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Evaluation of the Handling of the Branch Davidian Stand-Off in Waco, Texas February 28 to April 19, 1993

U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530

Evaluation of the Handling of
the Branch Davidian Stand-off
in Waco, Texas

February 28 to April 19, 1993


Edward S.G. Dennis, Jr.

Department of Justice Seal
October 8, 1993


Redacted Version









    1. The Fire
    2. Mass Suicide Or Mass Murder?
    3. FBI Restraint
    4. Contingency Planning




    1. The Negotiation Strategy
    2. Pressure Tactics
    3. Communication Between The Negotiating And Tactical Elements
    4. The Role Of FBI Behavioral Experts




    1. The Briefing Of The Attorney General
    2. Execution Of The Gassing Plan
    3. Contingency Plan for Fire




This is a critical retrospective evaluation of the activities of the United States

Department of Justice ("Department") and the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI")

during the fifty-one day stand-off at the Branch Davidians' Mt. Carmel compound near

Waco, Texas which ended on April 19, 1993 when fire consumed the compound, killing

David Koresh and most of his followers. To make this evaluation, I have reviewed the

procedures followed by the Department and the FBI, giving particular attention to the

means employed, the alternatives considered and the decisions made in attempting to

resolve the stand-off.

I have not been called upon to conduct a de novo factual inquiry. A comprehensive

factual report is being prepared by the Department and the FBI. I have primarily relied

upon the record gathered by the Department as the basis for the conclusions in this

Report, supplemented by a number of follow-up interviews. However, I am satisfied that

the factual inquiry by the Department was conducted in a thorough and objective manner.

Prior to my appointment, the Department had completed over 800 field interviews

and gathered pertinent documentation. They continued to gather documents and conduct

interviews thereafter. I have been afforded access to documents gathered in that effort and

to the reports of interviews conducted for the factual investigation. In addition, since my

appointment I participated in a number of Department interviews. I have also conducted

independent interviews of some witnesses.

The scope of this Report is confined to the activities of the Department and the FBI.

I have not been asked to evaluate and I make no judgments about the activities of the

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ("ATF") leading up to the February 28, 1993

gun battle at Mount Carmel. I have been assisted in my investigation and writing of this

Report by Ms. Suzan E. DeBusk, Esq. whose invaluable contribution, I gratefully



After reviewing the stand-off at Waco, including the progress of the negotiations and

the conception, approval and implementation of the tear gas plan on April 19, 1993, this

Report concludes as follows.

The fire on April 19, 1993 was deliberately set by persons inside the compound and was

not started by the FBI's tear gas insertion operations. It is not certain, however, whether a

substantial number of the persons who died in the compound on April 19 remained inside

voluntarily, were being held in the compound against their will or were shot in order to prevent

their escape from the fire. Preliminary medical reports are that a substantial number of

individuals had died of gunshot wounds. Among those shot were young children. Koresh's body

was found with a gunshot wound to the forehead. The FBI did not fire on the compound during

the tear gas operation, although shots were fired at the FBI from the compound. The FBI did not

fire on the compound at any time during the fifty-one day stand-off.

The evidence forecasting David Koresh's intention to orchestrate a mass suicide was

contradictory. Koresh and his followers repeatedly assured the negotiators that they did

not intend to commit suicide. On several occasions agents were told that suicide was

against the Davidians' religious beliefs. However, one released member said there was a

suicide plan. Other released members denied there was a suicide plan. In any event, the

risk of suicide was taken into account during the negotiations and in the development of

the gas plan.

The FBI developed a coherent negotiating strategy to talk the Davidians out. However,

the negotiators had strong objections to pressure tactics they felt were counterproductive.

The use of pressure tactics immediately after Koresh sent out Davidians from the compound

may have undermined the negotiators' credibility and blunted their efforts to gain the

Davidians' trust and to discredit Koresh in the eyes of his followers. Nevertheless, tactical

actions designed to increase the safety margin for agents were appropriately given priority

over negotiating considerations. I conclude that the events of April 19 were the result of

David Koresh's determined efforts to choreograph his own death and the deaths of his

followers in a confrontation with federal authorities to fulfill Koresh's apocalyptic prophesy.

The deaths of Koresh, his followers and their children on April 19th were not the result of

a flaw in the gas plan or the negotiation strategy.

The FBI used many qualified experts, including its own FBI behavioral experts to

evaluate Koresh. Their assessments were thorough and many proved quite accurate.


The Attorney General was adequately briefed on the tear gassing plan, was fully

informed of the options, and was given a realistic appraisal of the risks. All reasonable

alternatives were considered and the decision to insert CS gas was a reasonable one. I

conclude that an indefinite siege was not a realistic option. According to the plan, gas

would be inserted in stages and the FBI would wait 48 hours for it to have an effect. As

the plan was being implemented, the tanks were ordered to enlarge openings in the

compound to provide escape routes for the Davidians.

The FBI did anticipate that a fire might occur at the compound. Fire fighting equipment

was not kept close to the scene because the heavy weaponry used by Koresh and his followers

presented unacceptable risks to fire fighters. In any event, the independent arson experts

concluded that the fire spread so quickly in the poorly constructed compound that even prompt

fire fighting efforts would have been ineffective.

The FBI exhibited extraordinary restraint and handled the crisis with great professionalism.


ATF requested assistance from the FBI on February 28, 1993 after ATF agents had attempted

to serve an arrest and search warrant on the Branch Davidian Compound. Four ATF agents were

killed, 20 agents wounded and an unknown number of Davidians were killed and wounded in the

ensuing gun battle.

The FBI assembled a group of its best and most experienced negotiators from its Critical

Incident Negotiations Team ("CINT"). The FBI's behavioral experts from its National Center

for the Analysis of Violent Crime ("NCAVC") were assigned to assess the behavior of Koresh

and his followers. ATF specifically requested the assistance of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team

("HRT"), a highly trained and rigorously selected counter terrorist unit designed for high threat

tactical assignments. FBI SWAT teams were deployed along with a full crisis management

team consisting of three SACs and four ASACs supervising two command posts with full

technical support. The FBI arrived at Mt. Carmel on February 28, set up its command posts and

began telephone negotiations with the people inside the compound. It was estimated that over 100

men, women and children with nearly 250 weapons were inside the compound. The compound

was stocked with a year's supply of food rations and was otherwise prepared to withstand an

extended siege. David Koresh, the group's charismatic leader, had been wounded in the gun

battle with ATF.

Early negotiations were successful, and twenty-one children and two elderly adults exited

the compound during the first six days of the stand-off. On the evening of February 28, 1993

Koresh promised that if a recorded message from him were played on a certain radio station,

children would be released from the compound two-by-two. The message was played for the

first time at approximately 7:30 that evening. About an hour later two children, Angelica and

Crystal Sonobe, were escorted out of the compound by their mother, who went back in. The

message was rebroadcast and two more children, Rene Fagan and Nehara Fagan, were released.

The next morning at 6:30 two more children were released; at 10:30 two more were released;

at 4:00 two more were released; at 8:30 two more were released and at 11:00 two more were


The next day, on March 1, 1993 the negotiator asked Koresh if he was going to commit

suicide and he replied "I'm not going to commit suicide." He also stated "if I wanted to commit

suicide, I would have done it already." The negotiator asked Koresh, "Are you going to let any

of your other people kill themselves or die in there?" Koresh replied "I'm not going to do that."

The night of March 1 Koresh advised that everyone would come out if a tape he recorded

were played on the radio. On the morning of March 2, 1993 detailed arrangements were made

for the surrender of Koresh and the other Davidians upon the playing of the tape. Koresh agreed

he would be carried out on a stretcher and would go to a Bradley ambulance with three of the

children, while everyone else would go to a waiting bus. Koresh was to exit first while Steve

Schneider1 was to remain in the compound to coordinate the release of the remaining members at

one minute intervals. Emergency and transport vehicles were positioned.

Koresh recorded his tape and at the negotiators' request recorded a preamble affirming his

promise to surrender. During the day of March 2, two elderly women, Katherine Matteson and

Margaret Lawson, and four children exited the compound. Koresh was questioned about suicide

and stated, "I dont think anyone's going to commit suicide."

The tape was broadcast as agreed between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. an March 2. The Davidians

then advised that they were moving Koresh down the stairs on the stretcher, but that he was in

pain from his gunshot wounds suffered in the February 28 shoot-out. Progress was delayed when

Koresh began a prayer session. Then Schneider began to preach to the negotiators. Finally,

Schneider informed the negotiators that "God had told Koresh to wait". By the evening of March 2,

other Davidians had come to the phone and advised the negotiators that "God had told Koresh to

wait." Koresh would not come to the phone.2

Meanwhile the United States Attorney's office had arrested and charged the two elderly

women who had exited the compound with conspiracy to commit murder. On March 3, 1993

the Davidians heard a broadcast on CNN reporting the arrests. The FBI consolidated log

reflects concern by the negotiators that if the Davidians heard of the arrest it would have a

"devastating effect" on the negotiations. The FBI immediately persuaded the United States

Attorney's office to drop the charges and hold the women as material witnesses instead. The

compound was immediately notified of that fact.

