Branch Davidian Disaster: 24 Years Later

WACO, Texas (KETK) - It's been 24 years and most of us can still remember it as if it happened yesterday.

The chaos began on February 28, 1993.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives attempted to serve warrants for illegal weapons at the Branch Davidian Christian compound near Waco.

A gun battle with church followers broke out, followed by a seven-week standoff with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The leader of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh, refused to negotiate and FBI forces moved in on April 19. The compound caught fire and a total of 82 Branch Davidians died, including 24 children. Four federal agents were also killed. Only nine people left the building alive during the fire. Footage of the raid was broadcast live by television crews around the world.


Koresh, whose real name was Vernon Wayne Howell, was born in Houston in 1959. He moved to Tyler with his mother where he was expelled from the Seventh Day Adventist Church for being a bad influence on younger members. In 1981, Koresh joined the Branch Davidians, a sect of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, in Mount Carmel.


According to, he had extensive biblical knowledge and rose in the ranks of leadership where he soon entered into a power struggle with the Davidians' then-leader, George Roden. Koresh and his followers made their way back to East Texas before returning to Mount Carmel in 1987. Koresh and seven armed followers stormed the Mount Carmel compound and seriously wounded Roden.

Koresh was charged with attempted murder. However, the charges were dropped when a mistrial was declared.


In 1990, Koresh was the sole leader of the Davidians at Mount Carmel. He then legally changed his name to "David Koresh."

According to reports, Koresh "took many wives" and fathered at least 12 children. reports some of Koresh's wives were as young as 12 and 13 when they became pregnant. He made sure the compound was stocked with high-power weapons and explosives in case of an apocalyptic event.


Following the siege, Koresh was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery, off Highway 64 West, in Tyler.

In 2009, Koresh's mother, Bonnie Clark Haldeman was stabbed to death by her sister, Beverly Clark, in Chandler. Haldeman wrote a book on Koresh titled, "Memories of the Branch Davidians" before her death.


As of 2011, surviving followers of Koresh still believed he was God in the flesh, according to CNN. The national media outlet reported two followers, Shelia Martin and Clive Doyle would still meet every Saturday, the Branch Davidian Sabbath, to pray and discuss biblical scripture. Doyle's daughter, Shari, who was 18 when she died in the raid, was one of Koresh's "wives." He told CNN his child began having sexual relations with Koresh when she was 14.

"She wanted to be with David and to hear and follow the message," Doyle told CNN. "I wondered, I asked, 'Is this God or is this horny old David?' I couldn't argue because he'd show you where it was in the Bible."

Martin also spoke with CNN saying she condoned Koresh having sex with underage girls.

"In the Bible, if a girl is old enough to menstruate, then she can be a wife," she explained to CNN.


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