David Koresh, born Vernon Wayne Howell, was the leader of the Branch Davidians religious sect. He was a controversial figure and was at the center of the tragic 1993 siege at the Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas, which resulted in the deaths of 76 people, including Koresh himself. Koresh was born on August 17, 1959, in Houston, Texas. He had a troubled upbringing, and his mother was only 14 years old when she gave birth to him. As a child, Koresh was often teased and faced difficulties in school due to his dyslexia. He became a born-again Christian at the age of 14 after an alleged visitation from God. ## Involvement with the Branch Davidians Koresh became involved with the Branch Davidians, an offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in the early 1980s. He moved to the Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas, and became a prominent member of the group. He claimed to have the gift of prophecy, which garnered him followers within the community. In 1987, Koresh and his followers engaged in an armed conflict with the then-leader of the Branch Davidians, George Roden. Koresh was charged with attempted murder but was acquitted due to a hung jury. Following this incident, he assumed leadership of the group and changed his name from Vernon Howell to David Koresh, drawing on the biblical figures of King David and Cyrus the Great. ## Leadership and controversies As the leader of the Branch Davidians, Koresh implemented strict rules within the community, particularly regarding relationships and marriage. He declared himself the only male allowed to engage in sexual relationships with the women in the group and took multiple "spiritual wives," some of whom were underage. Koresh's radical interpretation of the Bible and his apocalyptic prophecies led to increasing concern among law enforcement and the wider public. The group's stockpiling of weapons further exacerbated these concerns. ## Waco Siege On February 28, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) launched a raid on the Mount Carmel Center to execute a search warrant for illegal firearms. The raid escalated into a gun battle that resulted in the deaths of four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians. This incident led to a 51-day standoff between the Branch Davidians and federal agents, which became known as the [[Waco Siege]]. The [[FBI]] attempted to negotiate with Koresh and the other members of the group, but they were unwilling to surrender. On April 19, 1993, the FBI initiated a final assault on the Mount Carmel Center using tear gas in an attempt to force the occupants out. A fire broke out during the assault, and the compound was engulfed in flames. 76 people, including Koresh, died in the fire. The Waco Siege remains a controversial and heavily debated incident, with questions surrounding the use of force by the government and the responsibility of Koresh and the Branch Davidians for the tragic outcome. See also: [[anti-government]], [[Oklahoma City bombing]], [[Ruby Ridge standoff]], [[doomsday cult]]