97ºF

Former videographer remembers 51-day siege that left 76 Brand Davidians dead 25 years ago

Agents used psychological tactics to coax Davidians out of compound

NEAR WACO, Texas – For 51 days, a former videographer documented the historic siege that ended when the Branch Davidian compound burned just outside of Waco. Bage Anderson recounted the event on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.

“My beeper went off, and I called my bureau chief and he said, ‘There's been some shooting down in Waco. Pack your bags for three days,’” said Anderson, a former CNN videographer.

On Feb. 28, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI attempted an illegal weapons raid on the Branch Davidian compound, a religious sect based outside of Waco. The raid was unsuccessful, and six Davidians and four ATF agents were fatally shot.

Anderson spent almost two months capturing the siege that followed.

“Every day was like the same thing over and over again, and you wondered, ‘Will this be the day they come out?’” Anderson said.

The Davidians were holed up in their compound for 51 days. Anderson said he remembers seeing federal agents using psychological tactics to try and get them out.

“I heard repeated recordings of pile drivers at like 120 decibels or more, rabbits being slaughtered, a phone off the hook. They played on a loop — Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking,’” Anderson said.

On April 19, 1993, federal agents used tanks to break through the walls of the compound and fired gas rockets inside to get the Davidians to come out. The compound went up in flames.

“I kept expecting to see people coming out, and they never did,” Anderson said.

Seventy-six Davidians died in the fire.

Anderson said he wants people to know that the event didn’t happen in Waco, but in Elk, a small community outside of the city with a population of about 300 people. Anderson’s wife, Liz Anderson, a native Waconian, agrees.

“There was a negative connotation. A lot of people made fun of it,” she said.

The couple said Waco, a city known for its hospitality, should not be defined by the tragedy.


About the Author: