Here are some key moments during the gun battles and ensuing standoff at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco. Times are approximate, according to eyewitnesses.
Sunday, Feb. 28
- 9:55 a.m. – About 100 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents move in on compound. A gun battle begins.
- 10:30 a.m. – Four agents are killed and 15 wounded in the 45-minute battle. Branch Davidian leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, later says he and others were wounded and his 2-year-old daughter killed.
- 11:15 a.m. – Negotiations begin to remove dead and injured agents.
- 11:30 a.m. – Intermittent firing continues.
- About noon – A truce is reached.
- 12:20 p.m. – Hospital helicopters fly away from the site with injured federal agents.
- 2:45 p.m. – The ATF asks Dallas radio station KRLD to broadcast a joint statement from Howell and ATF negotiators.
- 5 p.m. – Three cult members try to get into the compound and have a gun battle with ATF agents who order them to stop. One dies, one retreats and the other, Norman Allison, also known as Delroy Nash, is arrested.
- 9:15 p.m. – The release of two children from the compound is announced.
- 10:05 p.m. – Howell talks for about 20 minutes on KRLD, describing his beliefs and saying he is the most seriously wounded cult member.
- 10:30 p.m. – Two more children are reported released.
Monday, March 1
- 1:50 a.m. – Howell talks for about 25 minutes to KRLD, saying the gun battle was “unnecessary.” The broadcast is the last live public comment from Howell.
- ATF spokesman Sharon Wheeler tells reporters the agency was “outgunned” by the cult.
- Nash is charged with attempted murder of a federal agent.
- 10 children released.
Tuesday, March 2
- Two women and six more children are released.
- 10:45 a.m. – Military vehicles and ambulances race toward the cult compound. Hospitals are told to expect wounded.
- 1 p.m. – KRLD says Howell agreed to surrender if his taped statement is broadcast at 1:30 p.m.
- 1:30 p.m. – Howell, in a 58-minute taped sermon broadcast on radio and TV, says he will surrender.
- 2:30 p.m. – The taped sermon ends, but no one leaves the compound.
Wednesday, March 3
- Noon – ATF holds first major public briefing, announcing that Howell said he would surrender when he received “further instruction from God.”
- Office trailers are brought in near the compound site for law officers.
- Hospitals are told they can relax security.
- A young boy leaves the compound, bringing a box of 12 puppies.
Thursday, March 4
- Another child leaves the compound.
- Using Bradley armored vehicles for cover, authorities retrieve a body 350 yards behind the cult residence.
Friday, March 5
- Another child leaves the compound, the 21st.
- Authorities say Howell has denied an intent to commit suicide.
- Medical supplies are sent into the compound, including a suture kit Howell requested to nurse his wounded wrist.
Tuesday, March 9
- Cultists hang a banner outside a window that is visible to reporters stationed two miles away. “God Help Us We Want the Press,” it said.
- Howell tells federal authorities in the evening that he has a headache, leaving negotiations to other cult members for the next two days.
- Authorities search a California house where Howell lived and question a South Carolina gun dealer for information about his past.
Wednesday, March 10
- Cultists unfurl another banner: “Send in CFA & Don Stewart.”
Thursday, March 11
- Howell’s mother, Bonnie Haldeman, and attorney Dick DeGuerin, whom she hired on the cult leader’s behalf, are turned away from approaching the law enforcement compound, where negotiations are taking place.
- U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr., responding to a motion by Haldeman and attorney Kirk Lyons, refuses to grant Howell access to a lawyer.
Friday, March 12
- Lyons and other attorneys complain about the secrecy of the weapons charges against Howell and negotiations.
- Kathy Schroeder leaves, the first person to leave the cult in a week.
- Oliver Gyarfas leaves, the first man to leave the cult.
Saturday, March 13
- Schroeder and Gyarfas make initial appearances before a federal magistrate, who orders them held without bond as material witnesses.
Sunday, March 14
- Schroeder and Gyarfas talk with cult members inside the compound and tell them to come out peacefully.
- Another banner appears from a compound window saying, “FBI broke negotiations, we want press.” Later, similar messages are sent via S.O.S. signals and Morse code as a flashing light appears from a window after dark.
- Authorities illuminate compound with stadium-style spotlights, saying they want to protect agents from gun-toting cult members.
- FBI special agent Richard Swensen says this day’s negotiations were “less, by far, than any other day.”
Monday, March 15
- DeGuerin urges Howell to “surrender.”
- Negotiators say they are avoiding biblical discussion with Howell.
- Steven Schneider, Howell’s top aide, and Wayne Martin, a Harvard-educated attorney, meet in person for almost an hour with an FBI negotiator and McLennan County Sheriff Jack Harwell.
Tuesday, March 16
- FBI says Howell’s wounds have slowed him, but he’s still in charge.
- Schroeder, being held as a material witness, appears in federal court to request release from federal custody.
