Archive | January, 2012

COPS Productions Blog #2

26 Jan


  1. April 19, 1993 dawned as a beautiful Spring morning at Mount Carmel…


                      2.   It ended in an unimaginable nightmare a few short hours later.


The birthing of COPS Productions and the creation of “Waco-The Rules of Engagement…

Through the course of the morning of April 19, 1993 Mike McNulty was one of millions of Americans captivated by the drama being played out at Mt. Carmel near Waco, Texas, live on national television.

A siege of the “compound,” conducted by agents of the FBI had entered its 51st day.  The Federal agents were using heavy battle tanks called Construction Engineering Vehicles or CEVs to insert CS Gas into the rickety wooden structure, and still the occupants, some eighty plus, men, women and seventeen children, would not come out and surrender to the authorities.

As the morning progressed, the CEV’s had begun tearing the building down. They drove the huge armored vehicles directly into the interior, collapsing large portions of the walls and roof into rubble. One got the impression that the drivers of the vehicles and their bosses were really angry about something.

Fifty-one days earlier, the BATF had attempted to conduct a raid at the Davidian’s residence so as to serve arrest warrants on two of the one hundred and forty current residences. The BATF had almost one hundred, heavily armed agents dressed in black raid suits, carrying M-16 and MP-5 machine guns, and 12 gage shotguns. There were snipers with .308 rifles on the perimeters.  Although heavily armed, the BATF wasn’t expecting the kind of reaction to their massive presence they received when they approached the Davidians home to serve their warrants. The fatal flaw in the BATF’s plan was that they had lost the element of surprise and the leaders of the raid decided to go for it anyway. After all, who would be foolish enough to resist such a sizable force?

That morning, February 28, 1993 when the BATF approached the front door screaming and yelling, the leader of the Davidians , David Koresh, came to the door, unarmed – holding his empty hands up for all to see and said, “Hey wait a minute, there’s women and children inside – Let’s talk!” At that moment the Davidian’s half dozen young Malamute dogs kept next to the front porch, saw their owner at the door and made a show of aggression against the interlopers. The agents were fending them off with CO2 fire extinguishers. The dogs were backing the agents away from their objective so an agent leading the team drew his side arm and began shooting the dogs. At the first shot, everyone, BATF agents, and defending Davidians heard the shots and the fight was on! Gun fire erupted everywhere.  Koresh was wounded in the hand and side for his attempt to prevent the shoot-out that followed. It lasted more than two hours and became the longest shoot-out in Federal Law enforcement history.  When a cease-fire was finally established there were six dead Davidians, four dead federal agents, several wounded Davidans and twenty-one wounded BATF personnel. It was one big mess and the Davidians watched as the BATF people eventually withdrew, carrying their dead and wounded with them.  The FBI took over that afternoon and secured the perimeter with one hundred and forty Davidians, men, women and   children, still inside Mt. Carmel. Later that day, a Davidian who heard about the shoot-out while he was away at work was shot and killed as he attempted to return to home and family, while penetrating  the BATF perimeter on foot.

During the ensuing fifty-one days the Davidians sent out several children at the FBI negotiators request.  However, there was a battle going on between the conciliatory negotiators and the more aggressive and vengeful, tactical people. The Hostage Rescue Team or HRT were keeping the remaining Davidians hold up in their “compound,” as they called it. Eventually, through devious means, the Tactical folks won the debate and convinced the Attorney General, Janet Reno, that the only way to save the remaining children was to endanger them in a tactical raid designed to force their parents and the others still inside to come out and submit to arrest.

Mt Carmel, the late morning of April 19, 1993 being demolished, only minutes before the fire starts.

Michael McNulty and millions of other Americans were witnessing that “raid” on the morning of April 19th. Finally, after much of the structure had been turned into kindling by the tanks, at a little before noon, a wisp of smoke and flame was seen coming from a second story window at the south-east corner of the remains of the building.  A fire began that eventually consumed the entire building, killing all but nine of the 80 plus persons still inside. Who started the fires became the most important question for the Government forces. There were other issues working their way to the top of the list of open questions: Why the demolition? The FBI stated repeatedly that the Davidians fired on the tanks as they injected gas and demolished the place – Did the Davidians fire back in self-defense? How were the fires started? How many Davidians survived? And, where were the children?  Why hadn’t the Agents tried to rescue the people inside? All of these questions were flying around the country like so much shrapnel from a hand grenade detonation.

