WACO, Texas – It has been 25 years since a 51-day siege between federal agents and a religious sect at a Waco, Texas compound ended with a massive fire and the deaths of 76 people.
Shortly after the blaze, the building that once stood on the Mount Carmel Center property, where the Branch Davidians lived, was torn down. Today, that plot of land is almost unrecognizable – the charred remains are gone and lush greenery now covers the land, just a faint outline of where the structure stood suggesting the dramatic events that spring of 1993.
The compound was home to doomsday leader David Koresh and his followers, who drew the attention of the federal government after they began arming themselves and allegations swirled of polygamy and sex abuse of children.
When agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tried to take Koresh into custody on suspicion of having illegal weapons, a firefight broke out. Four agents and six of Koresh’s followers died, and the standoff began.
On the morning of April 19, 1993, FBI agents used armored vehicles and tear gas as the forced their way past the walls of the compound. The raid led to a raging fire, with black smoke pouring from the building.
Autopsy results found that some of the 76 victims, including Koresh himself, had been shot or stabbed, possibly from a suicide attempt or a mercy killing by another Davidian. According to the Associated Press, and a report by the federal government later found that the Branch Davidians started the fire. Survivors accused the agents of starting the fire, but recordings from inside the compound appeared to contradict them.
On the second anniversary of the deadly blaze, Timothy McVeigh used the botched raid as justification for his truck bomb attack in Oklahoma City that killed 186 people, prosecutors said.