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tv   Witness to Waco  MSNBC  October 25, 2015 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT

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armageddon. >> they were jihadists, they were terror is tick, they were death cult. >> when people have been so demonized, it's easy to come in and destroy them and people not to have sympathy. >> dawn breaks on a cloudy morning in late february as the atf prepares for the raid on the branch davidian property. >> waco, texas, baby. >> what was supposed to happen was they were supposed to arrest david and any people who resisted. >> agents planned to take advantage with the element of surprise by converging on the group while the men worked outside, but they never get the chance. >> they learn that the guys probably wouldn't be outside that morning because it had rained and the shelter they were digging was all mud.
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there was nobody outside working. >> this is not developing the way it's supposed to develop. something's gone wrong. there are all kinds of clear signs that this was not going to happen, and they made a fatal wrong decision, which was to proceed. >> i had woken up kind of late, and david koresh came down the stairs, and there were three or four of the guys with him. and they said, now, everybody, they're coming. they're on their way. don't anybody do anything stupid. we're going to go talk to them and try to work this out. >> suddenly gunfire rips through the compound. >> they begin to exit the vehicles and they immediately come under fire from the compound. >> i was. at the front door, so i can't say. but what i can say is that
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according to some of the people that i spoke to, they all claim that the spots were coming from the outside into the building and david fired back. >> i opened the front door and they were running up in combat dress, guns aimed and everything, hollering. i fell back in the door. the bullets started coming through. i yelled "go away, there's women and children in here. let's talk." when the bullets started coming through the front door, some of the young men started firing on them. we wanted to talk it out with these people.
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>> i think that "who shot first" question is a bit of a red herring. first off, they were uniformed, they were wearing badges, they called out that they had a search warrant. at any point someone presented them a threat to their lives or serious bodily injury, under the fed ru federal rules of engagement, they're authorized and expected to use deadly force. >> we defended ourselves against a power that was coming and shooting at us. we didn't go gunning for them. they went gunning for us, and that's just the bottom line. >> 49 minutes into the botched raid, david koresh himself calls 911 and speaks with the local police. >> even with this 911 call, and people have been firing and people have been killed, david immediately begins talking about the seven seals, and i think that, in a literal as well as a more symbolic way, tells us all about waco.
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>> can i interrupt you for a minute? >> sure. >> we can talk theology. >> this is life. this is life and death. theology is life and death. >> yes, sir. i agree with that. >> even with this 911 call and people have been fire and people have been killed, david immediately begins talking about the seven seals and i think in a literal as well as a more symbolic way tells us all about wa waco, that if he wants to stop the firing, he clearly should not be expected to suddenly get
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a cup of coffee and get his bible out. >> a cease-fire is finally negotiated, allowing shell-shocked atf agents to remove the bodies of the dead and injured from the property. >> i was driving into atf headquarters and my cell phone rang and it was the command post. and the first question they asked is where are you. i said i'm about 10, 15 minutes out of the office. and they said, stop by, please. i said, what happened? the answer was the worst. >> four agents are dead.
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inside mt. carmel, five branch davidians are mortally wounded and several are injured, including david koresh. >> his blood pressure was terribly low because of the loss of blood. he refused medication, antibiotics, aspirin, anything. he said, the lord is going to decide this. >> so you can know -- >> koresh doesn't die. he treats the wound himself and makes the decision that he and his followers will remain inside the compound. >> no one is going to expect me when they come busting in on my door with guns drawn and pointed in the air and someone fire at me that i'm going to lie down
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and die for anybody. it just ain't going to happen in this country. >> in just a few hour, the raid that was supposed to go off without incident is deemed a complete disaster. >> there was an absolute lack of plan b, and all the team leaders i talked to say, my only regret in my career in my life was that i didn't stop it. >> by the early afternoon, the atf calls in the fbi to handle negotiations, marking the beginning of what will become one of the longest standoffs in law enforce mnlts history. >> it was a sunday morning when the phone rang and i picked it up and it was my boss, and without any preamble, without any introduction, jeff starts out by saying, byron, there's been a raid that's gone horribly wrong. get to waco as soon as you can and assist with negotiations. i jumped in the shower, asked my wife to throw some clothes in a bag, and i said, honey, this is
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negotiations in the standoff between cult leader david koresh and federal authorities surrounding his compound are apparently going nowhere. >> police negotiators are even consulting with biblical scholars looking for any way they can to negotiate with koresh, the man who claims to be the messiah. >> hours after the failed atf raid, the fbi assumes command of negotiations with the branch davidians.