The lack of answers to these and other questions was the motivating force that brought McNulty to begin an extensive independent investigation of the Waco incident. People wanted to know what had really happened because we all saw our ‘National police’ force act in a way that was certainly counter to what we expected from the professional police man on the street corner. What kind of ‘country’ did we have here? Those men represented us, and that wasn’t the way we wanted them to behave!

 At this moment, COPS Productions was born out of the necessity of the “need to know” and the failure of the Main Line Media to do its job – inform the Public of the truth, became the organizational ‘mid-wife.’

McNulty then attempted to interest the major TV networks and national print media in the story he had developed. They’re reaction was underwhelming to say the least. As one National TV host put it, “The story ended when the building burned down and the Davidians died…” (Ted Koppel, ABC Night Line) McNulty and COPS Productions didn’t think so, actually, they thought the story had just begun!  (A few weeks after Mr.  Koppel made his –‘it’s over’ – comment, McNulty won a National Emmy award for ‘Best Investigative Journalism,’ for his film “Waco-The Rules of Engagement,” while competing with Ted for the Emmy honor.)

(Left)  Photo of FBI agents and others inspecting their handy work, searching for possible survivors.

At this point it seems no one was interested in the story, so McNulty started a yearlong search for someone to back an independent film effort.  Things looked pretty bleak until one day a friend who had been helping McNulty look for an investment ‘Angel’ decided to just go ahead and put the money up himself.  Although this was a financial risk there was a good deal of personal risk involved as well for all involved. The merry band of citizen journalists suffered a number of intimidating contacts with the FBI. There never was anything ‘official’, of course, always on a ‘casual’ basis. Well, except maybe the time they kicked in McNulty’s front door in the middle of the night, but never a court order to cease and desist, or anything like that. It seems they really didn’t know what to do with us or about us. Like the time our director, William Gazecki and I were filming near Waco and this “plain vanilla rental car” came hauling down the road in front of where we were shooting some ‘B’ roll and did a high-speed reversal of direction just like in the movies, very skillfully done. Then two well dressed men jumped out and started questioning us, no introductions, no ID’s just started this rapid fire line of questions . And when we told them we were making a film about the Waco incident, one of them started yelling at us getting real red in the face – we couldn’t possibly make a film about “that!” We didn’t know what we were talking about…blah, blah, blah. I gave William the high sign and we dashed for the car with our gear and William, smart ass that he is, yelled back over his shoulder as he got into the car to spell our names right in their reports. We left and proceeded to Dallas international air port for a flight to Boston the next day, and low and behold there were the same two morons trying to blend into the wood work. We went to board our flight and I peeked out of the jet way to see these two clowns rushing over to the boarding desk, flashing their FBI credentials! That was the last time we saw those two.

Director William Gazecki (left) and Mike McNulty Manchester, England filimg interviews with Davidian survivors, 1995 Were we ever that young?

Two and a half years from the start of filming on the project it was taken to the Sundance film festival and became the “talk” of the event.  At this point there was a serious dispute going on between the backer and McNulty. Fortunately, it didn’t prevent the film from going forward and was eventually settled. The new film, “Waco- The Rules of Engagement,” went on to win the International Documentary Film Makers Association ‘Doc Week’ festival’s Best Film of the Fest award that September. Later that Fall, McNulty got word that the film had received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary feature Film. Truly exciting times! And it got even better. As a result of all the notoriety COPS Productions first film effort was picked up by HBO for a television screening on its “Signature Series” and from their it garnered a National Emmy for Best Investigative Journalism, all because one person didn’t give up when told it wasn’t a “story” and with the help of a number of brave people, Citizen Journalism had made an indelible mark on the pages of History.

