Davidians talked about fires before final assault, tapes show

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 11, 2000
By William H. Freivogel

WACO, TEXAS - Branch Davidians talked about fire in the days before the fatal end of the Waco siege, at one point joking about becoming a "charcoal briquette" and at another saying it was "God's will" to "take us up like flames of fire."

The FBI secretly recorded conversations among the Davidians during the 1993 siege. Excerpts were played for a jury on Monday in the Branch Davidians' wrongful death suit against the government. The tapes included barely audible passages from the morning of the fire in which Davidians passed orders to "spread the fuel," "pour it," "pass the torch" and "light it."

The government is trying to prove that the Davidians set fire to the complex and are responsible for the deaths of about 80 people on April 19, 1993. U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith overruled the Davidians' objections to admission of the conversations. The FBI sneaked 11 microphones into the complex, hiding them in several deliveries of goods.

The tapes include statements in which David Koresh, the Branch Davidians' leader, laughs about how a government agent's "head blew off" when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tried to arrest him on Feb. 28, 1993. He added that the agent "shouldn't have been standin' in my door."

Many of the recordings were hard to hear, particularly those from the day of the fire when the Davidians wore gas masks and government tanks could be heard in the distance. Jurors and the judge wore earphones and were provided transcripts.

The tapes contain numerous references to Koresh's control over the Davidians. On April 17, two days before the fire, Steven Schneider, a leader of the Davidians, pressured Louis Alaniz, a newcomer, not to leave the complex against Koresh's wishes.

Schneider told Alaniz that Koresh is the "living son of God . . . the lamb. Every one of us were directed by him in what to do and not to do because he is inspired. If you go out, I guarantee if you go out and he tells you not to, you are lost.

"There is not one person here, that ever go(es) out unless they've been told to," said Schneider.

"It's God's will that the Assyrians are out there," said Schneider. "They can't destroy us unless it's God's will that they do. Haven't you read (the Bible) . . . where it says he's gonna take us up like flames of fire?" The "Assyrians" reference was to government forces that Koresh predicted would attack the Davidians.

Schneider told Alaniz that if he left, he would not be part of the "wave sheaf." That is a Biblical reference that explains the Davidians' belief they would be in the vanguard of God's army.

In a deposition read into evidence, Kathryn Schroeder, one of the surviving Davidians, testified the Davidians believed that those who died would become members of God's army when he returned to Earth after the "rapture."

Also on April 17, a male voice spoke about the possibility of fire. "Catch fire and they couldn't even bring the fire truck 'cause they couldn't even get near us."

The next day, some Davidians were talking about the latest developments on the standoff. "It may be scary," a man said, to which a laughing male voice added, "You always wanted to be a charcoal briquette." Another man said, "There's nothing like a good fire to bring us back to earth."

Then, laughing, a male voice said, "My impression of the first man landing on the sun . . . Darn, our controls are jammed. Here comes Mr. Sun."

The next day, the day of the fire, there are more than 25 references on tape to pouring fuel and preparing to light it. "Should we light the package now?" a male voice asks.

"Yeah," another voice says.

"Okay, light it," says a male voice.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.