Some 82 Davidians (including 26 children) and four ATF agents were killed in two related episodes, a February 28 military-style assault by 100 ATF agents and an April 19 fire after a six-week stand-off provoked by the FBI.
The Waco massacre ranks among the largest mass-killings of American citizens by its own government since 19th-century Indian massacres, such as Wounded Knee, the Dakota Sioux War of 1862, and the Trail of Tears.
The massacre began in a February 28 raid by ATF officials on the compound where Davidians lived. The Davidians were ready for the ATF. Four ATF agents were killed and another 16 injured, and the ATF was repulsed from the Mount Carmel Center compound. Six Davidians — a Seventh Day Adventist splinter group — were also reportedly killed in the February 28 melee.
The raid was a result of ATF allegations that the Davidian's leader David Koresh (also known by his birth name Vernon Howell) had modified legally purchased AR-15 military-style rifles to fully automatic status, a federal crime. The FBI later concluded that the Davidians had modified 48 firearms to fire in fully automatic mode, and that they also had 21 silencers and a number of “practice” hand-grenades.
Koresh had been the subject of a series of articles in the Waco Tribune-Herald beginning the day before the February 28 ATF raid. The paper quoted former Davidians who claimed firearms violations, as well as polygamy and child molestation, by Koresh. The series began with the following allegations:
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Photo of April 19, 1993 fire at Mount Carmel: AP Images