Waco stand-off ended in deadly fire 20 years ago

Author Robert Darden calls Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh ‘sexual predator’

Plumes of thick black smoke billowed from the Branch Davidian compound near Waco just after noon on April 19, 1993.

The blaze quickly consumed the compound where Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and over 70 of his followers had been holed up for 51 days.

“I’m sad and a little angry,” said Robert Darden, an associate journalism professor at Baylor University in Waco.

Darden was a newspaper reporter at the time and had done many stories on Koresh and the Branch Davidians prior to the stand-off.

“He is a man who was a sexual predator,” Darden said.

He said that Koresh sexually abused the children and wives of his followers.

Talking about the fire that erupted as the government fired tear gas canisters into the compound, Darden said, “I’m still angry that this couldn’t have been handled better.”

“The threat could have been neutralized with virtually no loss of life,” Darden said.

Among those who died in the fire were 17 children.

“There were children who never should have died,” he said. “There were innocent people who never should have died.”

The siege began the previous February when federal agents raided the compound.

Four ATF agents were killed in a gun battle with Koresh and his followers during the ill-fated raid.

The raid was not necessary, according to Darden.

“They could have picked up Koresh the day before at any number of places in Waco,” he said.

During the 51 day stand-off that followed the raid, Darden said the government kept doing things that kept the media there.

“We reacted and reacted and fell into (Koresh’s) trap every step of the way," he said.

For a list of recent stories Paul Venema has done, click here.


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