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EVIDENCE OF DEADLY GUNFIRE FROM BATF HELICOPTERS
Compiled by Carol Moore
author, The Davidian Massacre
October 1999 version
Probably the most blatant
cover-up regarding the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ (BATF)
February 28, 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian religious group near Waco,
Texas is the cover-up of the fact that agents shot from helicopters, killing
as many as four Davidians. This act is unprecedented in American
law enforcement. Had it not been so successfully covered up by federal
agencies, Congress and the press, there would have been a public outcry
leading to prosecution and imprisonment of BATF Agents.
During a May, 1995 televised debate, Carol Moore, author of the book The Davidian Massacre, asked former BATF Director Stephen E. Higgins, who approved the raid, if BATF agents should be charged with murder should evidence of lethal firing be indicated. He replied, "Absolutely. If they fire at someone who was not firing at them or pointing a weapon at them it would absolutely be murder.” Mr. Higgins, like the rest of the federal establishment, refuses to admit these murders were in fact committed.
Many believe federal agents subsequently sabotaged negotiations and conducted a vicious April 19, 1993 assault which burned Mount Carmel to the ground in order to destroy bullet hole evidence of helicopter gunfire, as well as evidence of indiscriminate gunfire from the ground. (Davidian survivor David Thibodeau claims firing from helicopters left 100 bullet holes in the walls and roofs. And it is well known that one of the double front doors, the one containing evidence BATF shot first and furiously, was never found after the fire.)
Below is substantial evidence, presented in rough chronological order, that BATF agents shot from at least one of the three helicopters which approached Mount Carmel at the beginning of the BATF raid. (Two helicopters were small observation craft containing National Guard pilots and one BATF agent; the third was a large Blackhawk containing two National Guard pilots and approximately eight BATF agents.)
** Discussions of Using
Helicopter Gunfire as a Diversion
One document indicating agents considered using such gunfire was found among thousands turned over to Congress. A handwritten note by some unknown Treasury Department review official who had interviewed BATF agents read: "HCs [helicopters] as a diversion. Simultaneous gunfire. Worked in Seattle. Three to four hundred meters from boundary. Hover. Practiced at Hood." (Assumedly BATF agents practiced this maneuver at Fort Hood, where they trained for the raid.)
** Questionable Helicopter
At trial three National Guard helicopter pilots denied the helicopters had circled Mount Carmel before the beginning of the raid, as if scoping it out for targets. However, KWTX-TV cameraman Dan Mulloney and reporter John McLemore testified they saw the helicopters do just that. This cast doubt on the guardsmens’ testimony that there had been no shooting from the helicopters.
** Agent Admitted Agents
Were Armed and Willing to Fire
During the House Waco hearings, BATF agent Davy Aguilera, who was in the Blackhawk helicopter, revealed that BATF agents in that aircraft had had their weapons loaded during the raid. He also disclosed agents had been told they would be permitted to fire in self-defense. When asked if any agents had fired, Aguilera answered, "No." Raid co-commander Phillip Chojnacki responded to the same question with, "Not to my knowledge." Representative Melvin Watt then submitted “for the record the statements of a number of individuals who were actually on the helicopters who deny that they fired at any point.” However, these were merely statements of National Guard helicopter pilots, not BATF agents.
** Agent Admitted Agents
Might Have Fired
BATF audio tapes reveal that immediately after the gunfight, BATF agent James Cavanaugh, a temporary negotiator, argued by telephone with David Koresh about whether there was firing from the helicopters. Cavanaugh then admitted, “I’m not debating the fact that there might have been fire from the helicopters but what I’m telling you is there were no mounted guns, no outside mounted guns, on those helicopters.”
** Government Claims the
Helicopters Took Davidian Gunfire
BATF agents and National Guard pilots claim that when the helicopters got within 350 meters of the building, they were fired upon and forced back. Photographs show several holes in the aircraft. If the Davidians did indeed fire at the helicopters--before or after BATF agents fired--Aguilera's testimony makes it clear agents felt they did have a right to fire back. And it is likely they did so.
** BATF Video Shows Helicopter
Diving Towards Building
A BATF agent took video footage from the Blackhawk helicopter which clearly shows the Blackhawk diving down towards the back of the building--and that it is clearly closer than 350 meters. The video clip ends abruptly at that point. A simple projection of the speed and trajectory of the helicopter’s approach suggests it did fly over the swimming pool and building, as Davidians allege below. The National Guard pilot of the Blackhawk did admit at trial that the helicopter flew as low as 50 feet off the ground.
Also, during this approach several sounds like gunfire can clearly be heard on the BATF video. A civil suit attorney calculates that these sounds only could have come from the helicopter. (The BATF video reveals that a second video was taken by BATF agent Ted Royster. BATF claims this is Royster’s personal video tape and refuses to release it, claiming it contains no incriminating material.)
** KWTX-TV Video Shows
Helicopter Shoot Davidian on the Watertower
One of two KWTX-TV cameramen shot video from the road southwest of Mount Carmel. As seen in the movie “Waco: The Rules of Engagement,” a helicopter southwest of the building and water tower veers back towards them just as movement from what is evidently a person is seen on top of the tower. Seconds later, the individual disappears, very possibly shot by agents in the helicopter.
** KWTX-TV Video Shows
Shots Fired From Sky
Another KWTX-TV cameraman followed BATF agents onto the grounds of Mount Carmel. His camera also caught footage of the helicopter above veering back. Soon after, he took the often shown video of an agent being shot at through the wall of the second story room. This shot also displays evidence that at least four bullets were fired from above just two to three minutes into the raid. The sounds of aircraft overhead can be heard. Bullet holes can be seen appearing in the roof and eaves of the building and the projected trajectory of the bullets appears much too steep to have come from the four story tower, from which some Davidians were firing.
