SAN ANTONIO — He allegedly collected other men’s wives for his own personal harem.

He is accused of psychologically and physically abusing young children and sexually molesting underage girls.

He stockpiled an arsenal sufficient to arm an average Third World country.

He engineered the coldblooded ambush murder of four federal law enforcement officers as they were attempting to carry out their assigned duties.

He is a deranged, violent megalomaniac with a messiah complex.

And cult leader David Koresh is becoming a folk hero.

That may well be the most bizarre — and frightening — result of the tense, weeks-long standoff between federal authorities and Koresh’s Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel.

All the haters and misfits with the time on their hands seem to have found something in Koresh that makes him a worthy hero to rally around.

“I don’t think this guy is crazy,” the Rev. W.N. Otwell, an ultraconservative former Fort Worth minister, said of Koresh.

“The government has become a police state,” Otwell claimed. “They want everybody to bow down to them.”

Proving once again that great minds think alike, Louis Beam, a former grand exalted poohbah of the Ku Klux Klan, concurred. Making an appearance in Waco, he denounced the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) for its successful Feb. 28 attempt to arrest Koresh.

Ron Engelman, who hosts a talk show on Dallas radio station KGBS-AM, contended that the federal siege of the Mount Carmel compound is a flagrant abuse of government power. Carl Wigglesworth, the devoutly anti-government host of a talk show on San Antonio radio station WOAI-AM, pretty much agreed with his Dallas counterpart’s assessment.

Both of these popular radio personalities, and probably many others of their ilk around the country, have been using their microphones and airwaves to reinvent Koresh as a sympathetic victim and quite handily to bash the federal government at the same time.

All Americans have the right to stockpile as massive an arsenal of heavy weaponry as they think they need to protect themselves from the “corrupt federal government.” That’s the view of Tom Staley, a member of the Associated Conservatives of Texas (ACT).

“ATF agents: You are murderers! Get out of Texas,” read a sign carried by demonstrators at a rally attended by members of ACT and the Libertarian Party.

“It’s time for Christians to rise up against the ATF,” proclaimed Randall Terry, the biggest mouth of the increasingly violent so-called “prolife” movement.

Religious nuts. Gun nuts. Anti-government nuts. Misfits and haters. They have so easily found something useful in Koresh’s heavily armed, religiously inspired defiance of authorities and the laws they are attempting to enforce.

But the simple fact remains, indisputably, that Koresh is a deranged, violent megalomaniac with a messiah complex.

Some folk hero.

Joe Patrick Bean is an editorial writer for the San Antonio Express News.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.