent assaults on government officials with local militia members (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). McVeigh later tells interviewers: “I didn’t define the rules of engagement in this conflict. The rules, if not written down, are defined by the aggressor. It was brutal, no holds barred. Women and children were killed at Waco and Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992). You put back in [the government’s] faces exactly what they’re giving out.” McVeigh’s favorite magazine, Soldier of Fortune, later publishes articles calling the FBI and BATF “the Gestapo” and accusing the government of funneling illegal drugs into the country through the auspices of the DEA; McVeigh will read these articles, and other more overt anti-government publications that directly accuse the government of plotting to enact “new Wacos” throughout the country, with a new fervor. Another favorite is a videotape, “Waco: The Big Lie,” promoted by militia leader Linda Thompson (see April 3, 1993 and September 19, 1994), who accuses the government of deliberately plotting the deaths of everyone inside the Davidian compound and setting the compound afire by shooting flames at the building through a tank. McVeigh will later claim to have learned the “real truth” about the siege after meeting a former Davidian, Paul Fatta, on the gun show circuit (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994). Nichols’s neighbor Phil Morawski will later recall of McVeigh: “He said he witnessed part of the siege at Waco and was very upset about it; the government overstepped its bounds. Waco is kind of like the battle cry for Tim and many others.” McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990) will later recall discussing the Davidian debacle with McVeigh, saying, “We both concluded that the federal government had intentionally attacked those people and may not have intentionally started the fire, but they were certainly the cause of the fire and potentially murdered those people in Waco.” Fortier’s wife Lori will recall McVeigh’s position differently: according to her recollection, McVeigh believes that “the government murdered those people.” After the bombing, Dennis Mahon, the head of the Oklahoma cell of the White Aryan Resistance, will tell federal officials about McVeigh, whom he claims to have known under an alias: “I met Tim Tuttle, but I didn’t know he was alias Tim McVeigh. I met him at gun shows (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994). He sold military stuff, knives, gun parts, camouflage uniforms.… And we talked about Waco. And I said: ‘What comes around goes around. If they keep doing this terrorism on our people, terrorism’s going to happen to them…’ He said: ‘Probably. Probably so.‘… Timothy McVeigh is my hero. Wish we had a thousand more like him. He took action.” Mahon will later be identified by one witness as the person driving the Ryder truck for McVeigh on the day of the Oklahoma City bombing (see April 15, 1995), though the identification is in doubt, and Mahon will not be charged for playing a part in the bombing. (Stickney 1996, pp. 155, 159; PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 76-78; Nicole Nichols 2003; CNN 12/17/2007) McVeigh will send videotapes about the Davidian tragedy, such as “Waco: The Big Lie,” to his friends, including his former coworker Carl Lebron (see November 1991 - Summer 1992), his former Army comrade Albert Warnement (see January - March 1991 and After), and his neighbors Richard and Lynn Drzyzga (see October 1990). Lebron considers the videotapes “nonsense,” and the Drzyzgas become concerned that McVeigh may actually believe the “nutty” “paranoia” of the information in them. McVeigh will also write a letter to his childhood friend Steve Hodge, breaking off their friendship because Hodge is not sufficiently enraged by the Davidian tragedy (see July 14, 1994). (Serrano 1998, pp. 78) McVeigh is not the only one preaching active retribution for Waco. James Nichols, Terry’s older brother (see December 22 or 23, 1988), says they are planning to kill law enforcement officials. Paul Izydorek, a family friend, will later tell a CNN reporter: “Evidently, James had told [Izydorek’s son] one or two times about how they were going to kill cops and judges and, you know, really clean house on all the local government. I didn’t take it serious but I guess maybe that’s what the heck they was really talking about, maybe they was a lot more serious, you know, than I realized.” (Stickney 1996, pp. 156)
A New York Times op-ed excoriates the federal government for allowing the FBI to assault the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas, a decision that resulted in the fiery deaths of 78 Davidians (see April 19, 1993). “[T]here was nothing divinely ordained by yesterday’s catastrophe,” the op-ed states, and says that Attorney General Janet Reno’s later explanation of events (see April 19, 1993) clearly shows “time was on the authorities’ side, and they threw it away.” The op-ed finds Reno’s characterization of the assault as an incremental increase in pressure on the Davidians to be specious: “[A]ssault by an armored vehicle equipped to poke holes in buildings seems like a large escalation of force more likely to make cultists think that D-Day had indeed arrived.” The op-ed credits the FBI agents on site with restraint in not returning fire when the Davidians fired on them, but says both the bureau and Reno “sadly… miss the point” of the debacle. “The miscalculation was near-total,” it says. The op-ed concludes: “The Koresh affair has been mishandled from beginning to end (see March 27, 1993). It started with a bungled attack by Federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents in which four agents and unknown number of cultists were killed (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), and ended in yesterday’s FBI misjudgment. The hard lesson is that patience and determination do not cost lives, but impatience does. Does anyone now doubt that it would have been better to let the standoff in Waco continue?” (New York Times 4/20/1993)
Federal and state authorities find the remains of a huge arsenal of firearms, weapons, munitions, and ammunition at the burned-out site of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). The remains include 40 submachine guns, 76 assault rifles, one Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle and another .50-caliber weapon, over a million rounds of ammunition, shotguns, pistols, grenades, gas masks, silencers, body armor, and various equipment and parts, including the parts needed for rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). This information comes from a federal document unsealed in a Waco court. BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) officials say the findings confirm their fears that Davidian leader David Koresh was amassing a cache of weapons to go along with his apocalyptic teachings (see June-July 1992). BATF spokesman Jack Killorin says: “We were right from the beginning. It was our belief going in there that there was a large stockpile of weapons and parts for making weapons and explosive devices. It seems clear that our suspicions were also correct that these were not being amassed for self-defense. One of the things that has concerned me was that we found silenced submachine guns, which are typically weapons of assassination or guerilla warfare. It raises the question of what this religious group was planning to do.” Authorities also find lathes, milling equipment, and other tooling machinery used to convert assault weapons into illegally modified automatic weapons. Some material left behind during the BATF’s abortive raid (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) is also found, including body armor, a battering ram, a BATF medical kit, and a federal-issue MP-5 machine gun. Materials tagged as “arson evidence” are also found, including Coleman lanterns, crushed or opened gasoline and Coleman fuel cans, and two items labeled “torches.” Personal effects, including Bibles, marriage and death certificates, children’s clothing, baseball cards, and a library card are also catalogued. And the authorities also find a stash of Koresh’s documents, including one labeled by the authorities as “Document: Apocalypse-‘Death’ and ‘Grave’ highlighted.” (Hancock 5/26/1993)
A federal grand jury returns a 10-count indictment, charging 12 Branch Davidians with murder, firearms violations, and conspiracy to kill federal agents. The indictments come as a result of the April 1993 assault on the Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, that resulted in nearly 80 Davidians dying of fire, smoke inhalation, and gunshot wounds (see April 19, 1993), and the February 1993 raid on the compound by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) that left four BATF agents and six Davidians dead (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). Most of the Davidians charged left the compound at some time during the 51-day standoff between the Davidians and federal authorities; two of them, Rita Riddle and Renos Avraam, survived the assault itself. The defendants echo claims by their slain leader, David Koresh, that BATF agents fired the first shots and the Davidians were only protecting their home; journalists and federal agents say that the Davidians ambushed the agents as they attempted to surround and enter the compound to arrest Koresh. The defendants also insist that the FBI caused the fires that gutted the compound during the April assault, while FBI officials say the Davidians themselves set the fires. The indictment says that Koresh “gave instructions to spread flammable fuel within the Mount Carmel compound” after the FBI began its assault, with a CS gas barrage. “It was part of the conspiracy that an unidentified co-conspirator would and did give instructions at about noon on April 19, 1993, to start the fires.” Other Davidians facing charges aside from Riddle and Avraam include: Brad Eugene Branch, Kevin A. Whitecliff, Paul Gordon Fatta, Livingstone Fagan, Norman Washington Allison, Graeme Leonard Craddock, Clive J. Doyle, Woodrow Kendrick, Jaime Castillo, and Kathryn Schroeder. (US District Court for the Western District of Texas 8/1993; Hancock 8/7/1993) The trial takes place six months later (see January-February 1994).
The Treasury Department issues a 220-page report on the raid mounted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) against the Mt. Carmel compound of the Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). The raid resulted in the deaths of four BATF agents, six Davidians, and a 51-day siege culminating in a fiery conflagration that killed most of the Davidians in their burning compound (see March 1, 1993 and April 19, 1993). The report finds that the BATF raid was poorly planned and needlessly aggressive. It criticizes the BATF agents for inadequate information on the Davidians and a plan for an assault dependant on surprise—“shock and awe”—that was carried out even after the Davidians learned of the imminent assault. “The decision to proceed was tragically wrong, not just in retrospect, but because of what the decision makers knew at the time,” the report concludes. The BATF, the report says, handled the situation badly, and then attempted to cover up its poor management with falsehoods and obfustations. “There may be occasions when pressing operational considerations—or legal constraints—prevent law-enforcement officials from being… completely candid in their public utterances,” the report states. “This was not one of them.” After the report is issued, Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen announces the replacement of the BATF’s entire top management; BATF chief Stephen Higgins retires three days before the report is released. Bentsen says, “It is now clear that those in charge in Texas realized they had lost the element of surprise before the raid began.” The field commanders made “inaccurate and disingenuous statements” to cover up their missteps, attempting to blame the agents who actually carried out the raid for their poor planning. (Chua-Eoan 10/11/1993) However, the report finds that while the BATF made errors during the February raid, the agency was correct in its effort to apprehend violators of federal firearms laws, and the decision to effect a “dynamic entry” was the correct one. The report finds the raid was justified because “[t]he extraordinary discipline that [Davidian leader David] Koresh imposed on his followers… made him far more threatening than a lone individual who had a liking for illegal weapons. The compound became a rural fortress, often patrolled by armed guards, in which Koresh’s word—or the word that [he] purported to extrapolate from the Scripture—was the only law.… Were [he] to decide to turn his weapons on society, he would have devotees to follow him, and they would be equipped with weapons that could inflict serious damage.” The report concurs with BATF claims that Koresh and the Davidians had illegal weapons (see May 26, 1993), though it includes analyses from two firearms experts that show the Davidians may not have had such illegal weapons. The Treasury report repeatedly asserts that Koresh and his followers “ambushed” the BATF agents, finding, “On February 28, [they] knew that [B]ATF agents were coming and decided to kill them.” (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995) According to a 1996 House investigation, the Treasury report “criticized [B]ATF personnel, but it exonerated all [Justice] Department officials.” (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
In Memorium - The Treasury report begins with a black-bordered page reading “In Memory Of” and listing the names of the four BATF officers killed in the raid. (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995)
Lost the Element of Surprise - Acting Special Agent in Charge Darrell Dyer, the report finds, arrived days before the raid to find no plans had been drawn up; he and another agent drew up a plan that was never distributed. And the agents in charge of the raid, Charles Sarabyn and Philip Chojnacki, decided to stage the raid despite information that the Davidians knew of it and were making preparations to defend themselves. (Chua-Eoan 10/11/1993)
Falsifications and Questionable Statements - Even before the Waco compound burned, BATF officials were already misrepresenting the situtation. On March 3, 1993, Daniel Hartnett, associate director of law enforcement, told the press that though their agent, informant Robert Rodriguez, knew Koresh had received a phone call, the agent “did not realize this was a tip at the time.” Twenty-six days later, Higgins said, “We would not have executed the plans if our supervisors had lost the element [of surprise].” Both statements are questionable at best. After the compound burned, Texas Rangers asked BATF officials Dyer, Sarabyn, and Chojnacki to show them the plans for the raid; Dyer realized that the rough written plan was not in a satisfactory form, and the three revised the plan “to make it more thorough and complete.” The document they provided to the Rangers did not indicate that it was an after-action revision. The report states: “The readiness of Chojnacki, Sarabyn, and Dyer to revise an official document that would likely be of great significance in any official inquiry into the raid without making clear what they had done is extremely troubling and itself reflects a lack of judgment. This conduct, however, does not necessarily reveal an intent to deceive. And, in the case of Dyer, there does not appear to have been any such intent. The behavior of Chojnacki and Sarabyn when the alteration was investigated does not lead to the same conclusion.” (New York Times 10/1/1993; Chua-Eoan 10/11/1993)
Repercussions - Vice President Al Gore recommends that the BATF be dissolved, with its firearms division merged into the FBI and the other two sections merged with the IRS. Bentsen is resistant to the idea. However, such large-scale reorgzanizations are unlikely. After the report is issued, Bentsen removes Chojnacki, Sarabyn, Deputy Director Edward Daniel Conroy, and intelligence chief David Troy from active service. A year later, Chojnacki and Sarabyn will be rehired with full back pay and benefits (see December 23, 1994). (Chua-Eoan 10/11/1993) The Treasury report, according to author and church advocate Dean Kelley, “helped to diminish criticism of the federal role.” (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995)
Ten men and one woman, survivors of the Branch Davidian debacle near Waco (see March 1, 1993 and April 19, 1993), are tried for an array of crimes allegedly committed during the initial federal assault on the Mt. Carmel compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) and the ensuing siege (see August 7, 1993). (Fourteen other survivors face no charges.) All 11 are charged with conspiring to kill federal agents “with malice aforethought,” and for aiding and abetting such killing. A twelfth defendant, Kathryn Schroeder, pleads guilty to a lesser charge and testifies for the government. Some of the defendants also face charges such as using or carrying firearms in the commission of a violent crime. Ten lawyers represent the defendants. The trial takes place in San Antonio and lasts for seven weeks. Trial testimony casts doubt on the government’s tale of a vicious, unprovoked attack on the agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) who raided the compiund, and the cool, entirely professional response of the BATF and FBI. (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995; Karl 4/21/1997) The defendants accuse the FBI of persecuting them for their unorthodox religious beliefs and for not respecting their constitutional right to bear arms. (Conway and Siegelman 1995, pp. 244)
Bullet Holes in Door - Attorney Jack Zimmerman, who represented Davidian Steve Schneider and who met with Schneider during the siege, testifies that he saw the double front door of the compound riddled with bullet holes on the outside, presumably from shots fired by the BATF during its February raid. The door was not recovered from the compound after fire destroyed much of it, even though it was made of steel and presumably would not have vaporized in the flames. Texas Ranger Fred Cummings, who testifies about the details of the Rangers’ search for evidence after the fire, cannot explain what happened to the door, though he does acknowledge that FBI and BATF agents had access to the area between the time that the fire subsided and the time the Rangers took over. Presumably, the defense is trying to give the idea that either FBI or BATF agents absconded with the door in order to conceal evidence. Zimmerman also testifies that he saw eight or nine bullet holes in the roof that “caused the building material to be pooched in or down” showing that “the rounds came from above the ceiling down into the room.” Evidence that would confirm or disprove this claim was destroyed in the fire. BATF agent Roger Ballesteros, the agent assigned to lead the assault on the compound through the front door, testifies that he emerged from the cattle trailer carrying the assembled agents and charged for the front door, in full SWAT gear and carrying a shotgun across his chest. Balesteros testifies that Davidian leader David Koresh opened the door and asked, “What’s going on?” (Koresh and the Davidians were aware that an assault by federal agents was underway.) Balesteros testifies that he shouted: “Police! Lay down! Search warrant!” though he admits not mentioning these statements when he discussed the raid with Texas Rangers afterwards. He says bullets, fired from inside the compound by the Davidians, began spraying through the door moments later, and one struck him in the thumb. Asked how he knows that, he says that he saw holes in the door and splinters of wood pointing outward. The door, as established earlier, was steel and not wood.
Davidians Had Guns for Business Purposes, Gun Dealers Say - Testimony from gun dealers shows that the Davidians were acting as gun dealers themselves, buying and selling weapons for profit at gun shows. The prosecution introduces into evidence dozens of guns found in the ashes of Mt. Carmel that had been illegally converted into fully automatic weapons (see May 26, 1993); some of these weapons are proven by their serial numbers to have been sold to the Davidians by the testifying gun dealers. Photographs of engine lathes, a hydraulic press, and a milling machine show that the Davidians had the equipment to modify legal firearms to make them into illegal versions of those weapons. However, the prosecution fails to unequivocally prove that the illegally modified weapons were modified by the Davidians. Two heavy .50-caliber guns are introduced into evidence, along with the appropriate ammunition, but the defense argues that it is not illegal for citizens to own such guns, nor could it be proven that those weapons had been fired.
Unable to Escape - The FBI has always maintained that it took steps to ensure that any Davidian who wanted to leave the compound during the last assault could do so. Tarrant County medical examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani, testifying about the condition of the bodies found, notes that some Davidians, such as Schneider and Koresh, died from close-range bullet wounds in the head, indicating that they had no intention of trying to escape. However, several women’s bodies were found in the hallway leading to the trapdoor access to the underground school bus at the north end of the building that had been constructed as a tornado shelter. Apparently the women were trying to leave, but they could not because the trapdoor had been buried by debris from the collapsing of the wall pushed in by a tank prior to the fire. All of the children who died in the conflagration, and many of the women, were found in a cinderblock room used for cold storage of food. The room, located under the four-story guard tower, was the strongest and safest area of the compound, furthest from the gas and the FBI armored vehicles. Around 30 bodies were recovered from that room; many, especially the smaller children, were covered with blankets, sleeping bags, and extra clothing, apparently due to attempts by the women to protect the children from the gas and fire. When the room collapsed in on itself, the tower fell on it. Those inside the room died from suffocation, blunt trauma from debris impact, close-range gunshot wounds, and/or smoke and fire.
Gas, Armored Vehicles - FBI agents testify that hundreds of canisters and “ferret rounds” containing CS gas were “inserted,” or fired into, the compound. Some of the ferret rounds bounced off the frame walls, but many entered through windows and other openings. FBI testimony shows that the Davidians began to fire at the agents, or their armored vehicles, after the gas was introduced. When the Davidians began shooting, agents testify, they abandoned the plan to slowly and measuredly introduce gas into the compound over a matter of hours, and began firing gas into the compound as quickly as possible. The order to use CEVs (combat engineering vehicles) to push in walls of the compound were given in order to allow observers to see inside. The CEVs also pressed forward through the compound towards the guard tower (where, unbeknownst to the agents, the women and children were gathering to escape the assault). By that point, the original plans for a gradual and careful assault had been all but abandoned.
