The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:Lee Hancock

911 tape released in ATF raid
Cult member says agents shot first

WASHINGTON -- A dramatic 911 recording from the ill-fated raid on the Branch Davidian compound includes a cultist's contentions that federal agents shot first, fired from helicopters and continued shooting after the sect offered a cease-fire.

But ATF officials and House members alike openly dismissed cultist Wayne Martin's contentions, and the 911 tape recording clearly depicts the sounds of gunfire from inside the compound, including bursts of automatic weapon fire, even as the cultist insisted that he had stopped firing.

The 30-minute tape, released Wednesday during a congressional hearing on the Feb. 28 raid, also includes cult leader David Koresh's spouting of religious teachings as his followers engaged in the gunfight.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government, flatly stated Wednesday that he found Mr. Martin's statements incredible. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has maintained since the raid that the cult fired on its agents without warning and that no gunfire came from three unarmed Texas National Guard helicopters used during the raid.

The tape recording, the first of hours of conversation recorded at the Waco Police Department's 911 emergency system the day of the raid, was released during the first day of a two-day inquiry into how the ATF planned and executed the raid.

ATF officials gave their most comprehensive public explanation to date of the failed raid, in which four ATF agents died and 16 were injured. A standoff with federal authorities ensued, and Mr. Koresh and more than 80 followers died 51 days later when the compound was consumed in a massive fire.

ATF officials' testimony during Wednesday's hearing was a marked contrast to a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee last month. In that inquiry, ATF Director Stephen Higgins was repeatedly battered with angry questions that he said he could not answer because of orders from superiors at the Treasury Department.

Wednesday's hearing included an account by Assistant Treasury Secretary Ron Noble of how he initially questioned the raid but ultimately did not oppose the ATF's plans.

He said he and other treasury officials reviewing the raid are still trying to determine how the raid lost its crucial element of surprise and whether ATF commanders in Waco went ahead with the raid despite indications that the cult may have been tipped off.

ATF Deputy Director Dan Hartnett told the subcommittee he was certain that a leak to the cult that apparently occurred just before the raid did not come from anyone in law enforcement. That statement may bolster assertions by some in law enforcement that the leak came from a TV cameraman who inadvertently passed information to a cultist after learning about the raid from local emergency medical personnel.

ATF's presentation included testimony from Agent Sharon Wheeler, a public information officer from Dallas who disputed widely publicized allegations that she might have tipped off the media to the raid.

"My name and reputation have been smeared in newspapers and television across the country,' he said. "I was told absolutely not to tell them, and I didn't.'

Mr. Higgins also told the committee that his subordinates were under orders to cancel the raid if they suspected the element of surprise had somehow been lost.

Mr. Hartnett, who supervises the ATF's law enforcement operations, said ATF officials decided a massive raid was necessary to take the compound after a meeting on Dec. 24. He added that he ordered agents at that meeting to try to infiltrate the compound with undercover operatives before sending in a raiding party.

Four ATF agents posing as college students moved into a house near the compound in early January. They began trying to befriend Mr. Koresh while monitoring movements in and out of the compound with a hidden camera mounted on a utility pole, Mr. Hartnett said.

ATF officials said they could not substantiate statements by some Waco residents that Mr. Koresh was often seen in that city just before the raid and was even spotted jogging near the compound.

They added that Mr. Koresh had told undercover Agent Robert Rodriguez that he would not leave the compound, and the ATF agents never saw any indication that he was outside after Jan. 28, when Mr. Koresh's black Camaro was seen leaving the compound.

Mr. Hartnett said the jogger reported to be Mr. Koresh was actually an undercover ATF agent.

He said ATF agents considered luring the cult leader away from the compound to arrest him but could not find a way to do so. They approached a Texas Department of Human Services social worker who had been inside the compound and asked her to help lure Mr. Koresh out, he said.

"She agreed to do that, but when her supervisor found out, he would not permit that,' he said.

The state worker, Joyce Sparks of Waco, has stated she was ordered not to help with the ATF's ruse. Her supervisor could not be reached for comment.

An affidavit filed by the ATF in connection with the ongoing federal investigation states that within an hour before the raid, the agency's undercover agent saw Mr. Koresh summoned into another room and then return exclaiming that ATF agents were on their way.

The affidavit states that Mr. Koresh vowed not to be taken.