At this time military style vehicles were visible from the compound. This was contrary to

the advice of some of the negotiators and behavioral scientists, who advised that threatening

activities would not be effective against Koresh and his followers and would likely draw them

closer together. Steve Schneider complained that the tanks were running over the guard shacks

and stated that it is "part of a program of intimidation."

Later on March 3 the negotiators were told that if Koresh were allowed to give a "bible study"

then the child Mark Jones would be released. The study was given and Jones was promptly

released. His brother Kevin was also released the next day and his sister Heather was released on

March 5. Heather Jones would be the last child released.

Contact with Koresh over the next month and a half met with limited success. Koresh

continued to use the children as a shield against FBI efforts to resolve the stand-off. Koresh

threatened to fire on FBI positions and to blow up government vehicles. The bulk of Koresh's

contact with FBI consisted of proselytizing the negotiators in marathon sermons of rambling

exhortations. Koresh claimed to be Christ and to have knowledge of the seven seals of the

apocalypse. Twelve more adults would exit the compound over the next eighteen days, but

Koresh would refuse to leave claiming that his followers were free to make their own decisions

whether to, remain in the compound with him. More than seventy would perish with Koresh on

April 19th.

On March 5 Koresh requested a suture kit for his hand, a videotape of the released children

and six gallons of milk for the children within the compound. All of these requests were granted.

The Davidians began requesting that Peter Gent's body be removed. Gent had been killed in the

February 28 shoot-out with the ATF and his body remained outside the compound. They also

demanded a line to the media and asked that the Bradley military vehicles be removed from the

These requests were denied.

On March 6, 1993 Koresh told the negotiators that if he were allowed to speak with

an ATF undercover agent, then he would send Melissa Morrison, a six year old girl, out of the

compound. Melissa came to the phone and said she would like to leave. Her mother gave

instructions for family members to care for her. The negotiators told Koresh that the agent

was not in Waco. Melissa Morrison was not released and presumably died in the April 19,

1993 fire.

On March 7 Koresh stated that if the negotiators' could "show him" the third seal of the

apocalypse, then he would release some children. The negotiator attempted to discuss the

seal, but Koresh stated that the negotiator had "failed" and refused to release anyone. Davidian

member Wayne Martin 3 then came to the phone and demanded a line to the media so that they

could find a lawyer to file a lawsuit against the government. Juliette Martinez over the telephone

told the negotiators that if she came out they would separate her from her children and put her

in jail. This day there were 42 separate conversations lasting eleven and a half hours.

The morning of March 8 three Davidians buried the body of Peter Gent. Later that day

Waco Sheriff Jack Harwell was allowed to speak with Koresh as a negotiator. Koresh told the

sheriff not to worry because they were not going to commit suicide. He asked for milk and told

the sheriff that he had sent out money to pay for those necessities. Shortly after that conversation

6 gallons of milk were sent in. That night the Davidians sent out a videotape of the children in the

compound. The negotiators' log shows that when the tape was reviewed there was concern that

if the tape were released to the media Koresh would gain much sympathy.

On March 9 at about 2:15 a.m. power to the compound was cut off. Later that morning

two public address speakers with 100 watt amplifiers were set up. Koresh stated that if the

FBI did not turn the power back on, he would not communicate. Power was restored about

10:30 that morning, so that the Davidians could listen to the daily press conference. Later

that afternoon the Davidians displayed a banner from the compound reading "God help us,

we want the press."

The evening of March 9 the negotiators had a conversation with Judy Schneider and

Rachel Koresh,4 both of whom wanted a doctor to be sent in to treat Judy's finger, which had

been wounded in the shoot-out. The negotiator refused and told Judy to come out to be treated.

The negotiator then had a conversation with Steve Schneider and told him to turn off the

halogen lights pointing out to the perimeter or power would again be cut off. There was concern

about the Davidians using the lights to monitor FBI movements around the perimeter. The

Davidians delivered another videotape out of the compound that night.

About 2:30 in the morning on March 10 power to the compound was cut off again. It appears

to have been turned back on later in the day. Some clearing of the grounds must have occurred

that day as well, because that evening Schneider complained about the destruction of a Harley

Davidson motorcycle.

Around 1:00 in the morning of March 11 Schneider told the negotiators that three people

might be coming out the next day. There was conversation throughout the day about who would

be coming out and what would happen to them if they came out. Also that day Schneider told the

negotiators that they had heard a radio broadcast about a shooting star called the "guitar nebula,"

and that Koresh had taken it as a sign. The negotiators felt encouraged that this "sign" could be a

face saving action allowing Koresh to surrender peacefully. At Schneider's request, the negotiators

read Koresh a newspaper article about the nebula. However, Koresh said it was not the sign he

was waiting for.

On the morning of March 12 Kathy Schroeder 5 left the compound, expressing a desire to

be reunited with her four children who had already been released. Her reunion with her youngest

child was filmed and sent back into the compound. She asked to be allowed to call back into

the compound in order to give the other members some confidence in the system because they

were afraid, not knowing what to expect, and she was allowed to do so. In her interview

immediately after her exit Schroeder stated that God had told Koresh not to commit suicide.

She also said that there were people inside who wanted to come out, but that Koresh had a

"total hold" on them. She said many would come out if Koresh told them to, but he would not.

After Schroeder's exit, Steve Schneider began making many demands, including a copy

of the transcript of Kiri Jewell's 6 television appearance, contact with the media, contact with

attorneys and a radio personality to serve as the Davidians' press representative. After these

demands the negotiators were unable to get through to the compound for five hours. During

this time 6 gallons of milk were delivered into the compound. Schneider finally answered the

phone, claimed that there had been mechanical difficulties, and reported that Koresh was

very upset about a radio broadcast that his mother had received $75,000 for the movie rights

to her story. That evening Oliver Gyarfas exited the compound. Judy Schneider was allowed

to speak to a physician on the phone about her injured hand. After Schroeder and Gyarfas

left the compound, the on scene commander decided that power to the compound would be

turned off that night. The negotiators advised against cutting off the power that night after two

people had come out and more were anticipated to come out. They argued that, it would

hurt the negotiations effort and would cause them a set back at a crucial time in the negotiations.

The justification for cutting the power was that it was going to be a very cold night and

maximum effect would be gained in making the Davidians uncomfortable inside the compound.

Also, cutting the power was designed to challenge Koresh's control of the situation and to

raise the level of stress within the compound to force more departures.

Power to the compound was cut off at 11:00 the night of March 12. Koresh then told

the negotiators that people had changed their minds about coming out because of the power

shut off. Schneider stated that the power shut off was a "huge, huge set-back," and that

he had been considering coming out himself, but had changed his mind because of it. The

power remained out that night and the FBI began using the loudspeakers and shining the

lights on the compound. It was determined that the negotiators would not call into the

compound, but would only answer when they were called. The negotiators were not able

to get through to the compound most of the time on March 13.

On March 14 Oliver Gyarfas was allowed to call into the compound. He stated that

the authorities were treating him well and that he had access to the press. Kathy Schroeder

also spoke to them and said she was treated well and had access to a phone, but she would

not speak to the press until they all came out to tell their story. She urged Schneider to

come out peacefully and told him that time was not on his side. During the night of March

14 and early morning hours of March 15 additional lights were directed toward the


On March 15 at 5:45 a face-to-face meeting occurred among Waco Sheriff Jack Harwell,

negotiator Byron Sage, Steve Schneider and Wayne Martin. The negotiators believed that

the meeting had been productive and another face-to-face meeting was scheduled for March

17. On March 16 Schneider demanded a copy of the ATF search warrant, which was ultimately

sent in on the 19th. Five audio tapes from relatives were sent in. Schneider then requested that

Phil Arnold or another religious scholar be allowed to discuss the Book of Revelations with them.

He suggested that if a theologian could convince the people that Koresh was wrong, maybe some

40 to 50 people would come out. The log reflects that Arnold had contacted the FBI early in the

stand-off and offered to assist them. A tape of Arnold was later sent into the compound. On

March 17 tapes of released members with positive comments about their release were played

over the loudspeakers. Busses were brought within view of the compound. The loudspeakers

addressed the Davidians telling them the busses were to transport them after their exit. FBI

negotiator Byron Sage went out for the planned face-to-face meeting but no one came out.

