The Branch Davidian Seventh Day Adventists (also known as "The Branch") are a Protestant sect that originated in 1955 from a schism in the Davidian Seventh Day Adventists ("Davidians"), a reform movement that began within the Seventh-day Adventist Church ("SDA") around 1930. As the group gained members, the leadership moved the church to a hilltop several miles west of Waco, which they named Mount Carmel, after a mountain on Israel mentioned in Joshua 19:26 in the Bible's Old Testament. A few years later, they moved again to a much larger site east of the city.
In 1959 Florence Houteff (widow of founder Victor Houteff) announced that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ was about to take place, and members were told to gather at the center to await this event. Many built houses, others stayed in tents, trucks or buses, and most sold their possessions.
Following the failure of this prophecy, control of Mt. Carmel fell to Benjamin Roden, and on his death to his wife, Lois. Lois Roden considered their son, George, unfit to assume the position of prophet and groomed Vernon Howell, later known as David Koresh, as her chosen successor. On the death of Lois, George Roden ran Vernon Howell and his faction off Mt. Carmel at gun point. After George Roden was jailed for murder, the Howell faction paid the back taxes on Mt. Carmel and took control.
By 1992, most of the land belonging to the group had been sold, and most of the buildings had been removed, or were being salvaged for construction materials to convert much of the main chapel and a tall water tank into apartments for the resident members of the group. Many of the members of the group had been involved with the Davidians for a few generations, and many had large families. The new Mount Carmel Center consisted of a main church building (constructed primarily of thin plywood, taking advantage of a lack of building codes at the time), administrative and storage buildings, and homes for the leadership and important visitors.
Part 2 - Conclusion
During the siege, the deprogrammer Rick Ross said, "[Koresh is] your stock cult leader. ... They're all the same. Meet one and you've met them all. They're deeply disturbed, have a Borderline personality disorder and lack any type of conscience. ... No one willingly enters into a relationship like this. ... So you're talking about deception and manipulation (by the leader), people being coached in ever so slight increments, pulled in deeper and deeper without knowing where it's going or seeing the total picture." (Before the raid, Rick Ross advised the ATF that arresting Koresh at Mt. Carmel in the presence of his followers would likely provoke a violent response; Joyce Sparks also advised ATF against such action.)
Besides allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct, Koresh and his followers were accused of stockpiling illegal weapons. Authorities investigated these charges and obtained a warrant to search Koresh's compound. Former Davidian Marc Breault claimed that Koresh had "...M16 lower receiver parts" (when the receiver is modified and these parts are added to an AR15 rifle it becomes a fully automatic weapon and is subject to the National Firearms Act and its $200 tax in the United States).
Interviews with Koresh's surviving followers reveal that David Koresh was intimately versed in the Bible and "knew it like he wrote it". Koresh taught that the U.S. government was the enemy of the Davidians, and that they would have to defend themselves against it with weapons. The January 5, 1992, interview of David Koresh by Martin King of Australian TV show "A Current Affair" included this exchange: King: Would you use a gun if someone trespassed? Koresh: They come in here with a gun and they start shooting at us, what would you do?
In a video made by Koresh's followers and released during the siege, Koresh stated he'd been told by God to procreate with the women in the group to establish a "House of David," his "Special People." This involved married couples in the group dissolving their marriages and agreeing that only Koresh could have sexual relations with the wives. On the tape, Koresh is also shown with several minors who claimed to have had babies fathered by Koresh. In total, Koresh had 14 children who stayed with him in the compound.
A video clip of an interview between Koresh and an Australian television station (Channel Nine, "A Current Affair" series) notes that he was accused of impregnating the aged widow of the founder of Branch Davidianism. He sarcastically said that if the charges were true, if he had "made a 62 year-old woman pregnant... I do miracles, I'm God!" He also stated at that time that he had not had any relationships with her, and called her "an ugly old hag".