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almost immediately they secure the release of some of the elderly and a handful of children. >> we got, i believe, six or eight kids out within the first 10, 12 hours. this is a huge indicator that we're making progress. >> the fbi continues to negotiate with koresh. within hours, they strike a deal. >> he agreed to surrender and come out and face the music, so to speak, if he could just have an hour on national radio. >> we contacted the christian broadcasting network in waco because we were trying to do anything we could to get a peaceful resolution. >> okay. here we go. we're going to the tape of david koresh. >> what do you want to talk about? >> who's the king? could it be christ? did god write a book? does god want to talk about his son according to a book?
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what does god think about his son? >> so he did give this 58-minute speech. it was an absolute disaster. definitely the average person would not understand it, and even most people who did, didn't get it a lot of attention. >> what's funny about that is i thought the tape was one of the least impressive things i've heard david say. i'm not sure why that's why he released, but that's what he released. >> despite the disappointing broadcast, the fbi and the branch davidians each prepare for a mass surrender. >> when we thought we were getting out, there was an incredible feeling like the weight of the world off your shoulders, like great, we're not going to die here. >> i believe the women were to come out first, and the men were to come out afterward with their hands up to show that they
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weren't armed. so there was a procession negotiated. >> all of a sudden, the antennas start to go up, and have i been so totally duped that this individual has lied to all of us and then david finally gets on the line and says, my god has told me to wait. how do you negotiate against god? >> what is your name? >> in an effort to gain intelligence from inside the compound, the fbi provides koresh with a video camera. what they get back is shocking. >> a question that everybody wants to know, do you want to leave? are you being held here against
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your will? do you -- >> hey, listen. i came here freely. i'm a free agent. i came by myself. i paid my own way. i came and went as i pleased. >> this was such an unprecedented event because what we had here really was not a traditional hostage situation where the bad guys come in, he seizes some innocent people, he's using them for leverage. this is not what we had. we had a barricaded situation with over 100 willing participants. >> do you have a desire to leave here? >> no. nobody is holding a gun at my head making me stay. >> i have decided to stay. i don't want to go. >> so you're not being held against your will here? >> no. >> do you want to leave here? >> no, i don't want to leave here. i feel quite safe here. >> i'm not held here as a hostage or anything. if i ever want to leave, we can just go now, today. >> i'm here because i wanted to be here. >> is anyone holding you here
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against your will? >> only god. >> only god? >> only god. it's his will and his will be done. >> i could have left at any time. i didn't want to. especially during the siege after being attacked, you know, it's like this is the choice i've made, this is my community, and we either live together or die together. that was my attitude. >> we would constantly go back at them. david, we need to get some more kids out of there. please get them out of potential harm's way. he says, wait a minute, you don't understand. the rest of these children are my children. they're not coming out. >> his name is cyrus. come sit over here, son. how old are you? >> 7. >> 7. say hello to everybody.
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>> hi. >> wave at them. >> david believed his children had god's dna. that his children were to help judge the world. >> you know, the question is, what am i doing? what am i doing with all these children, you know? what's really going on here? these children that i have are for a reason, and unless we really have the ear and the eyes to open ourself up to be able to read, really read the scriptures and understand the prophesies and a lot of the seven seals, the explanation would seem almost foolish. >> if he had sent his children out, this would have been equivalent to giving up on his theological project, which was to be christ at end-of-world times. it would be sending off the jury
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that he was going to use to judge the world. >> this is my family and no one is going to come in and push my family around. it's just not going to happen. ain't going to happen. >> when he came up with that emphatic statement, these are my children, they are not coming out, we knew we had a major problem. and that was a clear indicator that this was not going to be a peaceful resolution. >> both sides just lost any kind of trust or faith in the other. period. looks like some folks have had it with their airline credit card miles. sometimes those seats cost a ridiculous number of miles... or there's a fee to use them. i know. it's so frustrating. they'd be a lot happier with the capital one venture card. and you would, too! why? it's so easy with venture. you earn unlimited double miles on every purchase, every day. just book any flight you want then use your miles to cover the cost. now, that's more like it. what's in your wallet?