Fire - The government prosecutors introduce a plethora of evidence that shows the Davidians themselves set the fires that eventually burned the compound to the ground. High winds aided the spread of the flames. The defense claims that Davidians did not start the fires, but instead the tanks and CEVs knocked over Coleman lanterns, being used for light because the FBI had cut the electricity to the compound. Prosecutors play audiotapes and enter transcripts of the Davidians allegedly making preparations to set the compound afire, obtained through electronic surveillance. Voices on the tapes and in the transcripts say such things as: “The fuel has to go all around to get started,” “Got to put enough fuel in there,” “So, we only light ‘em as they come in,” or as a slightly different version has it, “So, we only light ‘em as soon as they tell me.” The defense argues that if the Davidians indeed poured lantern fuel or other accelerants through the compound, they were doing so in an attempt to stave off the incoming armored vehicles. Defendant Graeme Craddock told a Texas Ranger that he was ordered by one Davidian, Wayne Martin, to pour lantern fuel on any tank that came in through the wall and to light it—a last-ditch tactic that might result in the defenders’ death as well as the attackers’. Testimony shows that the FBI had alerted the Burn Unit at Parkland Memorial Hospital early that morning to be prepared to receive burn victims, and asked for directions as to how to land helicopters bearing burn victims at the hospital. FBI agents wore fireproof suits for the assault. And a helicopter carrying a Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) camera circled over the complex, ready to photograph any outbreak of fire. The FBI maintains that it was prepared for fire, but had no intention of actually causing a fire. The defense notes that the FBI did not initially bring up fire-fighting equipment to the compound. A government witness, arson investigator William Cass, says that films taken at the time of the fire show fire starting almost simultaneously at 12:11 p.m. The strong winds, aided by the holes punched in the walls by the CEVs, helped the fire engulf most of the compound within five minutes. The defense shows an earlier portion of the FLIR video showing a flash or flare of heat in the gymnasium area taking place at 12:08 p.m. Cass testifies that he has never seen that video. Observer logs show that two reports of fire in the gym were made at 12:11; Cass testifies he has never seen those logs. The logs were handled by Paul Gray, chief of the arson investigating team. The defense shows that Gray often testifies on arson incidents on behalf of the BATF, and his wife works in the BATF’s Houston office. Gray’s final report claims that CN tear gas is not flammable and would have actually impeded the spread of fire; testimony shows that the assault did not use CN tear gas, but a very different substance, CS gas delivered by a rather flammable propellant. In 1995, a surviving Davidian will confirm that the sect members, and not the FBI, actually set the fires (see August 4, 1995). In 1999, the FBI will admit to firing pyrotechnic gas canisters into the compound, but will deny that the devices started the fires (see August 25, 1999 and After). In 2000, a prosecutor will be charged with hiding evidence about the canisters from the defense and from a subsequent government investigation (see November 9, 2000).
Verdicts - The jury finds the defendants not guilty of the two most serious crimes, conspiracy to murder federal agents, and aiding and abetting such a conspiracy. The jury convicts five defendants of voluntary manslaughter, defined by Judge Walter Smith as acting “in the sudden heat of passion caused by adequate provocation.” Two defendants are convicted of firearms charges. Seven defendants are convicted of using and carrying firearms “during and in relation to a crime of violence,” convictions set aside by the judge because of the jury’s failure to convict the defendants of guilt in committing those crimes of violence. (The judge later reinstates those convictions.) In all, four are acquitted of all charges and seven are convicted of various crimes. Davidians Renos Avraam, Brad Eugene Branch, Jaime Castillo, Livingstone Fagan, and Kevin A. Whitecliff receive 10-year sentences for voluntary manslaughter, and additional 30-year sentences for using a firearm in a violent crime. Craddock receives 20 years for possessing a grenade and using a firearm in a violent crime. Paul Gordon Fatta receives a 15-year sentence for possessing and conspiring to possess machine guns, though he was not present during the siege. Ruth Riddle is convicted of using or carrying a weapon during a crime. And Schroeder, who cooperated with the prosecution, is convicted of forcibly resisting arrest. (Dean M. Kelley 5/1995; Karl 4/21/1997; Associated Press 4/19/2006)
Future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see November 1991 - Summer 1992 and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), who has moved to Kingman, Arizona, and stays sometimes with friends and sometimes in a rented trailer (see February - July 1994), tries and fails to hold down several menial jobs. Former supervisors and co-workers will later recall McVeigh having problems staying employed, with what the New York Times will call “a spotty work record at several jobs here, marked mostly by silence toward his co-workers and sudden terminations.” (The Times account is questionable, as it will also make questionable allegations about McVeigh’s behavior at his residence—see February - July 1994.) Fellow security guard Fred Burkett will recall being impressed with McVeigh’s skill with weapons. “Believe me, the one thing he did not need was firearms training,” Burkett will tell a reporter. “He was very good and we were impressed with his action. He was arrogant about it. He had this kind of look of ‘You think you’re good, watch this.’ And I have to admit he was real good. We were impressed with him as far as his handling of a weapon because usually we take someone out for training and it’s like the first time they have ever held a gun. But he was very familiar with the gun.” Other than this, Burkett will recall, McVeigh is “pretty much normal.… He had a very dry personality. He was not very outgoing, not talkative and not really that friendly. He wasn’t a person that mingled. He was a kind of by-yourself kind of person, a loner. The only thing he ever indicated was that he didn’t care much for the United States government and how they ran things. He didn’t care much for authority and especially when it concerned the government.” Burkett will also remember McVeigh’s fondness for military garb along with his distate for authority. “He always wore military garb, like jungle clothes, like if you were in Vietnam,” Burkett will recall. “He always wore his hair short, just like when they caught him. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal at the time. I mean, I thought maybe he was still in the Army or something.… McVeigh liked the stringency of the Army. He liked the uniformity of everybody dressing the same and walking the same. But he did not like taking orders from people who he did not think were his superiors. He did not like the US Army.” McVeigh loses his security guard position after shouting at a supervisor who reprimands him for watching television while on duty. McVeigh also works for a few months at the aforementioned hardware store; manager Mike Boggio will remember him as a “quiet” man who “wore his fatigues every day” and politically was “pretty anti-everything.” Hardware store owner Paul Shuffler will recall that McVeigh is not a political radical: “If he was a radical around here, I would have noticed it pretty quick and I would have fired him. Radicals don’t last long around here because they just make a mess of things.” McVeigh’s friend Walter “Mac” McCarty, a Korean War veteran who regularly conducts anti-gun control protests at the county courthouse, later says of McVeigh: “In public, he was quiet and polite and he had this big, easy smile. But when he talked about the country and politics and things, he got real mean and savage. He was one highly strung young man. I don’t think I ever saw anybody with such hatred in him. He was bitter about just about everything, and he believed the country was being taken over by big business and organized crime, and they were all tied up with the government. In particular, he hated the BATF boys [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] and the Feds [FBI]. He used to rant on about how they had become just a big cowboy army, who were taking the law into their own hands. I tell you, he was running right on the edge.” (Kifner 4/24/1995; Stickney 1996, pp. 164)
Carole (or Carol) Howe, a former college student who became involved with a number of white supremacists and anti-government radicals at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1973 and After), allegedly gives federal agents repeated warnings about a bombing planned for Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Howe left Tulsa Metro Christian Academy after falling in with local “skinheads,” and became romantically involved with Dennis Mahon, a former Ku Klux Klan member, the leader of the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) organization, and the purveyor of Tulsa’s Dial-a-Racist telephone line. Mahon, 46, later says he became involved with Howe because she wrote him a letter in the spring of 1993 after calling his telephone line, claiming “she was 23, pure Aryan, considered beautiful, and wanted to fight for her race and culture. So, hey, I sent her some tapes.” Mahon will say that he considered Howe brilliantly intelligent and well-spoken, and wanted to make her a movement spokesperson: “I was going to get her on Oprah. Most of our women are not very intelligent. All they can say is ‘n_gger this’ and ‘n_gger that.’ She could have been our Aryan spokeswoman.” Mahon began taking her to Elohim City. The relationship had soured by the summer of 1994, and in August 1994, after filing a restraining order against Mahon, Howe was recruited as an informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). In a letter to her parents explaining her decision to work for the government, she says: “I don’t like America as she is today. But I don’t think she is past saving. And if there’s something I can do to help this country realize a glimmer of her potential greatness, then I must do it. These people intend to start a war here within the next few years. They have the power, means, and support to do it. This war would especially devastate America.” Between August 1994 and March 1995, Howe supplies the BATF with 38 audiotapes’ worth of surveillance. She tells her handler that Elohim City leader Robert Millar is spoiling for a new revolution, and repeatedly gives sermons preaching violence against the US government, particularly the BATF. He says that the group will expand its influence throughout the Midwest, and other militia groups will unite with the Elohim City forces to contend with the government. She is briefly deactivated after an apparent suicide attempt, but will be reactivated after the bombing, when she says the sketch of the “John Doe No. 2” suspect (see April 20, 1995) resembles one of the Elohom City residents, probably neo-Nazi Andreas Strassmeir. The day after the April 19, 1995 bombing, Howe will tell a reporter that she warned the BATF that Strassmeir and Michael Brescia (see 1992 - 1995) had “cased” the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in preparation for the bombing (see November 1994). She will also claim to have told her handler, BATF agent Angela Finley, about the Elohim community’s preparations for a much larger assault, perhaps as a prelude to the long-anticipated “race war” they had so often predicted. Government sources will say Howe made no warnings until after the bombing, when she tells federal agents of Mahon’s and Strassmeir’s plans. After the bombing, her information will consist largely of reporting on the Elohim residents’ attempts to lock down their own alibis. Howe will say that she saw accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) at the compound, then withdraw that claim. Federal agents will consider her answers speculative and lacking in evidence, though reports by some BATF and FBI agents may contradict that assessment. Mahon will later say that Howe attempted to entrap others at the Elohim City compound into committing illegal acts, apparently alluding to his suspicion that she was an informant. In March 1995, the BATF releases Howe as an informant, saying she is erratic and unreliable, though some reports indicate that she may serve as an informant well into 1996. (Graff, Cole, and Shannon 2/24/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 267-268; Nicole Nichols 2003; Nicole Nichols 2003; Nicole Nichols 2003)
Conservative radio show host and convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy (see March 23, 1974) advises his listeners to shoot agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated ATF) if those agents come “to disarm you.” Libby also advises his listeners to “go for a head shot.” Liddy’s remarks come in response to the February 1993 BATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). Liddy says: “Now if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they’re going to be wearing bulletproof vests.… They’ve got a big target on there, ATF. Don’t shoot at that, because they’ve got a vest on underneath that. Head shots, head shots.… Kill the sons of b_tches.” The day after, Liddy tells reporters, “So you shoot twice to the body, center of mass, and if that does not work, then shoot to the groin area.” Three weeks later, he expounds on the topic, saying: “If the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms insists upon a firefight, give them a firefight. Just remember, they’re wearing flak jackets and you’re better off shooting for the head.” Liddy talks on the topic so much that his callers will begin to use the phrase “head shots!” to express their agreement with him. (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 4/29/2005) In 2003, Liddy will tell interviewer John Hawkins that his statements were taken out of context. Asked if he regrets making his comments, Liddy will say: “Well, no. Because as usual, people remember part of what I said, but not all of what I said. What I did was restate the law. I was talking about a situation in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms comes smashing into a house, doesn’t say who they are, and their guns are out, they’re shooting, and they’re in the wrong place. This has happened time and time again. The ATF has gone in and gotten the wrong guy in the wrong place. The law is that if somebody is shooting at you, using deadly force, the mere fact that they are a law enforcement officer, if they are in the wrong, does not mean you are obliged to allow yourself to be killed so your kinfolk can have a wrongful death action. You are legally entitled to defend yourself and I was speaking of exactly those kind of situations. If you’re going to do that, you should know that they’re wearing body armor so you should use a head shot. Now all I’m doing is stating the law, but all the nuances in there got left out when the story got repeated.” (John Hawkins 2003)
Two white supremacists, Andreas Strassmeir of Elohim City (see 1973 and After) and Dennis Mahon, a Ku Klux Klan associate, make the first of three trips to Oklahoma City to investigate possible bombing targets. Federal authorities will not extensively investigate whether Strassmeir and Mahon are working in concert with Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see September 13, 1994, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), through informant Carole Howe, is aware of their plans (see August 1994 - March 1995). (Douglas O. Linder 2001)
Jennifer McVeigh, the sister of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), will later testify that during this time, her brother gives her a “wad” of cash and asks her to “launder” it for him. He claims the money comes from a bank robbery. She will also testify that her brother discusses plans to conduct political assassinations. Later investigations will show that by this time Timothy McVeigh may be involved with a self-described “terrorist group,” the Aryan Republican Army (see 1992 - 1995), which has staged numerous robberies and says its purpose is to conduct “terrorist acts against the United States.” (Nicole Nichols 2003) McVeigh comes back to their Pendleton, New York, home in the days after their grandfather dies (see November 2-7, 1994), and stays for a month. He shows his sister a videotape about the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), and tells her he believes the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) were responsible for the deaths at the Davidian compound. He also says he does not believe the government will ever hold anyone accountable for the deaths.
Letter to American Legion - McVeigh borrows his sister’s word processor and types up a “manifesto” of sorts, a letter written to the American Legion and addressed to “Constitutional Defenders.” The letter reads in part: “We members of the citizen’s militia do not bear our arms to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow those who PERVERT the Constitution and when they once again draw first blood (many believe the Waco incident (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) was ‘first blood’). Many of our members are veterans who still hold true to their sworn oath to defend the Constitution against ALL enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC.” He quotes English philosopher John Locke on the right to slay the tyrant if the government leaders force the people into a state of war. He attacks the BATF as a “fascist federal group” that attacks and kills innocent civilians. Militia groups alone, he writes, can defend the American people “against power-hungry storm troopers” (see October 21 or 22, 1994). He cites the Branch Davidian tragedy, the Ruby Ridge incident (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992), and the Gordon Kahl slaying (see March 13 - June 3, 1983) as examples of the government behaving as “fascist tyrants.” He says the US military is being used overseas to fight for democracy “while at home [it is] used to DESTROY it (in full violation of the Posse Comitatus Act), at places like Waco.” He concludes: “One last question that every American should ask themselves. Did not the British also keep track of the locations of munitions stored by the colonists, just as the ATF has admitted to doing? Why???… Does anyone even STUDY history anymore???”
'Now I'm in the Action Stage' - McVeigh’s sister, though in agreement with much of her brother’s beliefs, is alarmed by the letter, believing that her brother has gone far past where she is willing to go in her beliefs and his apparent willingness to act on those beliefs. McVeigh tells her: “I’m no longer in the propaganda stage. I’m no longer passing out papers. Now I’m in the action stage.”
Letter to BATF - McVeigh’s second letter, written to the BATF and labeled “ATF Read,” is even more alarming. It reads in part: “ATF, all you tyrannical motherf_ckers will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous actions against the Constitution and the United States. Remember the Nuremburg War Trials. But… but… but… I was only following orders.… Die, you spineless cowardice [sic] b_stards!” He prints the American Legion letter for mailing, but leaves the ATF letter in the computer, apparently for federal agents to find after he has launched his bombing attack. (Thomas 5/6/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 114-115) Jennifer will write her own letter to her hometown newspaper warning of an impending government crackdown on its citizens’ liberties (see March 9, 1995), a letter which will echo many of her brother’s anti-government sentiments.
Two federal agents fired for botching a 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, that cost four agents and six Davidians their lives (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) and attempting to cover up their actions (see Late September - October 1993) are rehired. Under a settlement reached with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), Philip Chojnacki and Charles Sarabyn will receive full back pay and benefits. (Orlando Sentinel 12/23/1994)
According to later statements by Michigan Militia members, Timothy McVeigh, a white supremacist engaged in plotting to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), attends a meeting of the group in Jackson, Michigan, where speakers talk of action against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). Many anti-government groups such as the Michigan Militia have a special hatred for the BATF, which they hold largely responsible for the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). (McFadden 4/23/1995; McFadden 5/4/1995) McVeigh is staying for a time in Michigan with a friend, Kevin Nicholas (see December 18, 1994). It is unclear whether Nicholas is a member or a sympathizer of the Michigan Militia.
Federal law enforcement officials from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), and the US Attorney’s Office in Oklahoma discuss raiding the militant white supremacist compound in Elohim City, Oklahoma, where plans to bomb an Oklahoma City federal building are possibly being hatched (see November 1994). The officials decide against any such raid. (Douglas O. Linder 2001)
A truck bomb destroys the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people in America’s worst domestic terrorist attack. Timothy McVeigh, later convicted in the bombing, has ideological roots both in the Patriot world and among neo-Nazis like William Pierce, whose novel, The Turner Diaries (see 1978), served as a blueprint for the attack. (Pressley 4/20/1995; Southern Poverty Law Center 6/2001; Clarke 2004, pp. 127) Initially, many believe that no American set off the bomb, and suspect Islamist terrorists of actually carrying out the bombing (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Their suspicions prove groundless. Investigators will find that the bomb is constructed of some 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, carried in 20 or so blue plastic 55-gallon barrels arranged inside a rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995). The bomb is detonated by a slow-burning safety fuse, most likely lit by hand. The fuse is attached to a much faster-burning detonation cord (“det cord”) which ignites the fertilizer and fuel-oil mixture. (Bernstein 4/27/1995) The Murrah Federal Building houses a number of federal agencies, including offices for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF); the Social Security Administration; the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture departments; and the Secret Service. (Pressley 4/20/1995) It encompasses an entire city block, between 5th and 4th Streets and Harvey and Robinson Streets, and features a U-shaped, indented drive on 5th that allows for quick pickup and delivery parking. The entire building’s facade on this side is made of glass, allowing passersby to see into the offices in the building, as well as into the America’s Kids day care center on the second floor, which by this time is filling with children. It is in this driveway that McVeigh parks his truck. (Serrano 1998, pp. 99-102)
Entering the City - McVeigh drives into Oklahoma City, entering around 8:30 a.m. from his overnight stop in Ponca City, Oklahoma; the details reported of his entrance into the city vary (see 7:00 a.m. - 8:35 a.m., April 19, 1995). At 8:55 a.m., a security camera captures the Ryder truck as it heads towards downtown Oklahoma City (Douglas O. Linder 2006) , a sighting bolstered by three people leaving the building who later say they saw the truck parked in front of the Murrah Building around this time. At 8:57, a security camera captures an image of McVeigh’s Ryder truck being parked outside the Murrah Building in a handicapped zone. One survivor of the blast, Marine recruiter Michael Norfleet, later recalls seeing the Ryder truck parked just outside the building next to the little circle drive on 5th Street leading up to the main entrance of the building. Norfleet had parked his black Ford Ranger in front of the Ryder.