ATF officials said, however, that they did not call off the raid after the undercover agent reported what Mr. Koresh had said because neither he nor other ATF agents nearby saw any evidence that the cult was preparing for an armed confrontation.

On the tape, Mr. Koresh can be heard talking with a McLennan County sheriff's deputy, Lt. Larry Lynch, just after the raid began. Lt. Lynch repeatedly tried to steer the cult leader away from a rambling discourse on the Bible and onto a discussion of a cease-fire.

Mr. Koresh also blamed ATF for the gunfight during the phone call. "You see, you brought a bunch of guys out here, and you killed some of my children. We told you we wanted to talk. How come you guys try to be ATF agents? How come you try to be so big all the time?' he said.

Authorities said they later learned that no children were killed during the initial raid.

Much of the tape is taken up by Lt. Lynch's frantic efforts to reach an ATF communications van, which he had been instructed to contact in case of an emergency.

Although he never reached the communications van, Lt. Lynch told the committee, he made contact with an ATF agent involved in the raid and was able to relay some information between the raiding party and the cult.

Asked whether the ATF's communications planning was adequate, Lt. Lynch told the committee: "This thing turned out to be worse than anybody had anticipated. I felt like they were tied up with their troops.'

The Dallas Morning News

Transcript of 911 call details first moments of cult siege

This is a partial transcript of a 911 call from the Branch Davidian cult compound outside Waco to the McLennan County Sheriff's Department on Feb. 28, as a raid on the compound by federal agents was under way. Speakers are cult leader David Koresh; one of his lieutenants, Wayne Martin; Lt. Larry Lynch, a sheriff's deputy; and a dispatcher.

Dispatcher: 911. What's your emergency.

Mr. Martin: There are men, 75 men around our building shooting at us.

Dispatcher: OK, just a moment.

Lt. Lynch: Hello, hello . . . Hello, hello, this is Lt. Lynch. May I help you?

Mr. Martin: Yeah, there are about 75 men around our building shooting at us in Mount Carmel.

Lt. Lynch: Mount Carmel?

Mr. Martin: Tell them there are women and children in here and to call it off.

Lt. Lynch: All right, all right . . . Hello? I hear gunfire. Oh (expletive). Hello? Who is this? Hello?

Mr. Martin: Call it off!

Lt. Lynch: Who is this? Hello? Hello? God almighty! Hello? Who is this coming from?

Dispatcher: (unintelligible) Wayne Martin.

Lt. Lynch: Wayne Martin? Hello? Wayne?

Dispatcher: (unintelligible) Did he hang up?

Lt. Lynch: No, he's on the line. Can hear the shots in the back.

(Lt. Lynch and the dispatcher talk about what might be happening while they try to get Mr. Martin back to the phone. Then a 30-second cut in the tape.)

Unknown male: . . . He wants to die here.

Dispatcher: 911.

Mr. Koresh: Hello, this is David Koresh. We've been attempting to call you guys.

Dispatcher: This is who, sir?

Mr. Koresh: David Koresh. Mount Carmel center. We're being shot all up out here.

Dispatcher: OK, where are you?

Mr. Koresh: Where am I? I'm at Mount Carmel center.

Dispatcher: OK, hang on just one second.

Mr. Koresh: All right.

(A voice in the background is heard saying, "Go ahead. I can barely hear you.' That is followed by the sound of someone yelling, "CAR! CAR!,' a possible reference to a type of assault rifle similar to an AR-15 that was later found in the compound.)

Dispatcher: Don't hang up, David. I have someone to talk to you. . . . Are you in the compound? Are you in the complex?

Mr. Koresh: Yeah. I've got a man on a cellular phone.

Lt. Lynch: Yeah, this is Lynch.

Mr. Koresh: Hey, Lynch. That is sort of a funny name there.

Lt. Lynch: (laughter) Who am I speaking with?

Mr. Koresh: This is David Koresh.

Lt. Lynch: OK, David.

Mr. Koresh: The notorious. What did you guys do that for?

Lt. Lynch: What I'm doing is trying to establish some communication links with you.

Mr. Koresh. No, no, no, no, no. Let me tell you something. You see, you brought a bunch of guys out here, and you killed some of my children. We told you we wanted to talk. How come you guys try to be ATF agents? How come you try to be so big all the time?

Lt. Lynch: OK, David.

Mr. Koresh: There is a bunch of us dead and a bunch of you guys dead. Now, that's your fault.

