Waco 1993. Branch Davidian. In 1986 a man called David Koresh became the leader of a religious cult in America called the ‘Branch Davidian’. He was easygoing. He was handsome. He was aggressive. He was charismatic. He had the flamboyance of a rock star. He called himself Messiah.
In 1986 a man called David Koresh became the leader of a religious cult in America called the ‘Branch Davidian’.
Koresh separated husbands from wives and claimed all the women as his own. He gave each girl a Star of David, which was a symbol of ownership.
Koresh said that as a God he had to spread his seed and create a holy army. He called his male followers Mighty Men and they were to be his primary soldiers. It is thought that he took at least 15 girls and women for his harem, some as young as 12.
A UPS driver tipped off the
ATF when a package for the compound
Broke open to reveal hand grenades.
While the group did earn money
from gun sales and were legally
allowed to trade in arms, it appeared
that they weren't
1993 - Things Changed!
By 1992, Koresh was teaching his followers about martyrdom. At the same time he stockpiled food and collecting guns to defend himself against attacks, whether from defectors or government agents. There is no evidence that the Branch Davidians were actually using the guns they were selling, they clearly had a siege mentality. The cult managed to acquire enough instant storable meals to last a year, if the need arose.
According to defectors, Koresh demanded to know from members of his group how far they were willing to go to defend HIS religion. The only way to serve GOD was to be willing to die. He even taught the children that suicide might one day be required and showed them how to do it with cyanide or a gun.
On February 28th, 1993 the ATF decided to launch a raid on the compound to take control of the illegal guns.
It was a disaster!
Koresh looked out from behind a steel door. He slammed the door and someone started shooting. Both sides started a fierce gun battle. Survivors of the skirmish and the subsequent standoff claimed that bullets came in through the ceiling, which meant that agents in the helicopters were firing into the compound. The ATF say no one in the choppers fired a single shot. Women inside claimed they'd placed their bodies over the children to protect them from the rain of bullets.
Death Came Thick and Fast
Several agents were hit right away, and shots came at the hovering choppers. One member of an ATF team that penetrated the building was shot in the head and killed. Several rolled off the roof when hit. It was clear that the cult had some heavy artillery. Bullets pierced reporters' cars, concussion grenades, known as "flash-bangs" exploded among agents. Koresh and his crew appeared to have superior weapons. They also had the advantage of cover, while the agents were out in the open.
Women were screaming inside and men were yelling. Several people had been hit, including cultists firing from the tower, and four were wounded while five were dead. Whoever had started it, both sides knew they would have to fight hard for survival.
The Siege - 51 days
Koresh had enough food and weapons to stay locked behind closed doors for months. Whilst the FBI arrived to support the ATF Koresh made speeches to the media about his power. He even sent the odd child out of the compound as a sign of his good intentions. But nobody believed him.
The FBI and ATF decided to pump Tear Gas into the compound buildings in canisters. They believed that no one would long endure the harsh fumes of the gas. It burned the mouth, eyes, skin, and lungs to the point that any reasonable person would accept a way to escape it. They were wrong. The tanks caught fire and Koresh refused to leave – and his followers.
The Death Toll
By the end of that shocking day, 80 people were found dead, 23 of them children under 17. Koresh had fathered 14 of them. While rumors spread that Koresh himself had escaped through underground tunnels, his body was later identified by dental records. He'd been shot in the head.
Many of the victims had died from gunshot wounds and one child had been stabbed to death. Over 100 firearms were eventually recovered from the scene, and 400,000 rounds of ammunition.