Interview with Ron Engleman of KGBS radio
What Really Happened in Waco
Wed Mar 8, 2006 13:55

"Texas Talk Show Host Tells What Really Happened in Waco," Spotlight, 31 May 1993, pp. 12-13. Interview with Ron Engleman of KGBS radio in Dallas.

Cults, Anti-Cultists, and the Cult of Intelligence
by Daniel Brandt
From NameBase NewsLine, No. 5, April-June 1994


Waco: The Other Side of the Story
1999 - Ron Engleman radio show...
What happened at Waco...

Assault on Waco
by Kevin S. Van Horn

Scott Ostrander:

On January 10 the trials of those few Branch Davidians who survived the Waco Massacre begin. With their home, the Mt. Carmel complex, in ruins, and families and friends dead, they remain stigmatized by the government and press as dangerous, lunatic "cultists." This article is an attempt to counter the defamation they have suffered and publicize the crimes committed against them by the government. Given the limited space available, I have chosen to trade breadth for depth; thus this article will consider only the accusations made against the Davidians, the events leading up to the ATF assault on their home, and the assault itself.

Who Were the Branch Davidians?

Immediately after the ATF assault on Mount Carmel the Federal Government began a campaign of vilification against the Branch Davidians. They were repeatedly portrayed in the press as dangerous, insane, bloodthirsty fanatics. Yet this supposedly sociopathic sect had lived peacefully in and near Waco for over half a century. Let's see what their neighbors have to say about the Davidians.

Collective Impressions

According to the Houston Post, Gene Chapman, owner of Chapman's Fruit Market, has nothing but kind words for the Davidians. "They're just all nice, decent, normal people," he said. "Well, not normal." [30]

A.L. Dreyer, an 80-yr-old farmer, owns a ranch adjoining the Mt. Carmel property. "I've never had no trouble with them people," he said. "I've always said if they stay on their side of the fence, I'll stay on mine... I have no fear of those people." [31]

The ATF's "storm trooper tactics" were "a vulgar display of power on the part of the feds," said former Waco District Attorney Vic Feazell. Feazell unsuccesfully prosecuted seven Branch Davidians in 1988. "We treated them like human beings, rather than storm-trooping the place," he told the Houston Chronicle. "They were extremely polite... They're protective of what's theirs..." [12]

"(T)hey were basically good people," said McLennan County Sheriff Jack Harwell. "All of 'em were good people." [59]


Henry McMahon, a former Waco resident and gun store owner, described David Koresh as a likable guy. "There was nothing out of the ordinary (about Koresh's personality)," McMahon said, adding that Koresh was "an average Joe." [41] , [43]

"He (Koresh) is a very gentle man," said a Waco doctor who had treated Koresh for three years prior to the ATF assault. "He is very intelligent and articulate. They made him sound like a ruthless killer and that's just absurd." [18]

Gary Coker, a Waco lawyer, said he believed Koresh wouldn't hurt anyone unless he was bothered by outsiders. "It's sort of like a rattlesnake. Unless you step on him, he's not going to hurt anybody." [23]

Steve Schneider

Steve Schneider emerged as a chief negotiator during the standoff, and was considered Koresh's lieutenant. FBI Special Agent Bob Ricks called Schneider "a cool, calm, deliberate individual." Cult Awareness Network `deprogrammer' Rick Ross described Schneider as well-educated, and said he was "a man with a history of deep religious conviction, honesty and integrity." [32]

Wayne Martin

Douglas Wayne Martin held a position of major responsibility among the Davidians; only he and Steve Schneider ever spoke face- to-face with federal negotiators during the siege. Martin was a 42-year-old black lawyer and graduate of Harvard Law School. For seven years he was an assistant professor at the North Carolina Central University School of Law. After moving to Waco he maintained a law practice near Mount Carmel. He had a wife and seven children. [38] , [42]

Martin was viewed by many who knew him as a quiet, jovial and religious person [38] . He was routinely described as professional and competent in court [34] .

"People may tend to dismiss this event as just a bunch of religious fanatics, but having known Doug humanizes it for me," said Mark Morris, a law professor at NCCU. "He was a very bright, smart, able, kind person, and it's a real shock (Martin's death)."

"He left about a year after I got here, but he seemed to be a very nice and personable guy," Associate Law School Dean Irving Joyner said [38] .

McLennan County Commissioner Lester Gibson said he and others who knew Martin found it hard to believe he could have been involved in anything so violent. "He was very friendly and quiet," said Gibson. "It was common knowledge that he was a Davidian, but he never talked religion." [34]

Gary Coker, a Waco lawyer, described Martin as a kind man and a particularly devoted father.

