WACO’s 30th Anniversary 2/28/23
By Charlie Seraphin
We’re coming up on the 30th anniversary of the ATF shootout at Waco (February 28, 1993). That was one of the stranger episodes of my life. I was the manager of KRLD, the heritage newstalk radio station in Dallas back then. I got the call mid-morning. There had been a raid on the Branch Davidian compound northeast of Waco, and the ATF, responding to a request from David Koresh, asked if we would broadcast a ceasefire announcement. Both sides were afraid they’d be ambushed if the ceasefire wasn’t public, and Koresh picked his favorite station (KRLD) as a trusted source for the announcement.
I gave the OK, and the ATF was allowed to send agents close to the scene of the shootout to collect their dead and wounded. For the better part of the next two months, Koresh, the government, and the Branch Davidians would dominate my life. Four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians were killed that Sunday morning. The standoff lasted for 51 days and ended when the FBI stormed the compound with a tank carrying tear gas. An ensuing fire resulted in the deaths of 76 Branch Davidians, including 25 Koresh children, two pregnant women, and David Koresh. It is believed that children released prior to the fire were not related to Koresh, and those who died were his offspring.
There are countless conspiracy theories surrounding these events. Here’s what I know: When I spoke to Steve Schneider and David Koresh by phone the night of the shootout, I learned that Schneider (who was my age and grew up within 60 miles of where I was raised in northern Wisconsin) was absolutely loyal to Koresh. Koresh, on the other hand, was nuttier than a fruitcake. Schneider was articulate and measured in his speech. Koresh called himself “lamb” and “lord” and continually spoke of himself in the past tense…as in…”they shall kill the lamb and birds of prey shall eat of his flesh…”
Rather than bore you with all the minor details, here’s a quick summary:At the time of the raid, the ATF was lobbying Congress for more money. They planned the raid, invited a local TV station to cover it live, and hoped for a national story that would yield a significant budget increase. In addition to alerting the TV crew, a couple dozen agents showed up at a local tavern the night before the raid wearing their black uniforms. They had pizza and beer and shot pool. (Not exactly a stealth undercover operation in a small rural town where everybody knows everybody.)
When they arrived with the TV crew in tow, it didn’t exactly surprise the Branch Davidians, who were armed to the hilt. What happened next is forever etched in our minds. Agents climbing on the roof and being shot and killed from below. Koresh claimed to be wounded, but we were never able to substantiate that claim as his body was burned to a crisp in the April 19th fire. What you may not know is that his autopsy showed that he died of what was probably a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the skull.
If you remember the final inferno, the FBI (who came in to clean up the ATF mess shortly after the botched raid) were in the process of inserting tear gas into one end of the compound, when the entire structure erupted in flames.
Given the fact that Koresh was a suicidal madman, I am convinced that the buildings were booby-trapped in preparation for that last assault. When you watch the video, explosions and fire at the far end of the building occurred seconds after the initial incursion.
What did we learn?
- The ATF could have arrested Koresh any day of the week when he went into Waco to collect his mail.
- The ATF intentionally tried to create a made-for-TV show in order to influence Congress (Even 30 years ago government agencies did unscrupulous things).
- Secrecy and showing up in uniform at a local bar don’t go together.
- David Koresh chose martyrdom (he also slept with and impregnated married women and teenage girls while dis-allowing other males in the compound to have sex).
- People who think Koresh was a patriot are mistaken.
If you’re interested in more details or have questions about this bizarre chapter of American history, I’ll be doing a special Forum on February 28th at 9am on KMOG and I’ll answer questions about my experience that night when I speak at the Payson Tea Party meeting.
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