- Text smaller
- Text bigger
It was Sunday morning. My in-laws were visiting. My father-in-law, a
retired Marine, had just announced “church call” and proceeded to make
himself a Bloody Mary and hand me a beer. The TV was on, but no one was
paying any attention to it until the TV station broke in with a news
bulletin. What we saw was a scene out of a violent us-versus-them movie.
Government agents dressed in black, Nazi style helmets and black ski
masks firing semi as well as fully automatic weapons indiscriminately
into the side of a building. There were no visible targets, just people
with jackets that said “ATF” on the back, hiding behind trucks and cars,
shooting into the side of a building as though it were an empty old
We were told by a news head that the ATF had come under heavy fire
while attempting to serve a search warrant on a heavily armed religious
fanatic named Vernon Howell and his cult followers inside a fortified
Something didn’t seem right to me. The more I watched, the more I
questioned. If there is such heavy fire coming from inside, why are some
of the ATF agents standing in the open firing into the building? How
could they get close enough to put two ladders up against the building
and climb onto the roof?
Finally a cease-fire was announced and the ATF agents retreated. If
the people inside were so despicable, why didn’t they pick off agents
during the retreat? Why did they honor the cease-fire? If he were this
crazed person that the talking heads were claiming that Vernon Howell
was, why wasn’t he killing as many ATF agents as he could while they had
their tails between their legs and were moving back to safety?
A hasty news conference was called. ATF spokeswoman Sharon Wheeler
stated, “We were outgunned.” Another news conference, a different ATF
agent: “I can unequivocally tell you we were not outgunned.”
Whoa! A contradiction! A nice way of saying that someone is lying.
Something was drastically wrong. Where was this TV footage coming
from? How could a TV station have been at Mount Carmel and shot this
footage unless they had been alerted? Waco is over an hour south of
Dallas. Huh uh, I ain’t buying it. There is a skunk in the woodpile.
Being a radio talk show host on KGBS Radio in Dallas, I knew then and
there that I was going to voice my opinion the next day on the air come
hell or high water.
And I did.
I had never heard of Vernon Howell or the Branch Davidians. All I
knew was that the ATF was pounding hard on him, making wild accusations
that had nothing to do with the reason for the search warrant. Vilifying
him and his followers.
It wasn’t until Sunday night that we learned that Vernon Howell had
changed his name legally to David Koresh.
The next day, Monday, March 1, I went on the air at 9 a.m. and said,
“There are two sides to every story and we are only hearing the side of
Thus began 51 days of hell. Nothing for me compared to what was
wrought on David Koresh and the Branch Davidians inside Mount Carmel.
KGBS was a 50,000-watt radio station in Dallas that could be heard in
Waco. I didn’t know, nor did I care, if the Branch Davidians could or
were listening. I was doing my program. I wasn’t only questioning what
the government was doing; I damned well let them know how I felt.
My telephone lines were jammed with calls from 9 a.m. till noon every
day after that with listeners sometimes waiting for nearly an hour to
get on the air. Most of them felt the same way that I did about the
On March 5, a caller suggested that I try to find out if the Branch
Davidians were listening to my program. He suggested that if they were
listening that they should move their satellite dish. Two minutes later
the dish moved. I had made contact.
I knew there had to be wounded inside Mount Carmel in addition to the
wounds we knew that David Koresh had received. I also knew that no
medical personnel had gone into Mount Carmel to care for the wounded. I
stated on the air that we treat our prisoners of war better than we were
treating our own citizens. When we take a POW, we see that he gets
medical treatment and
is cared for. Our government wasn’t doing that for its own citizens. I
asked if they needed medical help inside? They moved the dish indicating
Although I didn’t know it at the time, On March 8, at about 11:45
a.m., I was set up by the FBI. A woman caller got on the air and claimed
to be Judy Fatta, a Branch Davidian and she wanted to say something to
David Koresh. There was no way that I could get confirmation as to
whether she was or wasn’t who she claimed to be, so I allowed her on the
air. She said, “David, you know I’m out here. You know that I have a lot
of money, and you know that I will do everything I can to help. I’m not
worried about my eight-year-old daughter in there with you. I know you
will take care of her.” I had to go into a break and told Judy to hold
on. When I came out of the commercial break and went back to her, she
had hung up. I finished my program and signed off.
