David Koresh and the Branch Davidians
The Branch Davidians are a dissident Religious Cult that branched off of the Davidians, a small sect which itself had split from the Seventh-Day Adventist Church during the 1930s. The cult's more than 100 members had built a compound located near Waco, Tex., and it was there that they came to a tragic end in 1993. The cult leader, David Koresh, claimed to be the Messiah and told his followers that the Apocalypse, as predicted in the Bible, was at hand. He had stockpiled sufficient weapons and food to withstand a long siege.
Koresh apparently was tipped off to a raid by agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) who attempted to seize the cult's illegal stockpile of weapons. About 100 federal agents attacked the compound on Feb. 28, 1993, and were met by heavy fire from cult members; 4 agents and 6 cultists were killed. The Federal Bureau of Investigation tried to negotiate their surrender but Koresh refused, and the siege of the compound lasted 51 days.
Finally, on April 19, federal agents using armored vehicles tried to break down the compound's walls and began pumping tear gas into the building. The cult members complied with Koresh's order to commit mass suicide, and at least 75 of them, including 17 children, died in the fire or from gunshots fired by Koresh and other leaders. Only 9 cultists escaped with their lives. Although Att. Gen. Janet Reno took full responsibility for the final assault, the ATF's top managers were criticized harshly in a Treasury Department report. In the aftermath of the catastrophe, charges were brought against a number of Branch Davidian survivors, and in June 1994 five of them received 40-year sentences.
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