Wednesday, March 17
- Schneider indicates as many as 30 cultists ready to leave.
Thursday, March 18
- FBI begins using loudspeakers to blare tapes of negotiations to cultists.
Friday, March 19
- Brad Branch and Kevin Whitecliff leave the cult, first to exit in a week.
- Authorities deliver letters from attorneys and magazines.
Saturday, March 20
- Cultists collect rainwater in pots and pans.
Sunday, March 21
- In biggest exodus of siege, seven cultists leave – James Lawter, Gladys Ottman, Sheila Martin, Annetta Richards, Ofelia Santoyo, Rita Riddle and Victorine Hollinsworth, who is hospitalized with a heart condition.
Monday March 22
- Authorities blast compound with chants of Tibetan monks, complain Howell is allowing only those to leave who would be a drain or a liability in a shootout.
Tuesday, March 23
- Cultist Livingston Fagan, who is believed to have a place of authority in the sect because of recruiting ability, leaves the compound.
Wednesday, March 24
- Howell breaks off negotiations, saying sect is celebrating a “high holy day.”
- Louis Alaniz, a Houston man described as a “religious fanatic,” sneaks into compound.
Thursday, March 25
- Richards, Ottman, Riddle and Lawter released from jail to halfway house.
Friday, March 26
- Judge Smith rules Schroeder may be released. The ATF later serves arrest warrant charging her with conspiring to try to kill federal agents.
- A California man who identifies himself as “Jesse Amen” sneaks into compound.
Saturday, March 27
- ATF intelligence chief David Troy says the Texas National Guard was asked to assist the Feb. 28 raid because the agency had evidence of a methamphetamine lab inside the sect.
Sunday, March 28
- After four days of silence, Howell talks to negotiators again. Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin, hired by Howell’s mother, has a phone conversation with him.
Monday, March 29
- Santoyo released from jail to halfway house.
- DeGuerin talks with Howell on the porch of the compound, describes conversation as “very good, useful.”
Tuesday, March 30
- DeGuerin talks with Howell inside the compound.
- Grand jury indicts three members of the cult on charges of conspiracy to murder federal agents and for possession of a firearm.
Wednesday, March 31
- FBI halts its negotiations with the sect while DeGuerin has a third day of private talks with Howell.
Thursday, April 1
- Three cultists plead innocent to conspiracy and firearms charges, but remain held in jail without bond.
- A second attorney, Jack Zimmermann, who was hired to represent Howell lieutenant Steve Schneider, is allowed into the compound. Zimmermann and DeGuerin emerge from the compound after eight hours and say they’ve done all they can to bring an end to the standoff.
- Federal officials say those who left the compound noted the significance of Passover and that a breakthrough might occur in conjunction with the religious holiday.
- San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli says Howell’s grandmother contacted him and he told her he would be happy to meet with the cult leader.
Friday, April 2
- ATF director Stephen Higgins tells Senate hearing in Washington federal agents sought to avoid heavy casualties in their raid.
Saturday, April 3
- The FBI says Howell appears closer to ending the standoff but is still waiting on a sign from God.
- If Passover comes and goes without a surrender, the FBI will change its tactics, FBI agent Bob Ricks tells reporters, without elaborating.
- About 25 protesters, carrying signs criticizing the FBI and ATF are stopped as they try to pass two security checkpoints to the compound.
Monday, April 5
- FBI says cult members were on the verge of surrendering during their marathon meeting four days earlier.
- Amen, religious fanatic who entered the compound on March 26, is taken into custody after he leaves the compound. Officials say he provided “zero” information about his 10 days with cultists.
- FBI denies as “totally false” claims relayed by attorneys DeGuerin and Zimmermann that ATF agents were captured during the raid.
Wednesday, April 7
- FBI disputes a newspaper’s report that cultists destroyed evidence from the firefight as a result of an inadvertent tip from FBI negotiators. The FBI says it has no knowledge of a rift between it and other agencies.
- FBI says cult members who have left the compound alluded to burials of several slain cultists in an underground bus that served as a target range for Howell and his followers.
- A Branch Davidian member tries to leave the compound through a window, but retreats when federal agents set off nearby concussion devices, FBI says.
Thursday, April 8
- Cult leaders say there is no significance with Passover and any plan to surrender when it’s over, FBI reports.
- FBI says Howell became enraged and began using abusive language in response to orders that he keep his 96 followers inside the compound.
- At various times, banners reading “Rodney King We Understand,” “FBI God Sees Your Lies,” and a Bible verse “Habakkuk 3:14 are being hung from a window in the compound.
- FBI increases its use of pressure tactics such as loud speakers and stadium-style light banks outside the compound.
Friday, April 9
- Schneider gives negotiators names of five male cultists and one female cultist who reportedly were fatally injured in the ATF’s initial assault. The FBI says it won’t be able to confirm the report until the standoff ends.
- Howell reiterates there is no plan to end the standoff around Passover or Easter.
