Excerpts from FRONTLINE interview with Jeff Jamar, FBI Special Agent in Charge and on site commander at Waco. Interview conducted August 7, 1995 in Austin, Texas.
Q: Why did you use the Bradleys?
A: The Bradleys are armored vehicles. They're called Bradley fighting vehicles. Of course we had all the firepower removed. There were no cannons or anything on them. We used them for transportation. And they're more than a personnel carrier--they're a track vehicle. I mean it's mud, just thick mud there the whole time. And the agents learned how to drive 'em. But the idea was to protect them as best we could. And we didn't know--they talked about blowing a 50 -- did they have rockets? Who knows? Did they have explosives buried in various vicinities? Are they prepared to run out with Molatov cocktails? What's in their mind?
So when he (Koresh) said we'll blow those (Bradleys) -- this is several days into the event, I started asking: What can we bring in, so we can still get around? Let's say that something happens to a Bradley, what can we bring in that can withstand most of what they might have? And so the Abrams were brought in. That's why -- when we were going to ask for the Abrams, I'm thinking -- I started asking: Isn't there something we can use like a truck, a tractor or a bulldozer? And they said, yeah, they got these CEV's. And they're tanks, you know, chassis, armored with a blade on them. And then we ended up getting a couple of those. We got more of them later.
And we had these breakdowns with them. And so we got these pullers. You know, this M-80, M-88, it was a thing to tow those things. Because they're throwing tracks in the mud and everything and it was really frustrating. But we decided that we needed to show them that maybe you think you can go blow up the Bradleys, but that's not going to be enough for you because we've got this too.
And that's what this was about. It was more to say: We're not going away; we're not going to sit still to let you do what you will to our people here. But again, no firepower. And we told them that. That's the other thing I want to get across, more than anything else: We didn't do anything without telling them first. Like: We're going to come on, we're going to be going to this house across the street; we're going to be doing this. If you listen to the tapes, we told them everything we did. So there was no surprises. We didn't want to provoke anything.
Q: What about the references to fire that were picked up here and there by some of the guys listening? Are those coming to you?
A: Yes, but it's not as many as you think. Remember, there were some literal ones early on with Steve, where he's saying ... "just don't match this place," and there was even -- you know, "how many fire extinguishers do you have?" That was very early on.
But there were several theological references, which was normal of the apocalypse view and all that. So there's nothing there to where we should have picked up that there was going to be a fire. There was nothing that clear. A lot of people think so. The apocalyptic theme is there. No question about that. But we should have known there was going to be a fire? I don't agree with that. I don't agree with that. The apocalyptic view, fire was always thrown out-- the scriptures, those references were there.
But I think -- we feared fire. Example, we discussed -- they had all this electronic equipment in there -- televisions and whatever else they may have had. What can we do to disrupt their communication? Well, we could spike with electricity -- you know, electrical charge, you can spike a house and kind of burn out all the circuits, but we didn't do that because we knew it was a tinder box. So, we didn't do that.
Q: What do you mean you knew it was a tinder box?
A: The way it was built. We knew that it was thrown together, you know, Lord knows how the wiring was. Nobody ever inspected the place, so you don't know what you could have done, so when that was suggested, we said, "No, we better not do that because we'll probably start a fire." And the ability to put a fire out was extremely limited there, so we didn't want to risk that.
But we feared all sorts of things. We feared the breakout, we feared mass suicide, we feared that all along. But we didn't dwell on one thing. We didn't dwell on it being fire. You know, the poisoning was always a possibility. Shooting, because they had plenty of guns. There are a lot of ways for them to destroy themselves.
Q: Going toward the end of March, what did you start seeing as your options?
A: I had already decided from maybe mid March on that he let out who he wanted to let out. We weren't going to talk anybody out. Nobody's going to come out on their own. Kathy Schroeder tells us she was thrown out. She didn't want to come out and he threw her out to be a spokesperson, and she kind of back-pedaled on him a little bit there.
From maybe mid March on or a little before that, I was convinced no one left that compound except for a disciplinary problem, a health problem. I think that early on the children and the two ladies -- the older ladies that came out were a buffer, you know, were giving him some time to get organized again.
Q: Based on that then, what are near the top of your list as options--is gas one of them?
