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Cult leader David Koresh led the Branch Davidians in a deadly 51-day stand-off against the FBI and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
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David Koresh was born on August 17, 1959, in Houston, Texas. In 1990, he became the leader of the Branch Davidians. He and his followers built an "Army of God" by stockpiling weapons in preparation for the apocalypse. On February 28, 1993, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the compound in Waco, resulting in a 51-day stand-off ending on April 19, when Koresh shot himself.
"So here we are in the day of the Lord. All the prophets talk about the great and dreadful day of the Lord when God will make inquisition for blood."
"There some things that God has concealed in his written word that are to be brought to do right before the end of time."
Cult leader David Koresh was born Vernon Wayne Howell to an unwed teenage mother named Bonnie Clark, on August 17, 1959, in Houston, Texas. Initially raised by his grandparents in the Dallas suburb of Garland, the young Koresh attended the Church of Seventh Day Adventists.
In his senior year, Koresh dropped out of Garland High School to take a carpentry job. While in his early 20s, he spent a short time in Los Angeles trying to make it as a rock star. When he returned to Houston, the Seventh Day Adventists kicked him out of the church.
In 1981, Koresh moved to Waco, Texas, and joined the Branch Davidians on their Mount Carmel compound. Koresh then had an affair with the sect's much older prophetess, Lois Roden. In 1984, he married a teenaged Branch Davidian named Rachel Jones, with whom he would have a son and two daughters. When Roden passed away, Koresh's and Roden's son, George, argued about who would take over the Branch Davidians. Koresh left the sect with his followers and lived in eastern Texas for a while. In 1987, he and a handful of his devotees returned to Mount Carmel heavily armed, and shot Roden. Roden survived. Koresh and his crew were tried for attempted murder, but were acquitted.
In 1990, he legally changed his name from Howell to Koresh (after the Persian king) and became the Branch Davidians' leader. Koresh's teachings included the practice of "spiritual weddings" which enabled him to bed God-chosen female followers of all ages. Koresh had a dozen children with members other than his legal wife.
As leader of the Branch Davidians, Koresh claimed he had cracked the code of the Seven Seals in the Book of Revelation, which predicted events leading to the apocalypse. He told his followers that the lord willed the Davidians to build an "Army of God." As a result, they started stockpiling weapons.
On February 28, 1993, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the compound. A four-hour gunfight left six of Koresh's followers and four BATF agents dead. Believing he and the Davidians had opened the fifth seal of revelation, Koresh claimed it was time to kill God's faithful. The result was a 51-day stand-off between Koresh and federal agents, in the latter's attempt to free his hostages. On April 19, 1993, Koresh died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, after the Federal Bureau of Investigations launched a tank and tear gas assault on Mount Carmel.
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Combine a charismatic personality with fringe beliefs and an appetite for violence, and you get some of history's most notorious cult leaders. Charles Manson terrorized frightened Americans in the late 1960s, convincing his followers to commit heinous murders in his name. David Koresh led the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, leading to a standoff with the federal government in 1993 that resulted in the death of Koresh and 75 of his believers. Learn about these leaders, and many more, who inspired hundreds to follow their unconventional philosophies—often with tragic results.
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