Waco Raid: A Look Back 20 Years After The Branch Davidian Controversy

The Waco raid began 20 years ago today. On February 28 the federal government initiated a “military style” raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Texas. The highly debated and controversial raid lasted until April 19.

A massive media presence converged around the Waco compound, offering nearly unprecedented coverage as the violent scene unfolded. David Koresh was the leader of the Waco compound.

A private ceremony is planned to mark the 20th anniversary of the Waco raid, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will honor the four agents who died during the raid on David Koresh’s compound. The agents who died include Todd McKeehan, Conway LeBleu, Robert John Williams, and Steven Willis.

The ATF agents died on the first day of the 51-day standoff. Six members of the Branch Davidian sect also perished during the first hours of the federal raid at the compound. By the end of the ATF raid in Waco, 80 Branch Davidian members died. The death toll included two dozen children.

Those inside the Branch Davidian compound were often referred to as a doomsday cult who anticipated a confrontation with the government. The Waco residents’ fears were realized and even 20 years later controversy is sparked when discussing who is to blame for the carnage.

In David Limbaugh’s book, Absolute Power, an argument is made that David Koresh was witnessed off the Mount Carmel Center compound multiple time and could have been arrested by agents without the need for a massive raid, Hoosier Access notes. The Branch Davidian leader was allegedly tipped off about the Waco raid in advance.

Koresh told an undercover agent that he knew the federal government was planning on entering the Waco compound. Government investigators ultimately criticized the ATF for not halting the raid after learning the David Koresh knew about the plans to rush the Branch Davidian compound.

The Serendipity website’s “Waco Massacre” page goes into great detail about the reported tactics used by ATF agents to convince the Branch Davidians to leave the Mount Carmel Center compound. The families inside the community lead by David Koresh were reportedly subjected to non-stop recordings of screaming rabbits being slaughtered as a means of sleep deprivation.

David Koresh pledged to surrender when he finished writing an explanation of the meaning of the Seven Seals. Whether or not the Branch Davidian leader would have made good on his promise we will never know – federal agents attacked at dawn the following day. Army tanks rammed into the main building of the Mount Carmel Center complex and large amounts of CS gas were released into the Waco compound.

As afternoon approached, pyrotechnic devices were fired inside the main Waco compound building. A fire blazed through the building as wind coming through the tank holes fueled the flames. After the Branch Davidian raid the American Justice Federation issues a statement noting that use of military troops against Americans violated federal law.

The Posse Comitatus Act was specifically cited in the release about the raid on David Koresh and his followers. An ATF released stated that the tanks used in the Waco raid were not really Army equipment but owned by the National Guard. The tanks were reportedly brought in under the Drug Interdiction Act because agents thought a meth lab was in operation on the property.

How do you feel about the Waco raid on David Koresh’s Branch Davidian compound?

[Images Via: Dvorak Uncensored, Moviefone, Art Huride blog, Serendipity]