Today In History: Waco Siege Begins
Today in 1993, Texas state law enforcement, in cooperation with the US military, laid siege to a compound occupied by the Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas. The conflict was with a splinter group of Branch Davidians led by David Koresh, properly called “Students of the Seven Seals.”
The Branch Davidians were a sect of Seventh-day Adventists who broke away from the Seventh-day Adventist church in the 1950’s. The schism resulted in multiple groups of Davidians, with Koresh leading the largest group. The “Koreshians” had shootouts with the other largest sect of Davidians, led by George Roden, that led to the federal intervention that would lead to the infamous Waco raid.
On February 28, federal and local law enforcement arrived at the Mount Carmel Center ranch in Axtell, Texas on suspicion that Koresh and his group were in possession of illegal weapons. The ATF issued a search and arrest warrant and began the raid.
An extremely violent shootout ensued that resulted in the deaths of six Koreshians and four federal agents. After the failed raid attempt, the FBI ordered that the compound be put under siege. The siege would last fifty-one grueling days.
At the end of the siege, the FBI launched a tear gas attack on the compound. A fire ensued that spread throughout the compound, killing 76 people, David Koresh among them.
The event is still hotly controversial, with multiple conflicting timelines of what happened proposed. Of particular dispute is how the fire was started. In 2000, a Justice Department investigation concluded that the Koreshians themselves had started the fire.
Many people still see it as clear evidence of the federal government overstepping boundaries and suppressing religious freedom. The Waco siege, along with the Ruby Ridge incident from a year prior, were both cited by Timothy McVeigh as justifications for the Oklahoma City Bombing.