American Scandal

New episodes come out every Tuesday for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers.

Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.

Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.

Encore: Waco | Broken Promises | 5

Encore: Waco | Broken Promises | 5

Tue, 28 Jun 2022 07:01

The Branch Davidians remain locked in a tense standoff with the federal government. And with the FBI now in charge, negotiators try to secure a peaceful surrender. But the FBI—and the Davidians—face a major obstacle: the always-unpredictable David Koresh.

Please support us by supporting our sponsors!

Listen to new episodes 1 week early and to all episodes ad free with Wondery+. Join Wondery+ for exclusives, binges, early access, and ad free listening. Available in the Wondery App

Looking for the DuPont Chemical Cover-up season? You can listen to episode 1 starting 7/12 on Wondery+ and 7/19 everywhere.

See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at

Listen to Episode

Copyright © © 2018 Wondery, Inc.

Read Episode Transcript

To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. Download the Wondry app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. This is a special encore presentation of our series on the standoff in Waco, Texas, which originally aired in 2020. It's an investigation of a shocking story that sparked a national debate about religious freedom and the power of the federal government. We hope you enjoy. A listener note, this episode contains references to adult content and language and contains material that some might find offensive. It's 10pm on February 28, 1993. At a small air strip outside Waco, Texas, a prop plane comes in for a landing. On board the plane, Gary Nessner leans back in his seat. He feels relieved because finally his long day of travel has come to an end. Nessner is an FBI hostage negotiator and earlier today while he was at home in Virginia, he got a call from the Bureau. He learned that a disastrous raid had just taken place in Texas, one that had turned into a bloody shootout. Federal forces had gone head to head with a religious group called the Branch Dividians, and in the end, four agents were left dead, with nearly 30 wounded. As the plane touches down, Nessner files away a stack of folders and snaps his briefcase shut. He spent the entire flight reading up on the incident and is quickly becoming an expert on the Dividian leader, a man named David Kuresh. Kuresh and more than a hundred of his followers are still holed up in the compound. They're heavily armed and six of their members were killed in the shootout. Getting this standoff is now a top priority for President Clinton's Justice Department, and now that Nessner is finally on the ground, it's time to get to work. Nessner steps out of the plane and into the cold February night. He's in his early 40s with a round face and hazel eyes. He's been with the FBI for about 20 years, and as a hostage negotiator, he has a reputation for diffusing, vulnerable situations. But from what he's read, talking down David Kuresh will be no easy task. A young man and an FBI windbreaker greets Nessner. The two of them head from the tarmac and into a large building near the runway. Inside technicians are rushing about. They're installing computer stations and setting up phone lines. A bank of monitors plays the ongoing national news coverage. Nessner is shown into a small office where a hulking man with a mustache hunches over a table. Man greets Nessner with a firm handshake. Jeff Jamar, Special Agent in charge, Gary Nessner, sir, Chief Negotiator. Well Nessner, we got quite a mess. It'll be the FBI's to clean up. We're just waiting for official work from Washington and then we're taking over. I'm sure the ATF has thrilled with that. Nessner grins at Jamar because he knows the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is not happy to lose control of the operation. Over there furious. They want to finish what they started, but I have word from the acting attorney general. In case we'll be hours before the end of the day. Sir, I'd like to make contact with Correction immediately if I can. He's angry at the ATF. Let's use that to our advantage. Make the ATF the bad cop. We'll play good cop. Of course that'll mean we have to limit any show of force. Jamar cuts him off. Nessner Federal agents have been killed in cold blood. We'll do whatever it takes to end this and that includes using force if necessary. I appreciate that, sir, but my top priority is a peaceful surrender. Apparently Correction has been talking about this battle for years, so if we go on the offensive, we'll lose our last chance to get his followers to surrender. They'll think he was right all along. Jamar shoots a Nessner a cold look. My job is to bring David Kuresh to justice. Do you understand that? Nessner swallows his frustration and nods. It's clear he'll need to secure a surrender quickly. The longer Kuresh holds out, the