- Howell sends the FBI a letter warning that an earthquake will rock the Waco area, cracking open a dam on Lake Waco.
Saturday, April 10
- Howell sends out angry, threatening four-page “letter from God,” depicting a powerful and vengeful god “who will smite his enemies.”
- FBI says attorneys DeGuerin and Zimmermann won’t be allowed back in the compound unless there are assurances of an immediate surrender.
- Howell delivers second “letter from God,” filled with biblical passages and instructing agents not to harm Howell, who was referred to in the letter as “my Lamb.” The FBI says Howell appears to be waiting for a natural disaster before ending the standoff.
Sunday, April 11
- FBI holds no press briefing for first time in more than a month because of the Easter holiday.
Monday April 12
- FBI denies newspaper reports that Clinton administration has stymied tactical proposals that would end the standoff.
- U.S. magistrate denies bond for cultist charged with murder of a federal agent, attempted murder and weapons violations.
Tuesday, April 13
- Five hours of phone talks between federal negotiators and Howell fails to break new ground, FBI says.
- DeGuerin speaks by telephone with Howell aide Schneider and says the FBI agreed to let him visit the compound again.
- Passover ends with no end to the standoff.
Wednesday, April 14
- Howell sends out word he will surrender after writing a manuscript in which he reveals the contents of the Seven Seals referred to in the book of Revelation in the Bible. He said God had “finally granted me this chance” to reveal the mystery.
Friday, April 16
- FBI agent Swensen says the FBI won’t wait forever, saying, “We are on our own time schedule,” and not that of Howell’s. While Howell works on a biblical manuscript, noises at night – dentists drills, rabbits being slaughtered, thundering locomotives – will continue, the FBI says.
- Agents will clear debris from the compound, using tanks to move three vehicles, including Howell’s prized black Camaro.
Saturday, April 17
- Alaniz, who sneaked into the compound March 24, is arrested after leaving the compound. He is held without bail as a material witness and in lieu of $1,200 bond on a charge of interfering with the duties of a police officer.
Sunday, April 18
- No FBI briefing is held. But FBI agents say Alaniz has provided no useful information.
Monday, April 19
- Midnight-5:30 a.m., all appears quiet at the Branch Davidian compound. There are no reports of blaring sounds previously used by the FBI overnight.
- At about 5:50 a.m., federal agents reportedly call the rural compound and inform cult members to give up, or they will be gassed, according to Houston television station KHOU. The person inside the compound hangs up on negotiators, KHOU reported.
- About 6 a.m., a Department of Public Safety officer warns members of the media gathered about two miles from the compound to “take cover” as tank activity appears to pick up near the rural fortress.
- About 6:04 a.m., an armored vehicle smashes through a front wall of the compound just left of the front door, leaving a hole about 8 feet high and 10 feet wide.
- About 6:15 a.m., an ambulance rushes toward the compound with lights flashing.
- At 6:55 a.m., authorities call Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco to be on alert. The hospital remains on low-level alert throughout the morning. Two ATF agents stand guard at the hospital.
- About 8 a.m., an armored vehicle with a large battering arm rips into the second floor of the compound and minutes later another hole is punched into the backside of the compound. The tanks then withdraw.
- About 8:05 a.m., 14 extra hospital staffers are called in at Hillcrest and four doctors are told to be ready to come in at a moment’s notice.
- About 9 a.m., President Clinton says he has been briefed on the assault and that U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has given the go-ahead for the tactical plan.
- About 9:20 a.m., an armored vehicle returns to the compound and bashes another hole in the front wall of the compound, taking out the front door.
- 10:30 a.m., FBI special agent Ricks says that the continued ramming of the building and the introduction of tear gas is intended as the “next logical step” to ending the 51-day standoff. Ricks says agents in armored vehicles were met with 65 to 80 shots from inside the compound as they first approached. He says agents did not return fire and no one was injured. He says the compound was rammed 10 to 11 times in original assault, tearing holes in walls and roof, each ramming met with 10 to 12 shots.
- About 11:30 a.m., vehicles continue battering cult buildings.
- 12:05 p.m., a vehicle hits a corner of the compound, knocking another sizable hole in it.
- 12:10 p.m., flames and smoke seen pouring from compound. A person is seen on the roof through a TV camera. High winds are whipping the building and fanning the flames.
- 12:17 pm. One person seen walking from the compound.
- 12:18 p.m., tower on right side of the compound caves in.
- 12:21 p.m., two Chinook helicopters arrive at the compound, shut down motors.
- 12:28 p.m. Person with hands raised walked to a Bradley vehicle and appears to surrender. A second person appears to come out, dragging something – possibly another person – toward Bradley. Fire has destroyed top floor of compound.
- 12:30 p.m. Parts of roof collapses.
- 12:38 p.m. Fire trucks arrive at compound.
- 3:30 p.m. FBI says nine people escaped the compound. The others, including as many as 24 children, presumably died in the blaze.