Waco city council member Lawrence Johnson had known Martin for five years at the time of the assault. He described Martin as a computer whiz and as a diligent lawyer. "I enjoyed working with him. He was smart, he was well-educated," Johnson said.

After the raid, Martin, still the conscientious lawyer, managed to send Johnson money to reimburse clients he was unable to represent while he was holed up in the compound. "That was his sense of responsibility coming out." [42]

Perry Jones

Perry Jones was Koresh's father-in-law. News reports described him as a polite older man, bespectacled and somewhat frail, and well known at various businesses in the Waco community. Jones was once called "the kindest man and a perfect gentleman." "He was nice and he had good manners," said Tim Jander, general manager of Star Tex Propane in Waco.

Jones died a slow and painful death after ATF agents shot him in the abdomen. [49]

Unsurprisingly, the feds decided that they did not want to hold the trials of the surviving Branch Davidians in Waco. Instead they got a change of venue to San Antonio, nearly 200 miles away, where the jury members would be unlikely to have independent knowledge of the Davidians' character.

The Roden Gunfight

One incident which the government and press used to paint the Branch Davidians as dangerous and violent was the gunfight with George Roden that took place at Mt. Carmel in 1988. But it was George Roden who was dangerous, violent, murderous and insane.

In 1984 a dispute arose between George Roden and David Koresh over leadership of the Davidians. This culminated in Roden forcing Koresh and his followers off of the Mt. Carmel property at gunpoint [21] . Koresh led his group to the city of Palestine, Texas [26] .

By late 1987 things were faring badly for George Roden. He had almost no money, few followers, mounting debts and an angry Texas Supreme Court Justice on his trail [70] . So Roden decided to conclusively settle the leadership dispute with Koresh. He went to a graveyard and dug up the body of a man who had been dead 25 years, put the casket in the Mt. Carmel chapel, and said that whoever could raise this man from the dead was the one to lead the Davidians.

Koresh reported the action to the Sheriff's Department. He was told that his word alone wasn't enough -- proof was needed. So on November 3, 1987, Koresh and several men went out to Mt. Carmel to take pictures of the body in the casket. The Sheriff had warned them to be careful, because Roden was dangerous, so they armed themselves. The plan was to open the casket, take the pictures, and leave, but Roden caught them, and a gunfight ensued in which Roden was wounded [64] .

Koresh and seven other Davidians were charged with attempted murder [20] . Jack Harwell, McLennan County Sheriff, called Koresh on the phone and informed him of the charges. He asked Koresh and the others to turn themselves in, and to surrender their weapons. When deputies arrived at Mount Carmel, Koresh and the other Davidians peacefully complied [64] . Officials traced the weapons and found that each was legally purchased [22] .

On March 21, 1988, Roden was served with a citation for contempt of court. U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. sentenced him to six months in jail for continuing to file expletive-filled motions threatening the justices with AIDS and herpes, despite orders to cease and desist [70] , [65] , [30] .

On April 25, Koresh's seven followers were acquitted, and the jury hung 9-3 in favor of Koresh's acquittal. The state then dropped the charges against him [68] , [20] .

Koresh paid up 16 years of delinquent taxes on the Mount Carmel property, which allowed him and his followers to move in [68] . Upon returning to the property they found a methamphetamine lab and large piles of pornographic material. They burned the pornography and reported the meth lab to the DA's office [64] .

Fifteen months after Koresh's trial, in the summer of 1989, Roden was approached by a man who claimed to be the Messiah. Roden split the man's head open with an ax [67] . Odessa police charged Roden with murder. The following year he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a state mental hospital [10] , where he remains to this day [26] .

Allegations of Child Abuse

Another tactic the federal government used to demonize the Davidians was to accuse them of child abuse. These accusations originally arose from Marc Breault, a former follower of Koresh who had a bitter falling out with him. Breault quit the sect at the end of 1989 and moved to Australia. He then threw himself into a campaign to discredit his former mentor, in the process leading away most of the Australian members of the sect.

In March 1990 Breault, his wife and a number of his Australian followers swore out more than 30 pages of affidavits claiming that Koresh was abusing children. A second set of affidavits was sworn out for use in a child custody hearing in early 1992, in which a Michigan man named David Jewell petitioned to gain custody of his daughter, then living at Mt. Carmel with Jewell's ex-wife. However, the allegations were mostly general and lacking in detail [48] .