McVeigh Lights Fuses - McVeigh drives the Ryder truck west past the Murrah Building on NW Fourth Street, turns north on a one-way street, and turns right on Fifth Street. He pulls the truck over and parks near the Firestone store, next to a chain-link fence. He then lights the five-minute fuses from inside the cab (see 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), sets the parking brake, drops the key behind the seat, opens the door, locks the truck, exits, and shuts the door behind him. A man later claims to have hit his brakes to avoid someone matching McVeigh’s description as he crossed Fifth Street around 9:00 a.m. McVeigh walks quickly toward a nearby YMCA building where he has hidden his getaway car, a battered yellow Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995), in the adjoining alleyway, crossing Robinson Street and crossing another street to get to the alleyway. He begins to jog as he approaches his car. He later says he remembers a woman looking at him as she is walking down the steps to enter the building; he will describe her as white, in her mid-30s, with dirty blonde hair. According to McVeigh’s own recollection, he is about 20 feet into the alley when the bomb goes off. (Stickney 1996, pp. 184-185; PBS Frontline 1/22/1996; Serrano 1998, pp. 158; Douglas O. Linder 2006; The Oklahoman 4/2009)
Truck Explodes - At 9:02 a.m., the truck explodes, destroying most of the Murrah Building and seriously damaging many nearby buildings. Eventually, it will be determined that 168 people die in the blast, including 19 children. Over 500 are injured. The children are in the second-story day care center just above the parking space where McVeigh leaves the Ryder truck. McVeigh will later tell his biographers that he is lifted off his feet by the power of the blast.
Devastation and Death - When the bomb detonates, the day care center and the children plummet into the basement. The building, constructed with large glass windows, collapses, sending a wave of flying glass shards and debris into the building and the surrounding area. The oldest victim is 73-year-old Charles Hurlbert, who has come to the Social Security office on the first floor. Hurlbert’s wife Jean, 67, also dies in the blast. The youngest victim is four-month-old Gabeon Bruce, whose mother is also in the Social Security office. One victim, Rebecca Anderson, is a nurse who runs towards the building to render assistance. She never makes it to the building; she is struck in the head by a piece of falling debris and will die in a hospital four days after the blast. Her heart and kidneys will be transplanted into survivors of the bombing. (Eddy et al. 6/3/1997; Thomas 6/3/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 153-154; Oklahoma City Journal Record 3/29/2001) Sherri Sparks, who has friends still unaccounted for in the building, tells a reporter in the hours after the blast, “Oh, I can’t stand the thought of… those innocent children, sitting there playing, thinking they’re safe, and then this happens.” The explosion leaves a 30-foot-wide, 8-foot-deep crater in the street that is covered by the wreckage of the building’s upper floors. The north face of the nine-story building collapses entirely. (Pressley 4/20/1995; Walsh 4/22/1995) Mary Heath, a psychologist who works about 20 blocks from the Murrah Building, says the blast “shook the daylights out of things—it scared us to death. We felt the windows shake before we heard the noise.” In a neighboring building, a Water Resources Board meeting is just commencing; the audiotape of the meeting captures the sound of the blast (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). (Pressley 4/20/1995; The Oklahoman 4/2009) Norfleet, trapped in the Marine Corps office, is thrown into a wall by the explosion. His skull is fractured, and a shard of glass punctures his right eye. Three separate arteries are pierced, and Norfleet begins bleeding heavily. Two supply sergeants in the office are far less injured; Norfleet asks one, “How bad am I hurt?” and one replies, “Sir, you look really bad.” One of the two begins giving Norfleet first aid; Norfleet later recalls: “He immediately went into combat mode and started taking care of me. He laid me on a table and he started looking for bandages to administer first aid. And while I was laying on that table, I just knew that I was losing strength and that if I stayed in the building, I would die.” Norfleet wraps a shirt around his head and face to slow the bleeding, and the two sergeants help him to the stairs, through the fallen rubble, and eventually out. Norfleet will later say that he follows “a blood trail of somebody that had gone down the steps before me” to get outside, where he is quickly put into an ambulance. He loses almost half his body’s blood supply and his right eye. He will never fly again, and will soon be discharged for medical incapacity. (Serrano 1998, pp. 161-162) Eighteen-month-old Phillip Allen, called “P.J.” by his parents, miraculously survives the blast. The floor gives way beneath him and he plunges 18 feet to land on the stomach of an adult worker on the floor below, Calvin Johnson. Landing on Johnson’s stomach saves P.J.‘s life. Johnson is knocked unconscious by the blast and by the impact of the little boy falling on him, but when he awakes, he carries the toddler to safety. P.J.‘s grandfather calls the child “Oklahoma’s miracle kid,” and media reports use the label when retelling the story of the miraculous rescue. P.J. is one of six children in the day care center to survive the blast. (Stickney 1996, pp. 275-277) Some people later report their belief that the Murrah Building was rocked by a second explosion just moments after the first one, the second coming from a secure area managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) that illegally stored explosives. Law professor Douglas O. Linder will later write, “Both seismic evidence and witness testimony supports the ‘two blast theory.’” (Douglas O. Linder 2006) That theory is later disputed (see After 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Explosion's Effects Felt Miles Away - Buildings near the Murrah are also damaged, seven severely, including the Journal Record newspaper building, the offices of Southwestern Bell, the Water Resources Board, an Athenian restaurant, the YMCA, a post office building, and the Regency Tower Hotel. Two Water Resources Board employees and a restaurant worker are killed in the blast. The Journal Record building loses its roof. Assistant Fire Chief Jon Hansen later recalls, “The entire block looked like something out of war-torn Bosnia.” Every building within four blocks of the Murrah suffers some effects. A United Parcel Service truck 10 miles away has its windows shattered by the blast. Cars in parking lots around the area catch fire and burn. Millions of sheets of paper, and an innumerable number of glass shards, shower down for hundreds of feet around the building. (Stickney 1996, pp. 28-30)
Truck Axle Crushes Nearby Car - Richard Nichols (no relation to bomber Timothy McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols), a maintenance worker standing with his wife a block and a half away from the Murrah Building, is spun around by the force of the blast. They throw open the back door of their car and begin taking their young nephew Chad Nichols out of the back seat, when Richard sees a large shaft of metal hurtling towards them. The “humongous object… spinning like a boomerang,” as Richard later describes it, hits the front of their Ford Festiva, smashing the windshield, crushing the front end, driving the rear end high into the air, and sending the entire car spinning backwards about 10 feet. Chad is not seriously injured. The metal shaft is the rear axle of the Ryder truck. Later, investigators determine that it weighs 250 pounds and was blown 575 feet from where the truck was parked. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) points out the axle to reporters when he walks the scene a day or so later, causing some media outlets to incorrectly report that Keating “discovered” the axle. The scene will take investigators days to process for evidence. (Stickney 1996, pp. 32; Thomas 6/3/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 187-189)
First Responders Begin Arriving - Within minutes, survivors begin evacuating the building, and first responders appear on the scene (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995).
McVeigh's Getaway - McVeigh flees the bomb site in his Mercury getaway car (see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995), but is captured less than 90 minutes later (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Luke Franey, an explosives expert for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, sometimes called the ATF), is on the ninth floor of the Murrah Federal Building when the bomb goes off (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Though he is an expert on explosives, he is unable to immediately identify the kind of explosion that rocks the building. He tries to extricate himself from the debris, and almost immediately comes across a small tape recorder in the rubble. He begins making dictated notes into the microphone, trying to preserve his impressions for history and for any possible prosecution that might be forthcoming. “It’s April 19,” he says, breathing hard. “I’m making this tape for evidence purposes.… I was sitting at a desk on the ATF office on the ninth floor talking about obtaining an arrest warrant.… During that conversation, a loud explosion occurred, blowing me from my desk across the hall into the opposite office. It took me a minute to figure out what happened. But once I regained my senses I heard people screaming for help. I looked. I got out of my office. The building is basically destroyed. The DEA office is gone. There’s a sheer dropoff outside of my office.… The building has been ripped apart and there’s a straight dropoff approximately nine floors straight down.” Franey continues his observations, which are punctuated by muffled screams and the noise of emergency sirens. He is unable to find any survivors. “I can’t get any verbal responses,” he says. “I’m just holding tight. I’m not hurt. A little bit disoriented, I guess.” He notes the phone lines are dead. “Hell, I don’t know what else to say. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.” Franey turns off the machine at 9:05 a.m., three minutes after the blast, and turns it on again around 9:20 a.m. “I want to put this down before I forget. Right after it detonated, I got up and looked out the part of the building that wasn’t there. I could see where the Greek restaurant across was gone and there was a huge orange-colored flame with black smoke. I don’t know if it was a natural gas explosion that did this. I have no idea. I don’t know whether it was a bomb or a gas explosion or whatever. I’m not sure. But hell, who knows, it might be important.” Franey finds a large evidence poster board and writes on the back, “ATF Trapped, 9th Floor,” and props it in a window jamb. He later escapes across an outside ledge that slopes at a 45-degree angle, and will testify at the trials of bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. (Serrano 1998, pp. 160-161; Associated Press 5/28/2001)
The White House announces that the FBI will be the lead investigative agency for the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Some in federal law enforcement feel that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) is the better choice to conduct the investigation, considering that agency’s expertise with explosives, but the White House wants to avoid the infighting and turf wars that ensued after the Branch Davidian raid (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) and culminated in the tragedy that claimed 78 lives (see April 19, 1993). The FBI has also been training intensively since the Davidian tragedy on handling major events such as this one. The BATF will be involved, and some internal bickering will take place. FBI supervisor Weldon Kennedy, who runs the Phoenix FBI office, is named lead agent. Kennedy supplants Robert “Bob” Ricks, the FBI’s special agent in charge of Oklahoma City. Ricks had worked on the Branch Davidian siege. FBI Director Louis Freeh names Kennedy, not Ricks, to lead the investigation because of new FBI procedures, implemented after the Davidian tragedy, that call for increased group responses to major crisis situations. Kennedy has been training other agents in the new system and has experience working with a recent series of prison riots in Atlanta. Moreover, Kennedy has no connection to Oklahoma City and therefore does not know any of the victims or the law enforcement officials involved. (Serrano 1998, pp. 184, 191-192) Some 350 agents and specialists, many of whom have friends and co-workers in the Murrah Building, are assigned to the investigative task force. (Stickney 1996, pp. 33) In the following days, the FBI will perform intensive searches of the site of the bombing and of the surrounding area, marking off the areas in small grids and questioning everyone available. Gas stations and truck stops on highways leading in and out of Oklahoma City will be searched, and their employees questioned. A hundred and twenty-nine dump truck loads of debris will be carted to a sifting site at the county sheriff’s gun range 10 miles away, and the debris examined and sorted. In all, 1,035 tons of debris will be examined, much of it by hand. Telephone leads are followed up. The Justice Department’s Merrick Garland will spend the next three months leading the investigation until a group of US Attorneys named by Attorney General Janet Reno takes over. (Serrano 1998, pp. 221)
In a live television press conference, President Clinton addresses the nation regarding the morning’s bombing in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). He says: “The bombing in Oklahoma City was an attack on innocent children and defenseless citizens. It was an act of cowardice and it was evil. The United States will not tolerate it. And I will not allow the people of this country to be intimidated by evil cowards. I have met with our team which we assembled to deal with this bombing, and I have determined to take the following steps to assure the strongest response to this situation. First, I have deployed a crisis management under the leadership of the FBI (see After 9:02 a.m., April 19, 1995), working with the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, military and local authorities. We are sending the world’s finest investigators to solve these murders. Second, I have declared an emergency in Oklahoma City. And at my direction, James Lee Witt, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is now on his way there to make sure we do everything we can to help the people of Oklahoma deal with the tragedy. Third, we are taking every precaution to reassure and to protect people who work in or live near other federal facilities. Let there be no room for doubt. We will find the people who did this. When we do, justice will be swift, certain, and severe. These people are killers and they must be treated like killers. Finally, let me say that I ask all Americans tonight to pray, to pray for the people who have lost their lives, to pray for the families and the friends of the dead and the wounded, to pray for the people of Oklahoma City. May God’s grace be with them. Meanwhile, we will be about our work. Thank you.” Clinton asks Americans to pray for the victims. Attorney General Janet Reno follows Clinton in the conference, and says, “The death penalty is available and we will seek it.” She refuses to speculate on whether the date of the bombing—the two-year anniversary of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After)—is a coincidence or something more. “We are pursuing all leads,” she says. “This has been a tragic and heartbreaking day.… We cannot tell you how long it will be before we can say with certainty what occurred and who is responsible but we will find the perpetrators and we will bring them to justice.” At another time during the same day, Clinton tells a Des Moines reporter: “I was sick all day long. All of us have been looking at the scene where those children were taken out, and all of us were seeing our own children there. This is an awful, awful thing.” (PBS 4/19/1995; Katz and Hart 4/20/1995; Associated Press 4/20/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 187) Clinton press secretary Michael “Mack” McCurry later credits Clinton for putting an end to what he will call “the anti-Arab hysteria that almost swept this country. Because remember, in the first several hours, everyone was pointing fingers at Arab terrorists (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After and April 19, 1995), which turned out to be obviously wrong.” (PBS Frontline 2000)
White supremacist Timothy McVeigh, held in the Noble County Courthouse in Perry, Oklahoma, for misdemeanor weapons charges (see After 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995), is identified as the FBI’s prime suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), as “John Doe No. 1” depicted in police drawings (see April 20, 1995). According to Assistant District Attorney Mark Gibson, if the local judge had not been busy with a divorce case, McVeigh would have been arraigned and released the day before. “In most cases this guy would have been bonded out yesterday,” Gibson tells a reporter. “God was watching us.” Gibson learns of McVeigh’s status as the bombing suspect from Noble County Sheriff Jerry Cook, who is informed over the telephone by a BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agent in Washington, and is incredulous that the person being hunted throughout the nation (see After 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995) is in his own rural courthouse. McVeigh is waiting outside a courtroom for his bail hearing and release; instead, Gibson escorts him back to his cell in an upper floor of the courthouse to await federal authorities. Cook shuts down the jail telephones and implements a security perimeter around the building. Judge Danny G. Allen, aware that McVeigh will soon be taken into federal custody, provides McVeigh a hearing on his traffic and weapons charges, and after listening to McVeigh denying ever doing anything illegal, sets McVeigh’s bail at $5,000 and sends him back to his cell. Shortly after noon, a group of FBI agents arrives in Perry via helicopter, with more on the way. By this time, many people in and around the courthouse are aware that McVeigh is the bombing suspect, and reporters are beginning to gather outside the courthouse. McVeigh attempts to telephone a local lawyer, but because Cook has shut the phones off, he is unable to get through. He angrily slams the phone down in its cradle, prompting jailer Farrell Stanley to later reflect that this moment is the only time anyone at the courthouse sees McVeigh display any emotion. (According to One of Ours, a 1998 book written about McVeigh and the bombing by Richard A. Serrano, McVeigh privately worries that he will be taken into FBI custody, tortured, and made to disappear without a trace.) (Kifner 4/22/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 1-10)
Final Wait - Two FBI agents, James L. Norman Jr. and Floyd M. Zimms, arrive to take McVeigh into custody. One of them asks McVeigh if he knows why they are here, and McVeigh responds: “Yes. That thing in Oklahoma City, I guess.” McVeigh asks for a lawyer, and says he will give no more information save for name, age, and other routine information. “I will just give you general physical information,” he says. He refuses to respond to any further queries, instead listening to the increasingly loud and angry sound of the swelling crowd outside. He asks the agents, “Take me out the roof,” and explains that he wants to be taken out of the building via the roof. “Jack Ruby,” he says. “You remember what happened with Jack Ruby.” McVeigh is referring to the man who shot President Kennedy’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. McVeigh believes the Dallas police allowed Ruby to get close to Oswald, and does not want the same thing to happen to him. The agents refuse, but promise he will be well guarded, for his safety and that of his escorts. Senior FBI agent James Adams decides to take McVeigh out by a courthouse entrance, with the sheriff’s van backed up near the door. McVeigh and the surrounding agents and other officials will only be exposed to the crowd for a few minutes. Adams later says that he never thought to put a bulletproof vest on McVeigh. After another agent takes McVeigh’s fingerprints, McVeigh is brought back to his cell for one last, brief stay. On the way back, he sees news coverage of the crowd gathered around the courthouse. He tells fellow inmate Tiffany Valenzuela that he did not bomb the Murrah Federal Building, and says the sketch being circulated of the bombing suspects (see April 20, 1995) does not look like him. He asks Valenzuela to look out of her window and see if she can spot federal agents “on the roof” or “outside.” She advises him to relax, saying, “I’m sure they got the wrong man anyway.” He admits to being “kind of paranoid” because “everybody’s out there.” FBI agents take possession of McVeigh’s mug shot, his fingerprint card, booking receipts, clothing, and the mattress he slept on in his cell; the fingerprint card and other belongings will be tested for explosive residue.