Lt. Lynch: OK, let's try to resolve this now. Tell me this. Now, you have casualties. How many casualties? Do you want to try and work something out? ATF is pulling back. We're trying to . . .

Mr. Koresh: Why didn't you do that first?

Lt. Lynch: OK, all I'm doing is handling communications. I can't give you that answer, David.

Mr. Koresh: OK.

Lt. Lynch: OK.

Mr. Koresh: What is the deal? You pull your guys out. I want to talk, but I want to talk, I want to talk on a -- what do you call it Steve, the . . .

Lt. Lynch: I couldn't hear you. I've got Wayne Martin on the other phone, so go ahead now.

Mr. Koresh: Wayne Martin?

Lt. Lynch: Yes, he's on the other phone with me. I've been talking to him, but you're the man that I need to talk to, David.

Mr. Koresh: Well, let me tell you something. In our great country here, the United States, you know, God's given us a rich history of patronage, but we're not trying to be bad guys.

Lt. Lynch: OK.

Mr. Koresh: But the thing of it is this. Look at the God . . . I know it sounds crazy to you, but you will find it out sooner or later.

Lt. Lynch: No, no. Sure. We all will.

Mr. Koresh: There are seven seals in his right hand. The question that theology has overstepped . . . not even opened that book. Now, that's what I've done. It's your Bible. There are seven seals. Now there are things in that Bible that have been held as mysteries about Christ.

Lt. Lynch: Yes, sir.

Mr. Koresh: Now, what it says in Revelations 22, because I come quickly, my reward is with me. The statement is, what did Christ receive in heaven from the father? He received the book of the seven seals.

Lt. Lynch: Yes, sir.

Mr. Koresh: Now, when I'm told by the theological department that they are going to ruin me because of what I present out of the book, just because they can't present it, and I can, there's a meaning to that.

Lt. Lynch: OK.

Mr. Koresh: There are prophecies . . .

Lt. Lynch: Let me, can I interrupt you for a minute?

Mr. Koresh: Sure.

Lt. Lynch: We can talk theology, but right now . . .

Mr. Koresh: No. This is life. This is life and death.

Lt. Lynch: What I'm talking about . . .

Mr. Koresh: Theology is life and death.

Lt. Lynch: Yes, sir. I agree with that.

Mr. Koresh: You have come and stepped on my perimeter.

Lt. Lynch: OK.

Mr. Koresh: See, we serve God first. Now we will serve God of the church. Now, we are willing and we have been willing all this time to sit down with anybody. You've sent law enforcement out here before.

Lt. Lynch: Yes, sir.

Mr. Koresh: And I've laid it straight across the table. I said if you want to know about me, sit down with me, and I'll open up a book and show you the seven seals. Just like I told Robert. You know Robert, don't you? (An apparent reference to an ATF undercover agent inside the compound earlier that day.)

Lt. Lynch: Yes, sir.

Mr. Koresh: That guy that -- your agent.

Lt. Lynch: Yes sir.

Mr. Koresh: You see, we've known about this. I've been teaching it for four years. We knew you were coming and everything. You see, we knew before you even knew.

Lt. Lynch: Yes, sir. Well . . .

(More sermonizing from Mr. Koresh)

Lt. Lynch: OK, let me ask you this. The present situation. Let's start resolving it, and then we can sit down and talk. Right now, we've got everybody to cease firing. OK? So that's what we want. Now we're pulling the guy back from the door. ATF is going to pull the guy back from the door.

Dispatcher: They want to know if they can get their injured officer.

Lt. Lynch: All right. Can they come now, David, with your guarantee and pick up their injured officer without being fired upon?

Mr. Koresh: Look, I cannot communicate with everybody here.

Lt. Lynch: OK, do you have any way -- is there anybody that can -- do you have a facility to communicate with the rest of the folks there in your house?

Mr. Koresh: Well, we would have if you all guys would have talked with us.

Lt. Lynch: OK, but right now, what ATF is wanting to do is to take their injured troop out of your area, OK? What you're telling me is that you can't control your folks because you have no communications. Is that correct?

Mr. Koresh: Well, if you could give us some time, we can probably get the message around.

Lt. Lynch: OK, would you start?

Mr. Koresh: How many individuals are you planning on sending to take the wounded away?

