Skip to main content
ad info  law center >open forum
trials and cases
open forum
law library
Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback  




Prosecutor says witnesses saw rap star shoot gun in club

Embassy bombing defendants' confessions admissible, says U.S. Judge

Excerpt: John Grisham's 'A Painted House'



Bush signs order opening 'faith-based' charity office for business

Rescues continue 4 days after devastating India earthquake

DaimlerChrysler employees join rapidly swelling ranks of laid-off U.S. workers

Disney's is a goner


4:30pm ET, 4/16








CNN Websites
Networks image

find law dictionary
David Thibodeau

Waco survivor says the government is to blame

May 10, 2000
Web posted at: 1:45 p.m. EST (1745 GMT)

On April 19, 1993, eight of my friends and I walked out of a flaming hole in Waco, Texas, and into the hands of a hostile force. We were the only survivors of the federal government's attack on the Branch Davidian center, Mount Carmel, the place I called home for two years.

FBI negotiator at Waco says Davidians set the fire
Waco Revisited
Waco Investigation

Latest Legal News

Law Library

FindLaw Consumer Center

For almost two months, loud speakers bombarded us 24 hours a day with the sounds of rabbits being slaughtered. For days at a time, the FBI would play excerpts from talk shows spewing hate for David Koresh and the community at Mount Carmel. The debasement continued as tanks ran over our motorcycles, mangled our cars, destroyed our bus and leveled most of our property.

"Just come out"

Some people did exit the building during the siege, but retreated after agents threw grenades at them. I can still hear the speakers ringing in my ear, "Just come out, come out." To those of us inside, going out seemed insane.

This all started on Feb. 28, 1993, when agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms staged a misguided, ill-fated raid on our home. Four ATF agents and six of my friends were killed. The allegations that we were running a drug lab were totally unfounded. Even ATF employees would later admit the charges were "a complete fabrication."

Charges that we were assembling an arsenal of weapons to be used against the government were equally off base. A few of our members bought and sold guns legally at gun shows to make extra money for the community.

Tank attack

The FBI tank attack on the morning of the last day of the siege took us by surprise. A week or so before, we had formulated a plan with the negotiators that Koresh could write his Seven Seals manuscript. He never got the chance to finish it.

We could hear the tanks approach and surround the building as the FBI proclaimed over the loud speakers that they were going to insert tear gas into the building. There was a mass of confusion as people ran around getting their gas masks and waking others. Minutes later, we could hear the popping of the 40 millimeter rounds being shot into Mount Carmel (almost 400 rounds were fired at us) and a sinister hissing sound as the noxious CS gas was dispersed throughout the building. All the while, the speaker system was saying, "This is not an assault, we are not firing into the building."

The propellant for the CS gas is methylene chloride, which is flammable when mixed with air and can become explosive in confined spaces. CS gas is so nasty that the United States, along with 130 other countries, has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention banning its use in warfare.

FBI 'created conditions for disaster'

To me, the biggest lie is the FBI's claim that we set the building on fire and shot each other. I never heard anyone inside talk about suicide or starting fires. I certainly never saw anyone try to do so.

The FBI has already provided proof that it created the conditions for the disaster. Several fire marshals have said that when the tanks put those massive holes in the structure, they caused an oxygen flow system in the building much like that in a pot-bellied stove. To make the fire stronger and hotter, just open it to allow in more oxygen.

According to a Justice Department report, there was no fire plan whatsoever even though the tanks could have been equipped to fight the fire and save the children. Fire trucks were held at the first check point for 20 minutes until the place had burned to the ground.

For 6 1/2 years, we heard the FBI and Attorney General Janet Reno say over and over again that no pyrotechnic devices were used in Waco. Three were found in an evidence locker in Austin, Texas, and there are pictures of the devices in areas close to the origins of the fire.

Infrared tape

There was an infrared camera in the FBI surveillance plane flying above the building on the final day of the siege. Tape from that camera shows two explosions at the back of the building, an area level by FBI tanks that morning. Minutes later, fire erupted in that area. The tape also shows more than 68 fully automatic gun shots being fired into the building.

The tape shows what appears to be three shooters in close proximity to one of the tanks, firing into the cafeteria area where most of the people and all of the children were gathered. Another videotape shows a helicopter flying close to the building and firing into it. The government has always maintained that not one shot was fired into the building and that the helicopters never shot at all.

A Defense Department document backs up a CIA agent's assertion that members of a classified U.S. Army Special Forces unit were present at the siege. This is a violation of U.S. law that states the military is barred from domestic police work.

Little more than cockroaches

The actions of the federal government indicate that they saw us as little more than cockroaches from the beginning. If the son or daughter of a congressman or senator had been with our group, would the outcome have been the same?

When the federal building in Oklahoma City was blown up, we were holding our second memorial to honor our dead. The media immediately tried to find some connection between the tragedies, as if to demonize us even more than they had already. We were horrified by the actions of those responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. Our hearts went out to those who died and to their families.

There was a beautiful memorial service this year for those who died in Oklahoma City, financed by federal tax dollars, and rightly so. People from all over the nation came together to rebuild the church at Mount Carmel this year. But I can't help feeling that the children and families of Oklahoma City were made martyrs while the children and families of Mount Carmel were made damnable. This is wrong; all of those lives were equally precious.

Waco investigator found dead at his office in Maryland
April 30, 2000
Judge: Question of whether FBI shot at Branch Davidians remains open
April 24, 2000
Branch Davidians attorney critical of Reno's deposition
March 28, 2000
Opposing views of new test videotape in Waco debate
March 20, 2000
Documents: FBI wanted clearance to shoot unarmed Branch Davidians
October 8, 1999
Tear gas canister 'bounced off' Waco bunker
September 3, 1999
FBI tape shows field commander OK'd use of tear gas at Waco
September 2, 1999

Federal Bureau of Investigation
United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California
Branch Davidian

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.