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Charlotte Talks: The Real Story Behind The Waco Siege From People Who Were There

Federal Bureau of investigation

Monday, February 12, 2018

The legacy of Waco and the confrontation between the Branch Davidian religious cult and the FBI that led to the deaths of nearly 80 people 25 years ago this month.

The siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas began 25 years ago this month. The siege, which started in a shoot-out between federal agents and Branch Davidians on February 28, 1993 ended when the compound was destroyed in a deadly fire 51 days later. In all, nearly 80 people were killed - four federal agents, Branch leader David Koresh, and 74 of his followers, including many children.

The51-day standoff became a spectacle that played out in real time on TV. Local religious studies scholar Dr. James Tabor was involved in developing an exit plan with Koresh and his followers. Tabor says the media narrative distorted the real story and that the popular notion that "evil crazy cult leader David Koresh orchestrated the suicidal deaths of his fanatical brainwashed followers" is wrong.

Tabor believes that both the FBI and Branch Davidians share responsibility, but the tragedy could have been avoided, and the government made some serious mistakes that led to the tragic outcome. For some Americans, the incident has contributed to distrust in the government that continues to this day.

Mike Collins talks with Dr. Tabor, as well as two people who were on opposite sides of the conflict - a former Branch Davidian who survived the siege and the FBI's chief negotiator. A number of television specials, including a six-part mini-series,  are looking back on what happened and we do the same. The legacy of Waco 25 years later.


Dr. James Tabor, Professor of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte and Co-author of Why Waco? Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America

Gary Noesner, Former FBI Negotiator and Author of Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator. He worked the Waco ordeal for 26 days.

David Thibodeau, Author of Waco: A Survivor’s Story. He is one of nine Branch Davidians who survived the Waco siege

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Erin Keever is Senior Producer of WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. She has been with the show since joining the station in 2006. She's a native Charlottean.