On March 18 the FBI began bulldozing material around the compound, including a wood

pile, a dump truck and some fuel tanks. Koresh came to the phone on March 19, assured the

negotiators that he was not going to kill himself and asked them not to destroy any more of the

Davidians' property. He stated that a "new moon" was coming and that they would be coming

out, but they needed more time. Certain documents requested by the Davidians were sent in

that day, including copies of news articles about the stand-off, the ATF search and arrest

warrants, a copy of the firearms act, letters from their attorneys and an audio tape of theologian

Phil Arnold. At 10:00 that night Brad Branch and Kevin Whitcliffe exited the compound. These

two men had been mentioned as people who were leaving the compound on March 12 before

the power had been turned off.

On March 19, 1993, Koresh again disavowed any intention to commit suicide.

On March 20 the FBI agreed to turn off the loudspeakers in honor of the Davidians'

Sabbath. Schneider told the negotiators the afternoon of the 20th that a lot of people might be

coming out. That night Koresh was allowed to speak with Branch and Whitcliffe who had left

the compound and to give them a Bible study over the phone. Shortly after midnight Victorine

Hollingsworth and Anetta Richard exited the compound.

The next morning, on March 21, Rita Riddle and Gladys Ottman exited the compound.

Schneider requested that a female agent search women who left the compound and that request

was granted. Later that afternoon Sheila Martin (wife of David Martin) and Ofelia Santoyo came

out. Sheila Martin was allowed to call back in and speak with her husband. That night Judy

Schneider told the negotiators to give a message to her family telling them to take care of her

daughter Maynah because she will be "detained," suggesting that she was planning to come out

with her daughter.

That evening the negotiators were informed that the on scene commander had decided to

allow clearing of vehicles around the compound. The negotiators opposed this decision, arguing

that as on March 12, it would harm the negotiations to have negative actions taken when many

people had come out and there was talk of others coming out the next day. The night of March

21 and the early morning hours of March 22 the FBI cleared vehicles around the compound,

played loud Tibetan chants on the loudspeakers and used the external floodlights. Schneider

complained to the negotiators that the last time people came out the power was cut off and this

time they were rewarded with the loud music.

On March 22 a letter from SAC Jamar and Sheriff Harwell was delivered into the com-

pound promising the Davidians access to Koresh's teachings while they were in custody and

promising them access to the media. The offer was conditioned upon the release of all

Davidians by noon of March 23. Koresh reportedly threw the letter away and said he did

not believe any of it. Additionally, a letter from the Christian Broadcast Network promising

to air an interview with Koresh if he came out was sent in. The loudspeakers and lights were

turned on again that night.

On March 22 there was also a meeting between the on scene commander and leaders

of the negotiating, tactical and behavioral science elements to assess whether there was any

possibility of getting a large number of people out in the near future. The negotiating team

submitted a memo which stated that "there is no clear indication that a large number of

individuals will depart shortly from the compound." They did state however, that "the long

term prospect for a peaceful resolution remains good." They recommended escalating the

"stress" within the compound, first by demanding the release of all parties by a certain time,

with all vehicles around the compound being removed if the demand was not met. If that

tactic did not work, then the memo recommended that non-lethal tear gas be introduced.

The morning of March 23 Livingstone Fagan exited the compound. He was the last

Davidian to exit during the standoff. Schneider demanded to speak with Fagan after his

release, but Fagan refused to call back into the compound. Schneider told the negotiators

that if their "bosses" had not done all of the negative things, such as cutting the power, shining

bright lights and playing loud music, twenty people would have been out, but now "you may

have to come in and take his carcass out of here."

Over the night from March 23 to 24 Tibetan chants, Christmas music and recordings of

the negotiations were played and the lights were on. On the morning of March 24 Schneider

informed the negotiators that this day was a Sabbath and they would not negotiate that day.

At the daily press briefing on March 24 Koresh was verbally attacked as a liar and a coward

who hides behind children.

On the evening of March 24 Louis Alaniz penetrated the outer and inner perimeters and

entered the compound. The negotiators asked Schneider to send him out, but Schneider refused.

On March 25 Schneider complained about ATF still being involved and called them a "rene-

gade agency." He also complained about the FBI vehicles running over the children's motorcycles.

He complained that bibles were taken from the released persons and about the "broken promise"

because Livingstone Fagan did not call back in.

The negotiators began a new tactic on March 25. They demanded the release of 20 people

by 4:00. No one was released by the deadline so the FBI cleared motorcycles and go-carts from

the grounds. The negotiators then demanded that 10 people be released. There was a discussion

of exactly who these people would be. The names Julie Martinez, Cliff Sellars, Clive Doyle, Pablo

Cohen, David Thibodeau, Sherry Doyle, David Jones, Scott Sonobe and Livingstone Malcolm

were discussed. The negotiators were allowed to speak directly to several members about coming


On March 26 the negotiator told Schneider that 10 people must come out by noon.

The negotiators' log reflects that Schneider became angry and said that "These people don't

care! You can kill us whatever, these people fear God (not you)." The log reflects on

March 25 an interview with Lisa Gent, mother of Peter and Nicole, in which she reported

that Peter may have known of plans for a mass suicide. On March 26 Dr. Bruce Perry, a

psychiatrist from Baylor University who interviewed the released children, reported that

he suspected the children may have heard talk about suicide from adults.

As the deadline approached, Schneider reported to the negotiator that he had talked to

people but no one wanted to come out. In response the FBI cleared vehicles and trees from

around the compound. The negotiators told Schneider that no one would be allowed to come

outside the compound. Previously the Davidians had been allowed to come out and feed the

chickens. The negotiators were unable to contact the Davidians by telephone from 5:00 the

afternoon of the 26th until the next morning, when the Davidians hung a banner out reading

that the "tanks broke phone line." On March 26 Jesse Amen penetrated the perimeter and

entered the compound, and the negotiators' log reflects an exit interview with a Davidian in

which a plan was reported for a mass suicide by explosives on March 2 when Koresh had

promised to come out.

At noon on March 27 a box was delivered to the compound containing two blank video

tapes,two batteries for the video camera and a letter from Bill Austin, Chaplain at Baylor, stating

that Koresh had a Biblical obligation to come out peacefully. After that day's press briefing,

Schneider expressed hatred of the ATF and displeasure over the ATF's continued involvement in

the daily press conferences. The ATF spokesman had referred to drugs in the compound, which

had outraged Schneider. It was also reported in that day's press conference that Kathy Schroeder

was going to be charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Previously she had been held only as a

material witness.

On March 27 the negotiators renewed their tactic of demanding the release of 10 people

by a deadline. The deadline was not met and the FBI bulldozed the front fence. Schneider spent

most of that day on the telephone with the negotiators. He told them the property damage did

not matter because he was going "beyond this world." Schneider threatened that if the Davidians

wanted to kill the FBI agents they could do so and said the FBI could burn the compound down

or kill them. He expressed concern that if he came out he would be charged, concern about what

would happen to him in jail and fear of the other inmates. He also stated that he knew Koresh

would be executed if he came out. He said because Kathy Schroeder was charged with murder, he

does not think anyone else will come out. However, Schneider affirmed that he was not going to

commit suicide. Schneider asked if he could speak with an FBI chaplain and suggested a face-to

-face meeting with his attorney, Jack Zimmerman, Sheriff Harwell and the chaplain from Baylor

who had sent in the letter. Schneider told the negotiator that what would work would be to

"throw a match to the building, people will have to come out." Koresh had not come to the

phone for days, despite repeated requests by the negotiators. Schneider said he was sick.

On March 27, 1993 the negotiator asked Schneider if he was going to commit suicide and

he said "Oh, of course not. If I did I'd be lost eternally." On March 28, 1993 Koresh told the

negotiator that "if we was going to commit suicide, we'd have been dead a long time ago."

On March 28 the negotiators demanded that 10 people come out by 12:50. The deadline

was not met. Koresh finally came to the telephone that afternoon and told the negotiators he knew

his life would be over once he went into their hands. He said he knew he would be charged with

murder when he came out. He requested six gallons of milk and they were sent in. On that day

several people tried to enter the compound but were apprehended.

During the clearing operations on March 28 the adults held children up to the windows.

Concern is reflected on the log that they might use the children as shields if fighting broke

out. That night Koresh was allowed a privileged telephone conversation with Dick DeGuerin,

the attorney his mother hired to represent him. The FBI cleared out the ATF trucks and horse


The Davidians sent out another videotape on March 28. Dr. Bruce Perry reviewed the tape and

reported his opinion that the children were frightened of Koresh and that Koresh was following

a deliberate plan of deception and had his own plan for ending the standoff in an apocalyptic way. Dr.

Perry expressed the belief that Koresh was stalling for a final battle and wanted law enforcement

to go into the compound so he could take some of them with him. This opinion is reflected in the

negotiators' log on April 1.

On March 29 attorney DeGuerin was allowed to go to the front door and have a private

conversation with Koresh.