(Photo above) Mike McNulty and in-laws, Donna and Duane Grubb, sharing some Emmy “Joy.”

During the time just before the Oscar awards, after completing and screening the first Waco film, another ‘Angel’ approached  McNulty and asked the magic question: “Is there anything more to this story?”  And, it just so happened, there was!

Next Time…

Many new revelations are about to emerg…

And “Waco-A New Revelation” was Born…


Introducing COPS Productions and Producer Mike McNulty

22 Jan

Mike McNulty producing "Waco- The Rules of Engagement" at Gazeckie Studios, 1996.





A Special note: This reference was previously published under the “About” tag. It deserves special attention :
The Photo, above with no caption, is of the only Federal “hero,” and that belatedly, of the post Waco fire era. You’ll learn more about him later in the Waco time line.  His name is Bill Johnston. His is the story of the man who ‘almost’ did nothing and thereby allowing evil to rule the day. His is a story of redemption, to a degree that allowed the making of our second film, “Waco- A New Revelation.” For that single act of courage, we are grateful. Mr. Johnston paid dearly for that moment of truth, and for that, we respect him.


Original Theatrical Poster for "Waco-The rules of Engagement" 1996


A little background…and how this all started…

Mike McNulty was borne just as WW II ended to goodly parents in San Francisco , California. Mom and dad were high school sweet hearts and dad worked for the telephone company as a line man.

He was raised in his early years in Lancaster, California and then his family moved to Anaheim California where he spent four years attending a college prep school called Servite High school.

Graduating in 1964, Mike attended college at Fullerton Community College as a pre-med student. After a summer of high adventure charter boat fishing before school started, Mike got a taste of wanderlust and at the end of his first semester, he joined the Navy. He spent a year in a Navy tech school in his home town, San Francisco and then moved on to the Pacific Fleet where he spent three additional years as a Photograper’s mate on board an aircraft carrier, where he developed an abiding love for photography and film making. This experience became a major feature in Michael’s future life.

A series of different career paths then developed after being Honorably discharged from the Navy in 1969. Michael married his wife, Julie Ann Grubb, in December of 1978 and began a career as a commercial insurance broker in Anaheim, California.

Eleven years and a few children later, Michael was deeply impressed by a gross political injustice involving the distortion of the facts by the Media and the California State Legislature regarding a tragic school yard shooting by a deranged young man who was under the care of the State Department of mental health. He was supposed to be taking medications and the people at the Health Services office did not check up on him. In his psychotic state he bought a semi-automatic rifle and shot and killed a number of Vietnamese school children and some of their teachers on the school play ground. This act of insanity became known as the Stockton school yard massacre. In true “Punch and Judy” fashion, some of the politicians decided to “blame” gun owners in the state and banned so called “Assault Weapons”, instead of acknowledging the failure of the State mental Health system and seeking it’s overhaul. This purely political act of blame placing was accomplished with the aid and misdirection of the news media and the people were sold a “bill of Goods” that this act of government confiscation would somehow insure that this kind of insanity would “never happen again.” Well, it did happen again, and again, because the politicians didn’t deal with the real problem – the young man and the thousands like him in a failing state mental health system.

As a result of this compounded tragedy, Michael established a new Citizens Journalism group called the “Citizens Organization for Public Safety” or C.O.P.S.

By February of 1993 COPS had investigated and written reports on a number of public safety issues such as Workmen’s Compensation fraud, and NEST teams, Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams, where members of a residential neighborhood were trained by local Fire, police and emergency services agencies in first responder skills in the event of a natural disaster like an earth quake or wild fire, until the professional first responders could arrive.

In April of 1993 a new tragedy took place at the hands of the Federal government, at a place called Mt. Carmel, near Waco, Texas. The whole world changed that day when almost 100 men, women and children were burned alive in their home. At that moment COPS Productions was born amidst the worst shootout in federal Law enforcement history, and Citizen Journalism became focused like a laser.

Next Time: COPS’ produces it’s first feature length Documentary – “Waco- The Rules of Engagement” and has it’s first encounter with the BATF, FBI and Justice Department.