Timeline of Events

May 1992

Chief Deputy Sheriff Daniel Weyenberg, with the McLennan County Sheriff’s department, informs the Austin, TX, ATF field office that suspicious United Parcel Service (UPS) deliveries were received by certain persons residing at the Mount Carmel compound. The compound is located a few miles from Waco, which is in McLennan County. Several shipments of firearms worth more than $10,000, inert grenade casings, and a substantial quantity of black powder, an explosive, were delivered to a metal building, known as the Mag Bag, used by the compound residents several miles from the compound.   Deputy Weyenberg asks ATF to investigate because the residents of the compound were constructing what appeared to be a barracks-type cinder-block structure, had buried a school bus to serve as both a firing range and a bunker, and apparently were stockpiling arms and other weapons.
A Waco Tribune-Herald reporter publishes an article on Koresh's 1988 trial for attempted murder.

June 1992

Special Agent Aguilera with the Austin Field Office, begins to make inquiries working with the Assistant U.S. Attorney.  Aguilera debriefs Lt. Gene Barber, of the Sheriff’s department, who informs him that the matter was previously referred to the FBI who had opened a case, but it was not actively pursuing an investigation. Barber provides Aguilera with a detailed account of Koresh’s alleged attempt to kill George Roden, the former leader and son of the compound's founders, as well as seized control of the Branch Davidians after a shootout in November 1987.  Aguilera is also informed of several purchases of firearm components and materials used to make explosives. Agent Aguilera determines neither Koresh nor any of his followers are licensed federal firearms dealers, nor manufacturers, nor registered any National Firearms Act weapons. Using shipping invoices, Aguilera learns Koresh received several M-16 machinegun CAR kits and several M-16 machine E-2 kits, which can be converted to a machine gun when combined with the lower receiver of AR-15s.

July 1992

ATF compliance officers inspect the premise of Hewitt Hand Guns. Inspection reveals they sold 36 firearms to Vernon Howell, not identified as David Koresh, and sold others to known Koresh followers. Sixty-five AR-15 lower receivers are reflected in the inventory, but are not physically present. Later receipts show they were sold to Vernon Howell.  A neighbor of the compound reports frequent spurts of weapon fire and that compound residents discharged semiautomatics.  A deputy sheriff reports an explosion, neither Koresh nor his followers were licensed or permitted to use explosives.

October 1992

A reporter with the Waco Tribune-Herald calls Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Johnston in Waco, to ask what constitutes as an illegal firearm. After the call, Johnston notifies ATF that the newspaper is working on a story.

November 1992

Agent Aguilera interviews former cult members for insight into Koresh's control over residents, including engaging in sexual activity with all female members and sexually and physically abusing the children.

December 1992

Agent Aguilera interviews a couple who recently escaped from the cult, they confirm possession of numerous weapons they saw at the compound and their participation in shooting exercises. They recount that Koresh directed there be an armed guard 24 hours a day, that he possess a loaded firearm at all times, and he was preparing a 'hitlist' of former members speaking to the media or law enforcement. Another witness told of seeing grenades, pump shotguns, revolvers, pistols and other weapons. Other witnesses recount and corroborate the accounts of sexual and physical abuse of minors. Aguilera contacts the Texas Department of Protective Services and Regulatory Services, it was investigating several reports of abuse.  They tell him they saw preparation for an armed struggle, and that Koresh told the caseworker, "My time is coming. When I reveal myself as the messenger and my time comes, what happens will make the riots in L.A. pale in comparison."

January 1993

Aguilera does a background check on all current residents of the compound, determined to be 75. Finds that several had been arrested, convicted or were under investigation for crimes ranging from fraud to smuggling and narcotics offenses. Forty residents are foreign nationals, a portion of which are illegal aliens. It is unlawful for either an illegal alien or person convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year of imprisonment to possess any type of firearm. Aguilera obtains technical assistance from several ATF firearm technical experts on firearms types and potential conversions. ATF develops plans for serving warrants and tactical planning aspects of the investigation. Upon presenting probable cause to ATF directors, Aguilera presents information to the Assistant U.S. Attorney to obtain warrants. Agents Aguilera and Bill Buford interview several former cult members, including those Aguilera previously interviewed. Several former cult members note the distinct possibility that Koresh might respond to a siege by leading his followers in a mass suicide, with one child who had lived on the compound recounts that she was taught how to commit suicide.

A recent ‘escapee’ from the compound reports on the devastating arsenal Koresh was amassing.  He reports seeing at least one high caliber weapon – either .50 caliber rifle mounted on a bi-pod or a ‘British Boys’ .52 caliber antitank rifle and heard of others stored on the premises. ATF changes operation from case building to enforcement.

Waco Tribune-Herald reporters draft  a "Sinful Messiah" series of articles and submitted them to their editors.

January 11

ATF establishes an undercover house across from the compound. One special agent is assigned to seek opportunities to visit the compound and talk to the residents.

January 27

Tactical planners meet with Agents Buford and Aguilera and agents from the undercover house. Buford rejects options of a siege given the information that the compound residents could withstand it and the danger of a mass suicide. 

