Federal Bureau of Investigation

25 Years Later: A Timeline of the Waco Branch Davidian Raid

On Feb. 28, 1993, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Branch Davidian's Mt. Carmel compound east of Waco looking for David Koresh — the leader of the sect officials believed was stockpiling weapons and ammunition.

After a TV cameraman inadvertently tipped off a Davidian to the impending raid earlier in the morning, the ATF had lost the element of surprise.

As federal agents arrived at the compound on Double EE Ranch Road, they were met with gunfire.

The siege that unfolded at the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco started after a shootout Feb. 28, 1993 -25 years ago Wednesday.
The siege that unfolded at the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco started after a shootout Feb. 28, 1993 -25 years ago Wednesday.

In the exchange, four federal agents and six Davidians were killed and more than a dozen others, including Koresh, were wounded.

The federal agents retreated, beginning a 51-day standoff that would end with nearly 80 dead, including 17 children, after the Mt. Carmel compound burned to the ground on April 19.

In 2017, NBC 5's Deborah Ferguson leads a round-table discussion of journalists who covered the Waco seige: (L-R) Irwin Thompson, photographer with the Dallas Morning News; Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 reporter; Ferguson; John Thompson, NBC 5 photojournalist; Lyle Davis, NBC 5 photojournalist and Steve Stewart, NBC 5 chief photographer.
Sunday, Feb. 28

A TV cameraman who knew of the upcoming raid was trying to find the location of Mt. Carmel and asked a postal employee to confirm the location. The postal employee was a Davidian, who was able to return to Mt. Carmel and warn Koresh and his followers of the federal agents who were on their way.

Federal agents, having lost the element of surprise, were under fire soon after arrival.

The exchange of gunfire kicked off the 51-day standoff that soon garnered attention from around the world.

Included in the timeline below are news clips pulled from the archives of KXAS-TV/NBC 5, hosted on The Portal to Texas History.

Monday, March 1

Negotiations continue and 10 children are released from the compound. FBI agitates Koresh by moving armored vehicles closer to the compound.

Tuesday, March 2

Koresh says he'll surrender if a recording of his message is broadcast nationally. The message is broadcast over the Christian Broadcasting Network that afternoon but Koresh declines to surrender saying God spoke to him and told him to wait.

Friday, March 5

ATF Special Agent Steven Willis, one of the four ATF agents killed in the raid, is laid to rest.

Friday, March 5

Mechanic Mike Barnard, who worked with Koresh on auto repairs at a Waco shop, talks about the leader with KXAS-TV/NBC 5.

Friday, March 5

KXAS-TV/NBC 5 reports the possibility of known dangers before agents entered the compound, and the impact of allowing David Koresh to be broadcast on local radio station KRLD. This footage includes ATF agent Dan Conroy and FBI agent Bob Ricks.

Friday, March 5

A former University of Texas Arlington student discusses how his 1985 student film, a satire named Armagosa Fabulosa, mirrors events occurring at that time with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

Saturday, March 6

Sightseers flock to Waco to watch the standoff while others capitalize on the moment by selling memorabilia.

Sunday, March 7

Koresh said the only children that remained in the compound were his biological children and that they would not be leaving.

Monday, March 8

ATF agents investigate Mag Bag, a business they say was operated by and for Koresh. The owner of the property said he knew nothing about it and that it was Paul Fatta who rented the property.

Tuesday, March 9

Electricity cut to the compound but later restored after Koresh vowed to end negotiations. In the following days, the power is temporarily cut and restored before being ordered cut off for good on March 12.

Thursday, March 11

Reports estimate the ATF was spending $500,000 per week on "Operation Koresh"; state and local agencies felt the overtime pinch too as State Troopers, deputies and police secured the area.

Thursday March 11

Koresh's mother, Bonnie Haldeman, and her attorney attempt to contact her son.

Friday, March 12

FBI uses spotlights on the compound at night to disrupt sleep and begins broadcasting music and sounds from loudspeakers. In the coming days negotiations would sporadically continue.

Sunday, March 14

A Presbyterian bible study group discusses the Davidians' views about the afterlife and the end of the world; a teenage bible study group discussing young Branch Davidian members.

Between Friday, March 19-21, 10 Davidians leave the compound, two men and eight women.

Tuesday, March 23

A representative of British Branch Davidian Livingstone Fagan, who left Mt. Carmel, speaks in front of the Correctional Facility.

Friday, March 26

The Branch Davidians unfurl a banner reading "Rodney King We Understand."

Monday, March 29

Koresh meets at the compound with lawyer Dick DeGuerin who later tells officials the Davidians will surrender after observing Passover.

Monday, April 5

Davidians begin observing Passover; observances can take eight days.

Friday, April 9

Letter sent to the FBI signed "Yahweh Koresh" warns FBI of being called to judgment.

Saturday, April 10

FBI rings compound with concertina wire, a type of barbed wire with razors attached.

Monday, April 12

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno asks, "Why now, why not wait?" when asked to approve the FBI's plan to use gas on the compound.

Monday, April 19

Fifty-one days after the siege began, the Davidians were told via loudspeaker they were under arrest and to exit the compound and that gas was going to be used. Minutes later, tanks are used to breach the walls and inject the gas. Six hours after the first breach, at about noon, the compound begins burning. Nine Davidians flee the compound and are arrested. More than 70 Davidians die in the fire, including 17 children. Koresh and others close to him died of gun shots fired at close range.

Monday, April 19

David Koresh's attorney Dick DeGuerin speaks to the media about the escalation by federal agents that led to the fire at the Davidian compound.

1993 Tom Brokaw Report on Waco Siege

Saturday, April 24

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner identifies the causes of death of some of the Branch Davidians while other officials talk about identifying victims who died in the fire.

Waco Raid Evokes Painful Memories for Davidian Survivors 24 Years Later
Nearly 25 years later, painful memories remain vivid for Branch Davidians who survived the 51-day seige in Waco that left more than 80 dead.
ATF Agent Recalls Raid: The Dallas Morning News
Former Dallas Morning News reporter Lee Hancock talks with former ATF Agent Blake Boteler about the raid on Mt. Carmel, and some misconceptions.
Megyn Kelly - The Waco Raid 25 Years Later

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