On March 30 and 31 two justice department officials, Mark Richard and Jim Reynolds, traveled

to Waco. They were briefed by the FBI commanders on scene and viewed the compound. They met

with representatives of the U.S. Attorneys' office and the Texas Rangers. On April 1 they returned to

Washington and reported to the Attorney General and Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell

on their assessment of the situation. As a result of that trip changes were made in the prosecutive

team to improve coordination among the investigative agencies and the prosecutors. on April 2 Ray

Jahn, a senior Assistant U.S. Attorney in San Antonio, was designated to head the prosecutive team.

On March 30 and 31 attorney DeGuerin was allowed to go into the compound. On April 1

DeGuerin was allowed to go in with attorney Jack Zimmerman, who was hired by Schneider's

family. When the attorneys were debriefed on April 1 they reported that Koresh said he would

come out after Passover. They said that they advised the members not to speak with law enforce-

ment. There were few conversations between the negotiators and the Davidians during this period.

The Davidians refused to allow the attorneys to come in on April 3 because of their Sabbath,

but the attorneys went in again on April 4. The attorneys reported after that meeting that they still

had no date for Koresh's Passover, but that a plan had been discussed in which Koresh would

come out first, followed by the women and children and Schneider would come out last. On April

4 Jesse Amen, an individual who had sneaked in during the stand-off, exited the compound.

On April 6 Schneider informed the negotiators that Passover started at sundown that day and

would last 7 days. He later complained of the loudspeakers being on during Passover. Several

individuals came out of the compound and into the courtyard several times over the next few days

and were "flash-banged" by the FBI. 7

On April 7 Mark Richard and Jim Reynolds from the Justice Department returned to Waco

and held a meeting of the leadership of all of the agencies involved in the Branch Davidian matter,

including the FBI, the ATF, the Texas Rangers, the U.S. Attorney's office and the Texas Department

of Public Safety. They returned from their trip on April 9 and reported to the Attorney General that

the FBI had raised the possibility of utilizing tear gas to resolve the standoff at the compound.

On April 9 Schneider was allowed to go out of the compound to light 7 canisters of incense

for religious reasons. When he came out he dropped off a letter from Koresh. There was little

phone contact over these days, but Schneider did complain that the Bradleys were running over

Peter Gent's grave, that the agents were "flipping the finger" at them and that people were being


On April 10 concertina wire was installed around the compound. Schneider informed the

negotiators that they never gave the attorneys a specific time when they would come out. He

brought a second letter from Koresh out of the compound. On April 12 Schneider requested a

copy of a book about the "Koreshians" that he heard about from the negotiators.

On April 12 Department attorneys Jack Keeney, Mark Richard and Jim Reynolds, all

managing attorneys in the Criminal Division, received a general briefing from FBI officials of the

proposed plan to introduce CS gas into the compound if the Davidians did not come out by

the end of Passover. Later that same day a briefing was held at the FBI Command Center for

the Attorney General and the Associate Attorney General on the proposed plan. The plan was

presented not as an all out assault, but as a tactic whereby gas would be inserted in stages,

initially into only one small area of the compound. The goal was to allow exit through uncontam-

inated portions of the compound. The Attorney General requested that she be provided with

more information on the effects of CS gas on pregnant women and children, a military second

opinion on the plan and information on whether it would be possible to cut off the water supply

to the compound.

On April 13 Koresh refused to speak with attorney DeGuerin, but Schneider spoke with

him for a while. Schneider advised that this was the last day of Passover. Koresh agreed to speak

with the attorneys on the phone on April 14 and at that time advised them that he only intended to

leave the compound when he finished a manuscript on the Seven Seals referred to in the Book of

Revelations. Koresh estimated it would take him 14 days. Koresh came on the phone unexpectedly

at midday and preached to the negotiators for five hours nonstop. Several banners were displayed

that day reading "Read Proverbs 1,2,3,4. We Come to Love, Not War", "Let's Have A Beer When

This Is Over", "My Name Is Vega I'm From Hawaii", "Media and FBI Don't Know the Truth. You

You Can't Accept the Truth. We Can Still Have a Few Beers Together", "I'm an American, I Love

America, But BATF Killed My Family and Friends."

On April 14 another meeting was held in the FBI Director's office in which the Attorney

General and Associate Attorney General were briefed on military and medical aspects of

the proposed plan. United States military commanders were present and evaluated the plan

from a military perspective. They reported that rather than a stop and start insertion of the gas,

they would go in full force and gas the whole compound at once. They also reported their

opinion that the HRT had to be pulled out soon because they had been on full alert too long.

A medical doctor reported to the Attorney General on studies of the effects of CS gas

on children, pregnant women and the elderly. The Attorney General directed that a detailed

statement of the plan with supporting documentation be put together. on April 16 Schneider

reported that Koresh was writing the second seal, but that Schneider had not edited the first

seal yet. On April 17 Louis Alaniz, one of the persons who had entered during the stand-off,

exited the compound.

On the afternoon of Saturday, April 17 the Attorney General gave final approval to the plan

to gas the compound on Monday, April 19, 1993. She advised the President of her decision on

Sunday, April 18.

On April 18 the remaining vehicles were cleared from in front of the compound, including

Koresh's prized automobile. Koresh became very upset about his car. Milk was delivered into

the compound on the 18th along with typewriter equipment.

At approximately 6:00 a.m. on April 19 the gassing operation began. Negotiator Byron

Sage telephoned the compound and notified Steve Schneider that the FBI would be inserting tear

gas, but that it was not a lethal assault and they should all come out peacefully. Schneider

responded by ripping out the phone and throwing it out the door. Sage continued to announce

over the loudspeaker that this was not a lethal assault and to instruct the people on how to exit

and receive medical care. The Davidians fired on the vehicles as they approached the compound.

At noon, fire erupted from three separate areas of the compound. The fire spread quickly,

but the openings in the building appeared to provide a means of escape. Only nine Davidians

survived the fire. They were Renos Avraam, Jamie Castillo, Graeme Craddock, Clive Doyle,

Misty Ferguson, Derek Lovelock, Ruth Ottman Riddle, David Thibodeau and Marjorie Thomas.

A total of 35 people left the compound during the stand-off. Twenty-one children were released

from the compound beginning on February 28, 1993, but no children were released after March 5,

1993. Thus, all of the children were released in the first 6 days of the 51-day stand-off. A total of

14 adults exited the compound during the standoff. Two adults entered the compound during the

stand-off. Both exited before April 19. No Davidian members exited the compound after March

23, 1993 until April 19.

After the fire an independent arson investigation determined that the fire had been started

deliberately by persons inside the compound. The medical examiner found the remains of

seventy five individuals in the debris. Thirteen adult bodies had fatal gunshot wounds. Most

of these wounds were gunshot wounds to the head. Several adults died of gunshot wounds

to the chest and face. Two adults were fatally shot in the back. Three young children were

shot to death and one three year old boy was fatally stabbed in the chest. Two other minors

suffered fatal blows to the head. Koresh died of a gunshot to the mid-forehead. Schneider

died of a gunshot wound of the mouth. The bodies of Koresh and Schneider were found in the

communication room of the compound.




1. The Fire

An examination of the burned ruins of the compound by independent arson experts concluded

that the fire was deliberately set from within the compound. It is not clear whether the decision to set

the fire was a unanimous decision of the entire group, or whether some people were held hostage or

were shot to prevent their escape from the fire. A number of children were shot to death.



The Arson Report states:

This fire was caused by the intentional act(s) of a person or persons inside the compound.
Fires were set in three separate areas of the structure identified as points of origin 1, 2
and 3. This investigation establishes that these fires occurred in areas significantly distant
from each other and in a time frame that precludes any assumption of a single ignition source
or accidental cause....Investigative findings further confirm that flammable liquids
were used to accelerate the spread and intensity of the fire.

The Arson Report notes that in addition to the multiple origin points and flammable accelerants,

the spread of the fire was enhanced because the compound was constructed with no consideration

for fire safety, the strong wind from the south intensified the spread and the building contained highly

combustible materials, such as baled hay.

There is also evidence from the Davidians who survived the fire suggesting that the fire was

deliberately set. In a statement given to the Texas Rangers on April 20, 1993 a Davidian stated

that the fire was started with Coleman fuel which had been distributed throughout the compound

in specific locations. Another surviving Davidian was interviewed by the Texas Rangers on April

19, 1993 and stated that he was in the chapel with several other people when the armored

vehicle drove through the front door and he heard the word passed to "start the fires" or

"light the fire," and heard someone else say "make sure." Agent Lloyd Sigler, who spoke with

him immediately upon his exit from the compound, reported him saying that Koresh had

previously spoken of burning the compound if confronted by police. In a May 7 interview that

same Davidian confirmed hearing a conversation about lighting a fire and stated that he thought

there was some plan to burn the building and that he recalled seeing someone deliberately

splashing, pouring or dousing the Chapel area with lantern fuel.8





The infra red film taken from an airplane at the time the fire started shows intense spots

of heat erupting in different spots in the compound at almost the same time. These locations

were too far removed from each other to have been ignited by the same source. In addition,

many of the HRT personnel who were within sight of the compound when the fire started report

that they saw flames erupt almost simultaneously in different locations in the compound.