On February 27, 1993 the Waco Tribune-Herald began the “Sinful Messiah” series of articles. It began, "If you are a Branch Davidian, Christ lives on a threadbare piece of land 10 miles east of here called Mount Carmel. He has dimples, claims a ninth-grade education, married his legal wife when she was 14, enjoys a beer now and then, plays a mean guitar, reportedly packs a 9mm Glock and keeps an arsenal of military assault rifles, and willingly admits that he is a sinner without equal."
The article alleged that Koresh had physically abused children in the compound and had taken multiple underage "brides" amounting to statutory rape. Koresh was also said to advocate polygamy for himself, and declared himself married to several female residents of the small community. According to the paper, Koresh declared he was entitled to at least 140 wives, that he was entitled to claim any of the females in the group as his, that he had fathered at least a dozen children by the harem and that some of these mothers became brides as young as 12 or 13 years old.
Reports from Joyce Sparks, an investigator from the Texas agency responsible for child protective services, stated she had found significant evidence that the allegations were true in her visits to the Mount Carmel site over a period of months. However, she said the investigation was difficult, as she wasn't permitted to speak with the children alone, nor was she permitted to inspect all areas of the site. She noted that safety concerns over construction sites at Mount Carmel were either ignored or slowly corrected.
Ruby Ridge was the site of a violent confrontation and siege in the U.S. state of Idaho in 1992. It involved Randy Weaver, his family, Weaver's friend Kevin Harris, federal agents from the United States Marshals Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The incident was cited as a motivation for the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.
Randy Weaver, a former Iowa factory worker and Green Beret, moved his family to northern Idaho during the 1980s in order to "home-school his children and escape what he and his wife Vicki saw as a corrupted world". Vicki, the religious leader of the family, believed that the apocalypse was imminent and had dreams of her family surviving the apocalypse in a remote mountainous area. They bought twenty acres of land on Ruby Ridge in 1983 and began building a cabin.
In 1984, Randy Weaver and neighbor Terry Kinnison had a dispute over a $3,000 land deal. (Kinnison subsequently lost the lawsuit and was ordered to pay Weaver an additional $2,100 in court costs and damages.) Kinnison wrote letters to the FBI, Secret Service and county sheriff alleging Weaver had threatened to kill the Pope, the President and the governor of Idaho. In January 1985, the FBI and the Secret Service started an investigation. In February, Randy and Vicki Weaver met with two FBI agents, two Secret Service agents and the Boundary County sheriff and his chief investigator and were interviewed for hours. While the Secret Service was told that Weaver was a member of the Aryan Nations and that he had a large weapons cache at his residence, Weaver denied the allegations and no charges were filed. The investigation noted that, while Weaver denied being a member of the Aryan Nations, he associated with Frank Kumnick who was known to associate with members of the Aryan Nations. On 28 Feb 1985 Randy and Vicki Weaver filed an affidavit with the county courthouse alleging that their personal enemies were plotting to provoke the FBI into attacking and killing the Weaver family. On 6 May 1985 Randy and Vicki Weaver sent a letter to President Ronald Reagan claiming that Weaver's enemies may have sent the President a threatening letter under a forged signature. No evidence of a threatening letter has surfaced; however, the 1985 letter of apology was cited by the prosecutor in 1992 as Overt Act 7 of the Weaver family conspiracy against the federal government.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms first became aware of Weaver in July 1986 when he was introduced to an ATF informant at a meeting of the Aryan Nations. Weaver had been invited by Frank Kumnick, who was the original target of the ATF investigation. Over the next three years, Weaver and the informant met several times. In October 1989, the ATF claimed that Weaver sold the informant two sawed-off shotguns, with the overall length of the guns shorter than the legal limit set by federal law. Weaver denied this, claiming that agents purchased legal shotguns from him and later shortened the guns themselves. In November 1989 Weaver accused the informant of being a spy for the police; the informant's ATF handler ordered him to have no further contact with Weaver. In June 1990, ATF agents attempted to have Weaver act as an informant for their investigation into the Aryan Nations organization. When Weaver refused, the ATF filed charges in June 1990 accusing Weaver of being a bank robber with criminal convictions. A federal grand jury later indicted him in December 1990 for making and possessing, but not for selling, illegal weapons in October 1989.