Meeting with Local Lawyer - Local lawyer Royce Hobbs, who has been trying without success to meet with McVeigh, finally gets the meeting he has asked for after filing a petition with Judge Allen alleging that McVeigh is being held incommunicado. Allen allows the two to meet briefly, and Hobbs tells McVeigh to keep his mouth shut. (Stickney 1996, pp. 191; Serrano 1998, pp. 1-10)
Perp Walk - Federal agents take McVeigh out of his cell, place him in handcuffs and leg irons, and escort him out of the building. “I’m not scared,” McVeigh mutters to himself. “I’m not scared now.” He is escorted into the parking lot to the sheriff’s van. The crowd spots him and begins screaming imprecations: “Baby killer!” “Burn him!” “Rip his head off!” “Killer!” “Murderer!” and “B_stard!” McVeigh does not react, and shows no emotion during the brief “perp walk” to the van. He is taken to a helicopter and flown to Tinker Air Force Base outside of Oklahoma City. News broadcasts later show photographs and video of McVeigh being “perp walked” in an orange jumpsuit, surrounded by FBI agents as the crowd jeers and screams; these images are replayed thousands of times over the following days and months. (Walsh 4/22/1995; Purdum 4/22/1995; Johnston 4/22/1995; Kifner 4/22/1995; Stickney 1996, pp. 179; Serrano 1998, pp. 1-10; Douglas O. Linder 2001) One onlooker, Darrin Rucker, tells a reporter, “They should give him a taste of his own medicine and put him inside a bomb and blow it up.” (Walsh 4/22/1995) McVeigh later says he was focused on looking for snipers in the crowd, moving his eyes in the Z-pattern he had learned in the Army. He later says he wasn’t afraid to die, but was intent on surviving to tell his side of the story. (CNN 12/17/2007) He also later says he twice asked for a bulletproof vest, but was “ignored” by the jailers. His sister Jennifer McVeigh will express her anger at the media’s response to her brother’s appearance. “What would they have said about any look he had?” she will ask. “I mean, what do they want? You want him to walk out with a big smile on his face? What would they say about that? What kind of look do they expect from someone who has just been accused of a crime like that? I think the sun was shining in his eyes, first of all. He was squinting. I think that was part of it.… How would you like it if a bunch of people were staring at you, screaming ‘Baby killer!’ I don’t think you can assume a reason for everything. You can’t assume a reason for the way somebody looks at all times.” (Stickney 1996, pp. 178-179) McVeigh will be arraigned in a federal court hearing at Tinker Air Force Base (see April 21, 1995).
James Nichols, the older brother of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995), is taken into FBI custody as a material witness. The FBI lacks evidence to immediately arrest James Nichols, but considers him a strong possibility of being a conspirator in the bombing plot (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 20-21, 1995). Shortly after the bombing, as James Nichols will later recall, FBI agents descended on his home town of Decker, Michigan, drawn there by the address given by suspected bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 21, 1995) to a Kansas motel just days before the bombing. The address is that of Nichols’s family farm, where McVeigh has stayed frequently in the past (see April 20-21, 1995). At first, Nichols hears rumors of an “FBI raid” on Decker, and finds them hilariously “far-fetched.” He will later tell a reporter: “Decker? The Oklahoma City bombing? I mean, everyone knows that’s the kind of thing a terrorist or an intelligence agent would do in a foreign country, not something a hick from Podunk, USA would do to his fellow citizens, his own countrymen. Not a chance!” Nichols runs some errands in town, including putting down a $2,000 deposit on a tractor engine he is having rebuilt, when he drives into a roadblock put up by local police officers. He can see federal agents on his farm from the road, and identifies himself to a police officer. (Jerusalem Post 4/23/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 232)
Taken into Custody - Nichols will later recall: “The government agents surrounding my farm possessed enough firepower to easily defeat a small planet. As I approached my driveway, an ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, also called BATF) agent who mistakenly thought he was in a ninja movie—I could tell by the way he was dressed and by the way he acted—jumped in my car and ordered me not to move, while pointing an assault rifle at my face in a nervy menacing manner. This guy seemed to be a recruit from the KGB or Gestapo or something, and was obviously a loose cannon who was also a few bricks short of a full load—a prerequisite for any adult who wants to dress and act like a Ninja turtle.” The federal agents who arrived at Nichols’s farm had come dressed in SWAT outfits. Nichols will go on to talk about the “cold eyes of a fanatic” over “the barrel of a fully automatic assault rifle” trained on him as the agent steers him onto his property. “Does this guy want to take it out on me because he wasn’t fortunate enough to be involved in the turkey shoots at Waco (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and Ruby Ridge (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After)?” Nichols will later recall wondering. Nichols is taken into custody and held on unrelated charges of conspiring with his brother and McVeigh to make explosive devices (see April 25, 1995), keeping him in a local prison.
Admits to Making Small Bombs on Farm - Nichols tells the agents that over the past few years, he has seen his brother and McVeigh make and detonate “bottle bombs” using brake fluid, gasoline, and diesel fuel. Sometimes he joined in with the bomb-making, he admits, but says the explosive devices were extremely small. He admits that McVeigh has stayed at the farm before, and says he believes “McVeigh had the knowledge to manufacture a bomb.”
Witnesses Add Details - A neighbor, Dan Stromber, tells agents that he had seen the Nichols brothers make explosive devices by mixing fertilizer, peroxide, and bleach in plastic soda bottles. “We’re getting better at it,” he recalls James Nichols saying to him. Stromber also says the brothers were angry and resentful over the sieges at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, the same incidents to which James Nichols will later refer. “The judges and President Clinton should be killed” because of the incidents, Stromber recalls James Nichols saying. “The FBI and the ATF are to blame for killing the Branch Davidians at Waco.” Stromber also recalls a young man named Tim staying on the farm in 1994 (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994), and recalls him always wearing “camouflage clothing” and carrying “a pistol” with him. A second neighbor, Paul Izydorek, recalls the man’s last name as “McVeigh,” and recalls him taking part in the bomb experiments. A confidential source informs the FBI of two men’s attempts to buy liquid nitro model airplane fuel and 200 ziplock bags from a hobby store in Marlette, Michigan, one using the name “Tim Tuttle,” an alias used by McVeigh (see December 1993). And Indiana seed dealer Dan Shafer tells investigators about the 1988 incident where James Nichols drew a picture of a building remarkably similar to the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and talked about bombing it (see December 22 or 23, 1988).
Searching the Farm - Agents hold Nichols in custody for days, trying to determine what, if any, involvement he had in the bombing. They search his farm, and find large tanks of diesel fuel, 28 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer similar to that used in the Oklahoma City bombing, and, in a field by an outbuilding, find jagged-edged shards of metal that appear to be bomb shrapnel. In the farmhouse they find copies of far-right white supremacist magazines such as The Spotlight, a paper envelope with a document quoting Adolf Hitler, 28 blasting caps, a safety fuse, and a manual telling how to clear fields and ditches with dynamite. Videotapes alleging sinister government conspiracies at Ruby Ridge and Waco lie atop Nichols’s television set; copies of pamphlets written by Davidian leader David Koresh and photographs from the Waco siege lie on the floor. Discarded envelopes addressed to James Nichols from “T. Tuttle” lie nearby. (Serrano 1998, pp. 232-235)
The FBI says that evidence compiled on the Oklahoma City bombing shows that it was planned for months by accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995) and a small number of co-conspirators. The statement by the FBI echoes statements made earlier by Attorney General Janet Reno (see April 22, 1995). Evidence shows that McVeigh was driven in part by his rage at the government’s handling of the Branch Davidian standoff two years earlier (see April 19, 1993). McVeigh has refused to cooperate with investigators, and reportedly has shown no remorse or emotion of any kind, even when confronted with photographs of dead and maimed children being taken from the devasted Murrah Federal Building. The attack was timed to coincide with the Branch Davidian conflagration of April 19, 1993, investigators say, and was executed after months of planning, preparation, and testing. Some investigators believe that McVeigh may lack the leadership skills to plan and execute such a plot, and theorize that the ringleader of the conspiracy may turn out to be someone else (see April 21, 1995 and After). Evidence collected from the Ryder truck, particularly shards of blue plastic from barrels containing the fertilizer and fuel oil that comprised most of the bomb’s elements, point to the involvement of Terry Nichols, a friend of McVeigh’s who is coming under increasing scrutiny as a possible co-conspirator (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Similar barrels were found in Nichols’s garage in his Herington, Kansas, home (see (February 20, 1995)), along with other evidence tying him to the bomb’s construction.
Investigating Possible Involvement of Sister - Investigators are in the process of searching the home of McVeigh’s younger sister Jennifer, who has returned from a vacation in Pensacola, Florida (see April 7, 1995 and April 21-23, 1995). They are also poring over Jennifer McVeigh’s 1995 Chevrolet pickup truck, registered in New York. Investigators say the two siblings are very close, share similar anti-government views (see March 9, 1995), and have had numerous conversations in recent months (see Mid-December 1994). Jennifer McVeigh is taken into federal custody as well, as a witness, not as a suspect, and is released on April 25, after an intensive interrogation session that leaves her frightened and angry. “They told me Tim was guilty,” she will later recall, “and that he was going to fry.” According to her recollections, the agents threaten to charge her as a co-conspirator unless she gives them evidence against her brother, but she refuses to cooperate. She does reveal some information about her brother’s involvement in gun dealing, his strong belief in the US Constitution as he and right-wing white separatist groups interpret it, and his obsession with the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978). “He had people he knew around the country,” she tells agents, mentioning three: “Mike and Lori and Terry.” Terry is Terry Nichols. “Mike and Lori” are McVeigh’s close friends Michael and Lori Fortier (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, April 19, 1995 and After, and December 16, 1994 and After). She tells them about watching anti-government videotapes with her brother, in particular one called “Day 51” about the Waco siege. “It depicted the government raiding the compound, and it implied that the government gassed and burned the people inside intentionally and attacked the people,” she tells the agents. “He was very angry. I think he thought the government murdered the people there, basically gassed and burned them down.” The agents ask if by the government, he meant the FBI and the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, also abbreviated BATF). “He felt that someone should be held accountable,” she answers, and says her brother believed no one ever had been held responsible. She shows them the “ATF Read” letter he had written on her word processor (see November 1994) that concludes with the exhortation, “Die, you spineless cowardice [sic] b_stards!” She says that McVeigh had told her he had moved out of a “planning” stage into an “action” stage, though he never explained to her exactly what “action” he intended to take. Later, she will sign a statement detailing what her brother had told her. She will always insist that he never spoke to her about ammonium nitrate, anhydrous hydrazine, or any of the chemical components of the bomb, and had never spoken to her about the scene in The Turner Diaries that depicts the FBI building in Washington being obliterated by a truck bomb similar to the one used in Oklahoma City. The FBI seizes a number of her belongings, including samples of her antigovernment “patriot” literature. But, they determine, Jennifer McVeigh was never a part of her brother’s conspiracy.
Interviewing Alleged Co-Conspirator's Ex-Wife - Investigators are also interviewing Nichols’s ex-wife, Lana Padilla, who currently lives in Las Vegas. The press speculates that she is cooperating with the investigation and may have been taken to a undisclosed location for security reasons. Investigators are combing through a large body of writings McVeigh left behind, many of which detail his far-right, anti-government ideological beliefs. From what they have read so far, McVeigh believes that his Second Amendment rights are absolute, and he has the right to live without any restraints from the government. They have not found any documents detailing any operational plan for the bombing, nor have they found evidence that McVeigh directly threatened any government buildings or personnel. The FBI is offering a $2 million reward for information about McVeigh and the bombing. (Johnston 4/24/1995; New York Times 4/24/1995; Serrano 1998, pp. 237-238)
Terry Nichols and his brother James Nichols are charged by a Michigan federal court with conspiring to help suspected Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh build explosives at Terry Nichols’s farm in Michigan (see December 22 or 23, 1988). Judge Monti Belot rules that Terry Nichols will be held without bail, and will be transferred to Oklahoma City sometime after noon on May 5; the delay in the transfer gives Nichols’s public defender, Steven Gradert, time to file a possible appeal. (Gradert also alleges that when the FBI first interviewed Nichols—see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995—he may not have understood his rights under the law.) The complaint, filed in a federal court in Michigan, does not directly link either of the brothers to the Oklahoma bombing. It does accuse both brothers of building what the complaint calls “bottle bombs” and of experimenting with other explosives with McVeigh in 1992 and 1994 (see April 2, 1992 and After, November 1991 - Summer 1992, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and February - July 1994). Until today, both the brothers were held, not as suspects, but as material witnesses (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995); the conspiracy charges are designed to keep them behind bars until investigators can find more solid links between them and the bombing plot. An affidavit accompanying the complaint says that, like McVeigh, both Nichols brothers blamed the government for the 1993 Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After); authorities have alleged that part of McVeigh’s motivation for the bombing was revenge for the 1993 debacle (see April 24, 1995). An initial version of the affidavit says a witness, Daniel Stomber of Evergreen Township, Michigan, had heard James Nichols “stating that judges and President Clinton should be killed, and that he blamed the FBI and the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] for killing the Branch Davidians in Waco.” A revised affidavit made public later deletes that information. James Nichols’s lawyer, Miriam Siefer, calls the information in the affidavit “quite stale.” The complaint itself says that James Nichols informed federal agents that his brother and McVeigh had been at his Michigan farm off and on since December 1991. James also told agents that his brother had obtained survival books that had information about bombs, and said he believed McVeigh knew how to build a bomb. The affidavit says James has admitted to building small bombs with McVeigh and his brother, but denied ever buying ammonium nitrate, one of the key ingredients in the Oklahoma City bomb. However, the affidavit says all three men were known to possess quantities of fertilizer and fuel oil, the same materials used in the Oklahoma City bomb, and says that Terry Nichols admitted to FBI investigators that he had bought at least 100 pounds of ammonium nitrate in the recent past. The affidavit says a witness told agents that all three men built other devices made of prescription vials, black powder, blasting caps, and safety fuses, which they detonated in empty fields of James Nichols’s 500 acres. Shrapnel was found in the fields, the affidavit says. Investigators found 28 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and a 55-gallon drum of fuel oil on James Nichols’s farm; both ingredients are common on many farms, but James Nichols has claimed to be an organic farmer and thusly would not ordinarily use such materials. The affidavit says that in December 1993, McVeigh used an alias to buy liquid nitro airplane fuel, which could be used with other chemicals to improvise explosives (see December 1993). The complaint and affidavit will be presented to a federal court in Wichita, Kansas, on April 26. James Nichols will be released a month later without bond; US District Judge Paul Borman will rule that the government failed to link him to the bombing (see May 22, 1995). (Belluck 4/26/1995; Pertman and Howe 4/26/1995; Johnston 4/25/1996; Mickolus and Simmons 6/1997, pp. 810-811)
The federal government prepares to lease a building in Oklahoma City to house the ever-expanding evidence surrounding the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), known as the “OKbomb” investigation. Evidence from the bomb scene, including tons of debris from the devastated Murrah Federal Building, will be microscopically examined at forensic laboratories run by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Over a thousand federal, state, and local law enforcement officials are involved in the case. (Weiner 4/29/1995)
The New York Times reports that Timothy McVeigh, accused of executing the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), has claimed responsibility for the bombing. The Times’s sources are two people who have spoken with McVeigh during his continuing incarceration at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma; they spoke to Times reporter Pam Belluck in return for anonymity. McVeigh, the sources claim, told them he chose the Murrah Federal Building as a target because it housed so many government offices, and because it was more architecturally vulnerable than other federal buildings. The sources say McVeigh said he knew nothing of the day care center in the building, and was surprised to learn that children had died in the bombing. McVeigh told the sources that he was not “directly involved” with armed civilian paramilitary groups (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, January 1995, and April 5, 1995), though he admitted to having “relationships and acquaintances with a few people who have similar views,” primarily people he met at gun shows, the sources say. They say McVeigh acknowledges responsibility for the bombing, but does not believe he committed a crime. They say that McVeigh told them the planning for the bombing began at least nine months ago (see September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, November 5, 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, March 1995, March 31 - April 12, 1995, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, and 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), and he had considered targets throughout the Midwest, from Denver to Kansas City to Texas and South Dakota. They say that McVeigh told them he had gone to the bomb site at least once (see October 20, 1994 and April 16-17, 1995) but had not gone inside the building. Federal officials say the Murrah Building was extremely vulnerable to explosive damage because of its large glass windows, its nine floors which could collapse upon one another, and because of the absence of any courtyard or plaza separating the building from the street, where a truck carrying a bomb could be parked. McVeigh’s alleged statements to the two sources suggest that those factors greatly influenced his choice of the building. The sources say that McVeigh was motivated to carry out the bombing in part because of the 1992 killing of white supremacist Randy Weaver’s wife and son during a standoff with federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992), and because of his fury over the Branch Davidian debacle outside Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). McVeigh was also driven, they say, by a more general hatred of the government, which may be fueled in part by his failure to land a well-paying job when he left the Army (see November 1991 - Summer 1992). The sources say McVeigh did not single out any one experience that triggered his desire to plan and execute the bombing. McVeigh also noted, they say, that he did not specifically target the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), some of whose agents in Oklahoma City participated in the Davidian siege. Rather, they say, McVeigh wanted to target as many government agencies as possible in one strike. McVeigh talked about the significance of the date of the bombing, April 19; not only was it the date of the Davidian tragedy, but it was the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, where in 1775 the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. The sources provide few details of the bombing plot, and it is unclear if McVeigh divulged any such details. The sources say McVeigh did not speak much of his accused co-conspirator, Terry Nichols (see March 1995, April 16-17, 1995, 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995, 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995, 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995, and May 11, 1995), nor did he speak of others who might have been involved in the plot. They say that McVeigh did mention his acquaintance Steven Colbern (see May 12, 1995), and said that Colbern was not involved in the plotting. The sources say that while McVeigh carefully plotted the bombing itself, the escape he planned was less well thought out (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). He forgot to transfer the license plate from a Pontiac he traded (see January 1 - January 8, 1995) onto his getaway car, a Mercury Marquis (see April 13, 1995); the failure to transfer the plate caused him to be pulled over by a highway patrol officer. McVeigh told the sources he had no money with him and no back-up person to help him if he was detained. “I don’t know how to explain that gap in his planning or his organization,” one of the sources says. “The primary objective was obviously the building itself.” One of the sources adds: “He’s very anxious, obviously, because of the position he’s in. He’s anxious to see what the next step is in the process and when this will be resolved.” (Belluck 5/16/1995)
Stephen Higgins, the former head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated ATF), publishes an op-ed for the Washington Post explaining why his agency mounted a raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). Higgins says he wrote the piece after watching and reading about the public reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), which many claim was triggered by the Waco debacle (see April 19, 1993). Higgins says a raft of misinformation surrounds the BATF raid on the Davidian compound, and gives his rationale for the raid.