January 28

An ATF special agent engages with Koresh and attends Bible studies.  Koresh invites him out to shoot. The agent brings two other agents and Koresh displays familiarity with the weapons and establishes his ownership of several weapons. Koresh repeatedly confirms his interest in weapons and his disdain for federal laws regulating firearms and explosives.  An undercover agent assigned to infiltrate makes frequent visits. Buford and several other planners warn against any scenario that might result in ATF entering the compound forcefully, after a prolonged standoff would give Koresh an opportunity to prepare his defenses.  The group formulate a workable plan for an entry. If ATF could enter the compound before weapons could be distributed among cult members, Koresh's arsenal would pose no threat.  The tactical planners had reach a consensus. Despite ATF's early belief that drawing Koresh away from the compound is central to the success of any operation, intelligence reports that Koresh did not leave the compound leads planners to abandon efforts to lure Koresh away.

The Plan

Approximately 75 ATF agents will gather at the staging area early on the day of the raid and arrive at the compound about 10 a.m.  In addition to three SRTs, trailers will carry three arrest support teams responsible for clearing and securing the perimeter and handling any prisoners. All agents will carry semiautomatic handguns, and some will be equipped with semiautomatic AR-15s or 9mm MP-5 submachineguns. Some of the MP-5s carried by agents could fire two-shot bursts, but none of the MP-5s could fire more than two shots with one trigger pull. If agents in the undercover house did not observe any unusual activities, the cattle trailers will pull in front of the compound, and the agents would deploy. Helicopters would leave the airfield at the command post, which was approximately three miles from the compound, and arrive shortly before the trailers. There, they would provide a diversion by hovering a distance from the compound before the cattle trailers arrived.  One team will secure the compound's roof and enter the arms room, and another team will secure the area with women and children.  Another team will secure the areas where the school bus was buried and the pit area where the men worked.  After securing the compound, a proper search would be conducted.  The last team will serve as forward observers, armed with long-range rifles to provide cover in accordance with the ATF forward observer program, the Treasury Department's firearms policy, and the standard rules of engagement for federal law enforcement officers. The forward observers' cover is limited to shooting in defense only (i.e., to protect the lives of agents and innocent third parties in imminent danger). Tactical planners develop their plan in accordance with the ATF National Response Plan (NRP).  A contingency plan is made in case the raid is aborted. The cattle trailers could easily take a detour at several points before reaching the road to the compound.

February 1

Waco Tribune-Herald meet to discuss a temporary delay to ensure the safety of the undercover agents.  The Waco Tribune-Herald do not commit to any delay and continue with plans to publish including scheduling an interview with David Koresh for his reaction to the series on Feb. 24.

February 11-12

After presenting probable cause to ATF directors, Aguilera, the SAC of Houston, and ASAC Sarabyn present information to the Assistant U.S. Attorney to obtain warrants.

February 24

Waco Tribune-Herald decides the series will begin on Saturday, Feb. 27. According to Waco Tribune-Herald management, this day is chosen to allow the newspaper to gauge Branch Davidian's reaction during the two weekend days, when activity at the newspaper's office and plant is reduced. The newspaper decides not to notify ATF of the decision to publish until after their security chief has addressed all security questions. A Waco Tribune-Herald reporter receives a tip from a confidential informant (non-ATF employee) that something "big" might happen at the Branch Davidian compound between 9 and 10 a.m., the next Monday, and that the roads might be blocked.  The newspaper decides to send a few reporters to the compound area that Monday.  ATF changes the raid day to Sunday, Feb. 28.

February 25

Aguilera signs a sworn affidavit he prepared with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bill Johnston and John Phinizy. After reviewing the affidavit, Dennis Green, U.S. Magistrate-Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, issues an arrest warrant for Koresh for violating federal firearms laws and a warrant to search both the Mag Bag and the compound for evidence of that crime.  Listed in the affidavits are:
  • 104 AR-15/M-16 upper-receiver groups with barrels
  • 8,000 rounds of 9mm and .22-caliber ammunition
  • 20 100-round-capacity drum magazines for AK-47 rifles
  • 260 M-16/AR-15 magazines
  • 30 M-14 magazines
  • 2 M-16 E-2 kits
  • 2 M-16 car kits
  • 1 M-76 grenade launcher
  • 200 M-31 practice rifle grenades
  • 4 M-16 parts sets—Kits "A"
  • 2 flare launchers
  • 2 cases (approximately 50) inert practice grenades
  • 40 to 50 pounds of black gunpowder
  • 30 pounds of potassium nitrate
  • 5 pounds of magnesium metal powder
  • 1 pound of igniter cord
  • 91 AR-15 receiver units
  • 26 various calibers and brands of handguns and long guns
  • 90 pounds of aluminum metal powder
  • 30 to 40 cardboard tubes
A Waco Tribune-Herald reporter tips local television station KWTX, who confirms with the ambulance service on standby for the operation that they prepare to deploy to the site Monday.

February 27

First installment of the "Sinful Messiah" series appears in the Waco Tribune-Herald. The article describes child abuse at the compound, saying that Koresh encourages the whipping of children as young as eight months and alleges that Koresh fathered children with 15 women, many underage, living at the compound. They receive a tip from the confidential informant that the raid is moved up 24 hours, they decide to send nine reporters to the compound on Sunday morning. They receive a call from Steve Schneider, one of Koresh's senior deputies. Schneider tells the paper that Koresh was upset by the first "Sinful Messiah" article. KWTX's preparations to cover the raid moves forward.
February 28
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