British national Livingstone Fagan was one of the Branch Davidians who wound up in jail after the Waco siege that occurred in February 1993. We caught up with him to find out what happened in Texas, as well as his thoughts on David Koresh. He's the guy in the glasses up there, in case you aren't into things like the news.
Probably lots of you don't remember this, so let's revisit.
For 51 days in 1993, everybody knew what was happening in Waco, Texas. On February 28, four ATF agents died in an attempt to carry out a search warrant on the Mount Carmel ranch just outside the small town. The ranch was home to David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians, an offshoot of the Adventist Christian movement. According to his followers, Koresh was a prophet, but there was also evidence suggesting that he was quite possibly a bit of a sex pest and almost definitely a borderline delusional Bible-basher.
Koresh had been turfed out of his former church for telling his pastor that he'd been commanded by God to impregnate his young daughter. Unsurprisingly, this sort of faith-fuelled deviance didn't stop once he'd gathered together a bunch of sycophantic followers. It's rumoured that he managed to convince his little corner of Christianity that he had been commanded to annul their marriages and claim sole sexual rights over all of his female followers, which included girls as young as 12. At least one 14-year-old fathered a child by him and it's believed that Koresh was papa to several more. He's also suspected of abusing the children of the church he took control of outside Waco.
Of more pertinence to the US government, however, was his record as a gunslinger. Indeed, in the struggle for control over the Branch Davidians, Koresh and several of his disciples pitched up armed to the teeth with revolvers and shotguns.
Once he'd established himself, Koresh began to assure his followers that the apocalypse would come when the US military attacked Mount Carmel. So the sect began to hoard heavy weaponry, using one of the members' legal gun-trading business as a front to purchase everything they needed for a showdown with the US army.
In the end, after a stand-off and a suitably dramatic climax, Koresh and more than 70 of his followers died in fires which raged through the Mount Carmel complex. Few Davidians escaped. However, we managed to track down the Davidians' highly regarded theologian, Livingstone Fagan, a diminutive Jamaican-born Brit from Nottingham who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and handed a 30-year sentence. He has already served time in El Reno and is currently incarcerated in Virginia.
The guy has a thousand-yard stare and he's undoubtedly well-versed in scripture, with a very clear idea of his beliefs. Vice met him in a bare room, a Bible on one side of him and a glass of water on the other. He seemed ready to defend himself all over again at any minute.
Vice: Hello Livingstone. So, what can you tell us about David Koresh? Livingstone Fagan: David was part of a bigger picture. He was a conduit for God's word, foretold in the scriptures. He said to the FBI negotiator, "Your first mistake is not believing that I have a God who communicates with me." He was just a part of the prophecy. They think this thing is over. It's not. It's difficult because David went through quite a transition to become who he was by the experience he had in the 70s, which was a yielding up of his being to become that which was stated of him in the scriptures. He would only speak in relation to the scriptures – that was how involved he was – and his knowledge of the scripture was incredible. He could balance things in such a way that he could communicate to a very diverse groups of individuals. I went to a theological seminary, I listened to scholars speak in matters of religion, but in terms of understanding the scriptures, no one could match David.
So you had complete trust in the guy, whatever he got up to? No, it's an ongoing process. Prophets can go astray. David didn't counsel us to look at him in that way, he counseled us to look at the scriptures.
OK, so according to the scriptures, how long will it be until David's prophecy is complete? We hoped it would be complete before this point but it's not a day and month thing, it's events. The Waco event triggered certain other events. After the Waco event it was predicted that our attackers would go on the rampage in the Middle East. That is happening. After that, they will eventually go into Israel, and that is starting to happen now, with the arguments over the peace initiative. After that, you're going to see something that is going to extend beyond the norm of human experiences.
Wow, that sounds pretty neat. When will the "beyond human experience" bit start? We're nearing that point. Part of what's keeping us going is that all we were told about how the Waco events would play out has actually happened. So, we're in a position here where there's nothing we can do, no way we can turn from it. It is an inevitability.