more eager Jamar and his team will be to rush in after him. And at that point, a man like Kuresh could be capable of anything. An attack on the agents or a mass suicide. More than anything Nessner wants to prevent any more bloodshed. The ATF already made deadly mistakes at Waco. The FBI can't afford to do the same. Lives are at stake, both inside and outside Mount Carmel. And this time, the whole world is watching. From Wondry, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Scandal. On February 28, 1993, the ATF launched a raid on Mount Carmel, despite being warned that they'd lost the crucial element of surprise. David Kuresh and his followers were ready for the attack. The result was the longest firefight in the history of American law enforcement by the end of the day. Four ATF agents and six dividends were dead. With the killing of federal agents, the FBI took the leading role in ending the standoff. Their goal was to bring David Kuresh into custody. At the same time, the Bureau wanted to ensure the safety of those inside Mount Carmel, including more than 40 children. But the FBI would have to contend with David Kuresh and the decisions that Kuresh would make for his followers. This is Episode 5, Broken Promises. It's before dawn on March 1, 1993, day two of the standoff at Mount Carmel. Even at this early hour, the FBI command post on the outskirts of Waco is humming with activity, quiet conversations, hurried footsteps, and clacking keyboards. At a small conference table, Gary Nessner rubs his eyes, which burned with exhaustion. Nessner hasn't slept since he arrived in Texas. He hadn't had the time. He's already been on the phone with Kuresh and expressed his wish for a peaceful end to the standoff. Kuresh spent most of the conversation talking about his anger at the ATF. Now at the command post, Nessner is reading materials and looking for clues, anything that might help the FBI better understand Kuresh's psychology. Because if they can understand David Kuresh, they'll be in a better position to bring the standoff to a close. Nessner hears footsteps and looks up to find a tall man in his mid-40s. The man introduces himself as Byron Sage and he's from the FBI office in Austin. Sage fills in Nessner as quickly as possible. He explains that he spent hours on the phone with Kuresh helping negotiate the ceasefire. He also secured the release of four children from Mount Carmel. Nessner grabs a pen, starts jotting down notes. He asks exactly how Sage pulled it off. Sage takes a seat and continues. He says the main thing Kuresh seems to want is access to the media. Kuresh's intent on spreading his biblical message, he only released the first four children after the FBI promised to have a local radio station broadcast a verse of scripture. Nessner taps his pen as he considers a plan. Then he looks back at Sage. They should keep pursuing this angle, he says. He could lead to a full surrender. And then Nessner makes an offer, he wants Sage to lead a team of negotiators. He'll be tough negotiating with someone like David Kuresh, but together their teams can find a peaceful solution. Nessner yons and rubs his eyes and Sage grins. He tells Nessner to find himself a place to lay down and take a nap, but Nessner brushes him off. I'll sleep when this is all over, he says. After that evening, Gary Nessner enters a cramped room inside the FBI command post. This is the negotiation room Nessner quickly assembled after he touched down. While it's small, it gives his team a quiet place to talk one-on-one with David Kuresh. Nessner slips on a headset and listens as Kuresh talks live with a negotiator. Right now Kuresh is upset that the FBI cut his phone line to the outside world. The world needs to hear his message, he says. Then Kuresh pauses and he makes an offer. He's willing to surrender along with everyone else inside Mount Carle, but only if the government agrees to put his message on national radio. Nessner's eyes go wide. He didn't expect this kind of breakthrough so early. He waves to the negotiator and signals for him to pursue this. And so the negotiator asks what sort of message Kuresh wants to convey. Kuresh answers immediately. He wants to talk about the book of Revelation, the book of the Bible that deals with Armageddon. The negotiator proceeds cautiously. He wants an insurance that this won't be some kind of farewell statement, followed by a mass suicide. Kuresh bristles at the suggestion. That's not what he's after, he says. He just wants to share the Lord's message of salvation. The agent makes a counter-offer. Kuresh could record his message on tape for the FBI to review, then broadcast. If they can agree to something like that, they just might have a deal. But Kuresh could do something to help sweeten the deal, the negotiator says. If he sends out more children now, he'll build up greater trust with the FBI bosses. Kuresh considers, and agrees, he'll send out more children along with the tape. Negotiator