This week, we travel back to 1993. First, Kraken will tell us all about Ruby Ridge and how it went terribly wrong as well as why many believe it was one of the factors that led to the escalation in Waco, TX. He then tells us about David Koresh and the Branch Davidian’s in the seige of Waco where ATF, FBI and more engaged in a huge stand off ultimately ending in an uncontrolled blaze and the death of over 70 organization members.
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The siege of Waco was a 51 day standoff between the Branch davidians and federal agents that killed 75 people and lasted from February 28th – April 19th 1993.
Before Waco, we’re gonna talk a bit about what many believe led to the Waco incident happening the way that it did, so we’re going to go back a bit to a remote boundary county in Idaho called Ruby Ridge. On August 21st, 1992 federal agents entered an 11 day standoff against Randy Weaver, his wife and five children, and his friend Kevin Harris, for several years the local authorities along with the FBI, ATF, and even the secret service were investigating Randy.
Who is Randy Weaver?
Randy Weaver was a college drop-out and served for three years as a Green Beret/U.S army engineer. He and his wife were religious fundamentalists who distrusted the government and believed the apocalypse was near. They hoarded guns and made plans to move “off-grid”. In 1984, Randy and his family would move into a cabin they’d built overlooking Ruby Creek, Idaho. They also chose to not have electricity or running water.
The FBI and Secret Service became involved when Randy (according to a neighbor) threatened then President Ronald Regan as well as other government officials. They began to investigate but no charges were filed. They did however document that Randy had ties to the Aryan Nation, Randy would later deny these claims.
In 1989, undercover ATF agents claimed that Randy sold them illegal sawed-off shotguns and that they had offered Randy the chance to become an informant for the Aryan Nation. Other sources say that Randy refused multiple times to make the sawed-off shotguns but was eventually coerced by the ATF. Randy refused their offer to become an informant but was indicted for manufacturing and possessing illegal weapons. He was then released on bail and his trial was set for February 1991, even though his probation officer informed him that it wasn’t until March 20th.
Randy missed his February trial and so a warrant was issued for his arrest. March 20th came around and there was still no sign of Randy, several attempts were made to negotiate with him over email during the following year but all of those attempts had failed. Things were now in the hands of the U.S Marshals who were responsible for bringing Randy in. Given his history of firearms and distrust of the government, they came to the conclusion that he was not going to go quietly so they began covertly gathering intelligence, surveying the terrain and the Weaver family.
During this time, the family became more isolated and Randy’s wife Vicky gave birth to a girl at home and took care of her as best as she could given the current circumstances. The surveillance teams also noticed that the Weavers were almost always armed, they had planned to infiltrate the family with the help of a male and female undercover deputy posing as their new neighbors but this plan was never put into action.
The Turning Point in Ruby Ridge
All of these events reached a boiling point on the morning of August 21st 1992. The surveillance team was preparing to do their usual routine when the Weaver’s dogs became aware of them. The dogs, along with Sammy Weaver, Randy Weaver, and Kevin Harris began chasing the team as they scattered, it is unclear who shot first but this chase eventually led to a firefight that left 14-year old Sammy Weaver, Marshal Degan, and one of Weaver’s dogs dead.
After the firefight, the Weavers would barricade themselves in their Ruby Ridge cabin as they planned their next steps. Deputy Hunt was desperate to end the standoff and get Marshal Degan’s body off the mountain so he called for help and on August 22nd the FBI, assuming they were going into an active and unprovoked firefight against U.S Marshals, arrived at Ruby Ridge.
At this point the area was flooded with hundreds of law enforcement officers and federal agents with the unusual orders to shoot any armed adult on sight. Snipers began setting up a perimeter in hopes of getting Randy to cooperate but he did the exact opposite and ignored all negotiation attempts and pleas from his sister. Randy Weaver, his 16 year old daughter Sara, and Kevin Harris, were headed to the nearby shed where they’d taken Sammy’s body when they were shot at by FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi who thought they were going to open fire on a helicopter.
Randy was hit and the three headed back into the cabin. As they approached the house, Randy’s wife Vicki stood behind the front door holding her newborn daughter when Horiuchi fired again in an attempt to hit Kevin Harris, Vicki was struck in the face killing her instantly, Kevin was also injured by this shot. Despite all of this, Randy refused to give up.