Lt. Lynch: Stand by. (talks to dispatcher) How many troops are going to remove that injured ATF agent?

Dispatcher: (unintelligible.)

Lt. Lynch: Stand by, David. We're having a heck of a problem with communications. Stand by just a second. All right, they are going to send in four men to move -- Wayne is shooting again. Hold on just a second. Ask Wayne to please cease fire.

Dispatcher: He says it's not his gunshots.

Mr. Koresh: Well, I'll tell you. What are they going to be dressed in?

Lt. Lynch: Pardon me?

Mr. Koresh: Are they going to be dressed in white, unarmed?

Lt. Lynch: All right, stand by. No, they'll be in their blues or dark blue uniforms.

Mr. Koresh: All right. What are they . . .

Lt. Lynch: Pardon me?

Dispatcher: (unintelligible.)

Lt. Lynch: David? David? Damn. I've lost that.

(Phone line is lost. A dispatcher calls back and gets an answering machine. Lt. Lynch then repeatedly asks someone to pick up the phone, and finally, a voice answers.)

Lt. Lynch: Hello? Who is this? Is this Wayne? Hello, this is Lynch, sheriff's office.

Mr. Martin: Tell them to call it off.

Lt. Lynch: Wayne?

Mr. Martin: Tell them to call it off.

Lt. Lynch: Who is this? Wayne?

Mr. Martin: Tell them to pull back.

Lt. Lynch: What?

Mr. Martin: Tell them to pull back.

Lt. Lynch. Who is this? Wayne?

Mr. Martin: It doesn't matter.

Lt. Lynch: Listen, calm down and talk to me for a minute. OK? Who is this? Calm down and talk to me. Who is this?

Mr. Martin: Wayne.

Lt. Lynch: Tell me what's happening, Wayne. This is Lynch at the sheriff's office. Tell me what's happening, Wayne. Talk to me, Wayne. Let's get this thing resolved, Wayne.

Mr. Martin: We got women and children in danger.

(More exchanges in which Lt. Lynch asks Mr. Martin to cease firing.)

Mr. Martin: I have a right to defend myself. They started firing first.

Lt. Lynch: OK, lets resolve this, Wayne, before someone gets hurt. Okay, I'm trying to make contact with the forces outside, okay?

Mr. Martin: Okay.

(An exchange between Lt. Lynch and a dispatcher, during which he asks Mr. Martin not to hang up)

Mr. Martin: Someone is firing at me.

Lt. Lynch: Pardon me?

Mr. Martin: They're still attacking.

Lt. Lynch: All right.

Mr. Martin: There's a chopper of more of them.

Lt. Lynch: What?

Mr. Martin: Another chopper with more of people and guns going off. Here they come.

Lt. Lynch: All right, Wayne. (unintelligible).

(An exchange ensues in which Lt. Lynch tries to reach ATF's communications van. As he tries, he pleads with Mr. Martin not to keep firing. He also asks Mr. Martin where he is inside the compound, and as more shooting erupts, Mr. Martin says he is at the "south wall.')

Mr. Martin: They got me. (Gunshots.)

Lt. Lynch: Okay. (gunshots) Are you returning fire, Wayne?

Mr. Martin: No.

Lt Lynch: All right. (prolonged gunfire) Why are they still shooting, Wayne? (more gunfire.)

Mr. Martin: Because thats how (unintelligible, followed by more gunshots.)

(Mr. Martin then insists that ATF must "back off,' and Lt. Lynch continues trying to reach ATF communications. He also tells Mr. Martin to tell fellow cultists to stop firing, and Mr. Martin agrees.)

Mr. Martin: I have to pass the word.

Lt. Lynch: Okay, start passing the word. Tell them just to hold their fire. (gunfire) Tell them not to return fire. (Gunfire.)

Mr. Martin: OK.

(More discussion about cease fire and further attempts to reach the communications van.)

Mr. Martin: I -- we hold fire. You ask them to hold fire.

Lt. Lynch: Wayne . . .

Mr. Martin: I passed the word.

Lt. Lynch: Okay, Wayne, how many casualties. Tell so I can get some help to you when this thing calms down.

Mr. Martin: I don't know yet.

Lt. Lynch: Try to ge me a head count, Wayne. Work with me so we can get some help to people so they don't lay there without help.

Mr. Martin: I'll do right now.

Lt. Lynch: OK. Thanks. (To himself) I can't believe this.