BATF Did Not Instigate Investigation into Davidians - “[D]espite what fundraisers at the National Rifle Association would have us believe, the [B]ATF is not part of some sinister federal plot to confiscate guns from innocent people,” he writes. The agency was alerted to the Davidians’ stockpiling of weapons by reports from a local deputy sheriff, who heard from a United Parcel Services driver that a package he delivered to the Davidians contained grenade parts (see November 1992 - January 1993), and earlier deliveries included black gunpower, firearms parts, and casings. “[C]onspiracy theorists had best include the local sheriff’s office and UPS as part of the collusion,” Higgins writes. In addition, the day before the raid, the Waco Tribune-Herald began the “Sinful Messiah” series of reports on the Davidians and their leader, David Koresh (see February 27 - March 3, 1993), which detailed, Higgins writes, “the potential danger the group represented to the community as well as, somewhat ironically, the failure of local law enforcement agencies in addressing the threat. (The conspiracy now would have to include the local newspaper publisher!)”
Davidians Posed Clear Threat to Community - Higgins says that it would have been dangerous to assume that the Davidians were peaceful people who did not plan to actually use the weapons they were amassing, and repeats the claim that Koresh said in late 1992 that “the riots in Los Angeles would pale in comparison to what was going to happen in Waco” (see December 7, 1992). Higgins goes on to say that during the 51-day siege, Koresh alluded to a previous plan to blow up the dam at Lake Waco, that Koresh wanted to provoke a confrontation with the BATF, and had at one point considered opening fire on a Waco restaurant to provoke just such a conflict.
BATF Feared Mass Suicide - Higgins notes that the BATF, like the FBI, feared the possibility of “mass suicide” (see February 24-27, 1993, Around 4:00 p.m. February 28, 1993, March 5, 1993, March 7-8, 1993, March 12, 1993, (March 19, 1993), and March 23, 1993), and gives several examples of cults who have carried out just such mass suicides.
Disputes Claims that BATF Fired First Shots - Higgins disputes the claims “that the Davidians were only defending themselves when they shot and killed four [B]ATF agents and wounded numerous others” during the February 1993 raid. He notes that investigations have shown that all four BATF agents were killed by Davidian gunfire (see February 2000) and not “friendly fire,” as some have alleged, and asks, “[W]hat possible excuse could there have been for the Davidians even taking up arms—let along using them—upon learning inadvertently from a TV cameraman that ATF agents were on their way to serve warrants?” Had the Davidians allowed the BATF agents to serve their warrants, “there would have been no subsequent loss of life on either side.” He goes on to say that it was the Davidians, not the BATF, who first opened fire, as a Treasury Department report has confirmed (see Late September - October 1993). He writes that for BATF agents to have merely “driven up to the compound and politely asked to conduct a search without displaying any firearms” would have been “dangerous and potentially suicidal.”
Using Waco as an Excuse for Violence - Higgins concludes that people like Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, do not decide to do violence to innocent people because of tragedies such as the Davidian incident, but “use it as an excuse for their behavior.” He notes that after the Oklahoma City bombing, someone called it a “damned good start.” He says perhaps the upcoming hearings on the Waco tragedy (see Late July 1995) might influence some of these people: “By seeing the faces of the survivors and reading their stories, maybe those who so vehemently rail against government authority in general, and government workers in particular, will come to understand better that those people they’ve been so quick to criticize have real faces and real families. They car-pool to work. They coach Little League sports. They mow their lawns. They’re the family next door that waters your plants and takes in your mail while you’re away. No one deserves to have their life placed in jeopardy simply because they work in, or happen to be passing by, a government office. And no one, not even law enforcement officers who get paid for risking their lives, deserves to be targeted by violent extremists threatening to kill them simply for doing their jobs.” For others, like radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy, who has advised his listeners to shoot BATF agents in the head because they wear bulletproof vests (see August 26 - September 15, 1994), “I doubt there’s much hope,” Higgins writes. He says that Liddy’s excuse that he was talking strictly about self-defense doesn’t wash; some angry and unstable individuals might well take Liddy’s words literally. Higgins compares Koresh to mass murderers such as Charles Manson and David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”), and concludes: “We can’t change the outcome of what happened at Waco, but we have a responsibility not to ignore simple fairness and compassion in our search for the truth. If there is to be another hearing on Waco, let’s hope it’s for the purpose of examining the facts and learning from the tragedy, not merely to please one more special interest group with an anti-government agenda.” (Higgins 7/2/1995)
The House of Representatives concludes a 10-day series of hearings on the series of events that concluded with the fiery deaths of scores of Branch Davidian members near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and Late July 1995). The hearings do not find evidence of a White House-driven conspiracy to either destroy the Davidians or cover up the truth of the matter, as some Republican House members had predicted. An Orlando Sentinel article says that many of the questions from those House Republicans “seemed fueled more by politics than any true desire to ensure that the government avoid future fiascos a la Waco.” The hearings determined that President Clinton did not micro-manage the events of the siege and ultimate assault, nor did they find evidence that Clinton ordered the assault to prove, as some House members alleged, that his administration is “tough on crime.” Committee co-chair Bill McCollum (R-FL) acknowledged at the end of the hearings that the raid, siege, and final conflagration were caused by a string of blunders by federal law enforcement agencies. Attorney General Janet Reno testified as to why the FBI’s final assault seemed at the time to be the best approach; her overriding concern was to remove Davidian leader David Koresh without harming the children inside the compound. A Davidian who survived the fire testified that the fires that devastated the compound were started under orders from Koresh. (Marquez 8/4/1995) In emotional testimony before the House, former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) agent Robert Rodriguez, who served as an informant for the BATF inside the Davidian compound, said he was angered and dismayed by his superiors’ decision to raid the compound even though the Davidians knew they were coming (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). Rodriguez testified that two of his then-superiors, Philip Chojnacki and Charles Sarabyn, lied to the committee when they said they did not know that the Davidians had been alerted to the February raid. Chojnacki and Sarabyn were fired for their mismanagement of the BATF raid and for covering up evidence of their malfeasance (see Late September - October 1993), but were subsequently rehired (see December 23, 1994). Rodriguez said: “Two years I’ve waited for this.… It let me get everything out.” The events of that raid and the subsequent actions, he said, were “tearing me up inside.” (Myers 7/25/1995) In 1999, the FBI will admit to lobbing two pyrotechnic grenades into the compound during the April assault, though the bureau will deny that the grenades started the fires (see August 25, 1999 and After).
Saboteurs derail an Amtrak passenger train, the Sunset Limited, near Hyder, Arizona. A rail joint bar supporting a section of track over a 30-foot ravine is removed; sensors should have triggered an alarm, but the saboteurs wired the track so that the signal remained green and the crew would not be warned. Amtrak employee Mitchell Bates is killed and 78 others are injured in the resulting wreck. An anti-government message, signed by the “Sons of Gestapo,” is left behind. The letter, titled “Indictment of the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms] and FBI,” begins with a poem referencing the Branch Davidian siege (see March 1, 1993 and April 19, 1993), and concludes: “Who is policing the ATF, FBI, state troopers, county sheriffs, and local police? What federal law enforcement agency investigates each and every choke hold killing committed by a police officer? Each and every beating of a drunk wether [sic] or not a passerby videotapes it? Each and every shooting of a police officer’s wife who knows too much about drug kickbacks? Each and every killing at Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992)? The Gestapo accounts to no one. This is not Nazi Germany. All these people had rights. It is time for an independent federal agency to police the law enforcement agencies and other government employees. Sons of the Gestapo SOG.” Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio terms the derailment a “domestic terrorism” incident. Joe Roy of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klanwatch says his organization has no information on the “Sons of Gestapo.” Roy tells a reporter that it could be a local group, or “this could be Fred the farmer who’s mad at Amtrak for cutting across his land.… It very well could be some disgruntled individual who’s trying to blame it on the militias.” (Hill 10/10/1995; Labaton 10/11/1995; Associated Press 10/14/1995; Southern Poverty Law Center 6/2001) President Clinton says he is “profoundly outraged” by the attack and promises the government will “get to the bottom” of it and punish those responsible. (Blitzer 10/10/1995) However, the perpetrators are never caught. (Southern Poverty Law Center 6/2001)
The House Oversight Committee releases its report on the FBI’s siege and final assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993, March 1, 1993, and April 19, 1993). The report was prepared in conjunction with the House Judiciary Committee. The report spans investigative activities undertaken on behalf of the committees by Congressional investigators from April 1995 through May 1996; the committees took almost three months to write the final report. As part of that investigation, the Oversight Committee held 10 days of public hearings (see August 4, 1995). (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Findings - The report makes the following conclusions:
Branch Davidians Responsible for Situation, Deaths - “But for the criminal conduct and aberrational behavior of David Koresh and other Branch Davidians, the tragedies that occurred in Waco would not have occurred,” the report finds. “The ultimate responsibility for the deaths of the Davidians and the four federal law enforcement agents [referring to the federal agents slain in the February 1993 raid] lies with Koresh.” The Davidians set the fires themselves, the report finds. Moreover, the Davidians had time to leave the premises after their cohorts set the fires, and most either chose to stay or were prevented from leaving by their fellows. The 19 Davidians killed by gunfire either shot themselves, the report finds, were shot by their fellows, or were killed by “the remote possibility of accidental discharge from rounds exploding in the fire.”
Treasury Department 'Derelict' in Duties - Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and Deputy Secretary Roger Altman were “irresponsible” and “derelict in their duties” refusing to meet with the director of the BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, sometimes abbreviated ATF] in the month before the February raid, and failing to ask for briefings. Senior Treasury officials “routinely failed” to monitor BATF officials, knew little to nothing of the plans for the raid, and therefore failed to uncover the significant flaws in the plan. When the raid failed, Assistant Treasury Secretary Ronald Noble tried to blame the BATF for the failure, even though Noble and his fellow Treasury officials failed to supervise the BATF’s plans and activities.
BATF 'Grossly Incompetent' - Some of the worst criticism of the report are leveled at the BATF. The report calls the agency’s investigation of the Davidians (see June-July 1992, November 1992 - January 1993, and January 11, 1993 and After) “grossly incompetent” and lacking in “the minimum professionalism expected of a major federal law enforcement agency.” The agents in charge of planning decided to use a “military-style raid” two months before beginning surveillance, undercover, and infiltration efforts. The agency did have probable cause for a search warrant against Koresh and the Davidians (see February 25, 1993), but the affidavit applying for the warrant “contained an incredible number of false statements.” The BATF agents responsible for the affidavit either knew, or should have known, the affidavit was so inaccurate and false. Koresh could easily have been arrested outside the compound, the report finds; the BATF planners “were determined to use a dynamic entry approach,” and thusly “exercised extremely poor judgment, made erroneous assumptions, and ignored the foreseeable perils of their course of action.” BATF agents lied to Defense Department officials about the Davidians’ supposed involvement in drug manufacturing, and by those lies secured Defense Department training without having to reimburse the department, as they should have. The raid plan itself “was poorly conceived, utilized a high risk tactical approach when other tactics could have been successfully used, was drafted and commanded by ATF agents who were less qualified than other available agents, and used agents who were not sufficiently trained for the operation.” Plan security was lax, making it easy for the Davidians to learn about the plan and take precautions. The report singles out BATF raid commanders Philip Chojnacki and Chuck Sarabyn for criticism, noting that they endangered BATF agents’ lives by choosing to go ahead with the raid even though they knew, or should have known, the Davidians had found out about it and were taking defensive action. “This, more than any other factor, led to the deaths of the four ATF agents killed on February 28.” The report is highly critical of Chojnacki’s and Sarabyn’s rehiring after they were fired (see December 23, 1994). The report also cites former BATF Director Stephen Higgins (see July 2, 1995) and former Deputy Director Daniel Hartnett for failing to become involved in the planning.
Justice Department Decision to Approve Final Assault 'Highly Irresponsible' - The report charactizes Attorney General Janet Reno’s approval of the FBI’s plan to end the standoff “premature, wrong… highly irresponsible… [and] seriously negligent” (see April 17-18, 1993). Reno should have known that the plan would put the Davidians’s lives at extreme risk, especially the children inside, and should have been doubly reluctant because of the lack of a serious threat posed by the Davidians to the FBI or to the surrounding community. Reno should have been skeptical of the FBI’s reasons for ending the standoff: negotiations were continuing, the Davidians were not threatening to break out in force, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) could have gone longer without mandatory rest and retraining, the Davidians’ living conditions had not significantly deteriorated, and there was no reason to believe that children were being abused or mistreated any more than they may have been before the February raid. “The final assault put the children at the greatest risk.” The report calls the plan to use CS riot control gas “fatally flawed.” CS gas is a dangerous substance, and particularly threatening to children, pregnant women, elderly people, and those with respiratory conditions, all of which were represented in the compound. Some of those who died in the fires may have died from exposure to CS gas before the fires consumed them, the report speculates. The Davidians were likely to react violently and not submissively, as the FBI insisted, and the likelihood of armed resistance and mass suicide in response to the CS gas insertion was high. Moreover, the plan had no contingency provisions in case the initial insertion did not provide the desired result. Reno offered her resignation after the April 19 assault; the report says that President Clinton “should have accepted it.” (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
FBI Pushed for Violent Confrontation Instead of Allowing Negotiations to Continue - The FBI was riven by the conflict between two teams with “incompatible methodologies,” the report finds: the HRT, which ultimately controlled the situation, and the negotiators. Senior FBI agent Jeffrey Jamar almost always sided with the HRT’s aggressive approach, but often “allowed the proposals of each team to be implemented simultaneously, working against each other.” The FBI’s chief negotiator on-site, Gary Noesner, told the committee that the dichotomy between the “action-oriented” HRT and the “nonviolent” negotiators is a problem that the FBI routinely experiences; it was not unique to the Davidian standoff. The two teams battled with increasing hostility and anger towards one another as the siege progressed, with the negotiators becoming less and less influential. The negotiators later testified that the pressure tactics used by the HRT against the Davidians undermined their efforts at winning the Davidians’ trust and rendered their efforts ineffective. FBI profiler Peter Smerick (see March 3-4, 1993, March 7-8, 1993, March 9, 1993, March 9, 1993, March 17-18, 1993, August 1993, and 1995) was particularly harsh in his assessment of the tactics of the HRT during the siege; during his interviews with investigators, Smerick said “the FBI commanders were moving too rapidly toward a tactical solution and were not allowing adequate time for negotiations to work.” Smerick told investigators that while the “negotiators were building bonds… the tactical group was undermining everything.… Every time the negotiators were making progress the tactical people would undo it.” The report concludes, “FBI leadership engaged these two strategies in a way that bonded the Davidians together and perpetuated the standoff.” (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) After March 2, when Koresh and the Davidians broke what some considered to be a promise to come out (see March 2, 1993), Jamar believed nothing Koresh or the others said, and essentially gave up on the idea of a negotiated surrender. Chief negotiator Byron Sage did not share that view, but Jamar and the HRT officials began thinking, and planning, exclusively on a forced end to the standoff, even ignoring evidence that Koresh intended to lead his people out after completing his work on an interpretation of the Biblical Seven Seals (see April 14-15, 1993). Many FBI officials, particularly Jamar, Noesner, and the HRT leadership, became frustrated and impatient with what the report calls “endless dissertations of Branch Davidian beliefs” (see March 15, 1993), to the point where they ignored the assertions from religious experts that the Davidians could be productively negotiated with on a religiously theoretical level (see March 16, 1993). The FBI, the report says, “should have sought and accepted more expert advice on the Branch Davidians and their religious views and been more open-minded to the advice of the FBI’s own experts.” Jamar and the senior FBI officials advising Reno should have known that the reasons they gave to end negotiations and force an ending were groundless; their advice to Reno was, the report says, “wrong and highly irresponsible.” (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996) However, some charges against the FBI are baseless, the report finds. CS gas would not have built up in any areas of the residence to anything approaching lethal levels. No FBI agents shot at the Davidians or the compound. No agent set any fires, either deliberately or inadvertently. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Defense Department Bears No Responsibility - The report finds no reason to fault the Defense Department or National Guard, as no DoD nor Guard personnel took an active part in the assault; the Posse Comitatus Act was therefore not violated. No foreign military personnel or foreign nationals took any part in the assault, though “[s]ome foreign military personnel were present near the Davidian residence as observers at the invitation of the FBI.”