ATF agents posed as broken-down motorists and arrested Randy and Vicki Weaver when they stopped to assist. Randy Weaver was told of the charges against him, released on bail, and told that his trial would begin on February 19, 1991. On January 22, 1991, the judge in the case notified Everett Hofmeister that he would be serving as Weaver’s attorney. On that same day, Weaver called Karl Richins, who was a U.S. Probation Officer, and informed him that Weaver was instructed to contact him on that date. Richins did not have the case file at that time, so he asked Weaver to leave his contact information and Richins would contact him when he received the paperwork. According to Richins, Weaver did not give him a telephone number. Defense counsel Hofmeister sent letters to Weaver on January 19, January 31 and February 5 asking Weaver to contact him to work on his defense.
On February 5, the trial date was changed from February 19 to February 20 to give participants more travel time following a federal holiday. The court clerk sent a letter to the parties informing them of the date change; however, the notice was not sent directly to Weaver, only to his attorney. On February 7, U.S. Probation Officer Richins sent Weaver a letter indicating that he now had the case file and needed to talk with Weaver. This letter erroneously indicated that Weavers trial date was set for March 20. On February 8, Hofmeister again attempted to contact Weaver by letter informing him that the trial was to begin on February 20 and Weaver needed to contact him immediately. Hofmeister also made several calls to individuals who knew Weaver asking them to have Weaver call him. Hofmeister did not hear from Weaver before the scheduled court date.
When Weaver did not show up in court on February 20, the judge issued a bench warrant for failure to appear in court. On February 26, Ken Keller, a reporter for the Kootenai Valley Times, telephoned the U.S. Probation Office and asked if the reason that Weaver did not show in court on February 20 was because the letter sent to him by Richins had the incorrect date. Upon finding a copy of the letter, the Chief Probation Officer, Terrence Hummel, contacted the judge’s clerk and informed them of the incorrect date in the letter. Hummel also contacted the U.S. Marshals Service and Weaver’s attorney informing them of the error. The judge, however, refused to withdraw the bench warrant. The U.S. Marshals Service did agree to put off executing the warrant until after March 20 to see if Weaver would show up in court on that day. If he were to show up on March 20, all indications are that the warrant would be dropped. Instead of waiting to see if Weaver would show up on March 20, however, the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) called a grand jury on March 14. The USAO did not present Richins’ erroneous letter as evidence to the grand jury and the grand jury issued an indictment for failure to appear.
Weaver was known to have an intense distrust of government and it is believed that the erroneous letter intensified his distrust and may have contributed to his reluctance to appear for trial. Weaver was clearly suspicious of what he viewed as inconsistent messages from the government and his own lawyer and this inconsistency further enforced his belief that there was a conspiracy against him. The mixed signals the Weavers received from the various government agencies convinced them that Weaver would not receive a fair trial if he were to appear in court.
Weaver, distrustful of the federal government, refused to leave his cabin. U.S. Marshals Service officers made a series of attempts to have Weaver surrender peacefully. Marshals exchanged messages with Weaver through intermediaries several times until the US Attorney directed that all negotiations would go through Weaver's court-appointed counsel; however, Weaver did not have any contact with the attorney and refused to talk with him. Marshals then began preparing plans to capture Weaver to stand trial on the weapons charges and his failure to appear at the correct trial date. Surveillance teams were dispatched and cameras were set up to record activity at Weaver's residence. Marshals observed that Weaver and his family responded to vehicles and other visitors by taking up armed positions around the cabin until the visitors were recognized.