QUANTICO, Va. Jun 25 -- A member of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team has broken the bureau's seven year silence about the Branch Davidian standoff.
Chris Whitcomb, a former FBI sniper, was so close he could hear the gunfire of Davidians being executed as fire consumed their compound in April, 1993.
Whitcomb will soon testify in the FBI negligence trial in Waco about what he saw that day.
"I know in my heart what happened there and I feel strongly we did what we had to do," he told Channel 8 in an exclusive interview.
Whitcomb watched the deadly 51-day siege with Branch Davidians through his rifle scope. His observation post was in a garage used by sect leader David Koresh, 300 yards behind the compound.
"The first child I saw at Mount Carmel was being held up in front of a man who came to a window to look out at us. So I'm looking through an optic and the first child I see was a human shield," Whitcomb remembered.
Whitcomb is a former newspaper reporter and now an FBI hostage negotiator. He said conspiracy theorists have twisted the truth over the past seven years.
News 8 spoke to Whitcomb at the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. It is the first time any of the 50-member HRT has spoken publicly about the tragic events.
"The HRT and FBI agents never fired a round, despite being fired at the final day," Whitcomb said. "A great tragedy occurred because those people did not want to live outside that compound."
During negotiations, Whitcomb said the Davidians spent the nights fortifying their compound with high powered rifles and automatic assault weapons.
Whitcomb said the Davidians built sniper's nests -- like professional law enforcement. "We watched them build them over a long period of time," he said. "They would put their shooting positions deep inside a window and hang curtains in front of them. They were very knowledgeable in what they did and how they did it."
Whitcomb said the Davidians opened fire from those positions when the FBI began using tanks to put tear gas inside the compound.
When the compound became engulfed in flames, the firing continued. Whitcomb said one round missed him and another agent by inches.
"Someone inside that compound sat there as those flames came for them, as the building filled up with smoke, as all kinds of hell broke loose inside that building, and their last act on Earth was to try to kill us," Whitcomb said.
Whitcomb said one of his teammates risked his life to rescue a woman who did not want to be rescued from inside the burning building. "How anyone could extend logic to the rest of us shooting into the building just baffles me. I don't even understand that," he said.
Whitcomb does not believe under the circumstances that any amount of negotiating would have changed the outcome. "I really think that when we decided to go into that building -- and it would have happened some day when they ran out of food or whatever -- that David Koresh could not live in the anonymity of a federal prison, that he was not coming out of there, and those people were going to do precisely what he said."
Whitcomb added that agents pleaded with one woman they rescued to tell them where the children were. He said the woman just gave them a blank stare.
The Branch Davidian trial continues Monday in Waco. Testimony is expected to focus on the fire and the key decisions made by on-site commanders.
Last week, FBI agents testified the tear-gassing operation did not include instructions for tanks to smash holes in the building.
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