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hope for a break in the texas cult standoff flickers, then fades. >> members of an armed cult near waco, texas, are observing passover and continuing their standoff with federal agents. >> after days of failed negotiations with david koresh, the fbi struggles to maintain control. >> he says that he did not fulfill his promise to leave immediately with his followers because god told him to wait. >> i felt embarrassed. i felt angry. i felt let down. i felt concerned over the welfare of the people inside that compound. >> we are going through a very frustrating and disappointing period in the negotiation process. >> in my opinion, david koresh didn't come out because federal officers had been killed. he knew that he faced criminal charges. probable incarceration.
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and he could not stand the idea of not being the king of kings. the ruler of a group that absolutely idolized and worshipped him. >> the general mistake made by the fbi, by the press and the public was to project themselves onto koresh, to say oh, he's a human being like me, so he has the same motivations i do. that was never true. the people in mt. carmel were motivated by strange and deep religious convictions. >> in their minds, the davidians are now in a war between good and evil. what to the rest of the world looks like a standoff plays right into corer's end-of-days scenario. >> david koresh had manipulated his followers to believe that the end would come. and it would come soon.
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and they would face persecution. they saw this as the fulfillment of his divine revelation, of his prophecy about the end of the world. and in this confrontation with government authorities, they really felt they were living in the last days. >> while the davidians appear unshaken by the lengthy occupation, the frustration within the agency's ranks begin to show. >> we continued to negotiate and try to get as many people out as we could, but then we started becoming our own worst enemy. >> i know that as the siege wore on, the tactical people, meaning those fbi agents who were driving tanks and manning
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weapons became more and more aggressive and that this harmed the negotiations because as far as the people inside mt. carmel were concerned, this showed bad faith. >> they had no respect for us at all. some of the girls would talk about guys on the tanks would be mooning them and giving us the finger. >> for weeks corer and his followers have been subjected to the steady roar of helicopters and tanks. there are floodlights, spotlights, weird sound effects, and loud music over a p.a. system at night. >> do we think what we're doing is possibly giving david a headache? i would only say i would hope so. >> when a man drives over your car with a tank, you don't feel like negotiating with him. when he's mooning you, you don't feel like negotiating with him. when he's playing the sound of
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chickens being killed at high volume all night at your house, it doesn't lend itself to negotiations. so i think what we can say is the longer the siege went on, the less influential the negotiators were. >> the fbi were incredibly stubborn during that, and you know what? david koresh was too. after a certain period of time, both sides just lost any kind of trust or faith in the other, period. and then it became a pissing contest. it really became a territorial thing, and neither side was backing down. >> i believed in the fbi as a kid, but they became liars to me. they just became -- god, they fit the profile scripturally of
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pride and arrogance to the extreme, and it was absolute power run amok. and i felt sorry for them, the agents and the people that were behaving that way. >> after four long weeks with no break in the negotiations, david koresh meets with his legal counsel. >> that marathon siege in waco, texas, it might just be that the end is now just a short distance away. >> so far today, they have had two face-to-face meetings with his client david koresh inside the besieged branch davidian compound. >> dick advised us there had been a major breakthrough and david had agreed to exit, and he would exit as soon as he had finished writing his manuscript of the meaning of the seven seals of the book of revelation. we took that kind of tongue and cheek because by this time we had several examples of how they had promised one thing and not delivered.