signs off and Nessner gives him a thumbs up. Nessner knows that this is exactly the approach they need to take. They have to stroke Kuresh's ego while gently pushing him toward a surrender. Nessner removes his headset and rushes out of the cramped negotiation room. He can't wait to share the good news, and while he knows that some of the FBI will look skeptically at this deal, this is their best shot and the standoff peacefully. Inside Mount Carmel, David Kuresh hangs up with a negotiator. He slowly shifts his position on the blankets. Another spasm of pain rags his body and he grits his teeth. His wound is still seeping badly. He feels even more lightheaded than before. And yet he's barely had a moment to rest. He's been organizing his followers, telling them where to bury the dead, how to operate a night watch, and now the FBI is on the phone day and night. Kuresh feels woozy and slow, and now it's more certain than ever. He knows he's dying and must say goodbye to his followers. He calls Steve Schneider to his side and asks him to bring the people to him one by one. Ask the men, then the women. He also tells Schneider to spread the word about their exit plan. God has brought them all through the attack. Now they're leaving on their own terms. It's a victory. Kuresh begins paging through his Bible, picking up passages for his sermon. As soon he hears the voices of his followers, some are weeping. Others sound joyous as they learn the news about the upcoming surrender. Soon the male followers begin to file past Kuresh. He smiles weakly as he gazes at his flock. The followers he's grown to know and love. David Tibido, Wayne Martin, Steve Schneider. Soon the women are at his side. Kuresh's wives come first. Rachel bending low to kiss him. Michelle smiling through tears. Sheila Martin reaches Kuresh, and he says that before the full surrender, Sheila will need to send out her three youngest children. Sheila looks at him fearfully and lowers her eyes and nods her head. Early the next morning at 3am, Sheila Martin stands with her family in the entry hall of Mac Carmel. Everyone in the compound has gone to sleep. Sheila glances at the front door, which is riddled with bullet holes. Her breath grows labored and she turns to her husband Wayne. Sheila is terrified to hand their children over, but Wayne has assured her that Kuresh is making the right decision. It's hard for her to believe, but she trusts Wayne, and she knows Kuresh is trying to protect the women and children in Mac Carmel. Sheila looks down at her 10 year old son, Jamie. The plan is to bring him out first. Jamie sits in his wheelchair, waiting. He was crippled and blinded by meningitis when he was an infant, and Sheila's heart breaks at how much suffering he's already endured. Yet now he looks peaceful and calm. Jamie's brothers and sisters kiss him on the forehead and say goodbye. He turns and smiles at them. Sheila then takes a deep breath and scoops up Jamie's frail body. She carries him through the doorway and Wayne follows behind her, pushing the wheelchair. Sheila walks slowly toward the armored car where the FBI men are waiting. She sings softly to Jamie. He's always been calm by music, and she tries to keep her voice from breaking. When she reaches the vehicle, an agent stretches out his arms and takes her son away with surprising gentleness. And sternly reminds the man that they'll be expecting updates on Jamie's safety. The agent assures him they'll take good care of the boy. Sheila chokes back a sob. These strangers will be Jamie's new reality, and she'll have to do the same terrible exchange with her six year old son and four year old daughter. They'll go out in the morning, along with a tape of Keresha's sermon to the world. Sheila prays a surrender will come quickly, and that she'll see her children again soon. Keresha has spoken often of the sacrifices necessary for salvation, but Sheila never imagined that giving up her children would be one of them. It's 2.30 pm on March 2nd, day three of the standoff. In a hallway in Mount Carmel, Steve Schneider sits near David Keresha, a small radio is positioned between them. The two listen to the last words of Keresha's sermon, which is playing on the Christian Broadcasting Network's radio station, Schneider breathes a sigh of relief. The world has heard David's message. The FBI has fulfilled the end of the deal. Now all that's left is for Keresha and his followers to surrender. Soon, they'll march out in front of the news cameras, ready to share whatever fake God sees fit. Schneider looks over a Keresha. The prophet is staring into space, his eyes glassy and distant. Schneider tells Keresha he's going to make sure the people are ready and receives a slight non-response. Schneider hurries to the women's dorm, looking for Judy. She was shot in the hand during the raid and he's eager to get her to a hospital. He finds his former wife sitting on the bed, holding a two-year-old girl. Judy had this blonde hair