On this day in history, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agents tried to serve a warrant on the religious group calling themselves Branch Davidians; four agents and six Davidians were killed as a 51-day standoff began.
The Branch Davidians were a Christian sect that originated in 1955 from a schism in the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists (“Davidians”), a reform movement that began as an offshoot from the Seventh-day Adventist Church (“Adventists”) around 1930.
Members of this sect believed the time had arrived for the final divine judgment to come to pass in preparation for Christ’s second coming. But rumors about the cult included accusations of child abuse, polygamy, statutory rape, and weapon stockpiling. A warrant was obtained by the ATF. When the ATF attempted to raid the religious compound, however, a gun battle erupted. The FBI then initiated a siege. Eventually, the agents used tear gas to attempt to force the Branch Davidians out. A fire engulfed the compound, killing the Branch Davidians’ leader, David Koresh, as well as 82 other Branch Davidian men, women, and children, and four ATF agents.
Much controversy remains as to the actual events of the siege, including the cause of the fire. The events at Waco were cited as the primary motivation for the Oklahoma City bombing that took place exactly two years later in 1995.