The Waco fertilizer plant explosion happened just days before the 20th anniversary of the end of the ATF raid on David Koresh’s compound. The incident is largely being considered an industrial accident at this point, but law enforcement officers are going to investigate and are not ruling out the possibility of criminal activity at this point. West Fertilizer is considered a crime scene for the time being. The death toll in West, Texas is expected to rise when search and rescue efforts conclude.
As a volunteer firefighter’s wife, listening to the West Fire Department radio traffic was especially hard. Possibly four firefighters and one police officer died while trying to save others inside the West Fertilizer plant. Firefighters are trained not to go into such fires, but to guard the surrounding area and wait until they burn out. Before the massive explosion that virtually destroyed the surrounding blocks, there was a fire and injured staff inside – firefighters simply are not the type of people who can ignore pleas for help.
As the nation continues to pray for the people of West, concerns about the timing coincidence with the 20th anniversary of the Waco raid have begun to emerge. Only once the Waco fertilizer plant investigation concludes will we truly know if the explosion was a horrific accident or perhaps yet another act of terrorism on American soil. The people of West are likely still in shock and focused only on mourning their lost loved ones. In time, the survivors and relatives of those who lost their lives will surely turn their attention to the cause of the blast. There is only one thing we all know for sure right now: it has been one week of hell in America.
Excerpts from the radio traffic during the West Fertilizer plant fire mentioned a “bomb going off” inside the plant. The short sentence uttered during the emergency prompted even more concerns about the explosion not being an accident. Some experts have stated that the fertilizer chemicals could not have prompted the fire without an incendiary agent – even if a tank leaked or malfunctioned. The experts obviously were not inside the plant, so their observations remain educated speculation.
It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the FBI and ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. The “incident” still sparks heated debate among many Americans. David Koresh may have been a cult leader, meth dealer, or an overall crazy man, but that does not necessarily mean the government agencies involved made the right decision when opting to raid the Mount Carmel compound. Those who think the Waco raid was the result of an obscene government overreach do not typically support Koresh the man, just his rights as an American citizen.
Koresh was spotted in town multiple times before the raid. If there was enough evidence against him to bring him in for questioning or make an arrest, why didn’t federal agents do so at that time? I respect our law enforcement officers – those men and women put their lives on the line for us daily – it’s the decision making process at the top that I sometimes feel is flawed.
The Waco Raid: A Look Back 20 Years Later
Branch Davidian members were often referred to as a doomsday cult who anticipated a confrontation with the United States government. The fears of David Koresh’s followers were ultimately realized.
News helicopters and vans filled with journalists converged near the Waco compound, offering nearly unprecedented coverage as the violent scene unfolded. Today, we are used to seeing surveillance video from gruesome crime scenes barely a few minutes an incident occurs, but such images were quite rare two decades ago.
Four ATF agents died just hours into the 51-day standoff. Six members of the Branch Davidian sect also perished during the first hours of the federal raid at the compound. By the end of the ATF raid in Waco, 80 Branch Davidian members had died. The death toll included two dozen children.
A private ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Waco raid was held in February. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) honored the four agents who died during the raid on David Koresh’s compound. The agents who died include Todd McKeehan, Conway LeBleu, Robert John Williams, and Steven Willis.
In David Limbaugh’s book, Absolute Power, an argument is made that David Koresh was seen off the Mount Carmel Center compound several times and could have been arrested and avoided the deadly raid. The Branch Davidian leader was allegedly tipped off about the Waco raid in advance. Koresh allegedly told an undercover officer that he knew federal agents were planning to raid the Branch Davidian compound.
The families inside the community lead by David Koresh were reportedly subjected to nonstop recordings of screaming rabbits being slaughtered as a means of sleep deprivation. David Koresh reportedly pledged to surrender when he was done writing an explanation of the meaning of the Seven Seals.
Whether or not Koresh would have made good on his promise we will never know; ATF agents raided the Mount Carmel compound at dawn the following day. Army tanks rammed into the main building of the Mount Carmel Center complex and large amounts of CS gas (chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile) were released into the Waco compound.
Government investigators eventually criticized the ATF for not terminating plans for the raid after they found out that Koresh knew about the plans to rush the compound. The Serendipity website’s “Waco Massacre” page goes into great detail about the reported tactics used by ATF agents to convince the Branch Davidians to leave the Mount Carmel Center compound.
By afternoon pyrotechnic devices were fired inside the main building. A blaze swept through the building, the flames fueled by holes in the façade made earlier by tanks. After the Branch Davidian raid, the American Justice Federation issued a statement noting that use of military troops against Americans violated federal law.
The Posse Comitatus Act was specifically cited in the release about the raid on David Koresh and his followers.
An ATF release stated that the tanks used in the Waco raid were not really Army equipment, but owned by the National Guard. The tanks were reportedly brought in under the Drug Interdiction Act because agents thought a meth lab was in operation on the property.
How do you feel about the Waco raid?