of girl with David Keresha. When Schneider first heard that Judy was pregnant, he could have killed Keresha. But since then, Schneider has come to love the girl like his own daughter. He wants to make sure she gets out safely. Schneider continues to the lobby where a crowd of followers is already waiting expectantly with her packs on. Schneider takes a deep breath. It's time to get moving. He picks up a phone and calls the FBI. Schneider tells them that everyone's ready. All that is left is to get Keresha into a stretcher. He knows the FBI can hear the relief in his voice, but he doesn't care. He just wants this ordeal to end. Schneider hurries back up to the hallway. Keresha sits there alone, his eyes glazed over with pain. Schneider speaks gently. David, everything's ready downstairs. The guys will come up with a stretcher and load you on. Don't bother with a stretcher. Come on, David, you need a stretcher. You can't walk out here in your condition. Keresha pauses, and with a far-away look, he strokes his own face. Steve, we're not going anywhere. Call it off. Schneider steps back. Stunned. What? You know, everyone's ready to go. The FBI is waiting. God spoke to me, Steve. He told me to wait. Schneider feels his legs and arms go weak. He starts a shake. But David, we made a deal. You said so on tape. If your sermon was broadcast, we'll surrender. If we back out now, the world would think we're liars. You've always had such limited vision. Who cares what a bunch of non-believers thinks? This is God's will. We're staying here. But David, what do you think the FBI is going to do now? We can send out a few more kids later tonight. Don't buy us some time until God tells me the next step. Schneider wants to say more, wants to argue, and shakes him sense into David Kuresh. But he stops himself. He then turns from Kuresh and walks slowly down the stairs. The people gathered in the lobby look up, and right away they can see that something's wrong. Schneider breaks the news, and sees the shock and fear ripple through the congregation. He can't help but feel responsible. After all, he personally recruited a number of these people. He invited them to share in a heavenly salvation. But if David is truly delivering God's word, the Lord has instead condemned them to a terrible fate. American scandal is sponsored by the new audiobook, Killing the Legends, the 12th audiobook and the multi-million-selling Killing series from Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Muhammad Ali, three icons known everywhere in every nation across every culture. They had everything, fame, money, the admiration of millions, but their lives spun out of control at the hands of those they most trusted. Killing the Legends explores the lives, legacies, and tragic deaths of these three legends. Each experienced a man's success, then failures that forced them to change. Each faced the challenge of growing old and fields that privileged youth, and finally, each became isolated, cocooned by wealth but vulnerable to the demands of those in their innermost circles. Killing the Legends is available now wherever audiobooks are sold, start listening. It's March 2nd, 1993, and day three of the standoff at Mount Carmel. In the FBI command post, Gary Nessner surveys his team. They look tense and nervous. For hours they've been huddled together, waiting for the branched obedience to march out of Mount Carmel. The chosen hour has come and gone and still the dividends remain inside the compound. Nessner squins at a video monitor, still no sign of movement. Suddenly, the radio crackles. It's a member of their tactical team. The elite agents trained in hostage rescue and battlefield tactics. He's demanding an update. Nessner tells the agent that they've been trying unsuccessfully to get Steve Schneider on the phone, calling again now. Nessner gives a thumbs up to a negotiator who rings a compound. His voice finally comes over the line. He sounds nervous and apologetic. No one is coming out, he says. The Lord spoke to Kresh and told him to wait. The deal is off. Nessner wants a scream, but he fights to contain his anger. He needs to try and salvage the deal. He scribbles a quick note to the negotiator, telling him to remind Schneider that the FBI held up their end of the bargain. The negotiator then tries to get David Kresh on the phone. Schneider says that Kresh is busy praying and hangs up. Nessner feels his frustration slide into panic. His team did everything right, but he knows they'll be blamed now that Kresh is backed out. He has to move quickly and contain the fallout. Nessner stands, telling his deflated team to radio the tactical team. The surrender is officially off. He hurries out of the room and races through the command post looking for Jeff Jamar, the special agent in charge. When he reaches Jamar's office, he encounters another man. Dick Rogers, the head of the tactical team. Both men look furious. Nessner relays Schneider's message. It's a huge