There was some concern over the way the kids at Mount Carmel were being treated. There was nothing wrong with our children. The life out there was good for them. If you are talking about their early, mental development, then that was also good for them. You don't even have to hear my word. You can hear it from other people, officials. I had a son who was brought up there and he was a fine, adventurous boy.
So what happened during the siege? We didn't know they had these big guns, but we had a feeling that we were hearing words that didn't match what was happening out there, which created a sense of distrust in what was being said. Until we had confirmation, we weren't going to move on that feeling. The situation was really quite difficult. And we'd just come out of a major trauma after the initial raid in which six of the Davidians had been killed. It's the sort of thing that observers aren't privy to, it's what you get from actually being there. I wasn't there on April 19. I left on March 23.
The idea was that since they weren't communicating with us – they'd blocked out communication – the idea was that by being outside I would be able to deal with issues of theology. That was my area. So I came out to try and accomplish that, but I was immediately taken prisoner. They weren't interested in negotiation. It was only a PR stunt to make it appear that they were doing something.
Did you feel they had any justification to attack? You did have grenades in there, after all. We had shells but we were at Waco with David because we believed in him and in his message. If people were going to come and tell us we couldn't believe David's truth and his role then we weren't just going to go home and say, "Yeah, OK, I guess you're right." We were going to fight.
There were reports of automatic gunfire being used in the siege, but it turned out to be a Hellfire device, didn't it? What the hell is a Hellfire device? You've got to look at this in the broader terms, not in the details of what happened, but what it meant for the guidance and governance of the people. The US government was using the military against its citizens. In our trial at San Antonio they referred to us as religious terrorists. You can see, then, the mentality they were adopting in their treatment of us.
But how did it get to the point where they felt it would be OK to send in tanks? Were they provoked? They tried to give the impression that we were shooting through the front gate. One of the agents even talked about getting splinters, but it was a metal door. It was unbelievable, some of the stuff they came out with. When I look at the responses that came from the government, I realise how pitiful they are. Some of the extents they went to in order to cover up their tracks and manipulate the outcome of the event was incredible. If it weren't for a few curious guys who really looked into this then everyone would have believed hook, line, and sinker the bullshit that they were selling as fact.
How did the fires actually start? Well, when the tanks were rolling in, David said something along the lines of, "They're not fireproof." So Molotov cocktails were the answer – they're useful against tanks. The idea that we started the fires to kill ourselves is a fallacy. Absolutely no question that our aggressors laid the fires. No doubt at all that they fired the first shots too. They had so much control over the media and the information that came out, that unless you had direct contact with someone who was there or you were there yourself you would not be privy to the truth.
Was your wife in the complex at the time? Yes, and my mother and first cousin. Her fiancée was killed in the February raid, a gentleman who used to live in Nottingham with me. He was shot in the head. When the helicopters had fired on the water tanks they hit him. There were bullet holes all over the water tank. There was another fellow from Australia who was in our water tower at the time. He put his head up, there was a hole there, and he suffered a head wound. We found him at the base of the water tank after the initial firefight.
How did so many women and children die? Was there nowhere safe they could have holed up? There was a bunker where most of the women and children were killed. It was the only place we felt was secure. They placed a bomb on top of the bunker that killed the women and children beneath it.
How has your time in prison been? During my time in prison I have refused to endure the prison regime so they keep me locked up in solitary confinement. The reason for my being in prison was simply to keep us quiet. We went through all the levels of the US justice system, all the way to the Supreme Court. Even though we were acquitted at trial, we still got 30 years. There's nothing the British government could have done. It is difficult to endure. I feel like if I spend too long in prison I will soon be dead because your physical body can only take so much. We are under gross restrictions. When they are freed, the Americans won't be allowed back into Texas. If I return to the UK I will not be allowed back into the United States. At least not legally.