AlumnusFormer McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch donated memorabilia on the Branch-Davidian Siege.
Former McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch still vividly remembers the fire that rocked the Branch-Davidian compound outside Waco after a 51-day siege, which resulted in the death of Leader David Koresh and 82 followers as well as four agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in 1993.
Lynch, a Sam Houston State University Alumnus and longtime supporter of the Criminal Justice Center, served as a negotiator in the dispatch center at the beginning of the siege, when ATF agents used cattle trailers to access the property to serve warrants on weapons offenses. The compound erupted in gunfire, and Lynch tried to mediate a peaceful resolution to the crisis for 36 hours. He was able to get nine children and wounded ATF agents released from the compound.
“I knew the area and I knew most of the people, and I could take them where they needed to go,” Lynch said.
Lynch is donating memorabilia from that event, including photos of the compound, maps that hung on the walls in the command center, and copies of his testimony before Congress to Special Collections at the Newton Gresham Library. The collection will be available to researchers in the field.
Lynch was a Lieutenant in the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office when he was enlisted by the ATF and FBI to assist the negotiation team in the case. Stationed in the dispatch center, Lynch served as the liaison between Branch-Davidian representatives and federal agents during the first hours of the siege. His job was to mediate a cease fire so that injured ATF agents and Branch Davidian members could be transported from the compound for treatment.
At one point, Lynch found himself talking with Koresh, the charismatic leader who was more interested in preaching the Bible than he was in discussing help for the wounded. In fact, the FBI had called in Biblical scholars from nearby Baylor University to the command center to try and intercede with the religious leader. “it looked like a Bible drill,” he recalled.
Fifty-one days later, Lynch was back in the dispatch center when the order came down to raid the compound. He sat and waited to receive dozens of church members that would need to be identified and processed at the county jail, but no one came out. Not even the children.
“I was sitting there watching and wondering why no one was coming out,” said Lynch. “There were no children.”
After the fire, Lynch went into the compound with federal agents and witnessed the devastation personally. Over the years, Lynch has been back to the site several times. During the last, a visit by a London film creating a 25th Anniversary documentary, the memories came flooding back.
“When I testified before Congress, I said I don’t do ‘what ifs,’ Lynch said. “I don’t have the privilege of being a Monday morning quarterback. I told them this is where I was, this is what I know, and this is what I did. As a Sheriff, if I base my decisions on an element of surprise, when it is compromised, there is no way I am going in. When you lose that element, it’s ‘let’s go to Plan B.’”
In this small rural county in Central Texas, this was not the last time that Lynch crossed paths with history. He also helped guard the “The Western White House” of former U.S. President George W. Bush – the Crawford Ranch. Lynch was Sheriff in 2005 when anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan set up camp for several weeks near the Bush Ranch, demanding to speak to the President about the death of her son in the Iraq War. That protest lasted about three weeks until bad weather chased Sheehan from her makeshift camp.
Lynch served as Sheriff of the McLennan County from 2000 to 2012. After his retirement, he was appointed as Coordinator of the Law Enforcement Academy at McLennan Community College. During his career, Lynch also worked as a probation officer in Dallas County and as a correctional officer at The Walls Unit in Huntsville while he attended Sam Houston to attain his criminal justice degree.