Houston’s Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) shared a photo commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Waco massacre.
On Feb. 28, 1993 the ATF carried out a search warrant at the Mount Carmel Center which belonged to the apocalyptic religious movement known as Branch Davidians.
The search warrant was authorized after the group, which was licensed to manufacture and sell weapons, was suspected of stockpiling reportedly illegal weapons. The ATF also received an arrest warrant for Branch Davidian leader David Koresh along with several other members.
A gunfight erupted between ATF agents and Branch Davidian members as the agency attempted to execute the search warrant. Four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians were killed in the initial gunfight which led to a 51-day siege conducted by the agency.
On April 19, 1993 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated a tear gas attack on the compound in an effort to force Branch Davidian members out of the ranch.
Fires broke out during the April 19 assault, engulfing the compound in flames and killing 76 Branch Davidians, including Koresh, 25 children and two pregnant women. Nine Branch Davidian members left the building as the compound erupted in flames.
ATF alleged the fires were started by Branch Davidians while members of the religious movement maintained the fires were started as a result of the agency’s siege.
On Tuesday, ATF agents were photographed standing post outside the Waco Peace Officer Memorial in Waco, Texas, honoring Special Agents Conway LeBleu, Todd McKeehan, Robert Williams, and Steve Willis who lost their lives in the massacre.
ATF agents standing post this morning at the Waco Peace Officer Memorial in Waco, TX in honor of Special Agents Conway LeBleu, Todd McKeehan, Robert Williams, and Steve Willis who were killed attempting to serve a search warrant outside Waco, Texas, 30 years ago today. pic.twitter.com/I2TQh4pBeK
— ATF Houston (@ATFHou) February 28, 2023
The ATF also shared a short video featuring the initial search warrant date of Feb. 28, 1993 as “never forget” appears on screen.
“Today, we remember and honor the life and service of Special Agents Conway LeBleu, Todd McKeehan, Robert Williams and Steven Willis, who were killed attempting to execute warrants at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993,” the agency tweeted.
Today, we remember and honor the life and service of Special Agents Conway LeBleu, Todd McKeehan, Robert Williams and Steven Willis, who were killed attempting to execute warrants at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993. https://t.co/SEsH2ZDgSN #LODD #EOW #ATF pic.twitter.com/N9iOejdcxQ
— ATF HQ (@ATFHQ) February 28, 2023
Critics of the ATF and siege noted the memorial appeared to be in poor taste.
“The ATF is really doubling down on their murder of women and small children,” said Luke Rudkowski of We Are Change.
The ATF is really doubling down on their murder of women and small children ….. https://t.co/H52IoPOpJ8
— Luke Rudkowski (@Lukewearechange) March 1, 2023
“No, today we honor the lives of the 75 innocent people, including 25 children, you burned alive and murdered, in order to justify yours and the FBI’s budget requests,” 2020 libertarian vice presidential candidate Spike Cohen tweeted in response to the ATF’s post. “Your agents got what murderers deserve: a heaping of self-defense.”
“30 years ago today, the ATF raided the Branch Davidians’ church/home on a bullshit gun warrant,” said Libertarian Institude director Scott Horton. “They murdered 6 innocent people and lost 4 of their own to defensive fire.”
He added: “51 days later Bill Clinton sent the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and Delta Force to finish them off.”
Gun Owners of America criticized the ATF saying, “this massacre is a prime example of what can happen when agencies are given too much leeway.”
“The ATF burned women and children alive and they’re acting like heroes. Disgusting,” said another user.