The Arson Report concludes that the fire was started by persons inside the compound

and not by the activities of the FBI vehicles. "We are of the opinion that these [tear gassing]

operations did not contribute to the ignition or spread of the fire." The report does not

rule out the possibility that the spread of the fire could have been enhanced by spillage of

flammables caused by the FBI breaching activities. However, given the significant evidence

that the Davidians were deliberately spreading fuel around the compound, there is no reason

to believe that any such spillage would have been a primary factor in the spread of the fire.

The Arson Report also states that the law enforcement breaching operation opened holes in

the compound that allowed the wind into the compound, possibly enhancing spreading, but it

recognizes that at the same time the fresh air may have also given people more time to escape

before they were overcome with fumes from the burning compound.

2. Mass Suicide or Mass Murder?

The medical examiner has determined that Koresh, Schneider and a number of other individuals

who died in the compound on April 19, did not die from the fire, but died from gunshot wounds. It is

not known whether these individuals committed suicide or were shot by others.

Former Davidian Dana Okimoto reported to authorities in an interview on May 27, 1993,

after the fire, that Koresh's biggest fear was that someone would take his wives away and that he

felt that rather than letting someone take his wife, the wife should kill herself and if she could not

do so one of the "mighty men"10 should do it, since this was one of their duties. Therefore, if people

were shot within the compound it may have been in accordance with the above plan. It is also

possible that some people were shot to prevent their escape from the compound. We may never

know what really happened.11

3. FBI Restraint

The stand-off with the Davidians presented a significant danger to the FBI personnel who

were stationed within range of the compound's weaponry. Investigation by the ATF revealed

that by February 28, 1993 Koresh and his associates had at least 243 total firearms, including

two 50 caliber semi-automatic rifles, numerous assault rifles, shotguns, revolvers and pistols.

The Davidians also purchased hundreds of grenades and 39 "full auto sears" devices used to

convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. On February 28 shots were fired

from over forty different positions within the compound. The Davidians were trained in the use

of these weapons. Moreover, there was concern that the Davidians had dug tunnels fanning

out from the compound and planned to place explosives in the tunnels under FBI positions.

There is no evidence of any shots being fired at the compound by law enforcement officers

after the cease fire on February 28, 1993.12 We have reviewed the statements of the agents who

participated in the tear gas assault on April 19, 1993 and none of them claim to have fired their

weapons on April 19. SAC Jamar and ASAC Rogers both state that the FBI did not fire on

the compound that day. However, rounds were being fired from the compound at the FBI on

April 19th. Also, agents reported hearing gunfire within the compound.

The FBI demonstrated admirable restraint in not firing back on April 19 and thereby avoided

being provoked into a gun battle with the Davidians. Outside agencies present on April 19 praised

the FBI's professionalism in their execution of the gas assault.

4. Contingency Planning

The risk of a mass suicide was considered as a possibility during the planning and approval

of the final assault. For example, cyanide poisoning was thought to be a major risk and there-

fore cyanide antidote kits were available on the scene along with an emergency medical facility.

The Attorney General asked about the possibility of a mass suicide.

The evidence of a possible intention to commit mass suicide was contradictory. In a memo

dated March 8 FBI behavioral scientists reported:


KORESH always talks about the "end", suggesting to his followers that "it is closer than
you think". If KORESH dies before his followers, the women are to kill themselves and
the children. If the women are unable, the men are to help them. KORESH teaches his
followers that they must follow him to the "end", even if that means killing themselves....
KORESH realizes that in an environment outside of the compound, without his control
over the followers, he would lose his status as the Messiah, thus a mass suicide ordered
by KORESH cannot be discounted
. His order for a mass suicide would be his effort to
maintain the ultimate control over his group, in the event of his death.

(emphasis added). Expert Park Dietz reported that he informed SAC Ricks that Koresh was

suicidal and may have made a suicide pact with other members.

Former members and released members also warned of the possibility of suicide. On March 3,

1993 the FBI interviewed Kiri Jewell, a young teenager who lived in the compound with her mother

until shortly before the stand-off. Kiri reported that the Davidians had discussed mass suicide by

cyanide and shooting themselves. She reported that she believed the mass suicide would occur on a

Friday at 1:00 because that is when Koresh believes Jesus died.

A Davidian who left the compound in mid-March was interviewed in the hospital by Texas

Rangers four times from March 24 to March 27 and reported that the Davidians had planned

mass suicide on March 2, 1993, when Koresh had promised to come out of the compound with all

his followers. Koresh planned to exit the compound with Greg Summers, who would have an

explosive device strapped around his waist so that they would blow themselves up in front of the

FBI. In addition, the people, inside the compound planned to blow themselves up so that "We

would all go to heaven that day".

The Davidian also reported telling Margarida Vaega that he preferred to go to sleep and Vaega

responding that she had an injection that would put him to sleep before the explosion. The Davidian

reported that the plan was not implemented because God, told Koresh to wait since God had more

work for Koresh to do. Vaega pinned a note to her daughter's coat in which she said that the adults

would die after the children were released. The note was intended for Vaega's sister.

The psychiatrists who interviewed the released children reported that the children may have

heard discussions of suicide and that some children believed they would never see their parents

again in this life.

However, in interviews with the ATF before March 15, 1993 former Davidians Mark Breault,

Dana Okimoto, Jeanine Bunds and Robyn Bunds, reported that Koresh's teaching was that law

enforcement officers have to be the vehicle for his death in order for his prophesy to come true

and that he cannot kill himself to fulfill his prophesy. Mark Breault, a former Davidian, told that

Koresh taught that the United States government is out to crucify him and that his group would

be killed but they would rise again. Karen Doyle, a follower of Koresh who lived outside the

compound, reported in an interview during the stand-off that Koresh prophesied his own martyr-

dom and that of the group. She stated that to be "exalted" one had to die with Koresh and stated

that she wished she were there at the compound.

Because suicide was seen as a possibility all along, the negotiators frequently asked Koresh

and his followers whether they were going to commit suicide and they were always reassured

that this was against Koresh's teachings.13 An agent who interviewed some of the individuals who

left the compound reported that none of them indicated that suicide was a potential possibility

and in fact indicated that such an act would be against their religion.


1. The Negotiation Strategy

The first briefing book presented to the Attorney General states that the strategy was to

"secure the surrender and arrest of all adult occupants of the compound while providing the

maximum possible security for the children within the compound." (Tab B, p. 4). The

negotiators knew they were faced with religious group fanatically devoted to Koresh and his

teachings. It was not certain, however, whether Koresh truly believed his own religious message

or whether he was exploiting his control over his followers for personal gain.

Initially the FBI tried to work within the framework of the Davidians' beliefs to convince

Koresh the standoff was not the apocalyptic event he had prophesied. Evidently Koresh was the

only "expert" in his branch of Branch Davidianism, and so even with advice from religious

scholars, the FBI was unable to influence Koresh's unique interpretation of scripture. The

frustration of working within Koresh's religious framework became apparent when on March 2,

after promising to leave the compound, Koresh said that God had told him to wait. Koresh was

improvising his own theology and was completely beyond the influence of religious arguments

or religious scholars.

Koresh knew that he and other Davidians would be arrested and charged with murder of the

ATF agents. Koresh and others in the compound were acutely aware of the secular consequences

of their acts. Texas has the death penalty by lethal injection. At one point in the negotiations

Koresh joked, "When they give me the lethal injection, give me the cheap stuff, huh?". Efforts were

aimed at convincing Koresh that if he and the others exited the compound they would be treated

well and that they might "beat the rap." Needless to say this tactic was not popular since

it implicitly criticized ATF and could be viewed as disparaging of the four dead ATF agents.

However, the tactic was completely proper in the context of negotiating a nonviolent end to

the standoff.14

In the face of Koresh's intransigence the final negotiating strategy was developed called

the "trickle, flow, gush" strategy. The objective was to undermine the devotion of individual

members to Koresh. The FBI began speaking to the other members on the phone, playing tapes

of the negotiations and the statements of released members and family members back into the

compound over loud speakers, sending videotapes and pictures of the released children into the

compound and sending in messages from family members. For example, a taped passage from

the negotiations in which Special Agent Byron Sage outwitted Koresh was played over the

loudspeakers for this purpose. The objective was to move the pace of the exodus from the

compound from a trickle to a flow to a mass desertion of Koresh by his followers.

Although others left the compound, this strategy also failed. The number of people leaving

the compound slowed rather than accelerated and the exit of members from the compound

stopped altogether after March 23rd, nearly a month before the final assault. There is evidence

that Koresh was purging his group and therefore these departures from the compound did not

represent defections from Koresh's ranks. Many of the adults leaving the compound appeared

to remain loyal to Koresh.