disappointment he concedes, but this setback shouldn't change the goal of ending the standoff peacefully. At that, Rogers jumps. He accuses Kresh of deliberately toying with the FBI. He's furious and wants to move tanks onto the property as a show of force. Jamar nods in agreement. All day he says he's been glowing to the media about this surrender deal. Now he has to walk it back at the press briefing. The FBI brass will be furious. Even President Clinton will have to answer questions about this scruo. Nessner tries to calm them. He reminds them that his team was able to get a few more children out this morning, plus two older women. That victory cannot be discounted. Even without a mass surrender, a trickle of exits could become a flow and then a gush. They need patience. Not aggression. Rogers flushes, looking even angrier than before. He says he's having none of it. They should stop doddling. His people can get in there and secure the compound in 15 minutes. Jamar jumps in. He says it's still too soon for that, but agrees it's time to tighten the leash and teach Kresh a lesson. Kresh will give in once they apply enough pressure. Nessner protests, but Jamar has made up his mind. The tactical team will drive their tanks and armored vehicles around Mount Carmel. They'll set up in offensive positions. Nessner tries to stop them, but he knows it's too late. There's no turning back this show of force. It's March 3rd, the fourth day of the standoff. In the afternoon, Steve Schneider looks out from one of Mount Carmel's second floor windows. Schneider watches his clouds float off in the distance. He's trying to ignore the terrible thunder coming from below, where another government tank is crisscrossing the yard. See these tanks of level 2 of the buildings of the compound? They cut a mobile home in half just for fun. The tanks crushed a truck in the parking lot and even ran over the kids' go carts. Schneider can't make sense of it. The negotiator seems like honest people, but they're still on the side of these tank-driving warriors, men who will stop at nothing to persecute God's people. Schneider turns from the window. He sees Kresh sitting in the hallway with a few of the faithful gathered around him. Here's a glad to see that Kresh seems more energetic today. Hanger at the FBI has helped revive the prophet. Kresh addresses the followers. He tells them that he's already sent 20 children out of Mount Carmel. He's played by the FBI's rules and still Kresh says the government forces are punishing them. Kresh told the FBI about God's commandment that the community needed to wait inside Mount Carmel. Kresh's voice rises again, but instead of respecting the people's faith, the FBI sent in tanks. He just goes to show that the earthly forces cannot be trusted. Schneider sees most of the people nodding in agreement. Kresh then dismisses his followers and beckons Schneider closer. He asks how this morning's call with the FBI went. Schneider says he delivered Kresh's complaints. The tanks were destroying their personal property, and in doing so, they were destroying the evidence of the ATF's original attack. The negotiators apologize, but they said that the tanks weren't under their control. Kresh shakes his head angrily. The government might think they have all the power, Kresh says. But one thing is certain, the FBI will not be getting any of his children. He gives Schneider a fierce look. The children he's fathered are divine beings, he says. They will sit with him at the final judgment. They must share his fate on this earth. Schneider swallows hard. He understands that Kresh's prophecy must be fulfilled, but the thought fills him with threat. It's March 7th and the 8th day of the standoff. Gary Nessner rides the elevator down from his hotel room in Waco. He's blirriied after just a few hours of sleep. The elevator door dings open, and he sees the lobby is filled with even more reporters than yesterday. News casters and suits chat with each other while camera men lug heavy bags of equipment. Nessner hurries to reach the front door, grateful that he's not the one in front of the cameras at the daily press briefings. As Nessner drives to the FBI command post, he looks at across the brown Texas prairie. He feels far from his home and family in northern Virginia. He misses them, and the feeling is even harder because right now he feels embarrassed for the FBI. The entire world has been watching, as FBI tanks tear apart Mount Carmel. One day a reporter asks an FBI agent to explain the destruction, and all the agent could manage was a cheeky response, saying that, hey, they're FBI agents, not professional tank drivers. Nessner reaches the command post and heads toward the negotiation room. It's been five days since Koresh backed out of the surrender deal, but Nessner has no time to hold crudges. And thanks to the tactical team's aggressions, he no longer has the upper hand. Instead, the negotiators have spent their time apologizing. Recent