|David Koresh was born Vernon Wayne Howell and was the leader of a Branch
Davidian religious sect, believing himself to be its final prophet.
Howell legally changed his name to David Koresh on May 15, 1990.
raid by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,
and the subsequent siege by the FBI ended with the burning of the Branch
Davidian ranch outside of Waco, Texas in McLennan County.
adults and 21 children were found dead after the fire.
In 1983 he began claiming the gift of prophecy. It is speculated that
Koresh had a sexual relationship with Lois Roden, the prophetess and
leader of the sect who was then 76 years old, eventually claiming that
God had chosen him to father a child with her, who would be the Chosen
In 1983, Roden allowed Koresh to begin teaching his own message
which caused controversy in the group.
Lois Roden's son George Roden
intended to be the group's next leader and considered Koresh an
When Koresh announced that God had instructed him to marry
Rachel Jones (who then added Koresh to her name), there was a short
period of calm at Mount Carmel, but it proved only temporary.
ensuing power struggle, George Roden, claiming to have the support of
the majority of the group, forced Koresh and his group off the property
Disturbed by the events and the move away from the
philosophy of the community's founders, a further splinter group led by
Charles Joseph Pace moved out of Mount Carmel and set up home in
Koresh and around 25 followers set up camp at
Palestine, Texas, 90 miles from Waco, where they lived under rough
conditions in buses and tents for the next two years, during which time
Koresh undertook recruitment of new followers in California, the United
Kingdom, Israel and Australia.
In 1985 Koresh traveled to Israel where
he claimed he had a vision that he was the modern day Cyrus. The founder
of the Davidian movement, Victor Houteff, wanted to be God's implement
and establish the Davidic kingdom in Palestine.
Koresh also wanted to be
God's tool and set up the Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem. At least until
1990, he believed the place of his martyrdom might be in Israel, but by
1991 he was convinced that his martyrdom would be in the United States.
Instead of Israel, he said the prophecies of Daniel would be fulfilled
in Waco and that the Mount Carmel Center was the Davidic kingdom. At
the Palestine, Texas camp, Koresh "worked it so that everyone was forced
to rely on him, and him alone. All previous bonds and attachments,
family or otherwise, meant nothing. His rationale was if they had no one
to depend on, they had to depend on him, and that made them
By this time, he had already begun to give the message
of his own "Christhood", proclaiming that he was "the Son of God, the
Lamb who could open the Seven Seals."
On February 28th, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) raided Mount Carmel. The raid resulted in the deaths of four agents and six Davidians.
Shortly after the initial raid, the FBI HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) took command of the federal operation, since FBI has jurisdiction over incidents involving the deaths of federal agents.
Contact was established with Koresh inside the compound.
Communication over the next 51 days included telephone exchanges with various FBI negotiators.
As the standoff continued, Koresh, who was seriously injured by a gunshot wound, along with his closest male leaders negotiated delays, possibly so he could write religious documents he said he needed to complete before he surrendered.
His conversations with the negotiators were dense with biblical imagery.
The federal negotiators treated the situation as a hostage crisis despite a two hour video tape sent out by the Davidians in which the adults and older children/teens appeared to explain clearly and confidently why they chose of their own free will to remain with Koresh.
The 51-day siege of Mount Carmel ended when U.S Attorney General Janet Reno approved recommendations of veteran FBI officials to proceed with a final assault in which the Branch Davidians were to be removed from their building by force.
In the course of the assault, the church building caught fire.
The cause of the fire was later alleged by the "Danforth Report", a report commissioned by The Special Counsel, to be the deliberate actions of some of the Branch Davidians inside the building.
However this hypothesis is disputed in the documentary Waco: The Rules of Engagement which argues that the fire was deliberately set when the FBI fired an incendiary device into the building after loading the building with CS gas.
At the subsequent trial of the surviving Branch Davidians, the jury listened to edited parts of a tape-recording from hidden microphones inside Mt. Carmel during the final attack and fire of April 19.
These consisted of sounds of static during which one could faintly hear a voice saying ". . . fire . . . ". A government expert testified that through electronic enhancement, he had reconstructed some clearly incriminating comments, even if the jury could not hear them.
It later transpired that the FBI, when meeting Koresh's demands that milk be sent in for the children's wellbeing, also sent in tiny listening devices concealed inside the milk cartons and their styrofoam containers.