Koresh broke his promises to leave the compound, and the pace of the releases did not

significantly increase. Koresh had promised to come out on March 2nd if the government

played his tape. The government complied and Koresh reneged. Koresh said he was waiting

for a sign from God. On March 12 he considered the guitar nebula as a possible sign, but

decided it was not the sign he was waiting for. Koresh told his lawyers he would come out

after Passover, but when Passover ended, Koresh said he had not committed to a specific

date to come out.15 Koresh continued to make excuses to stay in the compound thus reinforcing

the view that he was not devout, only manipulative.16

Dr. Park Dietz, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University

of California, was consulted by the FBI. Dr. Dietz is under contract with the FBI as a forensic

psychiatrist. The FBI flew Dr. Dietz to Mt. Carmel to give his assessment of Koresh. March

2nd Dr. Dietz expressed the opinion that Koresh would not voluntarily leave the compound. He

considered Koresh to be suicidal and stated that Koresh might have made a suicide pact with his

followers. Dr. Dietz described Koresh's personality as manipulative.

Dr. Dietz made a number of recommendations based on his review of documents and the

negotiations up to that point. He recommended that the FBI distance itself from ATF and

express sympathy with Koresh's anti-BATF views. Dr. Dietz expressed the opinion that Koresh

would choose death over losing power, and therefore the negotiation strategy should create the

illusion that Koresh would not go to prison but would emerge with more followers than he had


2. Pressure Tactics

Conflicts were reported between the negotiators and the tactical elements regarding the

strategy to be used with the Davidians.17 On several occasions tactical pressure was exerted

on the Davidians either without consulting the negotiators or over the negotiators' objections.

The negotiators believed the timing of these tactical activities disrupted the progress of the

negotiations unnecessarily. Additionally, negotiators complained that the HRT engaged in

tactical maneuvers before the negotiators had an opportunity to use the maneuvers to further

the bargaining process.

At the outset of the crisis FBI behavioral scientists recommended against confronting David

Koresh. The negotiators specifically recommended that the Bradley vehicles should not be

brought up to the compound. Despite the negotiators' advice, the Bradleys were run up and

down in front of the compound in what negotiators believed was a show of force.

On March 12 after two Davidians had exited the compound the decision was made to turn off

the electricity in the compound. The negotiators objected to the decision arguing that the Davidians

should be rewarded for releasing two people. The power was turned off. No one was released

for the next seven days.

On March 21 after seven Davidians had exited the compound the negotiators were advised

that the Davidian vehicles would be cleared from the left side of the compound. The negotiators

opposed this action, pointing out that once again the FBI would be answering a positive move on

the part of the Branch Davidians by a negative action. Nonetheless, the bulldozing was implemented.

The negotiators received conflicting justifications for the action being told both that the items

were being moved as a safety measure and to harass the Davidians.

Loudspeakers were initially used to provide information to Koresh's followers still inside

the compound, but contrary to the negotiators' advice the loudspeakers were used to broadcast

Tibetan chants, other annoying music and the sounds of dying rabbits. The negotiators objected

to playing music as a harassment tactic, advising that such "psychological warfare" would only

make the FBI look bad.

Some negotiators believe that as a result of these actions the Davidians concluded that the

negotiators had no influence over the decision makers and that the FBI was not trustworthy.

Several negotiators and behavioral scientists expressed the opinion that although David Koresh

and his core followers may never have come out through negotiation, more people might have

exited the compound voluntarily during the stand-off if the negotiation strategy had been

followed more rigorously.

The negotiators recognized that a traditional negotiation tactic is to put pressure on the

subject at times through tactical activities choreographed with a more gentle negotiating approach.

However, a memorandum dated March 5, 1993 from FBI behavioral scientists stated that "[i]n

traditional hostage situations, a strategy which has been successful has been negotiations

coupled with ever increasing tactical presence. In this situation however, it is believed this strategy,

if carried to excess, could eventually be counter productive and could result in loss of life."

(emphasis added)

Despite these conflicts, I am not confident that more members would have left the compound if

the negotiating strategy had been followed more rigorously. Even though in hindsight the behavioral

assessment of Koresh proved extremely accurate, the most compelling evidence of the resolve

of the Davidians to follow Koresh was their willingness to take their own lives and the lives of their

children in obedience to Koresh. It is this total allegiance to Koresh that was unpredictable. Even

those who left the compound before the fire seemed to remain committed to him. Several expressed

regret that they could not join him in death. Koresh could not be pressured into leaving the compound,

and whatever bound Koresh and his followers was apparently stronger than either force or reason.

3. Communications Between The Negotiating And Tactical Elements

The negotiators and tactical team had regular access to the SACs on scene and frequently

spoke to them on a one to one basis. However, some negotiators believe that joint strategy

meetings of tactical, negotiating, and command elements were held too infrequently. According

to negotiators the first joint strategy meeting was held on March 22. The negotiators were

miles away from the forward command post and rarely came into direct contact with the tactical


One of the Technically Trained Agents ("TTA,'s") charged with providing technical support

reported that there were communications problems in the command post and that it seemed

one component did not know what the other was doing. He reported feeling as the service

contingent for the other components the TTA's were often "in the middle," receiving conflicting

instructions or inquiries.

The negotiators reported that they were not satisfied with the quality of the information

flowing from the tactical components to the negotiators. The negotiators complained that the

tactical representative in the command center did not use the RAPID START system, but

generally reported information orally and the negotiators rarely received any written

intelligence information generated by the tactical teams unless they actively sought it out.

Likewise, the tactical units in the forward positions complained about the lack of information

about the negotiations, although they believed that the quality of information they were sending

up from the field was very good. Some of the negotiators realized during the stand-off that

their information was not getting out of the command post and making it to the tactical troops,

even though the negotiators all agreed that the information flow out of the negotiation cell

was excellent. HRT members complained of being "starved for information".

4. The Role Of FBI Behavioral Experts

For the stand-off in Waco the FBI called upon the services of the Criminal Investigative

Analysis subunit, which falls under the Investigative Support Unit of the FBI's NCAVC. The

special agents in this subunit offer assistance such as personality assessments of known

individuals, suggestions as to strategy and on-site assistance with major violent crimes.

In addition to FBI experts, outside experts were consulted by the FBI during the Waco

stand-off. These experts specialized in the fields of psychology and psychiatry and

provided behavioral assessments of Koresh and his followers. Park Elliot Dietz, Clinical

Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences from the University of California School

of Medicine and a civilian consultant to the FBI, provided assistance evaluating Koresh.

Bruce D. Perry, Chief of Psychiatry of the Baylor College, worked with the released children

and provided some assessments of Koresh's likely actions based on that work. Psychiatrist

Joseph Krofcheck and Psycholinguist Murray Miron assisted in analyzing Koresh's letters

which were sent out at the end of the stand-off.

The behavioral experts were provided access to all of the material gathered by the ATF

regarding Koresh and the Davidians, including interviews of former members and records of

prior criminal proceedings. In addition the behavioral scientists listened to the ongoing

negotiations and spoke with those who interviewed the released children. The behavioral

scientists expressed no dissatisfaction with the quantity and quality of information with which

they were presented. Indeed, one of them remarked that even though the ATF had not

gathered this information for the purposes of creating a psychological profile, they had all

the information that was necessary.

The chronology of the written advice from the behavioral scientists is as follows: on March 3,

1993 the behavioral experts wrote a joint memo recommending a strategy of trying to work

within the Davidians own belief system to talk them out. They recommended acknowledging the

conspiracy against the Davidians and their right to defend themselves, and creating an illusion

that Koresh could win in court and in the press and would not go to jail. On March 5

behavioral experts wrote a memo advising that the negotiation strategy focus on insuring

the safety of the children and facilitating the peaceful surrender the Davidians. This memo

recommended a de-escalation of tactical pressure because movement of tactical personnel

would validate Koresh's prophesy that his followers must die defending their faith. As an

alternative tactic, the memo recommends that efforts be made to drive a wedge between

Koresh and his followers by convincing them that a battle is not inevitable.

They recommended continuing efforts to establish a wedge between Koresh and his followers

using outside family members and released children to appeal to the parents, gaining direct

intelligence about activities inside the compound and giving Koresh's followers the opportunity to

safely break and run.

A memo of March 7, 1993 lists certain tactical activities that might be used to "increase

the stress and anxiety" inside the compound, including many of the things that ultimately were

done, such as floodlights, noises, loudspeakers, movement of military vehicles, shutting off

utilities, fencing off the compound and discrediting Koresh at press conferences. However,

the memo also cautions against tactical options which would shut down the negotiations,

because then the only option would be physical action with the Davidians fighting to the death

and tremendous loss of life. The memo recommended continued negotiation with the use

of Sheriff Harwell as a third party intermediary.

