Today in Texas History: Waco siege ends – Houston Chronicle / ABC News

On this date in 1993, the 51-day Waco siege ended in tragedy.

According to ABC News:

“At least 74 people — including 25 children — perished when fire consumed the complex on April 19, 1993, after weeks of fruitless talks between [FBI negotiator Byron] Sage and Branch Davidian leader David Koresh.

“When the fire started,” Sage remembers, “I looked at that building just hoping and praying that I’d see those kids coming out. And there were no kids.”

The siege began on February 28, 1993, when agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) raided the Branch Davidian ranch at Mount Carmel. There had long been allegations of child abuse and illegal weaponry within the compound, but the arrival of the ATF that day precipitated a shootout that killed four agents and six Branch Davidians.

Sage quickly became part of the FBI team surrounding the ranch and was one of several negotiators who worked without rest for weeks on end, hoping to bring about a peaceful an end to the standoff.

By the middle of April, conditions within the compound were deteriorating and the government concluded the Branch Davidian leader had no intention of coming out voluntarily.

“We had not had a single person out since the middle of March,” Sage remembers. “No one had come out for nearly a month. Nearly a month.”

Frustrated by the ongoing saga at Waco, US Attorney General Janet Reno approved a plan to fire CS gas — a form of tear gas — into the compound to force the Branch Davidians out. The FBI knew that Koresh had gas masks — masks that probably wouldn’t fit children…

But the plan ended in disaster. Even under assault by CS gas, the Branch Davidians refused to emerge. There were reports that some feared being shot if they ventured outside.

Then, around noon on April 19, several fires started almost simultaneously around the large compound, and an inferno quickly engulfed almost everyone inside, including Koresh and the remaining children.

To read more, go to ABC News.

Today in Texas History: Waco siege ends | Texas on the Potomac | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle.

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