discussions haven't yielded much progress either, so Nessner has decided to shift their strategy. He needs to rebuild trust at Mount Carmel, and he has a sense about who he needs to talk to. The next day, inside Mount Carmel, Julie Martinez sits on her bed, combing her daughter Aubrey's hair. Her three-year-old plays with stuffed animals on the floor when there's a knock on the door. Steve Schneider pokes his head into the room and says that FBI negotiators are on the phone and want to talk to Julie. Steve adds that David said it was okay. Martinez is heart races. She's known this call was coming, and she feels a mix of hope and dread. The last time she spoke to the FBI, they tried to pressure her to leave with her children, and she refused. All Martinez wants is to be together with her kids, but she can't imagine the government allowing that if she left the safety of Mount Carmel. Still, the FBI agents keep pressuring her to leave, and so Martinez asked if she could speak to her older brother about the decision. The FBI agreed, but only under a specific condition, they would find her brother and have him record a message for her. Martinez doesn't trust these officials, but she hopes she can hear her brother's voice. If he's able to take care of the children, then she'd be willing to risk coming out. That way, even as she's thrown in jail, her kids would still have family. Martinez puts the phone to her ear. An agent greets her and says that they were able to find her brother, and they have a recording to play. There's a click, and then Martinez hears her brother's kind voice come over the line. She feels a surge of hope. But the feeling quickly fades. Her brother says that he isn't capable of caring for her children. He says he loves her and has some advice, surrender so that her family can be safe. The tape recorder clicks off, and her brother's comforting voice gives way to silence. The FBI negotiators back on the line. Julie, I think your brother's advice is wise. Bring the children to safety now. Why wait? Because if we come out, I'll go to jail. That's not true, Julie. You said you didn't do anything. You and your children will be coming to safety. Martinez remembers the bullet she saw flying over her daughter's head the day of the raid. How can I believe anything you say? You don't want to help. You're just waiting for the right time to come in here and kill all of us. Wait, what, Julie? Why would we want to do that? Because that's what they wanted in the first place. They came shooting at us and climbing in our windows. Okay, now look, there were some things that shouldn't have been done, but Martinez here's the negotiator take a deep breath. But Julie, how would you want this to be resolved? What do you want to happen? For God to come and deliver us from our enemies. And at that, Martinez hangs up the phone. She's glad she told the agent the truth. These people love to make her feel like a bad mother, but she's not a bad mother. She loves her kids. She got off drugs for her kids, and Mount Carmel is the one place where they can be together. It's where her family will stay, no matter what the government does. You've already earned some fun, so have it. It's like giving yourself permission to eat dessert first. With best fiends and exciting puzzle adventure game, you can have fiendish fun anywhere anytime. How often do you let yourself have some hard earned fun? Whatever your answer is, you deserve way more. Add some joy to your daily routine with best fiends. The puzzle adventure game you won't be able to put down. Brand new events and challenges pop up all year round, so you've always got a chance to earn exclusive in-game items, characters, and rewards. You've earned your fun time, go to the App Store or Google Play to download best fiends for free. Plus, earn even more with $5 worth of in-game rewards when you reach level 5. It's friends without the R. Best Fiends. It's late afternoon on March 8, 1993, day 9 of the standoff. Gary Nessner is sitting in the FBI command post when a member of the tactical team walks in. He hands Nessner a VHS cassette from Koresh, he says. Nessner tells the negotiators on duty to pause their work and gather round. He pops the tape into the VHS player and presses play. For a couple seconds there's nothing but static. Then David Koresh appears on the screen. It's the FBI's first view of him inside the compound. He wears a white tank top and sits up against a wall. His eyes are half closed and his voice is strained, but he makes an effort to seem welcoming. Koresh begins by thanking the negotiating team and then introduces them to his family. We just thought we'd break the ice and allow people to see exactly what kind of people we have here. I'd start off first, my old son, his name is Cyrus. Boy with long blonde hair jumps over Koresh's legs and settles in beside him. He smiles shyly and waves at the camera. Koresh goes on to introduce his two year old daughter and then