A March 8, 1993 memo sets forth a psychological profile of Koresh. The memo points out

that Koresh shows signs of being a religious fanatic with delusions. The memo speculates that

Koresh may have ambushed the ATF agents on February 28 "to set into motion a chain of events

which will verify, to his followers, that his interpretation of the correct." The memo

acknowledges that "[i]t has been speculated that KORESH'S religious beliefs are nothing

more than a con, in order to get power, money, women, etc., and that a strong show of force

(tanks, APC's weapons, etc.) will crumble that resolve, causing him to surrender." In fact,

the memo warns, the opposite may well occur and Koresh and his followers will draw closer

together. The March 8 memo also recognizes that "[t]he strong show of force response is to

be expected from law enforcement personnel, who are action oriented," but that Koresh may

be trying to provoke a confrontation where the FBI unintentionally makes his prophesy come

true. The memo warns that Koresh's teachings have been that his followers must follow him in

death, even if that means killing themselves and that Koresh might order a mass suicide rather

than lose his status as Messiah. The memo advises doing the opposite of what one would do in

traditional hostage negotiations with a psychopath (i.e. wresting control), but rather moving back

would be taking power from Koresh. It concludes "[t]he bottom line is that we can always resort

to tactical pressure, but it should be the absolute last option."

A memo dated March 9, 1993, recommends that efforts should be made to break Koresh's

spirit because his psychopathic tendencies to control and manipulate have caused the negotiations to

meet with limited success. The memo recommends "nonoffensive" actions, such as sporadic

termination and reinstating of utilities, unpredictable movement of manpower and equipment,

downplaying Koresh in press conferences, jamming radio and television and denying negotiations

to demonstrate that Koresh is no longer in charge and to buy time. A March 7 memo from head-

quarters suggests that small failures will cause the followers to question Koresh. At this point

the behavioral science memos ceased.

On April 9 and 10 Koresh sent out two letters which were analyzed by psycholinguist

Murray S. Miron and Psychiatrist Joseph Krofcheck, working with FBI agent Clinton Van

Zandt. Miron assessed Koresh from the first letter as exhibiting a "rampant, morbidly virulent

paranoia" and "dissociative pathology which makes him oblivious to either reality or rationality."

Miron sees the letter as a "delusional communication" implying that Koresh is preparing to do

battle against his adversaries, that he is in a mindset of aggressiveness and may have provided

for "snares" against an assault on the compound. Krofcheck analyzes the same letter as showing

Koresh to be a "functional, paranoid type personality" and a "charismatic, manipulative person

with a core delusional system that sees himself as his own form of the trinity consisting of God,

Jesus Christ and David Koresh, the prophet through whom God speaks." He believes Koresh

is exercising self-deception and that he has no real intention to comply with any demands.

Koresh is seen as a user of others who does not value his people as equals or human beings.

He plans to catch the FBI unaware, which could include destruction by fire or explosion. "He

may be prepared to do whatever he has to do to fulfill his ultimate game plan." "He is willing

to kill, to see his followers die and to die himself." "Koresh's clock is running and he is fully

capable of creating the circumstances to bring this matter to 'a magnificent' end in his mind,

a conclusion that could take the lives of all of his followers and as many of the authorities as

possible." Krofcheck believes Koresh will not come out voluntarily and "the government

is the hostage." Krofcheck concludes that "we have no clear ability to influence the exit

of him and his followers from their compound short of tactical intervention."

Finally, on April 17, just before the final assault plan was approved, Park Dietz was

asked to give his views on the status of the negotiations and prognosis for a successful conclusion.

In a memo dated April 17 Dietz opined that negotiating in good faith would not resolve the

situation as it now stands. However, he believed the negotiations did not succeed because of

the ATF's continued involvement in the case and the fact that negotiation strategies were

"repeatedly undermined by ancillary actions." Dietz stated that Koresh would not come out or

send out substantial numbers of his followers and that conditions inside the compound would

continue to deteriorate.

From these memos it appears that the behavioral scientists did not simply apply a one

dimensional diagnosis of anti-social personality, but took seriously the possibility that Koresh

was also a delusional person willing to die and see his followers die according to his teachings.





1. The Briefing Of The Attorney General

After reviewing the facts and personally interviewing Attorney General Janet Reno and

Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell, I conclude that the Attorney General was

adequately briefed on the tear gassing plan by the FBI. She considered all viable options

and realistically considered the risks. The Attorney General and other Department officials

asked appropriate questions and explored other options independent of the FBI briefing. At

the Department's initiative, the Attorney General received a personal briefing from United

States military commanders evaluating the plan. She also independently consulted medical

experts on the effects of CS gas. Associate Attorney General Hubbell telephoned FBI Special

Agent Byron Sage, one of the negotiation team leaders, and spoke with him extensively in

order to get an opinion directly from the negotiators as to whether continued negotiation

would be fruitful.

The Attorney General was sworn into office on March 12, 1993. Before her confirmation

she received a general briefing on the Waco incident from Acting Attorney General Stuart Gerson.

The President had already been advised of the status at Waco, had indicated that he preferred

a negotiated solution, if possible, and asked to be informed if it appeared force would be necessary.

The Attorney General had her first detailed meeting about Waco the week of March 12. She asked

to be informed when and if there were any indications that the use of force might become necessary

and requested periodic briefings.

The week of April 9 the Director of the FBI told the Attorney General that the FBI would be

coming to her with a proposal to use tear gas to resolve the stand-off at Waco. On April 12, 1993

the Attorney General received the first detailed briefing on the tear gas plan from FBI repres-

entatives at FBI headquarters in Washington. The Associate Attorney General and other

Department personnel were present. Immediately afterward the Attorney General and the

Associate Attorney General met with others from the Department to discuss the proposal. The

Attorney General expressed concern about the effects of the CS gas on the children and pregnant

women in the compound. It was determined that a second opinion should be obtained from the

military on the viability of the plan and more information should be gathered on the effects of CS


On April 14, 1993 another meeting was held at FBI headquarters. Military commanders

provided their assessment of the plan. The results of studies of the effects of CS gas, including the

effects on children, pregnant women and the elderly were discussed. During the meeting it was

noted that American soldiers are exposed to CS gas as part of their routine training. Also,

concerns were raised by the military about fatigue due to the extraordinary duration of the stand-


The Attorney General was briefed on the alternatives to gassing, such as fencing in the

compound. This option was not recommended because of the firearms in the compound. The FBI

estimated that the Davidians had a year's supply of food and water. Thus if the FBI continued

to wait, they were looking at possibly one year of negotiation during which time they could not

protect against disaster, such as a gun battle, an explosion or people breaking into the compound.

Additionally, if food or water began to run out or hygienic conditions deteriorated, they might walk

in after a year and find a lot of people dead.

On April 15 Associate Attorney General Hubbell had a long telephone conversation with FBI

negotiator Byron Sage in order to find out directly from the negotiators whether they agreed that it

was time to go in with tear gas. Hubbell became convinced and reported to the Attorney General

that the negotiators believed there was no further hope of getting them out through negotiation.

On Friday April 16 the Attorney General joined a meeting of the Associate Attorney General

and the FBI Director in which the status of the decision was being discussed. She asked that by

Saturday afternoon a statement be prepared documenting the situation inside the compound, the

progress of the negotiations and the merits of the proposal.

On Saturday, April 17 the Attorney General was given a written summary with supporting

documentation. on Saturday afternoon the Attorney General approved the plan to use the gas.

On Sunday, April 18 the Attorney General informed the President that she had approved the plan.

The Attorney General believes she was adequately informed. She believes the FBI was very

forthcoming. Associate Attorney General Hubbell believes he was fully briefed. The Attorney

General and Associate Attorney General were not aware of any dissents from the plan. On Monday

morning, April 19, the tear gas plan was implemented.

2. Execution Of The Gassing Plan

The gassing operation was initiated in the early morning hours of April 19. Special Agent

Byron Sage initiated telephone contact with the compound, warned them of the imminent tear

gas insertion and reassured them that it was not a lethal assault. Similar messages were broad-

cast over the loudspeakers throughout the morning, urging the Davidians to come out and

assuring them of their safety. At approximately 6:00 a.m. the HRT was notified that the warning

call had been made and the first Command Engineering Vehicle (CEV-1) began inserting gas.

Gas was inserted-through windows in the compound-from a boom attached to CEV-1 by means

of a Mark V System, which is a liquid tear gas dispenser which will shoot a stream of liquid tear

gas approximately 50 feet for a duration of approximately 15 seconds.

Shortly after the insertion began, the HRT commander was advised that his people were under

fire from within the compound. In accordance with the approved plan, tear gas was inserted into

all windows of the compound through the Mark V's in the two CEV's as well as by ferret rounds

launched from the Bradley vehicles. Ferret's are non-burning tear gas rounds designed for 40mm

grenade launchers. The CEV's then reloaded and made a second complete insertion of tear gas.