Five minutes after getting off the air, my general manager called me
into his office: “The FBI is on the phone. They want to talk to you.”
The agent told me that David Koresh had heard the phone call from the
woman claiming to be a Branch Davidian. He was very upset: “There is no
Branch Davidian named Judy Fatta and I don’t have any daughter of hers
inside Mount Carmel.” The agent
told me that Koresh wanted me to go on the air immediately and let the
listeners know that the call was bogus. I did. It wasn’t until some time
later that I learned that the call had come from a female agent trying
to find out if David Koresh was really listening to my show.
I went to Waco with two doctors on March 10, and began doing my
program from what had become known as Satellite City, where all the news
media had been pushed back to by the ATF and FBI, “For their own
safety,” two miles away from Mount Carmel.
The government wouldn’t allow the doctors access. While I was doing
my program live from Satellite City that morning, a CBS TV technician
came up to me and said that the FBI was looking for me. If they found me
or if I didn’t leave immediately, they were going to move the press back
another mile and they, “wouldn’t be able to see a damned thing.” That
was the last thing I wanted to have happen so I folded up and left the
That same morning, March 10, during their bogus, lying, vilifying
press briefing, FBI agent Bob Ricks burned me because the Branch
Davidians responded to me. He said, “These efforts are counter
productive. What this caused was the negotiation process to be
The next day, in an article in the Dallas Morning News by Ed Bark, he
reported that Dallas Channel 5 reporter Mike Androvett asked me, “Are
you concerned at all about being used by them (the Davidians)?” My
response was, “No. How can someone you don’t know, have never seen and
never talked to, use you? On the other hand, you are nothing but a bunch
of lap dogs sitting in the press briefing room every day waiting for
your doggy treat and then reporting everything you are told as fact. You
haven’t investigated a damned thing and in the briefings, you aren’t
asking the right questions.” The only portion of the statement used by
Mr. Bark was, “you aren’t asking the right
One Dallas TV reporter who didn’t have the guts to allow his name to
be used stated, “This guy’s a nut and he’s gonna give us all a bad name.
Instead of covering the story, he’s become a part of it. And that
violates every journalistic ethic. He’s gonna prolong this standoff.
He’s gonna get people
What an arrogant ass! In the first place, I’m not a journalist, nor
am I a reporter. I’m a talk show host. I don’t fall under their
journalistic ethics code. Secondly, I firmly believe the lap dog media
contributed more than anyone in “getting people killed” by reporting
government lies as though
they were facts and failing to attempt to learn the truth. KXAS Channel
5 producer David Magana, in the same article said my involvement had
done far more than “blur the lines” between news reporting and
The next day, Fort Worth Star Telegram reporter Bill Thompson stated,
“Ron Engelman … appointed himself the official talk radio spokesman
for the cult leader David Koresh and his gunslinging religious fanatics.
… (He is) accusing law enforcement officials of torturing cult members
and of covering up facts surrounding the government’s Feb. 28 raid. …
(He is) a two-bit bigmouth with a microphone who wants to pollute the
airwaves by ranting and raving in defense of a wacko cult leader. …
Ron Engelman embodies talk radio at its absolute worst: inane,
disruptive, reckless, irresponsible. … If Engelman really believes
what he’s saying, he’s an idiot.
To that I say, “Who’s the idiot now?”
On separate occasions in the middle of March, two individuals, Jesse
Amen and Louis Alaniz somehow got by the FBI guards and made their way
to the front door of Mount Carmel. They knocked on the door, it was
opened and they were allowed in. Think about that. The Branch Davidians,
knowing they were surrounded by heavily armed government agents opened
their door and let two strangers inside. It would seem to me that if
they were the blood-thirsty, gun-toting
maniacs that the FBI and ATF were portraying them to be and knowing they
were surrounded by agents that had already killed six of their friends
and loved ones, they would have thought the FBI was trying to enter
their home and just shot through the door, killing those on the outside,
but they didn’t. They opened their door and let them in.
