POSTED: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 6:43pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 12:12pm
It began on this day in 1993.
The raid on the so-called Branch Davidian compound in Waco remains controversial to this day.
David Koresh is buried in Tyler.
His religious cult, the Branch Davidians were the targets of one of the most controversial law enforcement operations in US history.
The operation was flawed.
And one local man knows the inside story.
Larry Smith is a former agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
He is also running for Smith County Sheriff.
And he remembers exactly what he was doing when the Waco siege began.
“I was in church that morning in Green Acres,” Smith told KETK. ”I got home from Sunday school and turned on the television and what was on the TV at that time was one of our guys, a guy I know very well from New Orleans, that was getting shot at on the roof. And about the same time I turned the TV on my phone rang, and I had to go down there. And I was there from that day for 52 days.”
Larry says there is no doubt that Vernon Howell, who called himself David Koresh, was engaging in illegal activity involving not only guns but underage girls.
“The sheriff, Sheriff Jack down in McClendon County,” Smith says, “that whole thing first came to him. There were state laws that could have been enforced on that, but he defers it to ATF because of the machine guns and hand grenades and things out there. They knew the first complaint was with child protective services of underage children being impregnated by Vernon Howell.”
The ATF also had a spy in the compound. They also had surveillance microphones in the house.
“There were things being talked about that we knew, when the building was about to go up in flames and things of that nature,” Smith says.
But he says when the element of surprise was lost, the raid should have been called off.
But he also says, there are things people forget.
“There’s a lot of things that people don’t understand,” he told us. “The positive parts don’t ever come out about how many children we were able to get out of there at that time.”
The incident has become a touchstone for militia and anti-government activists including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
And for the ATF, it leaves a scar that hasn’t healed to this day.