5 Little Known Facts About David Koresh & The Waco Siege

After ascending to the peak position of the Branch Davidians in 1990, Vernon Howell legally changed his name to David Koresh. Court documents indicate the name change was officially “for publicity and business purposes.”

February 28, 2017

David Koresh [McLennan County Sheriff's Office]

David Koresh [McLennan County Sheriff's Office]

By: Mike McPadden

WACO, TX — Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) assembled outside the Mount Carmel Center in Waco, Texas the morning of February 28, 1993.

Mount Carmel was a live-in compound belonging to a Christian sect called the Branch Davidians. The ATF’s stated goal that day was to arrest the group’s leader, 33-year-old David Koresh (above), and to search the area for illegal weapons.

Coincidentally (perhaps), on the day before the agents arrived, an article in The Waco Tribune-Herald accused Koresh of physically abusing children, having sex with underage girls, and practicing polygamy. Still, the ATF maintains it just showed up that day for guns and bombs and the like.

As the two sides mounted that Sunday morning, a two-hour firefight resulted in four dead and 16 wounded ATF agents, plus a still undetermined number of Branch Davidians. To date, no one knows who shot first.

For the next 51 days, the standoff between the ATF and Koresh captivated humanity. Koresh preached his Armageddon philosophy from behind barricades while the feds essentially sat around at a cost of a million bucks a week.

Even more captivating, unfortunately, was the situation’s infernal climax. On April 19, 1993, recently appointed Attorney General Janet Reno ordered armored FBI agents to storm the Mount Carmel Center and end the siege by force.

In the course of the attack, fire engulfed the Branch Davidian complex. Eighty church members died. Among the departed were David Koresh and his legal wife, Rachel Jones, along with 22 victims who were under age 17.

Outrage, controversy, and conspiracy theories have surrounded the 1993 Waco siege ever since. What follows are some little known facts about this apocalyptic American tragedy.

1. David Koresh Was Not Actually Named David Koresh

The man who would go down in flames as David Koresh was actually born Vernon Wayne Howell in 1959 to a 14-year-old mom in Houston, Texas. (What is it with the middle name Wayne?)

Suffering from severe dyslexia and possibly surviving traumatic sexual abuse, young Koresh was placed in special-education classes and teased by schoolmates as “Vernie.” He really hated that name.

After ascending to the peak position of the Branch Davidians in 1990, Vernon Howell legally changed his name to David Koresh. He took “David” from King David of the Bible from whom he said, like Jesus Christ, he was descended. “Koresh” is a reference to the Persian king Cyrus the Great who liberated the Jews from Babylon. Court documents indicate the name change was officially “for publicity and business purposes.”

2. Before the ATF and FBI, There Was UPS

In June 1992, a UPS delivery driver said he delivered a package to the Mount Carmel Center that accidentally opened and was revealed to contained automatic weapons, inert hand grenades, and 90 pounds of explosive powder. On top of that, this particular package was similar to many others the UPS had been taking out to the Branch Davidians for quite some time.

This particular day, the driver dropped off the goods and sped away, sufficiently freaked out to alert authorities to what he was convinced he saw. That report kicked off the investigation into Koresh and the compound that led to the search warrant upon which the ATF acted the following February.

3. David Koresh Also Gave His Soul to Rock and Roll

Along with his passion for an Endtimes Christian dogma, David Koresh wrote and performed rock music. He boasted decent guitar stills and, as you’d expect, he excelled as a frontman. Numerous observers link Koresh to Charles Manson this way, as each were charismatic cult leaders who preached about the end of the world and reportedly dreamed of big-time music careers.

The idea that Manson may have been driven to orchestrate mass death due to being musically frustrated makes more sense than Koresh (Charlie, after all, hung out with rock stars and auditioned for industry executives). Still, it’s yet another possible piece to the Waco siege puzzle.

4. Two FBI Teams Competed to Catch Koresh ... and Maybe Seemed to Have Fun Doing It

Prior to the tear-gas assault, the feds’ efforts to flush out the Davidians were handled by a squad of official FBI Negotiators, who specialized in talking, and the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), who used more aggressive tactics.

The Negotiators became especially irritated when the HRT flexed its muscle by crushing Koresh’s cars and a guard shack in sight of the church members. The HRT, at the same time, couldn’t believe the negotiators wouldn’t let them cut water and power off at the compound.

FBI Negotiator Byron Sage later told PBS, “There was one time when there was a notation on one of the portable outhouses up front that said, ‘Sage is a Davidian,’ obviously written by one of the tactical guys.”

5. Nancy Sinatra Failed as a Torture Tactic

Blaring music at deafening levels to force a surrender is a longtime government tactic, particularly if the song in question is thought to be offensive or otherwise upsetting to the target. Often, such playlists include heavy metal, hip hop, or aggressive pop, along with earworms such as Barney the Dinosaur’s “I Love You” and the Meow Mix TV commercial jingle.

At Waco, the overwhelming favorite for the ATF to flood the air with was Nancy Sinatra’s infectious 1966 hit, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” It didn’t work. David Koresh did counter attack, though. He blasted back recordings of his own original rock compositions.

To learn more about the infamous siege, watch Investigation Discovery's Waco: The Inside Story on ID GO now!

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