The First Death Count
The modest plywood shelter the Branch Davidians had built with the own hands could not be expected to withstand the barrage of helicopter machine gun fire and the hail of bullets from the frontal infantry assault of February 28.
Early accounts indicated that a child, or "children" had been killed that day. This was surely not unexpected because the helicopters had fired into the second story quarters where the children lived.
When the Davidians were attacked, they called 911. The call was taped. The recording captured David Koresh's voice: "You see you brought your bunch of guys out here and you killed some of my children. We told you we wanted to talk …" The Dallas Morning News, March 1, quoted Steve Schneider: "People are lying dead in here, babies and everything …" (pg. 13A), and also reported David Koresh saying a 2-year old girl was killed.
Early in March, Waco researcher Ken Fawcett captured raw TV footage, not shown on nightly newscasts, which showed several black clad men carrying what appeared to be a small body in a body bag to an ambulance waiting outside the Mt. Carmel Center. The identical footage is shown in "Waco, the Big Lie."
Reports also indicated that 14 Branch Davidians in the Mt. Carmel Center at the time of the raid had been killed. On March 3, The Dallas Morning News reported that "a" McLennan County official who was familiar with the negotiations said that as many as 14 people are believed dead and that "a whole lot are wounded," (pg. 14A). Another Davidian, Michael Schroeder, was off site when the raid occurred, and was killed when he was repeatedly shot while attempting to get back to the Center to reach his family. Schroeder's death would have been the fifteenth Davidian death on February 28.
|"Floracita Sonobe, 34, dead. Daughters Angelica (shown), now 6, and Crystal, 3, were released Feb. 28." (Newsweek, May 3, 1993). Floracita is identified as Mt. Carmel Doe #4.|
On March 2 arrangements had reportedly been made to end the confrontation. David Koresh was to tape a message he wanted the American people to hear. The taped message would be aired on national radio. The dead and the wounded would be taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center and the Branch Davidians would confront the government in the courtroom (The Dallas Morning News, March 3, 1993).
Hillcrest Hospital had set up a temporary morgue and emergency room to handle the Davidian dead and wounded. According to The Dallas Morning News, "Hillcrest expected that the Davidians were going to arrive after 2:30 pm on March 2. A triage area was set up outside the emergency room, and an area for a temporary morgue designated." Shortly before 1:00 pm, "agents arrived at the hospital in a large white truck and took up positions on rooftops surrounding the emergency room. They surveyed the area through binoculars and clutched assault rifles to their chests." (The Dallas Morning News, March 3, 1993, pg. 14A.)
But the dead and wounded Davidians reportedly never arrived at Hillcrest. David Koresh's taped massage was not aired on national radio, but aired on a local station. The FBI would later say that David Koresh simply broke his word on March 2 and refused to let anyone leave. They implied that the local radio airing of Koresh's taped message should have been good enough.
On the other hand, there could be an alternate explanation for the events of March 2. The FBI's Hostage Rescue Team had fully installed itself as the tactical unit in charge of the siege on that date (Treasury Report, pg. 118). Perhaps the "new management" decided against the release of the dead and the wounded. Surely there would be good reason to make the change.
The confirmation that a child or children had been killed in the February 28 raid would have surely had the gravest political consequences for the US government. The raid had taken place just weeks after the new Democratic president, William Clinton, had been inaugurated. But the raid had obviously been planned months in advance when the Republicans were in power, and both parties had skin in the game. Simple political expediency would dictate that the news of a murdered child or children be suppressed.
The news reports of the death of a child or children abruptly stopped about March 3, and the news reports of the numbers of the dead Davidians also ceased. Occasionally there would be a reference to the wounded who were still inside.
Recall that Mt. Carmel was implanted with sophisticated surveillance devices (source #1), and that there were a number of informants living within the community (source #2). Throughout March, many Davidians who had been inside the Mt. Carmel Center at the time of the raid left. Upon leaving, each was immediately interrogated by the commandos from the Hostage Rescue Team (source #3; see HRT — Rescue Team or Death Squad?). The FBI, then, had at least three different sources of information on the numbers and identities of those killed on February 28.
