The Waco siege began in Texas after agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Branch Davidian church.
The Branch Davidians originated in the late 1950s as a sub-group of the Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Under the leadership of Benjamin Roden they took control of the Mount Carmel religious settlement 10 miles outside the Texan town of Waco, where they prepared for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
The mid-1980s saw a power struggle from which Vernon Howell, who later renamed himself David Koresh, emerged as the new leader of the group. Shortly after this Howell announced that God had told him that he should take multiple wives, with reports stating that some of these were as young as 11 years old.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had already been watching the Mount Carmel compound due to concerns that Koresh and his followers were stockpiling illegal weapons. They began making plans to raid the compound in late February but were prompted to action after the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper began to publish a series of articles that included allegations of child abuse within the cult.
More than 70 agents raided the property on the morning of 28 February, but Koresh had already received a tip-off and had made preparations. Gunfire consequently broke out, although it is still unclear who fired first. The fighting lasted for almost two hours and resulted in the deaths of four agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as well as a similar number of Davidians. The resulting siege lasted until 19 April when it was ended by the FBI in a raid that saw the compound destroyed by fire.