A: Our options are very limited. What do we do, non-lethal? What actions can we take. And it's gas or it's-- we're not going to do anything. So, then we say, okay, if that's the decision, then we've got to live with what we have, and we've even got to communicate that to them, that we are setting this up like a prison and we're going to supply you with what you need and we'll just see what happens.
Because we'd go to the point then where you have to supply medical care, because you have to supply up those children. But see -- but from his actions on the 19th -- I'm not talking about me knowing this before the 19th, but from his actions on the 19th is he would not have permitted that. He would have forced the apocalyptic end.
Q: But you don't know that then.
A: Don't know for sure, and that's why we took the risk. If we knew it was going to be suicide, we wouldn't have done it. We would have said, "Hey" -- you know, it's like I said the other day, if I'd have heard on the microphone, "I'll tell you what, if they pull anything, this is the plan, we're going to spread the fuel and burn everybody up, is what we're going to do," we'd have played that back to them and we wouldn't have done a thing.
We'd have put -- like everybody said, make it a federal prison. And that would have been the option. And I don't think we'd had any others had we known that. But he still would have had that end. I'm convinced, by what he did on the 19th, that he had to have that end.
Q: Why did you decide to use Dick DeGuerin? A lot of guys were telling you you're crazy for doing that.
A: Very early on in March, a lot of lawyers were calling in, a lot of self-appointed lawyers. Koresh's mother had hired Dick DeGuerin, and I had heard of the name--knew he's from Houston, called the US Attorney's Office to see -- well regarded as a defense attorney and very capable and accomplished attorney. So, I called back and talked to him, and I said, "Just let you know that you're the only one I've talked to, you're not self-appointed, and if it serves the investigation, I may re-contact you." That's all I said. And he tried habeas corpus, he did all sorts of things. Well, later on -- this is then by late March, mid to late March -- thinking, okay, we got the idea that maybe we'll appeal to him -- Koresh's self-interest--by having a real good attorney. And the guy remained involved and was very active. And there were reports that he was on TV. So, they were seeing--here's a person working for him. And we notified each person -- we sent letters in from lawyers to -- example, Steve Snyder got a lawyer we'd send in, let you know, here's this person been hired by your family, and all that. We did all that retainment. So, I decided to let DeGuerin get on the phone with Koresh. We didn't record it. The understanding was, it's attorney/client relationship, absolutely confidential. He was not sent in to be a third-party negotiator, he was sent in to be Koresh's attorney.
We did not view them as representing defendants, which is a technical concern because once your lawyer's appointed you can't talk to me anymore. Because they weren't in custody, we didn't consider them to be. We just continued conversations with him. I thought he would be safe. And so we decided to let him go up to the door. So, that occurred. He was asking to go in. So, we had discussions. And this is a perfect way of putting it. The prosecutors were against it, the Rangers were against it, ATF was against it, most of the FBI was against it, all the SACs were against it except Bob Ricks. And other than that, it was a popular decision.
But I decided that if we're going to do this, that they're worried about him -- here's a defense attorney unescorted into a crime scene. Well, he could, you know, he can communicate on the phone about destruction of evidence, you know, he didn't have to be there to do that. He could be more effective in -- I'm not saying he would obstruct justice or anything, I'm not saying he would do that, but there's ways of communicating, you know, how you could get that communicated to a defendant without obstructing justice.
So, I mean, people were outraged. I mean, everybody was just outraged that I permitted that. And for their point of view, I didn't blame them. But I explained it to them this is what my thinking was and I decided to do it.
Q: What did you hope would happen?
A: I would hope--here's a very accomplished attorney, extremely effective at communicating with people, who is his attorney, is going to appeal to his self-interest. He could convince him that there's a shot at not getting the death penalty maybe. He might get a lot of time, he had a chance of getting off. You just don't know what he could persuade him to do. And to settle some other things, which Dick DeGuerin tried to do, like the title to the property, that's in conflict. There's conflict over who really owns that property. He came up with an adverse possession argument for him, showing he could get it by adverse possession since he's been there, you know, all that. So, all that sort of thing was discussed, I think, in general terms. We weren't given any detail. There were some contracts signed, I believe. With a view of the long term.