Confronting his former bosses at the witness table, an undercover agent testified Monday they proceeded with the Waco raid even after he passionately warned them David Koresh had been tipped off. Then they lied about it, he said at congressional hearings.
“Until this day, they can still sit there and lie,” said Robert Rodriguez, an agent of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. “Those two men know what I told them. Instead of admitting to the American people right after the raid that they had made a mistake, that the element of surprise had been lost, … they lied to the public.”
The 18-year law enforcement veteran had been inside the compound a number of times and was sent back on the morning of the Feb. 28, 1993, raid.
As Koresh talked about the Bible, Rodriguez said, “everything was normal, … nothing was wrong.” When Koresh returned after being called away to the phone, “he was shaking real bad. He was breathing real hard. When he grabbed the Bible, he was shaking so bad he couldn’t read it.”
Eventually, the agent said, Koresh walked to a window, opened the shade and looked out. Then he turned and said, “They’re coming, Robert. The time has come.”
Rodriguez managed to leave the compound a short time later, drove to ATF’s undercover house and called Chuck Sarabyn. “When I spoke to him, I was very emotional, and I said, ‘Chuck, Chuck, they know, Chuck. They know we’re coming,”’ Rodriguez said.
But Sarabyn and Phillip Chojnacki said Rodriguez did not convey the gravity of the situation and that Koresh often spoke of an approaching confrontation. “We didn’t know if (Koresh) meant in the physical sense or the metaphysical sense,” Chojnacki testified.
Earlier, when Sarabyn and Chojnacki told the same story to government investigators, the Treasury Department concluded they were lying. Lewis Merletti, deputy director of the Treasury review, said Monday that 61 witnesses described Sarabyn responding to Rodriguez’s warning by telling agents: “Hurry up. Koresh knows we’re coming.”
The raid erupted into a firefight, leaving four ATF agents and six cult members dead. A 51-day siege ended in a windswept conflagration that killed the 81 cult members still inside.