** Davidians Complained
About Firing to 9-1-1 Operators
Early in the raid, in a phone call to 9-1-1, now-deceased Davidian Wayne Martin cries out: "Another chopper with more people; more guns going off. They're firing. That's them, not us." Now-deceased Steve Schneider adds, "There's a chopper with more of them. Another chopper with more people and more guns going off. Here they come!" In the next hours Martin warns repeatedly that BATF should keep helicopters at a distance.
** Davidians Complained
About Helicopter Gunfire On Negotiation Tapes
During the 51 day siege, David Koresh and Steve Schneider insisted to FBI negotiators that BATF agents had shot from the helicopters and killed Davidians. They repeatedly claimed that FBI agents wanted to burn Mount Carmel to destroy the evidence of this and other lethal firing.
** Thirteen Davidian Survivors
Claim They Saw Firing or Evidence of Firing
Marjorie Thomas testified under oath at trial that she and two other women near their third floor window saw a helicopter approaching the building with a person hanging out. As the helicopter drew nearer, several bullets came through the window, flying over the womens' heads.
Kathryn Schroeder testified under oath at trial that she saw bullet holes in the ceiling of the four story tower, holes that could only have been made from shooting from the sky.
Kevin Whitecliff stated at allocution before sentencing: "There were three or four helicopters buzzing around shooting at people. I thought I was going to die."
Rita Riddle told reporters in March, 1993, "I heard them spraying the building when they went over," and stated in a signed affidavit that she saw a bullet come down through the ceiling from the sky.
Clive Doyle has testified before Congress and written in an affidavit that Winston Blake was killed from a bullet that, from the trajectory through the wall, only could have come from a helicopter. (Jaime Castillo in a statement to Texas Rangers and David Thibodeau before Congress and in a signed affidavit make the same claim.) Doyle also states that he himself saw a helicopter directly above the swimming pool.
Renos Avraam stated at allocution that BATF came in "with helicopters blazing. Davy Aguilera, he was firing one of them. He ain't going to deny it. Helicopters blazing." (Both Clive Doyle and David Thibodeau have testified that Avraam told them he was in the back of the building and saw the firing himself.)
Derek Lovelock told attorney Jack Zimmermann that he heard helicopters and saw bullets come down through the ceiling of the first floor, one story cafeteria at the back of the building.
Catherine Matteson claims that one or more helicopters circled the building, firing at both the front and the back, and that she had to fall to the floor to avoid the bullets coming through the roof.
Annetta Richards claims she saw bullets come down from above as the helicopters were flying overhead.
Gladys Ottman makes claims similar to those of Matteson and Richards.
Davidian Child: Psychologist Bruce D. Perry, who interviewed Davidian children who left Mount Carmel after the raid, described a child drawing a picture of a house beneath a rainbow. The child put bullet holes in the roof of the four story tower.
** Attorneys Saw Evidence
of Firing From Helicopters
Davidian attorneys Dick DeGuerin and Jack Zimmermann, who visited Mount Carmel during the siege, have testified under oath before Congress, at trial and in affidavits that there were numerous bullet holes that obviously came from the sky in the four story tower and in upper story walls. Zimmerman is a former Army officer.
** Davidians Claim Helicopter
Gunfire Killed Four
Winston Blake, a black from England, was killed instantly by one bullet in the head as he sat on his bed. Survivors say the bullet entered the room’s wall at a downward trajectory and only could have come from a helicopter. The American coroner claimed Blake had been shot at close range; the Manchester, England coroner could find no such evidence. The discrepancy sparked an English police investigation. (The government claimed other Davidians killed Blake.)
Jaydean Wendell, an Asian-American, was killed instantly by one shot through the head as she lay in bed. Attorney Jack Zimmermann said he saw bullet holes by the "upper bunk wall" going in the direction of a pool of blood on the bed. (Two Davidian prosecution witnesses testified that Wendell might have been shooting a gun at the time of her death.)
Peter Gent, an Australian, was killed instantly by a shot to the heart. Davidians assert he was cleaning the inside of the water tower, heard the commotion, stuck his head out to see what was going on, and was shot by an agent in a helicopter. (A BATF agent on the ground claimed he shot an armed man on the water tower.)
Peter Hipsman, an American, probably was shooting from the fourth floor when he was shot in the chest and arm. The medical examiner revealed that the shots traveled from left to right, as if he was shot from the sky. Believing federal agents meant to kill them all, he allowed another Davidian to end his life.
Two other Davidians died February 28, 1993. David Koresh’s father-in-law Perry Jones was standing behind Koresh when he opened the front door and tried to talk and cooperate with attacking federal agents. Jones was mortally wounded in the stomach as agents opened fire on the two unarmed men and committed suicide. And Michael Schroeder was ambushed and killed by federal agents as he approached Mount Carmel on foot later that day. Four BATF agents shooting at the Davidians were killed by defensive gunfire. There is evidence that at least one agent was wounded by BATF friendly fire. Missing bullets make it difficult to prove if others were injured or even killed by such fire.
The Treasury and Justice Departments, Congress and the press have ignored or suppressed this overwhelming evidence of lethal helicopter gunfire. However, jurors in the 1.5 billion dollar Davidian civil suits, which allege such firing, may take it more seriously. Attorneys will produce ample evidence like that above during the civil trial.