Meanwhile, outside the cabin, hundreds of people arrived to protest the government’s actions and they became extremely angry when they learned of the deaths of Sammy and Vicki. The FBI approached Special Forces soldier Bo Gritz to ask him to record a message to Randy in an attempt to get him to surrender, Bo arrived on scene, confident that he could end this and on August 30th, Bo convinced Randy to send out Harris who was badly injured along with the body of his wife Vicki while Randy and the rest of his family remained inside.
An End to the Madness
Bo once again went to the cabin the following day and finally convinced Randy and the rest of his family to exit the cabin, ending the siege despite Randy previously vowing to die before giving himself up. Randy’s daughters were handed over to relatives and despite being charged with murder, conspiracy, and a handful of other crimes, Randy was only convicted of failing to appear in court for his original weapons charged, he was eventually cleared of all charges. Randy and his three daughters were awarded $3.1 million for the loss of Sammy and Vicki during the events at Ruby Ridge.
After the tragic incident at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, the FBI and ATF weren’t too popular and they needed to accomplish something to win back the favor of the people so they turned their attention to the Branch Davidians, a religious organization that described themselves as “students of the bible” and was founded in 1959 by Ben Roden as an offshoot of the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Church that was founded several decades earlier by Victor Houteff, whose group moved to some farmland about 10 miles east of Waco Texas but around 1962, Roden and his followers had already taken possession of the 77-acre piece of land which was known as Mt. Carmel.
The majority of their followers lived inside the main compound but there were still about 130 that lived nearby. They led a simple life, preparing for the return of Jesus Christ, though during the 1980s there was a bit of a power struggle and by the end of the decade Vernon Howell became the head of the community and would later go on to be known as David Koresh and he would begin taking what he called “spiritual wives,” several of those wives were reportedly as young as 11 years old, Koresh’s newly founded retail gun business, along with the allegations of child abuse began to catch the attention of legal authorities.
Warrants Get Issued
The ATF believed they were stockpiling illegal weapons and obtained an arrest warrant for Koresh and a search warrant for the compound near Waco. On February 28th, 1993, over 70 ATF agents arrived in SUVs and pickup trucks towing horse trailers with tarps over them to conceal the agents inside. Surprisingly there were reporters already on the scene at the time of the ATFs arrival, indicating that someone had given them a tip about the raid.
The Raid Begins in Waco
The agents surrounded the compound and began their raid, once again it is unclear who shot first but as the ATF agents attempted to make contact with the group, gunfire erupted, resulting in a two hour battle that killed four and wounding more than a dozen federal agents, six Davidians were also killed during these two hours.
This led to nearly 900 law enforcement officials arriving at the compound including FBI hostage negotiators, during phone calls with Koresh, officials state that he engaged in “bible babble” and threatened violence, he also made it known that no one in the compound were suicidal.
Koresh eventually allowed more than 30 of his followers to leave although it was thought that around 100 remained inside, in exchange for supplies and milk for the children which was delivered with listening devices in the crates. As negotiations began to stall, Koresh had offered to surrender if one of his sermons were broadcast on national radio but failed to do so when it aired.
Agents tried various methods including turning off their electricity and even engaging in psychological warfare by playing Tibetan chants over loudspeakers, and shining spotlights on the complex in an attempt to “disrupt sleep”. U.S attorney general Janet Reno was convinced that David Koresh wasn’t going to surrender and authorized the FBI to raid the compound.
Around 6:00 am on April 19th, 1993, federal agents began spraying tear gas into the compound, not long after the Branch Davidians began to return fire and for over five hours armored vehicles deposited 400 tear gas canisters into the compound either through windows or through holes that they punched into the walls.
Fires Break Out in Waco
About 25 minutes later several fires broke out inside the compound, it is unknown whether or not the Branch Davidians set these fires or if a combination of the gunfire and gas caused a combustion, there are several reports and incidents in which tear gas was the cause of a fire, in 1999 it was revealed that some of the tear gas that was used was flammable though a later probe into the raid which concluded in 2000, found that the U.S Government “did not cause the fire” nor did it shoot at the compound.
At 12:25 pm, several shots were heard inside the building and firefighters were not allowed inside due to safety concerns for another 15 minutes, by this time the compound was ablaze and unable to be saved. Nine people managed to escape but unfortunately the rest didn’t make it, investigators recovered a total of 75 bodies, 25 of which were children. Many of the deceased were found to have been fatally shot, including Koresh. Some of the wounds were self inflicted but others were not.
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Sources: encyclopedia britannica, grunge.com, history.com, PBS, encyclopedia britannica, Time.com, Vox.com
Researched by Kraken from The Squonk & The Hag