On March 10, The Dallas Morning News reported: "'The children all spoke of seeing bullets flying through their windows in their quarters and seeing numerous wounded people in the compound,' said Joyce Sparks of the state Children's Protective Services office."
On March 15, The Dallas Morning News reported: "She acknowledged that other sect members were wounded and need medical attention." (Attorney Peterson, speaking for Kathy Schroeder, pg. 9A).
On March 18, The Dallas Morning News reported: "… agents have offered medical treatment to wounded cult members if they ventured to the edge of the compound. Those not requiring hospitalization would be allowed to return to the compound, said Agent Ricks." (pg. 16A).
On March 22, The Dallas Morning News reported the remarks of FBI agent Dick Swensen: "Also, the wounded people and the conditions inside the compound add to the pressures on this to end this thing soon." (pg. 6A).
On March 22, The Dallas Morning News reported: "The most recent releases bring to 34 the number of people who have left the Mt. Carmel compound since a Feb. 28 shootout. Four ATF agents and an unknown number of cult members were killed and 16 ATF agents wounded."
Once again: At this point (March 22), the FBI would have known exactly how many were killed in the raid, their ages, and their identities.
Then, on April 21, the Chicago Tribune reported that: "FBI officials in Washington received information last week that sanitary and other conditions in the compound were deteriorating in ways that were especially threatening to the children. One FBI official said children who had left the compound recently reported the presence of dead bodies and buckets full of human waste." (Chicago Tribune, April 21, 1993, pg. 20).
"Presence of dead bodies"? Perhaps these were the bodies of the Davidians who had been killed on February 28 and who had not been buried, or people who had died of their wounds? And what of the dead child, or children?
During the course of the siege the US government continuously made accusations of child abuse against David Koresh. The FBI apparently persuaded Koresh to make a tape of the children inside the Mt. Carmel Center during the siege, ostensibly to show that they were OK. A video tape was made showing David Koresh talking to children, who were responding to his questions and shyly smiling at the camera.
No list of the residents of Mt. Carmel was published contemporaneously with the beginning of the siege. Without a roster, we do not know which children, if any, did NOT appear in the video. It is quite possible that a child or children were lying dead or dying from the February 28 attack, even as the uninjured children were being taped.
The Branch Davidian survivors say that despite the machine gun strafing on February 28, no children were killed. The Branch Davidians also say that just five people in the Center were killed during the raid — not the 14 reported by the press. What are we to believe? The duress under which the surviving Branch Davidians live and the unwillingness of the government to release the names of their agents who posed as Branch Davidians forces a prudent person to rely on the objective evidence. See Veracity of Branch Davidian Statements.
The Smart Diagram of the second floor of the Mt. Carmel Center shows the names of many of the women and children who lived there. The helicopters directed their fire at that area. A glance at The Dallas Morning News, March 1, 1993 with bullet damage in windows shows that, quite apart from helicopter fire, ground fire was aimed into those quarters.
Had the February 28 raid been a law enforcement action, there would have been no need for helicopters to strafe the women and children's quarters. But the killing of women and children does fit quite nicely with the purposes of war, which is to inflict the maximum horror and suffering on the opponents.
It is claimed that, with the exception of Jaydean Wendel, all the women and children still in the Mt. Carmel Center on April 19 were alive. It is claimed that they went to the concrete room at the base of the four story residential tower to seek shelter from the tank and gas attack, and died in the final moments when the concrete room collapsed.
It is indeed a coincidence that the women and children's quarters suffered the brunt of the February 28 attack, and it was almost exclusively women's and children's bodies that were found in the concrete room.
The dead can speak. Much can be learned from examination of a corpse. In the Death Gallery we shall examine the Autopsy Reports of the corpses found in the concrete room in an effort to come to a better understanding what happened during the 51 days of the Waco Holocaust.
Let us now look at what happened during the siege.
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