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David Koresh led his followers to a fiery end in Waco, Texas

2020-04-16 Source:www.facts.org.cn Author:Troy Lennon

It was February 28, 1993, 25 years ago today. The ATF had been trying to exercise a search warrant for illegal weapons at a complex run by a religious cult, known as the Branch Davidians. But the leader, David Koresh, and his followers had been expecting the raid and were better armed. In the botched raid, four ATF officers and six Davidians died, but worse was to come. The compound was surrounded by FBI agents who, after a 51-day siege, brought a fiery conclusion to the showdown, resulting in the deaths of 76 members — including Koresh and several Australians. 

 

AS a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agent made his way onto the roof of a building in the large compound in Waco and tried to look through a window of an upstairs room, a volley of bullets ripped through the wall beside him. A TV camera captured the moment he was hit and crumpled on the roof.

It was February 28, 1993, 25 years ago today. The ATF had been trying to exercise a search warrant for illegal weapons at a complex run by a religious cult, known as the Branch Davidians. But the leader, David Koresh, and his followers had been expecting the raid and were better armed.

In the botched raid, four ATF officers and six Davidians died, but worse was to come. The compound was surrounded by FBI agents who, after a 51-day siege, brought a fiery conclusion to the showdown, resulting in the deaths of 76 members — including Koresh and several Australians.

 

Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh.

While law enforcement authorities mishandled the incident, the showdown would never have occurred had it not been for the man at the centre of the storm. Koresh had violent tendencies, delusions of being a messiah and an overblown paranoia that caused him to arm himself and his followers, leading to the deadly siege.

He was born Vernon Howell in Houston, Texas in 1959 to teenage mother Bonnie Clark and her older lover Bobby Howell. Howell abandoned Clark and his son, and Koresh was mostly raised by his grandparents. He was a poor student who suffered from dyslexia, but overcame his reading difficulties by reading and memorising large parts of the bible.

He dropped out of school early and tried to make a living as a musician, but instead found himself drawn toward religion.

He joined his mother’s Seventh Day Adventist church but was thrown out for being a bad influence on others and his too-ardent pursuit of a pastor’s daughter. However, in the early ’80s he moved to Waco and joined an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists — the Branch Davidians.

 

An aerial photo of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in January 1993

 

An aerial photo of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in January 1993

Founded by Benjamin Roden in 1955, the branch is a reference in the Book of Zechariah from the Hebrew bible of an anointed servant who branches off and sets up a temple. Roden’s sect was an offshoot of the Davidian Seventh Day Adventists, but Roden had split off in 1959 to await an apocalypse at a place they named Mount Carmel in Waco. The apocalypse never came but the sect stayed, setting up a complex of buildings that was added to as more people joined the sect.

When Roden died in 1978 his wife Lois took over as leader. Koresh arrived in 1981 (then still Vernon Howell) and Lois — in her late 60s — welcomed him with open arms. She also took him to her bed.

When Lois died in 1986, her son George took over as leader. But Koresh was pushing the view that he was a messiah and gathering followers. George exhumed a body and dared Koresh to bring it back to life. Koresh used this as an excuse to try to bring charges against George for interfering with a corpse. In 1987 Koresh raided the compound looking for proof resulting in a gun fight with George and his arrest. Accused of attempted murder, Koresh got off after a mistrial was declared. In 1989 George was charged with the axe murder of a cult member claiming to be the messiah. Koresh became leader.

 

An ATF officer is shot during a raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco Texas on February 28, 1993

 

The FBI treat a wounded agent after he attempted to serve an arrest warrant to David Koresh on firearms charges

 

A wounded ATF officer is carried away after the raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco Texas in February 28, 1993

In 1990 he changed his name to David Koresh, derived from the Hebrew name of King Cyrus, who allowed the captive Jews in Babylon to return to Israel. He began sleeping with many of the women and telling the cuckolded husbands to remain celibate. He also convinced followers he was the son of God.

In 1992 after reports surfaced from Australian members who had left the cult, Martin King from A Current Affair was granted the first interview with the leader. During the interview King asked if Koresh had a cache of guns. “It makes nobody’s business whether we a have gun or not at this place. Guns are the right of Americans to have.” He told King that he would defend himself if people came in shooting. “What would you do? Tell me? Be realistic. This is America, this is not Australia.”

 

A still from Martin King’s (right) A Current Affair world exclusive interview with David Koresh in 1992. Picture: Channel 9

 

Flames engulf the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993, after a 51-day siege. Picture: AP

Hearing about the stash of weapons, ATF began an investigation and, on the pretext that Koresh was illegally modifying the weapons to make them fully automatic, got a search and arrest warrant.

On February 28, 1993, the ATF raided the compound and was met with heavy gunfire. As federal officers were killed the FBI initiated a siege of Koresh’s compound, the standoff lasting 51 days.

But maintaining the siege was costing millions of dollars, so US attorney-general Janet Reno approved a raid.

As tanks rolled in pumping the complex with tear gas, fires broke out engulfing many of the buildings, killing 76 people. However, it is still not known whether cult members lit the fires or if they were accidentally started by FBI agents during the raid.

Source: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/david-koresh-led-his-followers-to-a-fiery-end-in-waco-texas/news-story/73fa9b37c148833967a988a9e3f4444f

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Editor:Catherine