Recommendations - The report recommends that:
the Justice Department consider assuming control of the BATF from the Treasury Department;
Waco residents who made the false statements to law enforcement officials included in the original search warrants should be charged with crimes;
federal agents should use caution in using such statements to obtain warrants; the BATF should review and revise its planning to ensure that “its best qualified agents are placed in command and control positions in all operations”;
senior BATF officials “should assert greater command and control over significant operations”;
the BATF should no longer have sole jurisdiction over any drug-related crimes;
Congress should consider enhancing the Posse Comitatus Act to restrain the National Guard from being involved with federal law enforcement actions;
the Defense Department should clarify the grounds upon which law enforcement agencies can apply for its assistance;
the General Accounting Office (GAO) should ensure that the BATF reimburses the Defense Department for the training and assistance it improperly received;
the GAO should investigate Operation Alliance, the organization that acts as a liaison between the military and other federal agencies;
the FBI should revamp its negotiation policies and training to minimize the effects of physical and emotional fatigue on negotiators;
the FBI should take steps to ensure greater understanding of the targets under investigation (the report notes that had the FBI and BATF agents understood more about the Davidians’ religious philosophies, they “could have made better choices in planning to deal with the Branch Davidians” (see March 15, 1993);
the FBI should ensure better training for its lead negotiators;
FBI agents should rely more on outside experts (the reports notes that several religious experts offered their services in helping the agents understand the Davidians, but were either rebuffed or ignored—see March 3, 1993, March 7, 1993, and March 16, 1993);
federal law enforcement agencies should welcome the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, particularly state and local agencies;
the FBI should expand the size of the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) “so that there are sufficient numbers of team members to participate in an operation and to relieve those involved when necessary”;
the FBI should conduct further examinations on the use of CS gas against children, those with respiratory problems, pregnant women, and the elderly. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
'Perhaps the Greatest Law Enforcement Tragedy in American History' - In a statement appended to the final report, Representative Steven Schiff (R-NM) calls the Davidian raid, standoff, and final assault “perhaps the greatest law enforcement tragedy in American history.” He writes: “It would not be a significant overstatement to describe the Waco operation from the government’s standpoint, as one in which if something could go wrong, it did. The true tragedy is, virtually all of those mistakes could have been avoided.” His statement decries what he calls the increasing “militarization of law enforcement,” recommends that the HRT be scaled back instead of expanded, expresses little confidence in the FLIR (forward-looking infrared radar) videotapes used to determine when and how the fires were started, calls for stringent limitations on the use of CS gas, and blames the FBI for not allowing many of the residents to escape. He accuses the Justice Department of a “breach of ethics” in what he says were its attempts to conceal and withhold evidence from the committee, and to shape its findings. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Dissenting Views - The investigating committees’ 17 Democrats issue a “dissenting views” addendum that is highly critical of what it calls the Republican majority’s use of “false assumptions and unfounded allegations” to besmirch the reputations of Reno and Bentsen, and the use of those “assumptions and allegations” to press for Reno’s resignation. (House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight 8/2/1996)
Two bomb blasts, one an hour after the first, destroy the Sandy Springs Professional Building in Atlanta, Georgia, containing the Atlanta Northside Family Planning Service. The second blast is apparently designed to injure or kill responders such as firemen, paramedics, and others responding to the first blast. “This bomber placed secondary bombs designed to kill and maim rescuers, paramedics, firefighters, and police officers who rushed to the scene to help,” John Magaw of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) will later say. “He didn’t care who they were.” Seven people are injured in the blast. Anti-abortion activist Eric Rudolph (see October 14, 1998 and January 29, 1998) will later be convicted of the bombings. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/14/1998; CBS News 4/19/2007; Associated Press 5/31/2009) The second bomb could have had a far more devastating effect, but, according to FBI agent Jack Killorin, a couple visiting a nearby substance abuse treatment center inadvertently parked their car directly in front of Rudolph’s bomb. “It absorbed huge amounts of the explosive,” Killorin will say. (Freeman 8/24/2006)
The sister of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997), Jennifer McVeigh, reluctantly testifies for the prosecution under a grant of immunity. Her brother nods at her when she enters the courtroom. She tells jurors that her brother ranted against federal agents as “fascist tyrants,” and told her he intended to move from “the propaganda stage” to “the action stage” in the months before the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building (see Mid-December 1994). She describes a November 1994 visit from her brother (see November 1994), in which he showed her a videotape about the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He was very angry,” she testifies. “He thought the government murdered the people there, basically, gassed and burned them.” Her brother held the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the FBI responsible: “I think he felt someone should be held accountable,” she says. During his visit, she says McVeigh told her he felt it necessary to do more than hand out pamphlets attacking the government. “He was not in the propaganda stage,” she says he told her. “He was now in the action stage.” He never explained what he meant by this, she says. She also reads aloud a letter he wrote to the American Legion on her word processor, in which he accused the government of drawing “first blood” in its “war” against its citizens, and said only militia groups could protect the citizenry from the government. And, after being prompted by prosecutors, she recalls driving with her brother when “Tim brought up a time when he was traveling with explosives and nearly got into an accident” (see December 18, 1994). They had been “talking about traffic jokes, accident jokes.” She recalls him talking about driving in another car with “up to 1,000 pounds” of explosives. “They were going down a hill. There was a traffic light. They couldn’t stop in time.” Her brother did not run into another car. Asked why she had not pressed her brother for more details, she replies, “I don’t think I wanted to know.” She did not see her brother again after that visit, but kept in touch with him by letters and telephone calls. He told her he had a network of friends around the country, whom she only knows by their first names: Terry (Nichols), Mike (Michael Fortier—see May 12-13, 1997), and Lori (Fortier—see April 29-30, 1997). Her brother wrote her a letter in early 1995 telling her to get in touch with the Fortiers “in case of alert.… Lori is trustworthy. Let them know who you are and why you called.” He told her not to use their home phone, as it was likely the government would be surveilling it. She testifies that after her brother left, she found another document on her computer entitled “ATF—Read,” which prosecutor Joseph Hartzler says reads as if it were meant for the BATF (see November 1994). Jennifer McVeigh testifies that she called her brother and asked him what to do with the file, and he advised her to “just leave it there.” Prosecution lawyer Beth Wilkinson reads the letter aloud. It told the BATF that its agents “will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous acts against the Constitution and the United States,” and ended: “Remember the Nuremberg trials, war trials.… Die, you spineless cowardice [sic] b_stards!” In March and April 1995, she says her brother sent her two letters, the first of which she later burned as he instructed her to in the letter. The first letter told her, “Something big is going to happen in the month of the bull,” indicating April, and advised her to stay on her “vacation longer” (Jennifer planned to go to Pensacola, Florida, for a two-week vacation beginning April 8). The second letter, dated March 25, 1995, told her not to write him after April 1, “even if it’s an emergency,” and advised her to “watch what you say.” He then sent her a third mailing with a short note and three short clippings from the racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978 and April 15, 1995). On April 7, the day before she went on vacation, she says she divided her brother’s belongings into two boxes, putting one into her closet and giving the other to a friend for safekeeping. After hearing of his arrest on August 21 (see April 21, 1995), she burned the Turner clippings. “I was scared,” she explains. “I heard Tim’s name announced, and I figured [the FBI would] come around sooner or later.” The FBI searched her truck and the house in Florida where she vacationed, and were waiting for her when she flew into the Buffalo, New York, airport (see April 21-23, 1995). She says she was questioned eight to nine hours a day for “eight days straight.” Agents showed her a timeline of events culminating in the Oklahoma City bombing, and threatened to charge her with an array of crimes related to her brother’s actions and her own in concealing or destroying evidence. She identifies her brother’s handwriting on an order for a book on how to make explosives, and on a business card for Paulsen’s Military Supplies where he apparently had made notations about buying TNT (see April 21, 1995). She also identifies his handwriting on the back of a copy of the Declaration of Independence found in his car after the bombing (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). It read, “Obey the Constitution of the United States, and we won’t shoot you.” Under cross-examination by her brother’s lawyers, she breaks down in tears, explaining that she agreed to testify because FBI agents “told me he was guilty [and] was going to fry.” She admits to destroying papers she thought might incriminate him, lying to FBI investigators in her first sworn statement, and resisting her parents’ claims to cooperate with the government. She says she began cooperating truthfully after FBI agents threatened to charge her with treason and other crimes that carry the death penalty. (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law 5/5/1997; Thomas 5/6/1997; Thomas 5/7/1997; Thomas 6/3/1997; Serrano 1998, pp. 284-)
Judge Richard P. Matsch rules that the defense in the trial of Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, and April 24, 1997) cannot call former BATF informant Carole Howe to testify (see August 1994 - March 1995). Matsch rules that Howe’s testimony is irrelevant to McVeigh’s case and could confuse or mislead the jury, according to Howe’s lawyer Clark Brewster. Brewster says that Howe was scheduled to appear this afternoon, and would discuss audio recordings and handwritten notes she had made about alleged bomb threats from the white supremacists at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, and Before 9:00 A.M. April 19, 1995). Howe was a paid informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for over two years, and has claimed that she warned federal authorities more than four months prior to the Oklahoma City bombing that up to 15 US cities would be bombed. However, government sources have questioned her credibility, and she is under indictment in a separate case in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for alleged bomb threats and possession of a destructive device. (CNN 5/27/1997)
Dave Frasca, an FBI supervisor who will later play a key role in the FBI’s failure to get a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings before 9/11 (see August 21, 2001 and August 29, 2001), attempts to “derail” an investigation into radicals attempting to purchase weapons in the US, according to Randy Glass, a mole used in the operation. Glass, a former conman who poses as an arms dealer to help the FBI catch the radicals, will make the allegations in a May 2004 interview with the 9/11 Commission. According to Glass, Frasca, a supervisor at the FBI’s Miami office, hampers the operation in three ways. First, he rejects the idea of investigating the three men, Diaa Mohsen, Mohammed Malik, and RJ Abbas, the ISI intelligence agent, entirely. However, another FBI supervisor and an official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) intervene to keep the case alive. Frasca also prevents two unnamed agents from tapping Mohsen’s telephone. According to a 9/11 Commission summary of Glass’s interview, “Mohsen was talking to everybody,” so presumably such electronic surveillance would have been very fruitful. Finally, Frasca attempts to “sabotage” the investigation by refusing to pay money promised to Glass so that he can buy a false passport from Mohsen. Glass will say that Frasca uses another, unnamed agent to “threaten” him over the passport purchase. The other agent tells Glass, “Frasca says that if you buy this passport, you will be charged with a crime.” However, an official apparently with another government agency tells Glass, “F_ck the FBI, go ahead and purchase the passport,” and Glass apparently does so. (9/11 Commission 5/4/2004) Frasca will be promoted in 2001 (see Early 2001).
One of the few survivors of the April 1993 conflagration that killed over 70 members of the Branch Davidian sect near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), writes of the events of that day and their aftermath. David Thibodeau was in the Mt. Carmel compound when the FBI tanks and armored vehicles began crashing through the walls. He recalls walls collapsing, CS gas billowing in, and a cacophony of noise assaulting his ears, from exploding rockets (ferret rounds containing CS gas) and tank-tread squeals to the shrieks of terrified children. The idea of trying to leave the building, he writes, “seemed insane; with tanks smashing through your walls and rockets smashing through the windows, our very human reaction was not to walk out but to find a safe corner and pray.” He and his fellow Davidians found the FBI’s reassurances, delivered over loudspeakers, of “This is not an assault!” confusing, conjoined as they were with tanks smashing down walls and gas being sprayed all over the building.
No Compulsion to Stay - Thibobeau insists that Davidian leader David Koresh had no intentions of ending the siege with a mass suicide; Koresh allowed those who wanted to leave the compound, even during the siege itself. “But many of us stayed, too, not because we had to, but because we wanted to,” Thibodeau explains. “The FBI and [B]ATF (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) had been confrontational from the start, they had lied to us and they continued lying up through the siege.”
FBI, Not Davidians, Set Fires? - He accuses the BATF of “fabricating” the charges that led that agency to raid the compound in February, writing that false allegations of drug use prompted the raid (the raid was actually prompted by charges of illegal firearms possession and child abuse—see November 1992 - January 1993 and May 26, 1993). He notes that a CIA agent has alleged that Delta Force commandos took part in the siege (see August 28, 1999), and says that FBI audiotapes prove federal agents, not the Davidians, caused the fire that destroyed the compound, largely through the use of incendiary devices (see Late September - October 1993, August 4, 1995, and August 25, 1999 and After). Thibodeau says that other videotapes show FBI agents firing into the compound during the final assault, and BATF agents firing into the compound from helicopters during the February raid. He writes: “The FBI has not come close to revealing the full government complicity in the Waco massacre. In the years since the fire, I’ve tried desperately to find out what really happened. What I’ve discovered is disturbing.” Thibodeau finds the allegations of child abuse particularly disturbing. He says while children were spanked for disciplinary purposes, “the strict rule was they could never be paddled in anger,” and “wild allegations” that children were scheduled to be sacrificed on Yom Kippur came from a single disgruntled former resident, Marc Breault, and were not true.
Intentions to Peacefully End Siege - Thibodeau writes that Koresh intended to settle the siege peacefully, by allowing himself to be taken into custody. He intended to stay long enough to finish his treatise on the “Seven Seals” of Biblical prophecy (see April 14-15, 1993). “The FBI thought the Seven Seals issue was just a ploy, and dismissed it,” Thibodeau writes. “But it was legitimate, and in the ashes of Mount Carmel they found that Koresh had completed the first two commentaries and was hard at work on the third when the tanks rolled in.”
'No Affinity with the Right' - Thibodeau writes of the heavy irony in the fact that many right-wing separatists and supremacists such as Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) have embraced the Davidians as part of their movement. “[W]e had no affinity with the right,” he notes, and says, “One irony of the Waco disaster is that right-wing extremists and racists look to Mount Carmel as a beacon; if they realized that so many of us were black, Asian, and Latino, and that we despised their hateful politics and anger, they would probably feel bitterly betrayed.” While not all of the Davidians “leaned to the left,” he writes, “we also had a ‘live and let live’ attitude that had allowed the community to co-exist with its Texas neighbors for all those decades. We certainly weren’t as isolated as people seem to think.” (Thibodeau 9/9/1999)
Richard Schwein, the former special agent in charge of the El Paso division of the FBI who was involved in the Branch Davidian siege of 1993 (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and April 19, 1993), says the bureau was worried about more than just the possibility that the Davidians might torch their own compound. Schwein recalls that the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) contacted former Davidians around the world (see Around 4:00 p.m. February 28, 1993). He says, “We were trying to find out as much as we could—what this was all about.” Schwein says the FBI feared an armed assault from the Davidians. “There was a concern they would burst out of the building shooting,” he says. “I know at one point, they intended to come out wired with explosives and set them off to kill FBI agents. We had a lot of concerns. We tried to plan for every eventuality.” (Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal 9/12/1999)
The Texas Rangers release a report to Congress that says they found spent cartridges from two different makes of sniper rifles carried by FBI agents during the final assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). The cartridges indicate that FBI agents may have fired shots at the compound during the final assault on the Davidian compound, an assertion the FBI has long denied. Officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) say that the cartridges may have come from shots their agents fired during the initial BATF raid on the compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). Federal law enforcement officials say the cartridges were collected by FBI agents after they arrived in Waco (see March 1, 1993). (Johnston and Lewis 9/14/1999)
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles two gun dealers, Henry S. McMahon and Karen Kilpatrick, who say they have endured threats of reprisal from federal officials after selling 223 guns to David Koresh, the Branch Davidian leader whose compound was destroyed by flames in a government assault (see April 19, 1993). McMahon, 37, and Kilpatrick, 42, were never charged with any crime, but they say government agents have threatened and intimidated them for seven years. They say they cannot hold down jobs, and live together in a federally subsidized apartment in a small Idaho town, surviving on government disability benefits. In 1997, the Justice Department rejected complaints they filed after finding no evidence of harassment or mistreatment. They tried to file a civil rights suit against the government, but could not pay for legal representation. They hope that the Danforth investigation (see July 21, 2000) will net them some government money. Both Kilpatrick and McMahon spent time at the Waco compound, and McMahon still has a Bible filled with handwritten notes he took during some of Koresh’s religious talks. McMahon says he never believed Koresh’s teachings: “I was there to sell David a gun,” he says.
BATF: No Evidence of Harassment - After the April 1993 debacle, the two claim that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) has persecuted them, ruining their reputations among their fellow gun dealers. BATF spokesman Jeff Roehm says their allegations have been investigated and discounted. “There was no finding that anyone behaved inappropriately and no agent was disciplined,” Roehm says. He adds that he is prohibited by law from responding to specific allegations. McMahon says they sleep on air mattresses and keep their belongings boxed up, ready to flee from “the feds” at a moment’s notice.
Sold Guns to Koresh - McMahon and Kilpatrick moved to Waco in 1990, because Texas gun laws make it easy for people like them to sell guns without regulatory interference. Koresh was one of their best customers. McMahon calls Koresh a gun collector, who stockpiled an armory of various weapons (see May 26, 1993) merely to resell them for profit, and not to mount an assault on government officials. It was a July 1992 visit to McMahon’s business by BATF agents (see June-July 1992) that helped spark the BATF assault on the compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). McMahon says he told the agents, Jimmy Ray Skinner and Davy Aguilera (see June-July 1992 and November 1992 - January 1993), that Koresh was an investor. He also says that he called Koresh during that visit, and Koresh invited the agents to the Waco compound, but the agents declined the invitation.
Left Texas before Raid - Later in 1992, McMahon and Kilpatrick quit the gun-selling business in Texas and moved back to their home state of Florida; they deny that the BATF visit had anything to do with their decision. After the February 1993 BATF raid, they called the BATF office in Pensacola, informed the agents there of their business dealings with Koresh, and, though the agents told them to stay quiet, were besieged by reporters who somehow found out about their connections with Koresh.
Protective Custody - The BATF placed them in protective custody and flew them to Oregon, where they stayed with McMahon’s parents for 22 days. McMahon now says the agents told him their lives were in danger from Davidians loyal to Koresh, and adds that he and Kilpatrick now wish they had “gone public from the very get go” and not gone to Oregon. On March 23, federal agents brought them to Waco and questioned them—McMahon says they were threatened, shouted at, and physically assaulted—and told them they would be charged with manufacturing illegal weapons. They refused to implicate Koresh in illegal gun deals. Instead, the agents released the two and they returned to Florida. The owner of the gun shop that employed them, Duke McCaa, refused to take them back, citing his fear of the BATF and his lawyer’s advice. McCaa now says he does not believe McMahon’s and Kilpatrick’s tales of threats and harassment by federal agents. Kilpatrick testified for the prosecution in the 1994 trial of 11 Davidians (see January-February 1994).
Speaking for Gun-Rights Organizations - For a time, the two became high-profile spokespersons for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun-rights groups; Soldier of Fortune magazine paid for them to go to Las Vegas, where they talked about Waco.
