On February 28, 1993, ATF’s “Operation Showtime” was launched at the Branch Davidian’s house/church dubbed; Mount Carmel, outside of Waco, Texas. The reasons for their invasion vary according to whomever is telling the story. Allow me to provide one that you won’t hear in the corporate press, one that I call “The Ruby Ridge Black Eye.” I contend that if Ruby Ridge had never happened, Waco probably wouldn’t have either.
Books have been written about the ATF and FBI actions at Ruby Ridge so I see no need to go into great detail here. But what some may not know and should is that the ATF immediately came under scrutiny due to Randy Weaver’s 14-year-old son, Sammy, and his wife Vicki being murdered by government bullets. One US Marshal was shot and killed by what was argued at trial as “friendly fire.” (Bock, Ambush at Ruby Ridge, p. 8-9)
It is worth noting, however, how Randy Weaver came to be in the government cross-hairs. When Weaver and his family moved to a remote area of Idaho (about 40 miles from the Canadian border), Randy started to fellowship with the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist group that had a compound in the area. Although Randy didn’t join the group, the association was damning enough, especially when the corporate media ran with that narrative during coverage of the siege. The ATF had an undercover agent in the group who convinced Randy to sell him two shotguns. When delivery was made, the undercover agent asked Randy to saw off the barrels. At first Randy balked, but after much prodding he performed the task. Randy was then arrested and told that if he became an informant for the Feds against the Aryan Nations the charges would be dropped. He refused and the Feds pursued charges against him.
Randy appeared as required at multiple hearings, but after one date was changed unbeknownst to him, he missed court. Charges were filed for “failure to appear” and a warrant was issued. As the Feds believed Randy would resist arrest with violence, a secret operation was planned.
Six US Marshals entered the Weaver property unannounced on August 21, 1992. The Weaver’s dog started to bark at the camouflaged marshals, at which time they shot and killed it. Fourteen-year-old Sammy Weaver and a family friend, Kevin Harris, grabbed rifles and ran to investigate the gunshot. The Marshals shot Sammy in the back as he was running away killing him. Harris returned fire and allegedly killed US Marshal William Degan. The Marshalls immediately asked for an FBI sniper team.
On the second day of the standoff Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris left the house with weapons and walked the immediate area around the dwelling. Believing (or using the excuse) that the two were planning to shoot at the FBI helicopters, FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi opened fire hitting Randy in the arm. As Weaver and Harris ran back to the house, Horiuchi fired again, allegedly trying to hit Harris, instead his round went through the front door hitting Randy’s wife, Vicki, in the face while she held her infant daughter. Vicki died almost immediately.
A week later Harris and Weaver surrendered and were arrested. An Idaho jury found Harris and Weaver not guilty of murder, conspiracy and assault, although Randy was found guilty of the original failure to appear charge.
The Feds “on Trial”
“The Bureau’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) had come away from its last highly publicized standoff, an August 1992 action against white separatist Randy Weaver, with a reputation as a gang of trigger happy Rambos.” (Reavis, Ashes of Waco, p. 258)
At Ruby Ridge, Hostage Rescue Team head Dick Rogers sent his team to resolve the situation by action rather than negotiation. This resulted in “deadly force.” (Dallas Morning News, October 3, 1999)
This strategy was faxed to FBI headquarters where Danny Coulson, the founder of HRT, read it and was dumbfounded, “As I read the fax, my jaw dropped. My God, we’ve got a problem, I said to myself... What I had in my hands didn’t resemble anything that the HRT or any civilian law enforcement agency should do: It was a military assault plan.”
“The execution paragraph said the snipers would form a perimeter around the compound. Then two armed personnel carriers would roll forward and loudspeakers would be used to order the occupants to surrender. If the Weavers ignored the orders for two days running, the ops plan said ‘The Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) will begin dismantling the outlying buildings by ramming them. If no compliance, tear gas will be deployed into the main house. Then the HRT would assault the house, arrest the adults and take control of the children...’ What the plan boiled down to was this: we’ll gas the place and rip it apart until everyone inside is too terrified to think straight, and then the HRT operators will go into close-quarters combat with women and children.” (Danny O. Coulson, FBI 302 report 7/13/93, p. 406-07)
Coulson faxed them back instructing HRT to contact headquarters for advice on negotiation tactics. He basically told them to stand down. (Ibid, P. 409)
There was a problem though; HRT didn’t let headquarters know that Richard Rogers had issued a special “Rule of Engagement” for the situation, under which any armed adult male could and should be shot on sight, without regard for whether he posed a danger to anyone, or even whether he had been called upon to surrender or knew there was anyone in his area. (Hardy, This Is Not An Assault, p.242)
Several of the FBI SWAT snipers believed this order was “crazy.” (Lee Hancock, “Ex-FBI Official’s Legacy Tied to Sieges,” Dallas Morning News, Oct. 3, 1999) The HRT Elite sniper team did not choose to be on the side of decency.
“An inquiry by the Justice Department criticized the FBI for failing to gather sufficient intelligence and for not ordering the residents of the cabin to surrender before engaging them in a firefight. It also concluded that Horiuchi’s second shot was unconstitutional because Harris and Weaver were running for cover and could not be considered imminent threats. The inquiry further alleged that Horiuchi unnecessarily endangered others by firing at the door of the cabin. Nevertheless, the U.S. Attorney General decided that criminal charges against Horiuchi were unwarranted. Prosecutors in Boundary county, Idaho, however, charged Horiuchi with involuntary manslaughter. The case was removed to a federal district court, which dismissed charges against Horiuchi, on the grounds that he was immune from prosecution because he was acting in his official capacity. An appeals court affirmed the district court’s ruling, but a second “en banc” (fuller complement of judges) panel reversed that decision and required that Horiuchi stand trial. Before a third, larger en banc panel could be convened to consider that decision, the state of Idaho announced that it was dropping charges, and all three earlier rulings were vacated.” (https://www.britannica.com/event/Ruby-Ridge)
The Ruby Ridge siege ended almost six months to the day before the ATF invaded Mount Carmel. The FBI’s own head of HRT had faulted them. The courts attempted to jail them. Segments of the public had protested them. The fact that they were going after someone who was guilty of “wrong-think” didn’t exclude them from criticism. The ATF was the strong-arm of the State and being immune from charges of committing violence against their neighbor was the only thing that saved them.