At 1 a.m., March 22, I was awakened by a phone call and told to
contact Dick DeGuerrin (Koresh’s attorney) at the Waco Hilton. I did and
he told me he wanted my home phone number because David Koresh had
gotten a cell phone and wanted to talk to me. I gave him my number and
he said, “Stand by for a call from David.” I stayed up the rest of the
night, but the call never came through. I learned later that the
batteries in the cell phone had gone down and he couldn’t make the call.
On March 24, the Branch Davidians hung out a banner that said, “We
want Ron Engelman.” The general manager of the radio station called me
at home and said, “What the hell are you doing now?” I told him I didn’t
know what he was talking about. He told me and after hanging up with
him, I called my CBS contact in Waco and asked him to zoom in on the
window the messages were hung
from. He confirmed what my general manager had told me minutes earlier.
The following Sunday, March 28, I called the FBI Headquarters in
Washington, D.C., and told them who I was. Upon hearing my name, the
agent on duty said in a rather sarcastic tone, “Oh, the famous Ron
Engelman.” I let the comment slide. I told him about the banner and said
that I believed there was a possibility that I could help bring the
standoff to a peaceful end and that’s
all I wanted to do. “I don’t want to see anymore bloodshed.”
An hour later I got a call from an FBI agent in Waco named Clint Van
Zant. He told me he was the lead negotiator for the FBI. A week later,
we met outside the gates of the Texas State Technical College, where the
FBI command post was set up. It was a cold Sunday morning. We stood
outside our cars and talked for over an hour. It seemed to me from what
Van Zant said that I might be able to help. Nothing came as a result of
the meeting. I have since learned from TV over the past few weeks that
Van Zant wasn’t a negotiator at all. He was a profiler.
Gee, I’m shocked. The FBI lied to me.
Following the meeting with Van Zant I went to the Waco Hilton for a
prearranged meeting with Dick DeGuerin. He told me he had a message for
me from David Koresh. He handed me a piece of yellow paper from a legal
pad. On it was a note written by DeGuerrin, for Koresh. It said, “Please
assist my lawyer Dick DeGuerrin in obtaining any video footage of the
assault on Mount Carmel. Thanks for your help.” The note was signed by
David. Under his signature in his own handwriting he wrote, “Dear Ron, I
thank you for your fair concern in our matter. May the Constitutional
forefathers arise from the dead and kick butt. Revelations 6:12; Isaiah
13; Revelations 18. What do you see?”
The day of the fire, I got a call at home at 5 a.m. and was told to
turn on the TV, “something big is comin’ down.” I received another call
around 7 a.m. from a person I knew at Parkland Hospital who told me the
FBI had called the hospital and inquired as to how many beds were
available in the burn unit. Prior to going on the air at 9 a.m. on
April 19, I called Parkland Hospital. They denied they had received a
call from the FBI.
When I went on the air, I expressed my disgust at what was happening.
About 15 minutes before my program ended at noon, I said to David,
“David, nothing good is going to come of this. I think what you better
do is put your hands over your head and walk out of there or you may
never get out alive.”
The last thing I said before going off the air at noon was “Let’s
pray for the Branch Davidians. Just look what our government is doing to
Five minutes after going off the air, Mount Carmel burst into flames.
Vindicated? No. Not until those responsible are brought to justice
and the Branch Davidians sentenced to prison for up to 40 years for
manslaughter are freed.
A side note: A month or two after the fire, Parkland Hospital put out
a press release stating that the FBI had, in fact, called them very
early on the morning of April 19, asking about available beds in their
burn unit. The reason for the turnaround? Parkland Hospital had not been
paid by the government for their care of those burned in the fire.
Ron Engelman is a talk show host on the Talk Radio Network. His
program airs nationally from 10PM to 3AM CDT, Monday through Friday. He
can also be heard on the Internet at
TalkRadioNetwork.com. You can also
reach him with e-mail