The Waco siege is one of the most well-known catastrophes caused by the deadly combination of the US government and religious cults. The Branch Davidians are a religious group started in 1955 by a schism in the Shepherd’s Rod after the death of the found Victor Houteff. Houteff started the Davidians based on his prophecy that the apocalypse was imminent and involved the Second Coming of Jesus and the defeat of the evil armies of Babylon. The original group was located in a church on a hilltop east of Waco called Mount Carmel.
A few years later, they moved to a larger site. In 59, Victor’s widow, Florence Houteff, announced that Armageddon was nigh, and members were told to gather in the center to await the event. Many built houses, while others stayed in old buses, trucks, or tents, and most sold everything they owned.
When the prophecy never came true, control of Mount Carmel fell to Benjamin Roden, founder of the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association. He had a different belief set to Victor; when he died, control fell to his wife, Lois. She didn’t think their son, George, was fit to assume the position of prophet. Instead, she groomed Vernon Wayne Howell to be the successor. He would become known as David Koresh.
In 1984, a meeting led to a division within the group. Howell was leading one faction, the Branch Davidians, and George Roden was leading the other faction. After their split, George ran Howell and his followers off of Mount Carmel at gunpoint. The group relocated to Palestine, Texas.
After Lois died and probate of her estate in January 1987, Howell tried to regain control over Mount Carmel. George dug up the casket of Anna Hughes from their cemetery and challenged Howell to a resurrection contest to prove who was the rightful heir. Instead, Howell went to the police and told them that Roden was guilty of corpse abuse, but they won’t do anything without proof.
On November 3, 1987, Howell and seven of his men came in armed, intending to take pictures of the body in the casket as evidence. Roden was informed of the intrusion and opened fire. The Sheriff’s Department responded 20 minutes into their gunfight. Roden had already been wounded. Sheriff Harwell got Howell on the phone and told him to surrender. The media dubbed Howell and his companions as the Rodenville Eight, and they were tried for attempted murder on April 12, 1988. Seven were acquitted, and the jury hung on Howell’s verdict. The county prosecutors did not press the matter…