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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Jake Hackney

Netflix Waco: American Apocalypse – how many people died in the Waco siege?

Thirty years ago, US law enforcement executed a warrant on a large compound in Texas that belonged to religious leader David Koresh and the doomsday cult the Branch Davidians. What followed was the biggest gunfight on American soil since the Civil War that ended with a fiery inferno captured live on national television.

On February 28, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) tried to execute a search warrant at the compound known as Mount Carmel near Waco, but the Davidians had been tipped off. A firefight ensued that saw people on both sides killed and injured.

Authorities began to assemble a small army outside the compound, which included several tanks, helicopters, and hundreds of agents. After a ceasefire was negotiated, the Davidians and law enforcement – including FBI, US Customs and Texas Rangers – endured a 51-day stand-off, which ended with a deadly shoot-out and a raging inferno that tore through the compound and killed many Davidians that remained inside.

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Now Netflix has dropped a new documentary that explores the events surrounding the now-infamous siege. Released on Wednesday (March 22), Waco: American Apocalypse is an immersive three-part docuseries that provides a definitive account of what happened when Koresh faced off against the federal government.

Leader of the Branch Davidian religious group David Koresh (ugc)

Released to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of the tragedy, the three-part docuseries presents an epic drama about God and guns in America. But how many people died in the Waco siege?

How many people died in the Waco siege?

Six Branch Davidians were killed during the ATF’s initial assault on Mount Carmel, as well as four ATF agents. Following the ensuing 51-day stand-off, the final assault on the compound began on April 19 after approval was given by Attorney General Janet Reno.

At around 6am, several large combat vehicles equipped with battering rams were used to punch holes in the compound and fill it with tear gas. The intention was to flush out Koresh and his followers, but during the assault, several fires broke out.

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The fires spread rapidly and violently, engulfing large parts of the Mount Carmel over the next few hours, while parts of the building began to collapse. By 12.55 pm, the entire compound was destroyed both by the fire and the damage from the large combat vehicles.

Many of the Branch Davidians remained inside. Just 14 adults and 21 children left the compound before the fire, while nine more escaped after it broke out.

Mount Carmel burns to the ground during the 1993 Waco siege (Greg Smith/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Ultimately, 82 members of the Branch Davidians lost their lives – including the six who died during the initial ATF assault and two unborn children. The victims included 25 children.

Most of the victims were American, but they also included 24 Britons, three Australians, two New Zealanders, two Canadians, two Phillipinos and one Israeli. Those killed died from gunshot wounds, suffocation caused by the smoke and carbon monoxide from the fire, or by injuries sustained as the compound crumbled around them.

At least 20 Davidians were shot, with an official government report concluding that many of the gunshot wounds were consistent with “suicide or consensual execution.” A three-year-old boy died from a fatal stab wound to the chest.

Koresh was killed by a bullet to the head, aged 33. It could not be confirmed whether he killed himself or was killed, but according to the FBI, Steve Schneider, Koresh’s right-hand man, shot and killed Koresh and then turned the gun on himself after realising Koresh was a fraud.


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