Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Koresh: Millennial Violence

The Attack

The agents hoped that this incident could be settled quickly.  At nearly 10 o'clock, as three teams formed to enter the building, an agent went to the compound's front door and knocked. "The first entry team was to be inside the front door within seven seconds after the convoy pulled up to the compound," says Linedecker. "All the assault teams would be deployed within thirteen seconds." They'd been preparing for this for eight months, and each team had an assignment—protect the children, neutralize the military force, and seize the arms.

Koresh looked out from behind a steel door and learned that the agents had a search warrant. Instead of letting them in, he slammed the door and then someone started shooting.  It's not clear from which side the first bullets came, but both sides commenced a fierce gun battle. Wessinger says that survivors of the skirmish and the subsequent standoff claimed that bullets came in through the ceiling, which meant that agents in the helicopters were firing into the compound. The ATF, in several hearings afterward, say no one in the choppers fired a single shot.  By some reports, agents were shooting the dogs to get them out of the way and that's what started the deadly crossfire between the two groups. Women from inside who survived claimed they'd placed their bodies over the children to protect them from the rain of bullets.

Several agents were hit right away, and multiple shots came at the hovering choppers. One member of a team that penetrated the building was shot in the head and killed. Several who had climbed to the roof rolled off when hit.  From noises inside, said agents in later hearings, it was clear that the cult had some heavy artillery. Bullets even pierced the reporters' cars and then concussion grenades, known as "flash-bangs" exploded among the agents. Koresh and his crew appeared to have superior weapons. They also had the advantage of cover, while the agents were out in the open. 

Nevertheless, women were screaming inside and men were yelling. ATF bullets pierced the front door, behind which Koresh had been standing. Several people had been hit, including cultists firing from the tower, and four were wounded while five were dead. Whoever had started it, both sides knew they would have to fight hard for survival.


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