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>> so the test i've been offered you individuals is very simple. >> he was very focused on it, took it very seriously. i think it would have been his life's work. it would have been something that definitely he would have said, this is who i am. this is who -- why we went through this. this is why i have all these kids. >> there are things god has concealed in his written word that are brought to be done right before the end of time. >> one of the other negotiators said, you know, david, how long do you anticipate this? it's my understanding it took about 600 years to write the books of the bible. and he said, oh, no, no, no. it will take me about two days per seal. >> just tell me this, david. are you saying that when you finish that manuscript -- >> i'll be out. >> i know you'll be out, but
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that could mean a lot of things, david. >> i'll be in custody, sent to the jailhouse. >> no. but you no -- >> if you listen to those tapes, what i call the last words of david koresh, and they are his last recorded words. he was very upbeat. he talks about he's writing the manuscript. plus i just think they wanted out. >> the fbi's intent and utmost effort was to resolve this thing peacefully. and in that effort, we failed. this bale of hay cannot be controlled. when a wildfire raged through elkhorn ranch, the sudden loss of pasture became a serious problem for a family business.
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i'm richard lui with your top stories. the driver who drove through a crowd says she does not remember driving her car into the crowd. 25-year-old adacia chambers is being charmed with dui, but those charges could be upgraded. the lawyer for chambers says he does not believe she was under the influence of alcohol, though hi did not rule out possible drug use and he also thinks she suffers from mental illness. now back to our msnbc special. we have had no firm indication as to a final
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resolution of this matter. that, again, will only be determined by mr. koresh. >> on the evening of the 18th of april, steve schneider gets on the phone with the negotiation team, and we're continuing to press him. steve, we need something. you've told us, he's done with the first seal. send it out. >> we got nothing, absolutely nothing. >> when we briefed up the boss, and told him that we had not gotten anything tangible to prove that david was even working on this, that was it. that was the straw that broke the camel's back. by this time, the department of justice has authorized the use of tear gas and the decision was made to go forward the next day. >> in an effort to drive the davidians out, the fbi readies tanks to insert tear gas into the compound. >> i think the fbi knew that you could never take david's word for final. he had proved that.
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and so it was quite reasonable for them to doubt that david would come after he wrote the explanations of the seals. on the other hand, that doesn't mean you had to ram his house with tanks. >> the morning of april 19th, the phone was ringing and ringing, and no one was getting the phone. and i remember going down the hall, pecking up the phone, and the negotiator said, we need to speak with steve or david right now, the siege is over. we're going to be putting tear gas into the building and approaching the building. do not fire at us or we will fire back. >> what we were trying to convey to them is, this is not intended to bring injury to you, but you need to understand that this is a nation of law, and we are now
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telling you that this siege is over and you're under arrest. >> we are continuing to place tear gas into the building. do not shoot. david, you have had your 15 minutes of fame. it's time to leave the building. >> i'd been through tear gas. i had been through tear gas in military training, i've been through tear gas in law enforcement training, and i will tell you that, without a doubt, if my family was inside this room, and somebody put tear gas in here, i would do everything that i possibly could to get them to a position of safety. and that's exactly what we banked on. that natural parental instinct to get your loved ones out of that kind of hostile environment. and, quite frankly, we were wrong. and to a devastating end, we were wrong.
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>> when you see a tank coming through your front door and shooting gas at you, you don't think that there's going to be a very good response for you if you exit through the hole it just made. the tanks would be coming up to the building, and then you'd hear like glass crashing. little ferret rounds. you could hear the gas seep out from them. >> we are continuing introduce tear gas into the building. >> people were crying. some people were protesting. nothing you can really do. everyone is scared. and then i heard someone say there was a fire. and i literally just saw a wall
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of name in front of me. i got as low to the floor as i could. and i could feel like a warm spot on the side of my face, and all the hair was singeing off. i looked up and the window was broken where the tank had come through, and i just instinctively went out the hole at that point. it's funny, my recollection is it's better to be shot than burned to death. >> we are seeing this man who has come out apparently to surrender. he's up and moving toward the north end of the compound. >> i can tell you without hesitation, looking you straight in the eye, that the fbi's intent and desire and utmost effort was to resolve this thing peacefully. and in that effort, we failed.
