The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:Lee Hancock

911 tapes log pleading officials, hostile cultists
Police release recording made during raid

Two hours of 911 tapes released Friday by the Waco Police Department give an agonizing account of authorities frantically trying for a cease-fire after a failed Feb. 28 raid on the Branch Davidian compound as the cultists alternated between threats and demands.

The tapes provide much more detail of the cult's hostility toward federal agents than a 30-minute recording released earlier this week by a congressional committee investigating the failed raid by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The Waco police tapes were made the morning of Feb. 28 when cultists called 911 after engaging in a firefight with ATF agents, who were attempting to serve search and arrest warrants on the cult's compound.

Four ATF agents were killed and 16 wounded during an intense firefight with the cult. ATF officials later stated that the cultists fired more than 10,000 rounds and their agents fired more than 1,500 during the prolonged shootout.

And one ATF agent, shot six times during the gunbattle, nearly bled to death as cultists alternately agreed and argued over whether to accept a cease-fire and allow ATF to evacuate wounded agents.

The Waco Police Department 911 tapes include gripping moments as McLennan County Sheriff's Lt. Larry Lynch tried to calm frantic cultists and pass information to ATF agents while pleading that the Branch Davidians honor a cease-fire.

The tapes also include the sheriff's deputy, who had been assigned by his department to monitor 911 calls during the ATF raid, attempting to calm cultist Wayne Martin. Mr. Martin responded by repeatedly screaming that ATF would not hold its fire on the compound and demanded that ATF agents get away from the compound's doors, walls and windows, where many were pinned down by cultists' fire.

Almost an hour into the conversations, even as some cultists agreed to a cease-fire, cult leader David Koresh got on the line and told Lt. Lynch: "You guys are very foolish. You don't know what we have. You don't know what we've got. And you end up like this ATF, BATF. You guys, you're gonna get a big butt-whip.

"You need to call the president of the United States and explain to him what you've done. You ruined his country. You ruined his nation. And this is a democracy, a republic, you know?' he said on the tapes.

At other points, as the cult appeared to be ready to allow evacuation of ATF's wounded, cultists could be heard arguing over terms of a cease-fire and also could be heard demanding that the ATF completely back away from the 77-acre compound property before any of their wounded were evacuated.

Earlier in the tapes, Mr. Martin, a Harvard-educated lawyer who spent hours on the phone with Lt. Lynch, had demanded that only four ATF agents evacuate the wounded and that they must be unarmed.

At several points, he demanded that ATF agents "back off' the cult's property, and as Lt. Lynch and a dispatcher tried to coax him to hold his fire, he warned that he had a gas mask and was ready for a tear-gas assault. He also said he and other cultists planned to "take them with us' if the ATF renewed its assault.

He also told the sheriff's deputy that he had at least eight ATF agents in his sights during the confrontation and could have killed them if he chose.

ATF agents eventually negotiated a cease-fire and evacuated their wounded, beginning a 51-day standoff that ended with a massive fire that consumed the compound and those inside. Among the more than 80 cultists killed in the April 19 fire were Mr. Martin and Mr. Koresh.