talks about the other families that live inside Mount Carmel. Soon he signs off and the VHS goes back to static. Nessner looks around at his team. They all look shaken by the raw intimacy of the tape. Koresh has put a human face to the people inside Mount Carmel. Nessner decides he needs to say something. Koresh says maybe a master manipulator, but it's a hopeful sign that he made this tape. He may be starting to see that they're not all enemies. If the team can find a way to build on this, they might have a chance of getting everyone out, including those young kids they just saw on screen. Byron Sage speaks up. Sage, who leads one team of negotiators, has built good will with the dividends. He suggests that he go up to the Mount Carmel property and meet the dividends in person. Koresh is obviously too injured to come out, but if Sage can meet with Schneider face-to-face, it could help show that the negotiators are serious about reaching a peaceful solution. Nessner says he likes the idea. Could be a major step forward. It's the afternoon of March 15th, now over two weeks into the standoff. Steve Schneider steps out from the bullet-rattle front door of Mount Carmel. He's wearing a windbreaker against the crisp spring breeze. Wayne Martin walks beside him, dressed in the same suit he wore for legal trials in Waco. He's together the two men head toward a neutral point between Mount Carmel and the Federal Peronator. Schneider keeps his pace slow and steady. The last thing he needs is for the FBI to panic and start shooting. He looks out at the prairie surrounding Mount Carmel and sees an unrecognizable crisscross of ruts, tracks created by tanks. Just this morning the fed sent in a horrifying new vehicle. It looked like a cross between a tank and a bulldozer and probably could have demolished Mount Carmel in a matter of just hours. But it didn't stop there. They also installed high-powered lights. Mount Carmel now looks like it's sitting on a 50-yard line of a football stadium. All this harassment makes Schneider deeply angry. But he and Wayne Martin have still chosen to meet with the negotiators. Schneider needs to see for himself how sincere these guys really are. If he trusts them, maybe he can convince Koresh to trust them as well. It's his only hope for getting everyone out alive. Schneider stops in the middle of the prairie with Martin beside him. There's a Bradley tank about 20 yards away. Up close it looks even bigger than he imagined. Schneider watches his two men step out of the tank and walk towards them. He recognizes one as a local sheriff. The other must be Byron Sage. When the government men arrive, they all shake hands. There's an awkward silence and then Schneider launches in with his frustrations. He asks Sage, why is it every time they seem to be making progress with their talks, the dividends end up getting punished? Sage apologizes. Schneider thinks he looks genuinely sorry. But then Martin cuts in. He says the tanks are destroying evidence of the ATF raid. How are the people inside supposed to get a fair trial? At that, the sheriff jumps in. He says it's time for common sense to prevail. If everyone comes out peacefully, he will ensure a fair trial. He says he has no interest in helping the feds. He just wants to see everyone in Mount Carmel safe. Martin looks skeptical, but Schneider believes the sheriff. Sage then brings up a timeline for surrender. Schneider cuts them off. He appreciates them coming, but he can't commit to anything without Kuresh's approval. Sage begins again with more urgency. He says his superiors are getting impatient, and they have ways of forcing Mount Carmel's surrender. Schneider looks over at the menacing tank. He makes him shunner, but he remains resolute. Just like Sage has his superiors, he has his own. He says that he'll talk with Kuresh, but for now there will be no timeline. He thanks him and the sheriff for their time, then turns back towards Mount Carmel. The next day, Gary Nessner stands outside the FBI command post with a cup of coffee, taking a rare break and enjoying the spring day. Across the tarmac, he spots a man he doesn't recognize, meeting with members of the tactical team. When the meeting breaks up, the man approaches Nessner and introduces himself. His name is Richard Schwine, special agent in charge of the El Paso division. Nessner's chest tightens as he considers what this means. Another supervisor trying to call the shots. Nessner looks at Schwine in disbelief. At least two other supervisors wear suits and ties, he thinks, but Schwine is wearing a SWAT team jumpsuit and even has a canteen attached to his belt. It's like he's John Wayne in a World War II movie, Nessner thinks. Nessner introduces himself as the chief negotiator and Schwine gives a quick snort. He says that there's no use talking to the dividends. The FBI needs to go in and go in hard. That's how they'll win. Nessner begins to protest, but Schwine excuses himself and marches off to