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>> with camera crews from around the world rolling, mt. carmel is reduced to a smoldering pile of ashes. >> everything else is in flames. i want to interrupt and tell you -- >> they didn't want him to come out. they wanted to kill him. there's not enough. there's going to be a bunch of them that are going to die right there in that fire for no reason. >> by the time the standoff happened, i had completely separated my belief system from not only vernon, but the entire branch davidians. and when i watched that fire, it was very traumatizing for me. >> fire, a very large fire, has
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broken out among the compound buildings. >> i kept expecting to see all these people pouring out, and i didn't see anybody. i watched all those people die on live television. so many of them that i knew, i grew up with, babies i saw born. it was just absolutely horrifying. and yet it was mixed with a, please let vernon be gone. >> according to the department of justice, 75 branch davidians die in the blaze, including 25 children under the age of 15. david thibodaux and eight others survive the fire. they are treated for their burns
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and promptly arrested. >> i remember after i went through all the checkpoints and i was finally in a cell all alone, i was all right. i was actually -- i had an amazing amount of strength then. i just remember thinking, you know, my friends are now all around me and always with me all the time and that they have gone onto that next experience where i'm left to stay in this one. and it wasn't as devastating as it probably would be to people that didn't have the kind of faith that we did. >> authorities in texas say they have identified the body of cult leader david koresh pulled from the rubble of the branch davidian compound. although officials say koresh apparently died of a gunshot wound to the head, they aren't saying whether he shot himself. >> david koresh and steven schneider were found together, burned. and both of them dead of what
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appear to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but the ballistics don't allow anyone to decide who shot wh did each shoot himself or, as some people think, did schneider shoot koresh and then shoot himself? we don't know. >> david koresh dying as he did from gunshot wounds, that was indicative of, in my opinion, that he did not want to suffer in the fire. dying by being burned to death is a horribly painful way to die, and in the end, his death was easier than theirs. >> vernon was a coward right up until the very end, because only a coward is going to burn people to death purposefully and then die easy with a bullet.
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>> the fire was set by the cult members. >> did you feel -- did you start to second-guess yourself, thinking perhaps this was. the right decision? >> do you think this was mishandled? >> attorney general janet reno scrambles to defend her use of tear gas and tanks on the davidian compound. >> he might have gotten fed up and executed the plan he rehearsed march 2nd by putting on explosives and coming out and blowing up fbi agents and you have ask me why i hadn't moved earlier. >> with the media's glare now on the government, the fbi swiftly blames david koresh for the devastating loss of life. >> david koresh controlled those people's lives absolutely. absolutely. he's the one responsible for their deaths. >> even newly elected president bill clinton jumps in to defend the agency. >> we know that david koresh had sex with children.
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where i come from, that qualifies as child abuse. >> just days after the fire, branch davidian david thibodaux places the blame for the deadly inferno squarely on the fbi. >> what was the cause of the fire? >> pardon me? >> tanks. >> more than a decade later, he's not so sure. >> in my opinion, how did the fire start? i simply don't know. i just don't know. i don't believe that anyone inside set that fire. i didn't see anybody pouring any kind of fluid or any kind of xcelerant or anything like that. and my understanding is the accelerant that is used to disperse cs gas in a room is flammable. i've talked to fire marshals who said that as soon as they saw the tanks go in and make those big holes, they knew that building was going to go up like
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a tinderbox. >> but the official word from arson investigators paints a very different picture. >> the team believes this fire was intentionally set by persons inside the compound. >> when the fire first took place, my assumption was that the tanks had started the fire. and then as more evidence came out, there are some tapes, they usually call the bug tapes, they were the little listening devices that were put into place -- >> these tapes aren't real easy to hear, but i think there's enough that indicates talk about the davidians spreading oil, planning to possibly light the place. >> what we don't know is was
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that a defensive measure or a suicidal measure? in other words, some sort of idea that if they come in to get us, we will create a wall of fire around the camp of god, and we will be caught up into heaven. now, as crazy as that sounds, there's scriptures that are in the prophets that koresh was aware of that say, i will make a wall of fire around you and save you. >> you don't kill yourself if you're a spiritual person. you can't take your own life. you can't expect salvation and squander the life you're given. and i don't believe that anyone inside set that fire. >> no, there's no plans for suicide at all. >> eight months after the blaze, the government's case against the branch davidians is brought to court.
