On February 28, 1993 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) conducted a raid on a fortified compound, Mt. Carmel, containing members of a religious cult/group known as the Branch Davidians and led by David Koresh. The Branch Davidians had been under investigation by the BATF for among other crimes illegally purchasing, selling and stockpiling prohibited firearms, including grenades. (Swanson, Territo and Taylor, 2012) In the initial raid five members of the Davidians and four BATF agents were killed. Following the initial confrontation the Branch Davidians barricaded themselves in their compound.
The FBI was called in to take over the scene and to negotiate with the Branch Davidians. The negotiations lasted until April 19, 1993 when the FBI used military tanks to punch holes into the side of the Branch Davidians main building within the complex and to insert teargas through the holes in an attempt to drive out the Branch Davidians.
Soon after the teargas was inserted a fire started on the inside of the building. A follow-up investigation revealed that eighty members of the group, including two dozen children, died inside the compound. (Burnett, 2013) There is still some dispute as to whether the fire was started by the group or by the type of teargas apparatus that was used. Later investigations revealed that the FBI had been less than truthful in their initial report to congress and that they had used a type of pyrotechnic grenade to deploy some of the teargas. (Swanson et al, 2012)
In her report to the Justice and Treasury Departments Ammerman (1993) was critical towards both the BATF and the FBI for not consulting the right people who could have provided information on religious fanaticism as opposed to “normal” criminal activity that they were used to dealing with. In addition the FBI did not heed the advice of some of their own experts in the Behavioral Sciences Unit. Instead they relied, and placed more emphasis, on the advice of their tactical unit experts, the Hostage Rescue Team.
Some of the advice given that possibly could have changed the outcome included backing away from the compound to make it seem as if the FBI was disengaging. The leader of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh, was a self-proclaimed prophet and anti-government activist. According to prior members of the group Koresh had been predicting that the group would face an apocalyptic showdown with the government. Other advice included obtaining more information from qualified experts, especially when dealing with extremist religious groups.
After action reports are vital in any investigation to ensure that everything was done according to the department’s policies and procedures and to ensure that the law enforcement agencies involved can learn from both their mistakes and their successes. This is to ensure that history does not repeat itself. Incidents such as this have far reaching consequences. On the second anniversary of the incident in Waco, TX Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government extremist detonated a bomb in a truck in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK killing 168 people, including 19 children. (FBI, 2014)
Ammerman, N. T. (1993). Report to the Justice and Treasury departments regarding law enforcement interaction with the branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. Retrieved on July 21, 2014 from http://open.bu.edu
Federal Bureau of Investigation (2014). Terror hits home: the Oklahoma City bombing. Famous cases and Criminals. Retrieved on July 21, 2014 from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/oklahoma-city-bombing
Swanson, C. R., Territo, L., and Taylor, R. W. (2012). Police administration: structures, processes and behaviors (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson