Waco Confrontation

Compound on fire

On April 19, 1993, the ATF launched an assualt on the headquarters of David Koresh in Waco, Texas. Koresh ordered his disciples to kill themselves and set the compound on fire. Eighty-six people died.

The Branch Davidians were a religious sect that believed in a coming apocalypse, armageddon and the second coming. The group was initially founded in 1955 and underwent a series of leadership changes. By May of 1990, it was being led by Vernon Howell who changed his name to David Koresh. They were living in a compound called Mount Carmel Center in Axtell Texas. This was located 13 miles from WACO Texas.

On February 27, 1993, the Waco Tribune-Herald began publishing a series called “The Sinful Messiah.” The series depicted a compound here Koresh was physically abusing children, was committing statutory rape with underage brides and stockpiling illegal weapons.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) began an investigation after the local sheriff contacted them after a UPS driver reported a package that accidentally opened contained firearms and grenade casings. This preceded the Heralds articles.

The ATF obtain a search warrant to search the compound. The agents had hoped their raid would be a surprise, but the Davidians were ready. When the assault began early in the morning of February 28, a firefight broke out and before it was over four ATF agents were killed. After two hours a ceasefire was agreed to.

For 55 days the FBI maintained a siege of the compound. Initially, Koresh had promised to surrender if he could tape a video message to be played on national TV, but he went back on that offer. He did allow 17 children to leave. Within the FBI there were two schools one believed the only reasonable solution was to wait them out the other wanted to go in. Those wishing to go were able to convince Attorney General Janet Reno that going in was the proper course the Reno convinced a reluctant President Clinton. He gave the go ahead.
On the morning of April 19, 1993, the assault began. The FBI used armored vehicles and explosives in the assault. Fires broke out in various parts of the compound. By the time it was over 76 people were dead including David Koresh. Nine survived the fire and another 38 left during the siege.