Twenty five years ago Wednesday, the government raided the Branch Davidians' Mount Carmel Center religious complex near Elk, Texas – 13 miles northeast of Waco. Six church members and four ATF agents were killed in the shootout.
It all started with a warrant over the possibility the Branch Davidians were possessing illegal weapons.
“We don't seem to have come too far in appreciating how we regulate guns and what we do about that problem,” says attorney Dan Cogdell who represented one of the survivors. “If anything has changed, that debate and those questions have not.”
The standoff lasted 51 days until the complex burned to the ground April 19, 1993 when the government's armored vehicles rolled in, killing 76 more Branch Davidians.
Cogdell insists authorities knew the Branch Davidians would use fire as a defense against armored vehicles because they had bugged the complex and heard their plans.
“Law enforcement was keenly aware that fire was, if not possible, highly likely and instead they proceeded with the tactics, the house caught and fire and men, women and children died that day. It's just an unconscionable act,” he says.
The images of Mount Carmel burning with people still inside, combined with the debate over gun rights, religious freedom and role of the government sparked retaliation two years later.
“Timothy McVeigh literally sat and watched part of the Waco seige as it unfolded, and that was a tipping point for him which ultimately resulted in he and others bombing the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.”