Waco's Drug Buster

Waco's Drug Buster

Cal Luedke liked publicity. Just four days before the ATF raid on Mount Carmel, Luedke had taken Dan Mulloney and John McLemore on a drug raid in McGregor, a small town 20 miles southwest of Waco. Mulloney says that Luedke, as head of the county's drug task force, often invited reporters to tag along on drug busts.

His involvement in the county's anti-drug efforts was probably the reason Luedke was asked to support the ATF's raid on Mount Carmel. He and other members of the McClennan County Sheriff's Office were supposed to serve a search warrant on the Mag Bag, a building where Davidian men hung out working on cars. Luedke's presence may have also have assisted the ATF in its desire to imply that Koresh and the Davidians were deeply involved in the drug trade. Indeed, the ATF had worked hard to create the impression that Koresh and the other Davidians possessed drugs and may have even had a methamphetamine lab inside Mount Carmel. In a December 16, 1992, letter to the state of Texas, the ATF said they needed the three helicopters because Koresh was "suspected of unlawfully being in possession of firearms and possibly narcotics."

The ATF's claim was specious, and agency investigators knew it. Koresh was virulently anti-drug. Even after he was wounded in the Feb. 28 raid, the Davidian leader refused all medications, including aspirin. In 1988, when he and his followers took control of Mount Carmel, Koresh called Jack Harwell, the McClennan County sheriff, and asked him to visit. When Harwell arrived, Koresh turned over evidence that some of the previous residents had possessed amphetamines. But the ATF purposely misused that information in order to get the use of the National Guard helicopters.

Luedke, now 68, has spent almost all of his adult life in law enforcement. He began wearing a badge in the late 1950s, when he spent four years working as a trooper for the Texas Dept. of Public Safety. Low pay, he said, led him to quit the force and, for the next 12 years, he worked for a finance company and then a brewery. In 1973, his old friend Harwell, who had recently been elected sheriff of McClennan County, asked Luedke to come back to law enforcement. Luedke agreed, and began working for Harwell in March of 1973. Two years later, he was assigned to the county's drug task force. Over the next 25 years, Luedke was involved in dozens of busts, including everything from conducting raids on crack houses in rural McClennan County to monitoring the surge in heroin trafficking along I-35 after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. He retired from the sheriff's office last November.

By all accounts, Luedke has had a good career with the McClennan Co. Sheriff's Office. According to personnel records provided by the county judge's office, he had not one disciplinary infraction during his years of public service.

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  • More of the Story

  • Killing the Messenger

    Seven years after the ATF's raid on the Branch Davidians' Waco compound, the government continues to blame the media for tipping off the Davidians about the raid while hiding information that tells a different story.
  • Chronology of the Raid

    Life After Waco

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