On February 28, 1993, Federal agents raid the Branch Davidian cult compound in Waco, Texas, prompting a gun battle in which four agents and six cult members are killed. They were attempting to arrest the leader of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh, on information that the religious sect was stockpiling weapons. A nearly two-month standoff ensued after the unsuccessful raid.
The roots of the confrontation between the federal government and the Branch Davidians went back 10 years before the Waco siege. In 1983, a young man named Vernon Howell showed up at the Mt. Carmel headquarters of the sect. Lois Roden and her son, George, were competing for leadership of the commune at the time. Lois had an affair with Howell, but died shortly thereafter. George Roden attempted to take charge of Mt. Carmel, but Howell challenged his leadership, claiming that he was the Lamb from Revelation, and that his children would be descended from God. Soon, Howell started his own harem, declaring himself the only one allowed to have wives. Reportedly his many wives included girls as young as 12. Howell changed his name to David Koresh in 1990.
Not long after, he began filling the cult member's heads with apocalyptic warnings and insisting that they arm themselves. In 1992, a deliveryman accidentally dropped a package and saw that it was filled with grenades. It was against this background that the federal government obtained a warrant for Koresh's arrest. To Koresh, the failed raid served as proof that he really was being persecuted. When federal agents moved in to end the siege on April 19 with tear gas, a fire broke out. Koresh and about two dozen others shot themselves to death or were shot before the fire engulfed the entire compound. Others died in the fire or the rubble of collapsing buildings, bringing the death toll to 80. Ultimately, eight cult members were convicted of charges ranging from manslaughter to weapons violations.