Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Trojan Horse: Inside the ATF Raid at Waco, Texas

Valuable Lessons

The ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound resulted in the bloodiest shootout in U.S. law enforcement history. It cost four ATF agents their lives. Twenty more agents were hurt. Six cult members died and an unknown number were wounded.

Fifty-one days after the shootout, flames consumed the Branch Davidian compound, killing dozens of men, women, and children.

Branch Davidians compound fire
Branch Davidians compound fire

From the compound, investigators recovered hundreds of guns, among them, 50 illegal machine guns, 16 silencers, and three live hand grenades.

Yet, even before the ashes cooled, conspiracy theories raged, fed by the paranoid fantasies of crackpots on AM radio, fax network operators, and Internet chatters. Over the years, I've heard people say that we went there to destroy a secret, government-run methamphetamine lab. I've heard that the agents killed were hit by "friendly fire." Some have even gone so far as to say the agents were intentionally killed because they'd been President Clinton's bodyguards and knew too much about him.

Those of us who were there on February 28, 1993 know what happened. We went there to enforce federal law, to arrest a nut who'd convinced a bunch of other nuts that he was Jesus Christ, and who'd assembled a cache of illegal guns and explosives.

The rest is just so much hot air, whether whispered around a gun show table or bellowed in the halls of Congress.

People who go through an ordeal like that are supposed to learn valuable lessons. I learned something about loyalty and sacrifice, I learned that other ATF agents would risk their lives to help me, and I learned that I could be trusted to do the same.

For me, those were the most valuable lessons of all.

©2003 Chuck Hustmyre. All Rights Reserved.


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