David Thibodeau lived at the Branch Davidians' Mount Carmel "compound," located just outside Waco, Texas, during the 1993 raids by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the FBI–events that ultimately left 80 Davidians, including more than 20 children, and four federal agents dead. Thibodeau, one of nine Davidians to survive the raids–and one of four never charged with a crime–is co-author of A Place Called Waco: A Survivor's Story (Public Affairs). He recently talked via telephone with REASON Washington Editor Michael W. Lynch. For the full version of the interview, go to Reason Online (www.reason.com/bi/int-thib.html).
Reason: How did you get involved with David Koresh?
David Thibodeau: I was a drummer living in Los Angeles in 1990. I went into Guitar Center, and David Koresh and Steven Schneider were looking at a drum set and they asked me to play it. I ended up giving Koresh a call and we started to play music together. I was invited to come out to Mount Carmel during Passover season. I started to really see that there was something there.
Reason: During the siege, did you ever have an agreement with the FBI to come out?
Thibodeau: The first one was in the first three days. This is where David lost a lot of credibility. We were set to come out and David said, "God has told me to wait." So we didn't come out.
Reason: Did you ever feel that the confrontation with the government was the fulfillment of prophecies?
Thibodeau: All the time. I'll give you an example. We were tearing down the small houses [in the compound], in preparation of building up the big house. I was up on the roof, and David said, "What are you people going to do when the tanks are surrounding this building? When there are hundreds of agents out there. When the people of Babylon come to get us? What are you going to do then? Are you going to believe this truth?"
Reason: Was the government's behavior simply incompetent?
Thibodeau: I think that they were perfectly brilliant in orchestrating the total destruction of the building. It hid a lot of the evidence.
It's like they followed the guidebook for what wouldn't work. I don't know why they wouldn't listen to their psychologists or why they wouldn't listen to their undercover agent [who had infiltrated the Davidians], or why they wouldn't listen to their own negotiators. There was no one that said, "Stop. We need to back off and think about this. There are kids here. What we are doing is wrong."
Reason: Do you think Janet Reno has lied or was just lied to about Waco?
Thibodeau: I think she was lied to and used as a pawn. I don't think she lied outright.