Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Koresh: Millennial Violence

Confusion Reigns

The intense skirmish continued for around two hours before a truce was called, allowing the ATF to remove their dead and wounded.  It turned out that 20 agents had been hit, but emergency facilities were 20 minutes away. The wounded were transported, but too late for four men, who'd sustained mortal wounds. (Wessinger claims the count was 20 wounded and four dead, but FBI records indicate that 16 were wounded and four were dead.)

ATF agents killed in gun battle
ATF agents killed in gun battle

While the ATF waited through a tense afternoon, they arranged to make some statements over a local radio station, in the hope Koresh was listening, to let him know there would be no new attacks. Yet around 5:00 when three cultists walking outside the compound to return there from work encountered ATF agents, the shooting resumed. Agents killed one and captured one of the trio, while one got away, and officials then broadcast a request to Koresh to give up without a fight. His response was a scripture reading. 

Wessinger interprets his behavior within her analysis of end-times religious groups by pointing out that his "ultimate concern" was to "obey God's will, as revealed in the Bible, in order to be included in the millennial kingdom." They had believed that day to be imminent and had armed themselves for its eventuality. Inside the buildings were over 100 people who believed in Koresh's divine gifts and his ability to dictate to them what God wished for them.  Several apostates who were advising the ATF indicated that a siege could very well trigger a mass suicide like Jonestown. Nevertheless, ATF director Steven Higgens, as reported by Wessinger, had insisted two days before that a show of force against this group was necessary.

Koresh quickly contacted the media and participated in several live interviews with CNN about how the ATF had endangered his flock.  He emphasized the number of children who lived in the compound and said that he'd been shot and was bleeding badly. He expected to die. (In fact, as Wessinger indicates, he probably interpreted this as another fulfillment of the prophecy of the lamb being mortally wounded.)

By that time, the ATF was reinforced, along with local police officers, Texas Rangers, members of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), the FBI's Special Agent in Charge (SAC) from the San Antonio office, a bomb squad, and several U.S. Marshals. The media, too, began to pour in. Koresh released four children ranging in age from three to six, and everyone settled in for a long night.


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