Thus the allegations of child abuse sprung from two sources: (1) a man who hated Koresh and was obsessed with discrediting him; and (2) a child-custody dispute. Note that allegations of child abuse are a common tactic in child-custody disputes.

As a result of Breault's efforts, local authorities began an investigation of the child abuse charges. Officials of the Child Protective Services division of the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, and the McLennan County sheriff's office, visited Mt. Carmel in February and March 1992. They found no evidence of child abuse [46] .

On April 23, 1993, in response to the Clinton administration's continued claims of child abuse, the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services offered the following summary of its nine-week investigation: "None of the allegations could be verified. The children denied being abused in any way by any adults in the compound. They denied any knowledge of other children being abused. The adults consistently denied participation in or knowledge of any abuse to children. Examinations of the children produced no indication of current or previous injuries." Texas child protection officials also said they received no further abuse allegations after that time [48] .

Breault had also contacted the FBI, accusing Koresh of a number of other crimes besides child abuse. A February 23, 1993 FBI memo, obtained by the Dallas Morning News, stated that no information had been developed to verify the allegations of "child abuse and neglect, tax evasion, slavery and reports of possible mass destruction."

The Clinton administration alleged that the Davidians were abusing children during the siege of Mt. Carmel. This was contradicted by those who actually saw the children. During the siege a man named Louis Alaniz managed to sneak past federal officials to visit the Davidians (he was not a Davidian himself). After leaving, he reported that the children at Mt. Carmel appeared happy, playing and laughing continuously, and that there were no outward signs of child abuse [44] .

Sheriff Jack Harwell, who was the only outside negotiator brought into the Mount Carmel siege, said there was never any proof that children were being abused inside the compound. None of the children who were released from the compound, Harwell said, showed any signs of physical abuse [45] .

According to Texas child protective services officials, none of the 21 children released to the authorities showed signs of abuse, and none of them confirmed that any abuse was committed. The children were physically and psychologically examined [45] , [47] . Dr. Bruce Perry, the head of the team treating the children, stated flatly: "(N)one of the 21 children had been sexually abused or molested." [69]

After the blaze that killed most of the Davidians, the Clinton administration stepped up its "child abuse" offensive. White House communications director George Stephanopoulos claimed that "there was overwhelming evidence of child abuse in the Waco compound." [39] But this claim was contradicted by others within the federal government itself.

FBI director William Sessions said his agency had "no contemporaneous evidence" of child abuse in the compound during the siege [48] . "(T)here had been no recent reports of the beating of children." In response to Janet Reno's claim of reports that "babies were being beaten," Sessions said, "I do not know what the attorney general was referring to specifically." [37]

The Justice Department itself put the lie to Clinton's and Reno's wild accusations. In a report released in early October, the Justice Department said there was no evidence of child abuse at the compound during the siege or even enough evidence to arrest Koresh on such charges before the February 28 raid [5] .

The Gun Arsenal

The press and the federal government made much of the Davidians' collection of guns. President Clinton claimed the Davidians had "illegally stockpiled weaponry and ammunition." [1] But there is no law limiting the number of legal weapons one may accumulate. Furthermore, by Texas standards the Davidians' gun collection was rather small. After the siege investigators found only 200 firearms in the ruins of Mt. Carmel [57] , which amounts to about two guns per adult. But Texas' 17 million residents own a total of 68 million guns, for an average of four guns apiece, while 16,600 Texans legally own machine guns [33] .

The government also claimed that the Davidians were planning an assault on Waco. This claim was based on third-hand information related to ATF Special Agent Davy Aguilera, who filed the affidavit for the original raid on Mt. Carmel. Aguilera had interviewed ATF Special Agent Carlos Torres, who had interviewed Joyce Sparks, an investigator with the Texas Department of Human Services. According to Aguilera's affidavit, Torres told Aguilera that Sparks had told him that Koresh had told her "that he was the `Messenger' from God, that the world was coming to an end, and that when he `reveals' himself the riots in Los Angeles would pale in comparison to what was going to happen in Waco, Texas." Furthermore, this self-revelation "would be a `military type operation' and... all the `non-believers' would have to suffer." Koresh supposedly said this on Sparks' second and final visit to Mt. Carmel to investigate child-abuse charges, on April 6, 1992 [63] . But the LA riots broke out on April 29, more than three weeks after Sparks last visited Koresh!

Enter the ATF

In Feb. 1982, the Senate Judiciary Committee said in a

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