Barricaded in their building, seventy-six Branch Davidians, including Koresh, did not survive the fire. Seventeen of these victims were children under the age of 17.
The Danforth Report claims that those who died were unable, or unwilling, to flee and that Steve Schneider, Koresh's right-hand man, probably shot Koresh and committed suicide with the same gun.
Autopsy records indicate that at least 20 Branch Davidians were shot, including 5 children. Waco: The Rules of Engagement claims that FBI sharpshooters fired on, and killed, many Branch Davidians who attempted to flee the flames.
While the few Branch Davidians who did successfully flee the fire supported this claim, the Danforth Report concluded that the adults who died of gunshot wounds shot themselves after shooting the children.
Independent third party investigations refute the Danforth Report. On the final day of the Branch Davidian siege in 1993, aerial FLIR (Foreword-Looking Infrared) film was shot by the FBI that seemed to show automatic weapons fire directed into the burning buildings.
Former Senator John Danforth, under the direction of Acting Attorney General Eric Holder, conducted a 14-month, $17-million investigation that exonerated the government of any wrongdoing. This documentary raises serious questions about Mr. Danforth's report.
David Koresh is buried at Memorial Park Cemetery, Tyler, Texas.
Several of David Koresh's albums were released including: David Koresh Voice Of Fire in 1994. Waco: Playing With Fire (The Actual Voice of David Koresh) was released in 2000.
The Mount Carmel raid and the 1992 Ruby Ridge incident were cited by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols as motivations for the Oklahoma City bombing. The terrorist act, on April 19, 1995, was timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the Waco siege.
In 2004, Koresh's 1968 Camaro with a 427c.i. swap, which had been damaged by the military during the raid, sold for $37,000 at auction.
On January 23, 2009, Koresh's mother, Bonnie Clark Haldeman, was stabbed to death in Chandler, Texas. Her sister, Beverly Clark, was charged with the murder.
David Koresh was born in Houston to a 14-year-old single mother, Bonnie Sue
Clark. His father was a 20-year-old man named Bobby Howell.
remained married. Before Koresh was born, his father met another teenage
girl and abandoned Bonnie Sue.
Koresh never met his father and his
mother began cohabiting with a violent alcoholic.
In 1963, Koresh's
mother left her boyfriend and placed her 4-year-old son in the care of
his maternal grandmother, Earline Clark. His mother returned when he was
seven, after her marriage to a carpenter named Roy Haldeman.
and Clark had a son together named Roger, who was born in 1966. Koresh
described his early childhood as lonely, and it has been alleged that he
was once gang raped by older boys when he was 8.
A poor student who
was illiterate and diagnosed with dyslexia, Koresh dropped out of
Garland High School in his junior year.
Due to his poor study skills, he
was put in special education classes and nicknamed "Vernie" by his
fellow students, but by the age of 11, he had
memorized the entire New Testament.
When he was 19, Koresh had an
affair with a 15-year-old girl who became pregnant.
He claimed to
have become a born-again Christian in the Southern Baptist Church and
soon joined his mother's church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
he fell in love with the pastor's daughter and while praying for
guidance he opened his eyes and allegedly found the Bible open at Isaiah
34, stating that none should want for a mate; convinced this was a sign
from God, he approached the pastor and told him that God wanted him to
have his daughter for a wife.
The pastor threw him out, and when he
continued to persist with his pursuit of the daughter he was expelled
from the congregation.
Vernon Howell filed a petition in California State Superior Court in Pomona on May 15, 1990, to legally change his name "for publicity and business purposes" to David Koresh.
On August 28, 1990, Judge Robert Martinez granted the petition. The name Koresh is a transliteration of the Persian name of Cyrus, the Persian king who allowed the Jews who had been dispersed throughout Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar to return to their homelands.
During the siege, Koresh would explain to the FBI negotiators that (in Koresh's mind at least) "koresh" had a deeper meaning:
Koresh: "What is Christ revealed as, according to the fourth seal?"
FBI: "Pale... a rider on a pale horse."
Koresh: "And his name is what?"
Koresh: "Now, do you know what the name Koresh means?"
FBI: "Go ahead..."
Koresh: "It means death."
David Koresh claimed to be "Jesus" and led his small cult of so called Branch Davidians into an unnecessary tragedy. But is there more to the story that is not known?