Sometime in mid-morning an apparent deviation from the approved plan began. The plan had

contemplated that the building would only be dismantled if after 48 hours not all the people had come

out. However, the CEV's began knocking holes into the compound the morning of the assault. First,

CEV-1 was ordered to enlarge certain openings to provide for an easier escape route for the Davidians.

CEV-2 broke down and the team of that vehicle obtained another CEV which was not equipped for

tear gas. This CEV was ordered to clear a path through the compound in order to clear a path to the

main tower so that CEV-1 could insert tear gas in that area. In that endeavor the CEV started to knock

down a corner of the building and a portion of the roof collapsed. Very shortly after this happened, fire

was observed in several locations in the compound.

The fire spread very quickly, but even so the openings in the buildings made by the tanks

provided a means of escape. One of the HRT agents left the security of his vehicle to help a

woman emerging from the compound. She ran from the agent and threw herself into the burning

building. The agent entered the building and pulled her out. The woman survived. Nine Davidians

exited the compound on April 19th.

3. Contingency Plan For Fire

The FBI anticipated the possibility of fire. Fire trucks were kept far from the scene because

the heavy weaponry of the Davidians was too dangerous to the fire fighters. Fire equipment was

kept on alert several miles away.

The arson report recognized that there was a delay in the arrival of fire fighting equipment

on the scene, but also concluded that "a fire such as this would have likely been too far advanced

for effective extinguishment" even under "more favorable" fire fighting circumstances. Therefore,

it is unlikely that the lack of more accessible fire fighting equipment impacted the outcome.


The Davidians were given every opportunity to leave the compound. Ultimately, under Koresh's

total control, some or all of them chose to kill themselves, to kill each other and to murder their own

children, rather than to surrender to law enforcement authorities and face the consequences of their

armed resistance of the ATF. In the final analysis the deaths of the Davidians were caused by David


However, the Department and the FBI should review several areas of operation in order to

improve the odds in any similar confrontation in the future:

1. Evaluate the roles of the HRT and the hostage negotiators in resolving similar crises.

2. Evaluate the adequacy of the communications among the different elements in a

crisis, particularly between the negotiating and tactical elements. This should be reviewed

in the context of the process of gathering and evaluating information. Regular joint strategy

meetings should probably be required during the crisis.

3. Evaluate the size of the HRT.

4. Evaluate the need to rotate the Crisis Management Team if any crisis becomes too

extended. Fatigue may have been the single most debilitating factor working against the FBI

in the stand-off.



6. Evaluate funding for the development of a chemical means to render individuals

unconscious for a period of time without warning.


David Koresh engaged in a deliberate campaign to mask his true intentions. Even so, the FBI

was extremely accurate in its assessment of Koresh. I conclude that the stand-off was a mass

suicide choreographed by Koresh over a two month period. Even if the FBI had been more keenly

aware of his intentions, it was limited to gassing the compound as the only non-lethal means

of resolving the crisis. The probability that the FBI could have broken Koresh's hold over his

followers through negotiations was extremely low based upon what we have learned following the


Under the circumstances, the FBI exhibited extraordinary restraint and handled this crisis with

great professionalism.

Edward S.G. Dennis, Jr.*

October 5, 1993


* I am grateful for the material support of my law firm in this endeavor. However, the opinions
expressed here are mine and not those of the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.


1 Schneider, who had a degree in religion from the University of Hawaii and taught
religion at that school, was Koresh's main spokesman and talked extensively with the

2 Immediately after the tape was broadcast, the consolidated log shows that a former cult
member called and advised that Koresh had put a message of his own impending death in the
tape by reference to the "eagle and the carcass." A Davidian who left the compound in mid-
March reported that the March 2 surrender plan was actually a plan for mass suicide. He
stated that Koresh had planned to blow himself up in front of the FBI. The remaining persons
in the compound were going to use explosives to commit suicide before they could be
apprehended by the FBI. The Davidian reported that the plan was not carried out because "God
told Koresh to wait."

3 Martin, a Harvard Law School graduate, had joined Koresh with his whole family. His wife and
three youngest children exited the compound during the stand-off, but Martin remained
inside with his two oldest daughters (ages 13 and 15).

4 According to written accounts of former Branch Davidians, Rachel Koresh was David Koresh's
first wife and the mother of three of his children. They were married in 1984 when she was 14
years old. Her father, Perry Jones, was killed in the February 28 shoot-out. Judy Schneider
was the legal wife of Steve Schneider, but she had been taken by David Koresh as one of his
wives and was the mother of one of his children.

5 Kathy Schroeder was formerly a member of the United States Air Force. Her husband Mike was
killed on February 28. Schroeder was featured extensively on the videotapes made by Koresh,
where she appeared quite militant and supportive of the Davidians' actions. Schroeder exited
the compound during the stand-off along with her four young children. She has pled guilty to
armed resistance in federal court.

6 In a 1992 lawsuit, Kiri Jewell's father gained her custody from Kiri's mother, who lived
with Kiri in the compound. Custody was granted based largely upon the evidence of conditions
at Mount Carmel.

7 A "flash-bang" is a diversionary device that emits smoke and makes a loud noise in order to
stun and confuse the subject at whom it is thrown.

8 However, another Davidian who survived the April 19 fire stated that when the fire broke out
he heard someone yell "They've started the fire, they're trying to burn us out, we're just
going to stay here and we don't care," but he decided not to stay because he thought the fire
would be too painful.


10 Koresh's "mighty men" were his inner circle responsible for enforcing discipline within
the compound. The core of this group had been in the shoot-out with George Roden in 1987
and had been acquitted by a local jury. The term "mighty men" comes from the Bible.

11 The Arson Report observes that:
A great many of the occupants could have escaped to the outside of the compound even
as the building burned. An exact number cannot be determined. However, considering the
observable means of exit available, we must assume that many of the occupants were
either denied escape from within or refused to leave until escape was not an option.

12 HRT members threw diversionary "flash-bangs" at some Davidians who came outside the
compound after,the Davidians had been told not to do so near the end of the stand-off.
Although flash-bangs make a loud noise which might be mistaken for a gunshot, they are
non-lethal devices only intended to stun and confuse the target.

13 On March 8, 1993 Koresh stated "I'm not going to commit suicide." On March 1, 1993 the
negotiator asked Koresh if he was going to commit suicide and he replied "I'm not going
to commit suicide." On March 1, 1993 the negotiator informed Koresh that "Our concern is
that you're not going to come out and that you might commit suicide." Koresh replied, "Oh,
look, if I wanted to commit suicide, I would have done it already." On March 2, 1993 Koresh,
stated "I don't think anyone's going to commit suicide." On March 1, 1993 the negotiator asked
Koresh "Are you going to let any of your other people kill themselves or die in there?"
Koresh replied "I'm not going to do that." On Tape #128 in a conversation with Sheriff Harwell
Koresh stated "if we have to die for what we stand for, we're going to. We're not going to
commit suicide." On March 19, 1993 in discussing when he will be "going home," meaning
death, Koresh said "not suicide." On March 27, 1993 the negotiator asked Schneider if he,
was going to commit suicide and he says "Oh, of course not. If I did I'd be lost eternally."
On March 28, 1993 Koresh told the negotiator that "if we was going to commit suicide, we'd
have been dead a long time ago."

14 Koresh and a number of his followers had avoided convictions for attempted murder in a
1987 shootout with George Roden, the previous leader of the compound. Sheriff Jack Harwell
was involved in the Roden case. Koresh spoke very highly Harwell in the negotiations.

15 Some in the FBI may have felt that Koresh also broke promises on March 12 and March 21,
when there was discussion about people coming out but they did not. However, it is not clear
that in the context of the negotiating posture these discussions actually rose to the level
of promises.

16 Indeed, the "negotiations" are characterized as "communicating" with Koresh or "talking"
to Koresh because the Davidian situation lacked so many of the elements typically present
in hostage barricade situations. Koresh made no threats, set no deadlines and made no demands.
Koresh and his followers were at Mount Carmel where they wanted to be and living under
conditions that were only marginally more severe than they were accustomed to.

17 In addition to the negotiators reporting these conflicts, an ATF representative assigned
to work in the FBI command post also observed that the negotiators and the FBI tactical
people had growing disagreements and tension. In addition the FBI special agent assigned
as the liaison for communications between the negotiation team and the HRT advised that he
felt that "an adversarial relationship had developed" between the negotiating and tactical
components and that this was divisive and unnecessary. He attributed the problem to a basic
lack of understanding and appreciation for the overall mission and strategy. In addition,
negotiators from the Austin Police Department who were assigned to the negotiation team also
noted the conflict with the tactical teams.

Updated February 13, 2018