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>> in san antonio today, the nightmare final hours of the branch davidian standoff came back to life, as the prosecution rested its case against 11 cult members accused of killing four federal agents last february. >> why are you here? >> to see if there's justice. >> they were charged with conspiracy to murder federal agents and the murder of federal agents and of using a firearm to do that. and with various gun possession charges. >> all 11 defendants plead not guilty. in the end all are acquitted of murder and conspiracy charges. seven are found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. of these five are also guilty of carrying a firearm in the commission of a crime. >> i was bitterly disappointed
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at the verdict, but at the same time, the jury did hold them. they did go to prison. >> most defendants get 15 years in prison, but their sentences are later reduced. david thibodaux is only held as a material witness and never charged with a crime. >> oh, the trial was disgusting. what a piece of sh -- in my estimation, the wrong people were tried, the wrong people went to jail in the aftermath of what happened at waco. bring us your aching
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tand that's what we're doings to chat xfinity.rself, we are challenging ourselves to improve every aspect of your experience. and this includes our commitment to being on time. every time. that's why if we're ever late for an appointment, we'll credit your account $20. it's our promise to you. we're doing everything we can to give you the best experience possible. because we should fit into your life. not the other way around. the long legal battle over the long davidian siege of the compound was ruled friday. >> tha jury ruled they were noto blame for the cult's death. >> after a criminal trial, civil
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trial, two congressional hearing and countless in choiries, those in the tragedy remained divided. >> there are those people who will never believe that way co-occurred because of the simple fact that david koresh broke the law and that the government came to enforce the law. they would rather believe in conspiracy theories because they don't want to face the reality of what waco really represents, which is there are cults, destructive cults that exist within our country and around the world and there is this potential for tragedy. >> handful of branch davidians still worship at mt. carmel under the leadership of a man named charles pace. evidence of the fire serves as a
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painful reminder of what took place in 1993. and blakes commemorate those who lost their lives in the raid and in the fire. david koresh's name is not among them. >> he represents satan, a created being, who thoughtthou was god. do you understand what i'm saying. you do not sit in the seat of god. g god the creator sits in that place. but vernon howell did do what god asked him to do, so this would be a literal example of what god is going to do. putting man in the place of god.
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i believe vernon howell, the one who played the part, will be resurrected, raised from the dead. the very ones that thought they killed him and slaughtered him here, without a trial, without a judgment, he's going to come back to judge them. >> to the best of my knowledge, he is still quite dead, and it's unfortunate because i would have thoroughly enjoyed to be able to analyze and assess and come to grips with the motivations of somebody that could intentionally lead particularly those kids to oblivion. there's a special place in hell for david koresh. >> i'm ready to be delivered. i'm ready to go to the portals of darkness and death, and you're not. let's see if you believe the
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message after so many years. >> given the behavior of david koresh, the lives he destroyed, the people he killed, the families he ripped apart, the children that he abused, and all that he did, it's hard to view him as anything other than a monst monster. >> my own opinion on it is that he was sin sewer, that he failed, but that he had convinced himself that he was who he said he was. that's my sense of studying messiahs throughout history. he's not the first, certainly not the last. >> the thing about apocalyptic movements is it has a very serious effect on your life. my father taught me i'm not going to have to grow up, the world is going to go to end, so
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i don't have to go to college, right? so i didn't go to college. i joined a cult instead. >> i enjoyed the adventure. i'm sorry for the outcome. i wish things wouldn't have happened. wish david didn't do certain things and i wish the authorities didn't do certain things, but i don't apologize for it. >> it didn't start out as a cult, but it ended as a cult. after vernon, i refused to ever allow myself to give up that kind of reality to anyone or anything ever again. now i'm an atheist. ♪ there's a mad man living in waco who's bough his knee to death ♪ ♪ won't you help me
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so we won't fail ♪ when the plane first banked over jonestown, it looked like a quilt, and we didn't know what we were seeing until someone in the cockpit said, "those are bodies." >> die with a degree of dignity, lay down your life with dignity.

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