Remembering Waco: ATF Agent, FBI Analyst Recall Harrowing Siege on 30th Anniversary

A fire broke out during the ATF raid in Waco, Texas. Photo: Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling

Thirty years ago on Wednesday, a 51-day standoff between law enforcement and the Branch Davidians ended in a raging inferno. 

More than 80 people, including four ATF agents, were killed in a clash that began when federal agents tried to serve a search and arrest warrant on Feb. 28, 1993. 

The Branch Davidians, led by religious cult leader David Koresh, were suspected of stockpiling illegal weapons. 

It was one of the largest law enforcement operations in the U.S. at the time. 

In interviews with WFAA-TV, a former ATF agent and FBI analyst recalled the harrowing raid and subsequent standoff. 

There were 76 agents involved in the raid. 

“As soon as we stepped off the trailers, we were met with a hail of automatic weapons fire and then they dropped hand grenades on us as well,” former ATF Agent Blake Boteler said. 

The Branch Davidians were prepared after they had been tipped off by a mailman, who was a member of the cult. 

“So, from the time they were tipped off that we were coming, they had 48 minutes to prepare,” Boteler said.

The gun fight lasted nearly two hours. 

”To put it in perspective I think the Alamo was 90 minutes, the battle of the Alamo, so it was the longest continuous gunfight on American soil since the civil war,” Boteler said. 

The gun battle ended in the deaths of four agents – Conway LeBleu, Todd McKeehan, Robert John Williams and Steven Willis. An additional 16 agents were wounded. 

Boteler saw an agent get shot just feet away from him. 

“The automatic weapons fire and hand grenades were just pouring through those front doors, and there were these aluminum kind of doors with the foam insulation inside, and so, as the bullets were tearing through and going right by my head, it was like snow,” Boteler recalled. 

Even though the ATF knew the Branch Davidians were tipped off, the agency’s commanding officer ordered the raid to continue. 

”And he made the decision on his own, that we would move forward with the warrant. His exact words to us was ‘let’s hurry up and do this,’” Boteler said. 

Farris Rookstool, a former FBI analyst who responded days after the shootout, blamed the commanding officer and Koresh for the death toll. 

”You had two forces, you know, you had ATF and you had David Koresh and both the leaders put their people in harm’s way, which got people killed,” Rookstool said. 

On April 19, the standoff came to a fiery end when feds decided to end it by firing tear gas into the compound. Only nine Davidians survived. In all, 76 perished in the fire. 

”David Koresh was not going to be taken alive. He knew that and he had manipulated these folks into believing that he was the Messiah, the second coming and they followed him all the way to death,” Rookstool said.

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