David Koresh

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David Koresh

David Koresh (born Vernon Wayne Howell 1959 - April 19, 1993) was a self-proclaimed head of the Branch Davidians from 1988 until a raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (now BATFE) and subsequent siege by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ended with the burning of Branch Davidian ranch, the Mount Carmel Center.


Early life

Vernon Wayne Howell was born in Houston, Texas to a 15-year old single mother. He never knew his father and was raised by his grandparents. Koresh described his early childhood as lonely, saying that the other kids teased him and called him "Vernie". He was dyslexic and a poor student and so he dropped out of high school.

When he was 20, Howell joined his mother's church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but was expelled for being a bad influence on young people. Shortly thereafter, he went to Hollywood hoping to become a Rock and roll guitarist, however nothing came of this. In 1981 he moved to Waco, Texas where he joined the Branch Davidians, a religious sect which had split from the Seventh-day Adventists. They had established their headquarters at a ranch about 10 miles out of Waco, which they called the Mount Carmel Center (after the Biblical Mount Carmel, Israel), in 1955.

Ascent to leadership of the Branch Davidians

Howell allegedly had an affair with Lois Roden, the alleged prophetess and leader of the sect who was then in her late sixties. This included a trip the two took to Israel. In 1983, Roden allowed Howell to begin teaching his own message which caused controversy in the group. When Roden died in 1986, a power struggle ensued between Howell and Roden's son, George, with the majority of the group uniting behind George Roden, who forced Howell and his group off the property.

Late in 1987, Howell returned to Mount Carmel in camouflage, with seven of his male followers, armed with five .223 caliber semiautomatic assault rifles, two .22 caliber rifles, two 12-gauge shotguns and nearly 400 rounds of ammunition. In the ensuing gunfight, George Roden was wounded in the chest and hands, and took cover behind a tree. As a result of the incident, Howell and his followers were charged with attempted murder. At the trial, Howell testified that he went to Mount Carmel to uncover evidence of corpse abuse by George Roden. Howell testified further that they had come armed because George Roden had expelled him from Mount Carmel at gunpoint, and claimed that his shots had been aimed at a tree. Howell's followers were acquitted, and in Howell's case a mistrial was declared. Roden was later committed to a mental institution in an unrelated murder conviction, leaving Howell free to assume leadership of the Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel.

In 1990 Vernon Howell legally changed his name to David Koresh. In the documentation involved, Howell stated that the change was for "publicity and business purposes." The switch arose from his belief that he was now head of the biblical house of David, Koresh being a Hebrew transliteration of Cyrus the Persian king who allowed the Jews who had been dispersed throughout Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar to return to their homelands. This belief stemmed from a vision he claimed to have received from God in 1985 during his trip to Israel.

Koresh openly advocated polygamy for himself and select others in the group, and asserted himself married to several female residents of the small community, and there were allegations of child abuse occurring at Mount Carmel.

The raid & siege

For a more complete discription of the circumstances surrounding the raid on and siege of Mount Carmel see the Branch Davidian article. This article is concerned solely with the last days and demise of Koresh.

On Sunday morning, February 28, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) raided Mount Carmel. The raid resulted in the deaths of 4 agents and 5 Davidians. Shortly after the initial raid, the FBI took command of the scene and contact was established with Koresh inside the compound. Communication over the next 51 days included telephone contacts with various FBI negotiators.

As the standoff continued, Koresh, seriously injured by a gunshot to his side, and his closest male leaders negotiated delays, usually so he could write religious documents he said he needed to complete before he surrendered. His conversations, dense with biblical imagery, alienated the federal negotiators who treated the situation as a hostage crisis - despite a two hour video tape sent out by the Davidians with some of the children, in which the adults and older children/teens explained clearly and confidently why they chose of their own free will to remain with David.

The 51 day siege of Mount Carmel ended when U.S Attorney General Janet Reno approved recomendations of veteran FBI officials to proceed with a final assault in which the Branch Davidians were to be removed from their compound by force. In the course of the assault, the compound caught fire. Baricaded into their building, 75 Branch Davidians, including Koresh, were unable to escape the blaze and died.


  • David Koresh (http://www.rotten.com/library/bio/religion/cult/david-koresh/) from rotten.com (http://www.rotten.com/)

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