'They Owe Us' - The two moved to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in 1993, where they worked a variety of odd jobs, including night security at a wilderness school for troubled youth. In 1995, McMahon testified before a House committee about Waco. After the testimony, McMahon says employees at the school harassed him and Kilpatrick, forcing them to quit. He and Kilpatrick filed for bankruptcy in 1996. Currently, the two live on disability payments; in 1997, a judge determined that Kilpatrick suffered from an “anxiety-related disorder” related to her involvement with the BATF assault on the Waco compound; McMahon was found to be unable to relate to fellow coworkers or cope with the pressures of employment. McMahon blames his jobless status on Waco, saying: “I have no problem getting a job or working. After I’ve been there awhile people find out more of what I am. Once they find out about Waco, I’m branded. I shouldn’t have to carry around this baggage to explain myself to people.” As for their insistence on government compensation: “We are due some compensation from the government. That’s the bottom line,” McMahon says. “They owe us.” (Ganey 1/29/2000)
Livingstone Fagan, one of the 11 Branch Davidians convicted of crimes related to the February 1993 shootout with federal agents near Waco (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), admits to firing at two of the four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) agents killed during the battle. He is the first Davidian to admit firing on BATF agents during the raid. Fagan says in a deposition that he fired at the two agents from the roof of the Davidian compound. The deposition is part of a wrongful death lawsuit brought by a number of Davidians against the federal government (see April 1995). In 1994, Fagan was convicted of manslaughter and a weapons charge, and given a 40-year prison sentence. He chose not to appeal his sentence based on what he says are religious reasons. He is serving his time at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. Fagan is a party to the lawsuit because his mother and wife died in the April 1993 assault on the compound (see April 19, 1993). During the trial, Fagan was identified by BATF agent Eric Evers, who was wounded in the February 1993 raid, as one of the Davidians who shot him. Fagan denies shooting at Evers, but says he did shoot at two other BATF agents. In a statement to attorney Marie Hagen, Fagan claimed he shot in self-defense, saying, “Your government murdered people who were very dear to me.” In the following exchange, which is part of Fagan’s deposition, he admits to shooting at the agents:
Hagen: “Did you shoot at them?”
Fagan: “Well, they fired at me.”
Hagen: “OK. But did you shoot at them?”
Fagan: “And so I responded.”
Hagen: “Did you hit any of them?”
Fagan: “I don’t know specifically, because I assume that there were others, too, that were firing then.”
Fagan says he watched one wounded BATF agent, Kenneth King, crawl from the rooftop, drop to the ground, and writhe in pain until he was rescued by fellow agents. A fellow Davidian who survived the April 1993 conflagration, David Thibodeau (see September 9, 1999), had written that Fagan “was kneeling in prayer in the chapel while the bullets were flying.” And Clive Doyle, a survivor who was acquitted in the same trial that convicted Fagan, has said he didn’t think Fagan fired during the raid. Fagan’s lawyer Kirk Lyons tries to downplay Fagan’s admission, saying: “This is a guy that’s been in solitary confinement for a long time, and he’s had nobody of his own mental abilities that he can talk to. He’s a little stir-crazy.” (Reavis 2/23/2000)
Testimony begins in the civil suit filed by the survivors of the Branch Davidian conflagration outside Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), and the family members of those killed in the fire. The plaintiffs claim the government is responsible for the wrongful death of some 80 Davidians (see April 1995). The lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael Caddell, shows pictures of 15 children who died in the fire, and tells the jury that each of the children “never owned a gun. Never broke the law. Never hurt anyone.” For his part, US Attorney Michael Bradford, heading the government defense team, calls the Mt. Carmel compound of the Davidians an “armed encampment,” and says the Davidians ambushed agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated ATF) when those agents presented search and arrest warrants to the residents (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and March 1, 1993). Bradford tells the jury that Davidian leader David Koresh is responsible for the fire, not the FBI agents who assaulted the compound with tear gas and assault vehicles (see Late September - October 1993, August 2, 1996, and July 21, 2000). “The responsibility for those tragic events should not be placed upon the shoulders of the brave men and women of the ATF and the FBI,” Bradford says. “The responsibility for what happened at Mount Carmel is on David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. They caused this dangerous situation to occur, and they brought it to a tragic end.” The first to testify are three survivors of the conflagration, marking the first time any survivors have testified in the five-year legal proceedings. The survivors say that government reports of the Davidians being “armed to the teeth” are wrong, and depict the community as a happy, peaceful group. “There were people from all over the world: different personalities, different families, different interests, different likes and dislikes. We were all there for one purpose, and that was the Bible studies,” says Rita Riddle, who lost her brother Jimmy Riddle in the final fire. “David [Koresh] was my teacher.” Jaunessa Wendel, one of the children who left the compound before the fire, says: “It was our home. It was like an apartment building, a community center.” She testifies about bullets smashing through a window during the initial BATF raid, coming perilously close to striking her three younger siblings. “There was glass in my brother’s crib,” she recalls. Wendel’s mother, Jaydean Wendel, died in the shootout. Her father, Mark Wendel, died in the final fire. The three say they never learned to use guns from Koresh and other Davidians, disputing government testimony to the contrary, but admit that Koresh took other men’s wives as his own and fathered many of the community’s children (see February 27 - March 3, 1993). The government lawyers note that Wendel and another adult survivor previously told authorities that, contrary to their testimony today, they saw Riddle carrying or shooting a gun during the BATF raid, a contention that Riddle denies. Wendel says she lied during that testimony for fear that her family “might be split up” by the authorities if she did not tell them what she believed they wanted to hear. Government lawyers repeat earlier testimony from Wendel saying that she saw her mother fire on BATF agents. “You just made all that up?” Bradford asks. (Hancock 6/6/2000)
Media investigations show that the February 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, that resulted in the deaths of four BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agents and six Davidians (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) lost the element of surprise when a local sheriff’s department official tipped off the Davidians. The BATF has blamed television cameraman Jim Peeler of Waco’s KWTX-TV for alerting a local mailman, David Jones, to the upcoming raid. Jones, a relative of Davidian leader David Koresh, alerted Koresh to the imminent raid. However, Peeler was told of the raid by Cal Luedke, a longtime member of the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office. Luedke was part of the BATF’s raid preparation and support team. Luedke denies the allegation, but a KWTX cameraman who filmed part of the raid, Dan Mulloney, says station officials learned of Luedke’s role from local reporter Tommy Witherspoon, who learned of the incident from Luedke himself. “Tommy told me it was Cal. No doubt about it,” Mulloney says. “I knew if Tommy said something was true, it was. I could trust him 100 percent. And he told me that Cal had told him the raid had been moved up to Sunday.” Witherspoon denies telling Mulloney the identity of his source, and says Mulloney learned of Luedke’s involvement from another source, whom Mulloney identifies as his girlfriend, who worked for the Waco ambulance company that was on alert the morning of the raid. State and federal authorities, including the BATF and the Texas Rangers, have confirmed Luedke’s involvement in alerting the Davidians, and say that Luedke has admitted to tipping off the Davidians to the raid. However, when asked by reporters in March about the story, he denied any involvement. He has also denied his involvement in a deposition given on behalf of a lawsuit filed by a group of current and former BATF agents against KWTX, a local newspaper, and the ambulance company, which charged that the three were responsible for tipping off the Davidians. The case was settled out of court. Peeler and Mulloney say their reputations have been irreparably damaged by years of accusations that they were partly responsible for the 10 deaths at the Davidian compound. (Bryce, Ellis, and Moore 6/23/2000)
An advisory jury of five panelists in Waco, Texas, rules that law enforcement agents did not start the gun battle that began the Waco standoff between law enforcement officials and the Branch Davidians (see April 19, 1993), and decides that the federal government owes nothing to the Davidians who survived the conflagration. The panel takes just over an hour to decide that the government has no liability in the BATF raid (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993), standoff, FBI assault, and culminating fire. The presiding judge, Walter Smith, will issue a final verdict next month after an expert testifies as to the possibility that the FBI fired into the compound during the siege, actions the FBI and Justice Department have long denied (see June 12, 2000). The civil suit had asked for $675 million in damages for the government’s allegedly causing the “wrongful deaths” of the Davidians. Waco music shop owner Bill Buzze says he and his fellow residents are ready for the publicity and the notoriety surrounding the Davidians to come to an end. “We really want it all to just go away,” he says. “It’s gone on too long, cost too much money, and hurt too many people.” Buzze’s employee Inez Bederka is not sure that people will forget so quickly. “I think it will always be on Waco, the stigma,” she says. “People are still putting Waco down real hard these days. The outside world just won’t treat you fair after a thing like that.… [I]t’s a shame that something bad like that had to happen before people heard about Waco.” Buzze says that many people have an unwarranted fascination and even fear of Waco and the surrounding area. “The Chamber of Commerce has a tough job now,” Buzze says. “They have to reassure people that we’re not going to shoot them if they come down to visit.” Chamber of Commerce president Jack Stewart is quick to point out that the Branch Davidians did not live in Waco proper, but in Elk, a small township on the outskirts of Waco. (Milloy 7/18/2000; Southern Poverty Law Center 6/2001)
An investigative commission headed by former Senator John C. Danforth (R-MO) finds no wrongdoing on the parts of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), or the Justice Department in their actions during the Waco standoff between law enforcement officials and the Branch Davidians (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993 and April 19, 1993). Attorney General Janet Reno appointed the commission after documents surfaced in 1999 that indicated an FBI agent fired pyrotechnic gas canisters near the Branch Davidian compound during the raid, possibily contributing to the fire that destroyed the compound and killed many sect members (see August 25, 1999 and After). Danforth’s investigation also finds that, despite the documents, no government agency or individual contributed to any alleged cover-up, and emphatically clears Reno of any responsibility for the calamity. Danforth does find that a single FBI agent fired three flammable gas canisters into a concrete pit some 75 feet from the compound itself, as previously acknowledged. His report concludes that the FBI most likely mishandled that information, though the possibility exists of some sort of deliberate cover-up or falsification of evidence. Danforth’s report also notes that he had encountered “substantial resistance” to his probe from Justice Department officials, in some cases resulting in a “tug of war” over requested evidence that required intervention by Reno’s top deputy. (PBS Frontline 10/1995; Mittelstadt 7/28/2000) Asked whether she feels vindicated by the report, Reno says: “One doesn’t think in terms of exoneration when you look at something like that. That was a terrible tragedy. And what I have always said was we have got to look to the future to see what we can do, what we can learn about human behavior to avoid tragedies like that.” The final report sums up 10 months of investigation, interviews, and evidence assessment; the investigation cost $12 million. (Mittelstadt 7/28/2000)
George W. Bush is inaugurated as president, replacing President Bill Clinton. Bush is sworn in after a tumultuous, sharply disputed election that ended with a US Supreme Court decision in his favor (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000). He takes the oath of office on the same Bible his father, George H.W. Bush, used in his own 1989 inauguration; the oath is administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In his brief inaugural address, delivered outside the US Capitol, Bush asks Americans to “a commitment to principle with a concern for civility.… Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos.” In words apparently chosen to reflect on the criticisms surrounding former President Clinton and his notorious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Bush says, “I will live and lead by these principles—to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility, and try to live it as well.” He continues addressing the American people, saying: “I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” At a post-ceremonial luncheon, Bush issues a series of executive orders, some designed to block or roll back several Clinton-era regulations. He also acknowledges that because of the election turmoil, many Americans believe “we can’t get anything done… nothing will happen, except for finger-pointing and name-calling and bitterness.” He then says: “I’m here to tell the country that things will get done. Republicans and Democrats will come together to do what’s right for America.” (Bruni and Sanger 1/21/2001)
Thousands of Protesters - Thousands of protesters line the streets during Bush’s ceremonial drive to the Capitol, a fact not heavily reported by many press outlets. Salon reports, “Not since Richard Nixon paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1973 has a presidential inauguration drawn so many protesters—and last time, people were out to protest the Vietnam War.” Though Capitol Police refuse to estimate the size of the crowd lining the street, Salon reports that “many thousands of protesters were in evidence.” Liz Butler of the Justice Action Movement, the umbrella organization that helped coordinate the protests, says: “The level of people on the streets shows that people are really upset about lack of democratic process. They took it to the streets. We saw tens of thousands. We saw far more protesting Bush than supporting him.” Some of the people on the streets are Bush supporters, but many more are not, and carry signs such as “Bush Cheated,” “Hail to the Thief,” “Bush—Racism,” “Bushwhacked by the Supremes,” and others. The crowd, though outspoken in its protests and unrestrained in its heckling of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, is generally peaceful, and no serious violence is reported, though a few minor altercations do take place, and large contingents of police in riot gear—including personnel from every police department in the District of Columbia as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and from departments in Maryland and Virginia—are on hand. At least one protester throws an egg at the limousine transporting Bush, Cheney, and their families to the inaugural ceremonies; perhaps in response to the protests, Bush breaks with tradition laid down by earlier presidents and does not walk any large portion of the parade route. Nine people are arrested for disorderly conduct, most for allegedly throwing bottles and other debris. Bulter says: “Of course, we’re ashamed that Bush has decided to be a ‘uniter’ by uniting people against him. They all chose to come out in the freezing rain—even the weather couldn’t stop these people.” Protester Mary Anne Cummings tells a reporter: “I think it’s important to remind the incoming administration the country does not want a right-wing mandate. They did not vote for a right-wing mandate.” (Lindsey 1/20/2001; CNN 1/20/2001; Bruni and Sanger 1/21/2001) Thousands of protesters march in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities as well. (CNN 1/20/2001)
Michael Edward Smith, a well-dressed young man wearing sunglasses and surgical gloves, sits in a parked car across from the Sherith Israel Congregation synagogue in Nashville, Tennessee. Smith has an AR-15 assault rifle, and plans on shooting someone either entering or exiting the building. A passing motorist sees Smith and his rifle and calls the police. When police confront Smith outside his apartment, he refuses to surrender, and manages to break away to his car, where he proceeds to flee down Interstate 65 while holding a gun to his own head. The chase ends in a parking lot outside a pharmacy, where the police find the AR-15, a handgun, ammunition, and surgical gloves in Smith’s car. After learning of the incident, Deborah Lauter of the Anti-Defamation League tells reporters: “The sight of a man pointing an assault rifle at a synagogue is chilling. We are thankful to the person who reported the incident and to law enforcement for their swift actions in apprehending the suspect.” Smith, a member of the violent, neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974), has been influenced by two books, both published by Alliance founder William Pierce: The Turner Diaries, which tells of a genocidal race war in a near-future America (see 1978), and Hunter, a novel depicting a lone assassin gunning down Jews and African-Americans (see 1988). Three days later, he is charged with multiple felonies after divulging his ties to the National Alliance and the existence of a small arsenal in his apartment, in a storage facility, and buried on his parents’ land in the country. Authorities find, among other items: an anti-tank rocket; eight firearms, including a sniper rifle; 13 grenades; 13 pipe bombs; over 2,000 rounds of armor-piercing ammunition; smoke bombs; dynamite fuses; and two duffel bags filled with chemicals. They also find copies of both novels and other materials from the Alliance and the Ku Klux Klan, to which he also admits membership. The FBI classifies Smith as a “domestic terrorist.” James Cavanaugh of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) says: “Basically, we’ve got hand grenades, we’ve got assault rifles, and we’ve got a mind full of hate and a recipe for disaster.… Anybody who would stockpile that stuff is certainly on the precipice of using them.” Smith readily admits his admiration for the fictional main chacter of Hunter, Oscar Yeager, who in the first scene of the book assassinates an interracial couple from a vantage point inside his car. And, he says, the National Alliance and the KKK gave him training in “how to make and how to use explosives, [and gave him] sniper and combat training.” Smith tells questioners that he “dislike[s] Jews.” Local activists later tell the FBI that Smith took part in a November 2001 National Alliance rally outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC. Authorities later find an email from Smith stating Jews “perhaps” should be “stuffed head first into an oven.” (Center for New Community 8/2002 ; Anti-Defamation League 5/27/2003; Blejwas, Griggs, and Potok 6/2005) Smith will later plead guilty to four weapons-related offenses. (Anti-Defamation League 5/27/2003)
The House Appropriations subcommittee investigating the Branch Davidian tragedy in Waco (see March 1, 1993 and April 19, 1993) releases heavily edited excerpts from 911 call conversations between federal agents and Davidian members made during the February 1993 raid on the Davidian compound by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). A Dallas FBI agent released edited portions of the tapes to a Congressional investigator, who gave the tapes to the subcommittee members. The Justice Department says the FBI agent, Oliver “Buck” Revell, erred in giving the tape; a department investigation finds Revell did not knowingly do anything wrong in releasing the tape, which is used by the FBI to train negotiators to deal with similar situations. The McLennan County, Texas, Police Department releases unedited versions of the tapes shortly after the House subcommittee makes its tapes public; federal prosecutors who intend to prosecute some of the surviving Davidians (see August 7, 1993) had intended to keep the tapes secret until the trial. Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) asks Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the tape’s initial release, saying: “Who edited the version of the tape given to the House in the first place, and why, in that version, are conversations with David Koresh out of order? Is there a reason why the FBI, for training purposes, would leave out the threatening statements made by the Branch Davidians on the actual tape?” The House subcommittee was told that the tape was an accurate recording of the first half-hour of local police negotiations with Davidian Wayne Martin. “The release of altered tapes that are evidence before a grand jury is an assault on the department’s integrity,” DeConcini writes. “It is essential that this matter be investigated thoroughly and that the individuals responsible receive the most severe penalties available under the law.” The edited tape makes it appear that the 911 call center could not reach BATF agents for almost an hour after the 911 calls commenced. The police tapes feature two unedited hours of conversation between Martin and local law enforcement officials, and show that 911 operators made contact with BATF raid commanders within a half-hour of the first call to the hotline by Martin. The police tapes also indicate that BATF officials worked closely with the 911 call center to negotiate a cease-fire and evacuation of wounded federal agents. (Hancock 8/7/1993)