meet with the other members of the tactical team. For a moment, Nessner stares into disbelief, and he throws the rest of his coffee into the trash. So much for a relaxing break. He just hopes this commando doesn't gain too much influence with the decision makers at the FBI. Later that evening, Nessner is wrapping up a long day at the command post when a member of the tactical team pulls him aside. The agent is concerned about a new plan for the night shift that Schwine just announced. He plans to install giant speakers all around the compound and play tortuous sound at high volume to wear down the dividends. The idea is so far include dentist drills, and the song these boots are made for walking. Nessner thanks the agent for the warning. The check's the clock, it's already late. His heart starts to pound because this plan to torture the branch dividends could start at any moment. Nessner hurries to Jeff Jamar's office hoping he can stop it in time. Nessner approaches Jamar and tries to remain calm. Sir, sir, did you approve this plan from Schwine? The speakers? Yeah sure, why not? Schwine says the army did this. That's how they got Manuel Noriega out of his compounded Panama. With respect sir, Schwine does not know what he's doing. This is not an FBI approved tactic. It will be devastating to negotiations. We're building trust. A trust that just can't ruin your team are moving way too slowly Nessner. We need to ratchet up the pressure and end this thing. Tax fairs are spending more than 100 grand a day for what? So you and me and the rest of the FBI can screw around on this miserable prairie while you negotiate? Nessner takes a moment to gather his thoughts. Sir. Schwine's plan will only provoke the dividends. The media will have a field day with it. Think of the headlines. FBI blasts the dentist drill sounds at children. Jamar looks away for a moment and then turns back to Nessner. Alright, I'll talk to Schwine and have him call it off. But I want results from you and your team in a hurry. Thank you sir. I appreciate you hearing me out on this. Nessner leaves Jamar's office. It's nearly midnight. Even head back to the hotel and catch a few hours of rest. But when he arrives at his hotel room, he immediately picks up the TV remote. Somehow, he cannot resist watching the media's endless commentary on the siege. Just like the rest of the country he thinks. The TV set flickers on. And there it is, Mount Carmel lit up by stadium lights as usual. Except, now Nessner can hear high decibel screeches blaring into the compound. Nessner panics. How could they be doing this? Jamar just agreed to call it off. Nessner grabs the phone and frantically calls the command post. But the agent who answers apologizes and says, Jamar already went home from the night. Nessner hangs up. He closes his eyes and clenches his jaws. The fragile trust he's built up with the dividends was the only thing holding this together. But now, once again, that trust is broken. From Wondery, this is Episode 5 of Waco from American Scan. In our next episode, David Kuresh has a revelation that could lead to a peaceful exit. And the FBI briefs the new Attorney General about their aggressive plan and the standoff. If you like our show, please give us a 5-star rating and leave a review and be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like. American History Tellers and Business Movers. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening right now. Or you can listen to new episodes early and ad-free by subscribing to Wondery Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wondrium. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support this show is by filling out a small survey at slash survey to tell us what topics we might come next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A. Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle and Initial A. And thank you. If you'd like to learn more about Waco, we recommend the book Stalling for Time by Gary Nussner and When They Were Mine by Sheila Martin. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scandalist hosted, edited, and executive produced by me, Lindsay Graham for Airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barons, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Michael Canyon Meyer, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven. Executive producers are Stephanie Gens, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Marsha Louis for Wondery. Hello, I'm Florence Given, the best selling author of the book Women Don't Are You Pretty and Girl Crush, and this is my podcast, exactly. Join me as I connect with fascinating guests from authors, cultural commentators, doctors, court leaders to psychologists, celebrities, and comedians. And guess what? We're back to do it all again in season two with the likes of the holistic psychologist, Victoria Skohn and Iona David to name a few. Season two of exactly podcast out now wherever you get your podcasts.