A cardboard box delivered to the Scottsdale, Arizona, Office of Diversity and Dialogue explodes when the office director, Donald Logan, opens it. He suffers severe burns and lacerations from the blast. His assistant, Renita Linyard, is also severely injured, and office staffer Jacque Bell suffers lesser injuries. Scottsdale police quickly call for help from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF), and veteran BATF special agent Tristan Moreland heads the investigation. Moreland believes that Logan, an African-American federal employee, was targeted for his job and his race. Moreland begins looking at white supremacist groups in the area. He learns that a national gathering of supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members took place a few months earlier in a park outside Scottsdale, an event called Aryanfest 2004. Two supremacists in attendance, Dennis Mahon (see 1973 and After, August 1994 - March 1995, November 1994, and February 9, 1996 and After) and Tom Metzger (see 1981 and After), attract Moreland’s particular attention. Mahon bragged at Aryanfest about his connection to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and Metzger is well known for his advocacy of “lone wolf” style attacks such as McVeigh’s, where individuals launch attacks without the overt backing or involvement of actual organizations. Metzger heads a white supremacist organization called White Aryan Resistance (WAR) and Mahon is a member of that organization. (WAR will later change its name to The Insurgent.) Metzger and Mahon have been friends for decades. Moreover, Mahon had left a voice message at the Scottsdale diversity office months before about the city’s upcoming Hispanic heritage week, a message virulent enough in its hatred and implied threat of violence to attract the attention of law enforcement authorities (see October 2003). Moreland decides to investigate Mahon and Metzger further, and the BATF learns that Mahon and his twin brother Daniel had been living in a trailer park in Tempe, Arizona, before the bombing. They left the area shortly after, moving to a trailer park in Catoosa, Oklahoma. Unwilling to allow the investigation to stall, Moreland decides to find a willing confidential informant to go to Catoosa and get close to Mahon. The subsequent investigation elicits evidence that Mahon and Metzger were involved in the Scottsdale bombing and other attacks as well (see January 26, 2005 and After). (Martin 1/10/2012)
Dennis Mahon, a white supremacist in Catoosa, Oklahoma (see 1973 and After, August 1994 - March 1995, November 1994, and February 9, 1996 and After), tells Rebecca Williams he committed multiple terrorist bombings since the early 1980s. Mahon is not aware that Williams is an informant working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF), nor that Williams’s trailer, in which he makes his statements, is wired for both audio and video. Mahon is showing Williams an album of old pictures, his old Ku Klux Klan robe, and other memorabilia of his life in the white supremacist movement, when he tells Williams about the bombings he says he committed, many with his twin brother Daniel. The bombing targets included an abortion clinic, a Jewish community center, and the offices of IRS and immigration authorities. Mahon says he made his bombs with ammonium nitrate, fuel oil, and powdered sugar “for an extra bang,” and says he set the bombs off at 2 a.m. to avoid casualties but still send a message. Williams is one of the few informants to gain such access into what TPM Muckraker calls the “network of so-called ‘lone wolf’ extremists, a loose-knit group of racists and anti-government types who seem to always be looking for ways to start or win an ever-coming race war.” The same network produced “lone wolf” Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The BATF probe will result in investigations of the Mahons (see January 10, 2012 and After), as well as white supremacist leader Tom Metzger (see 1981 and After) and Missouri survivalist Robert Joos, who stockpiled weapons in caves on his farm near the Ozarks. On January 26, 2005, Williams moves into a rental trailer in the Catoosa trailer park and puts a Confederate flag sticker in her window. She is much younger than the 54-year-old Mahon and, according to TPM Muckraker, is both attractive and able to handle herself around dangerous males. (The BATF initially provides little background information on Williams to the media; later the media learns that her brother was a BATF informant who infiltrated a motorcycle gang, and that she became an informant for the money. She has formerly worked as, among other jobs, an exotic dancer.) The same day that she moves in, the Mahon brothers come over to introduce themselves. “I’m a girl and they’re guys and, you know, guys like to talk to pretty girls so they—we just started talking,” she later testifies. Williams will establish a friendship with the brothers that will last four years, most of it recorded by BATF cameras and microphones. Her pickup truck is wired, and she even has a microphone on her key chain. Within hours of meeting her, Dennis Mahon brags about the bombings he carried out, and Daniel Mahon speaks of drive-by shootings and car bombings. Daniel tells her: “We thought we were doing the right thing. We were just trying to send a message. When I would take someone’s car out, it wasn’t anger. It was a sense of duty. It is like a military operation. You plan for it, equip for it.” When Williams asks if they had ever sent package bombs, Dennis whispers, “In Tempe, Arizona, Godd_mn diversity officer, Scottsdale Police Department, had his fingers blown off.” He then backs away from his admission and says he showed “white cops how to do it.” Williams is flirtatious with the brothers, and mails them photographs of herself in a bikini with a grenade hanging from around her neck, and of her standing in front of a swastika flag. Williams’s investigation documents the Mahons’ close connection to Metzger, Joos, and other white supremacists; Joos will be convicted of multiple weapons charges, but Metzger will not be charged with any crime (see June 25, 2009). (Martin 1/10/2012; Myers 1/26/2012)
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) signs into law House Bill 246. It exempts Montana-made guns from federal regulation. The law is the latest in a long list of legislative initiatives designed to strip power from the federal government and give it to the states. “It’s a gun bill, but it’s another way of demonstrating the sovereignty of the state of Montana,” Schweitzer says. The impact is limited to Montana, which currently has only a small number of specialty gun makers who make mostly replica and recreation rifles from US history, and most of their customers are out of state. However, supporters of the new law hope it will trigger a court case testing the legal basis for federal rules governing gun sales. State Representative Joel Boniek (R-MT), who sponsored the bill, said during the House debate, “What we need here is for Montana to be able to handle Montana’s business and affairs.” Many legislators among the 50 states have introduced legislation designed to push back against what they see as unconstitutional federal intrusion, often in response to the Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan. Some legislators consider themselves part of, or sympathetic to, the “tenther” movement, that construes the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution as vastly restrictive of the federal government’s powers. Another Montana representative, Michael More (R-MT), recently said of the gun bill and similar legislation, “The whole goal is to awaken the people so that we can return to a properly grounded republic.” Legislatures in 15 other states are considering resolutions that attempt to take back power from the federal government. “The balance has swung far to the extreme to the empowerment of the federal government, and to the harm of the individual states,” More says. However, critics warn that the “tenther” movement and the move to give power to the states is in line with anti-government militia ideals. “When you really actually get in and look at it there is a lot of what we feel is very dangerous, very anti-government language that reads very similar to posters for the militia movement in the 1990s,” says Travis McAdam of the Montana Human Rights Network. Montana Senator Christine Kaufmann (D-MT) says, “I do think that there is a kind of renewed vehemence to this kind of right-wing rhetoric being spewed by conservative talk show hosts to rile the troops and they are using the fact that we have a Democratic, black president as one of their rallying calls.” In Montana, the states’ rights bills are being sponsored by freshman legislators who were elected as part of an effort to oust more moderate Republicans and replace them with more conservative, “tea party-friendly” representatives. Supporters of House Bill 246 now intend to find someone to challenge a regulation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) that requires federal dealership licensing to build and sell firearms; they will use that pretext to file a lawsuit that they hope will end in the Supreme Court. The Montana Shooting Sports Association, which drafted House Bill 246, has said it will raise the money to pay for any legal costs. (Deines 4/16/2009) Author and columnist David Neiwert later notes, in agreement with Kaufmann, that the Montana gun bill echoes the ideas of “state sovereignty” promoted by radical-right militia groups and “constitutionalists” in the 1990s. The idea behind the bill originated with Charles Duke (R-CO), a far-right Colorado legislator from the 1990s who had close ties to the Rocky Mountain-area militias (see May 15-21, 1996). Duke is considered one of the first “tenther” proponents, and is popular with white supremacists who espouse the “Christian Identity” belief system (see 1960s and After). Neiwert will also note that the gun legislation prompts a series of segments from Fox News host Glenn Beck on the bill and how he hopes it is the first of a larger number of legislative and court initiatives that will ultimately cripple the federal government. (Neiwert 5/15/2009)
Twin brothers Dennis and Daniel Mahon, veterans of the far-right white supremacist movement, go on trial in Phoenix, Arizona, on charges of sending a mail bomb to a government diversity office in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2004 (see February 26, 2004 and After). The bomb injured the office’s director and two employees. Both brothers are charged with conspiring to blow up a government building, and Dennis Mahon is also charged with carrying out the bombing as well as teaching someone else how to make a bomb (see June 25, 2009). The indictment charges: “Dennis Mahon and Daniel Mahon did knowingly and unlawfully combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together to maliciously damage and destroy by means of fire and explosives, buildings and other real property used in interstate and foreign commerce.… Dennis Mahon participated in the construction of a bomb, disguised in a cardboard box made to appear as a parcel package, that was delivered to the City of Scottsdale Civic Center Library. The label on the box was addressed to Donald Logan, Office of Diversity & Dialogue. The bomb did in fact explode on February 26, 2004 when Donald Logan opened the box. Donald Logan and Renita Linyard suffered personal injuries as [a] result of the explosion.” The brothers plead not guilty. Dennis Mahon admitted that he and his brother carried out numerous bombings and shootings since the 1980s to an undercover government informant, Rebecca Williams (see January 26, 2005 and After). Referring to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, to which Dennis Mahon is connected (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), Bill Straus of the Anti-Defamation League says: “It’s certainly one of those high water mark cases. It reminds the community that guys like this, guys that created and sent that bomb are a threat to the entire community. Period.” Lawyers for the Mahons claim that Williams used her sexual attraction to elicit “confessions” from the brothers that were more braggadocio and boasting than actual fact-based admissions, and attempt to label Williams a “trailer-park Mata Hari.” Their claim is that Williams used her charms to entrap the brothers into making false confessions, and they use photos Williams mailed of herself in skimpy outfits to the brothers, and a video of Williams giving a back massage to one of the brothers who was only covered by a towel, as evidence. The defense lawyers also claim Dennis Mahon is an alcoholic. Williams admits that she was paid some $45,000 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) for the four years she stayed in contact with the brothers, and was promised another $100,000 after their convictions. Prosecutors state that Williams did not have sex with, or even kiss, the brothers, and her flirtatious behavior with them does not constitute entrapment. (Madrid 1/23/2010; Martin 1/10/2012; Los Angeles Times 1/12/2012; Jasper 2/7/2012) To prove that the Mahons’ statements to Williams were more than just sexually charged bragging, prosecutors play a tape of Dennis Mahon telling Williams that once his mother dies, he intends to return to a life of “bomb throwing” and “sniper shooting” because he would have nothing left to lose. On March 29, 2009, he left Williams a voice message saying in part: “Once my mother passes away, I go back to my radical bomb-throwing, sniper-shooting realm. Look out because I’ve got nothing to lose.” He also told her that he knows how to destroy the US electrical power system during the coldest part of winter or the peak of summer using explosives and high-powered rifles, and once he does that, “The non-whites shall destroy each other.” The prosecution also plays an audiotape of Williams in a car with the brothers; they drove her past the Scottsdale city court building, where the bombing took place, and one pointed to the building and said, “That’s where he was,” referring to Donald Logan, the federal employee injured in the blast. Both brothers then use a racial slur to refer to Logan, an African-American. On the tape, Mahon is heard to have said: “I helped make it [the bomb].… I’m sure he knows it’s going to happen again.” Mahon also said of Logan: “He doesn’t understand—they’re not going to get him where he works. They’re going to get him where he lives. They’re going to tail pipe the son of a b_tch and blow up his car while he’s in it.” Mahon also boasted of greeting law enforcement authorities with gunfire if and when they came to arrest him (Mahon was arrested without incident). “They’ll find out they’ve got a big problem with something called white terrorists,” he told Williams. (Myers 1/18/2012; Myers 1/26/2012) Williams testifies that she told the Mahons a tale about a child molester she knew in California, and that the brothers agreed to help her build a bomb to send to the person. (Madrid 1/23/2010) Many of the taped conversations were recorded on the phone, during conversations between Williams in Arizona and the Mahons in Illinois. (Myers 1/26/2012) The New American, the publication of the far-right, racist John Birch Society (JBS), claims that Dennis Mahon was involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see November 1994, 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 1994 - March 1995, and February 9, 1996 and After), and says that the Clinton administration’s Justice Department deliberately steered its investigation away from Mahon and his white supremacist colleagues, and towards “lone wolves” Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. The New American notes that Mahon was one of the people who taught the supremacists at Elohim City (see 1973 and After) how to make bombs. (Jasper 2/7/2012) Covering the trial, Oklahoma’s KOTV reports that in 1998, Mahon said in an interview: “Separatism means that you would prefer to be left alone. As a white separatist, I’d like to have my own schools, my own culture, and my own community spirit. And if you look at it, it’s a natural way of doing things.” (Sims 1/11/2012)
The New American, the official publication of the right-wing John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961, November 1963, April 13, 2009, December 11, 2009, April 26, 2010, and December 2011), promotes a theory from an Internet publication that the recent massacre by a lone gunman in a Colorado movie theater was orchestrated by the Obama administration or its surrogates as a way to impose gun control laws. Writer Bob Adelmann admits the conspiracy theory is merely “conjecture.” The theory comes from the Natural News Network (NNN), which describes itself as a “non-profit collection of public education Web sites.” NNN is incorporated by Truth Publishing International, a Taiwan corporation. The article is titled “Colorado Batman shooting shows obvious signs of being staged,” referencing the film being shown in the theater, The Dark Knight Rises, the third in the “Batman trilogy” by Christopher Nolan. Adelmann introduces the NNN conspiracy theory by reporting that a Forbes magazine article says the US may ratify a United Nations arms treaty that would regulate the international trade in conventional weapons. Adelmann says the UN treaty poses “a formidable threat” to gun ownership in the US. He then introduces the NNN theory as posited by NNN writer Mike Adams. (Bell 6/7/2011; Adelmann 7/23/2012; Samuel Warde 7/30/2012)
Brainwashed Obama Operative? - The shooter, James Eagan Holmes, fired multiple bursts of gunfire in the Aurora, Colorado, theater, but then surrendered to the police without offering any resistance. Adams says his peaceful surrender was inconsistent with Holmes’s apparent desire to “kill everyone.” Adams also finds it curious that Holmes told police his apartment was booby-trapped with explosives. Someone truly wishing to kill many people would not have told police about the bombs. “It doesn’t add up,” Adams says. Holmes’s character as reported by neighbors and friends—quiet, shy, obsessed with video games—does not correlate with the picture of a maddened gunman, he continues. Moreover, Holmes must have had help from somewhere—he was living on unemployment insurance, Adams contends, yet owned thousands of dollars’ worth of weaponry, ammunition, explosives, and SWAT gear. “Where did that come from?” Adams’s answer: Obama administration operatives or someone else doing the administration’s bidding by launching a “false flag” attack. In fact, Adams writes: “There is already conjecture that James Holmes may have been involved in mind-altering neuroscience research and ended up becoming involved at a depth he never anticipated. His actions clearly show a strange detachment from reality, indicating he was not in his right mind. That can only typically be accomplished through drugs, hypnosis, or trauma (and sometimes all three).” Adams continues: “Someone else taught this guy these skills and funded the acquisition of the equipment.… This is somebody who was selected for a mission, given equipment to carry it out, then somehow brainwashed into getting it done. This is not your run-of-the-mill crime of passion. It was a carefully planned, heavily funded, and technically advanced attack.” Adams concludes that Holmes completed his “mission” and then surrendered, “admitting everything” to police. “The mission, as we are now learning, was to cause as much terror and mayhem as possible, then to have that multiplied by the national media at exactly the right time leading up the UN vote next week on a global small arms treaty that could result in gun confiscation across America.” The FBI has carried out “numerous” missions such as this one, Adams contends, though its history until now is to stop the attacks before they reach the point of violence. Adams also compares the Holmes massacre to the “Fast and Furious” operation conducted by Arizona police officers and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF), which has become a popular topic of discussion on the right as another Obama conspiracy theory. Adams concludes: “In other words, this has all the signs of Fast & Furious, Episode II. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover someone in Washington was behind it all. After all, there’s no quicker way to disarm a nation and take total control over the population than to stage violence, blame it on firearms, then call for leaders to ‘do something!’ Such calls inevitably end up resulting in gun confiscation, and it’s never too long after that before government genocide really kicks in like we saw with Hitler (see March 13, 2008 and November 11, 2008), Stalin (see October 13, 2009), Pol Pot (see December 17, 2009 and April 27, 2011), Mao (see January 2009), and other tyrants.” (Adams 7/20/2012)
JBS: Attack's Timing with UN Treaty Signing More than Coincidental - Adelmann admits the theory is “strictly conjectural at this point,” but observes that “the timing of the shootings coinciding with the final details of the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) being polished up in New York by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” The timing must be more than coincidental, Adelmann writes. According to Adelmann, if the US signs the arms treaty, it would have to abide by strict licensing requirements; confiscate untold numbers of citizen-owned weaponry; ban the trade, sale, and private ownership of all weapons; create an international gun registry (which would, Adelmann warns, open the door “for full-scale gun confiscation”); and finally, “[o]verride our national sovereignty, and in the process, provide license for the federal government to assert preemptive powers over state regulatory powers guaranteed by the Ten Amendments in addition to our Second Amendment rights.” The UN treaty would not apply to US citizens, experts note, but Adelmann and others do not believe that assertion. John Bolton, the former UN ambassador and chief political advisor to the Romney presidential campaign, is one of those: he says that while the UN “is trying to act as though this is just a treaty about international arms trade among nation states, but there is no doubt that the real agenda here is domestic firearms control.” Adelmann says the UN treaty is the next step in the Obama administration’s creation of an “authoritarian dictatorship” and ultimate plans for domestic genocide, or what he calls “democide.” He concludes: “That is the nightmare that faces American citizens if in their haste to rid the world of shooters such as Holmes they allow the United Nations to do the job for them. The end result will be immeasurably, horrifyingly, worse.” (Bell 6/7/2011; Adelmann 7/23/2012)
More Coverage - Other right-wing outlets also pick up Adams’s conspiracy theory, including Gun Owners of America (GOA), whose president Larry Pratt issues a press release promoting the theory and offering himself for interviews about the theory and about the Obama administration’s purported intent to ban gun ownership in America. (Special Guests 7/2012; Samuel Warde 7/30/2012)
Treaty Not Passed - The media later reports that the US is refusing to go along with the treaty as it is currently written. (CBS News 7/30/2012)
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