The Texan city of Waco once again finds itself the centre of national attention after nine people were killed following a shoot-out between rival motorcycle gangs and local police officers. 192 people have subsequently been arrested as a result of the incident. In the aftermath of this particularly bloody event the only consolation appears to be that no innocent bystanders were hurt.
It is just over twenty-two years since the infamous Waco Siege occurred at the Mount Carmel Center just outside of the city. Over a fifty-one day period, various federal agents and police forces attempted to gain access to the ranch and apprehend members of a Branch Dividian Sect, in particular its cultish leader David Koresh. Attempts to draw the group out by using tear gas coincided with the start of a fire that ultimately killed seventy-six people. The incident has remained steeped in controversy.
There is some irony in Waco returning to the headlines at this specific moment. The siege of 1993 was cited as a primary motivation of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, whose 1995 destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building remains the worst case of domestic terrorism in US history. McVeigh was subsequently sentenced to death and executed in 2001 at the United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute in Indiana.
Now another domestic terrorist – Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – has just be sentenced to die for his crimes. He will presumably be executed at Terre Haute too. Whilst he has no apparent link whatsoever to Waco, the timing of this latest incident and Tsarnaev’s recent sentencing are a reminder of both the Waco Siege and the Oklahoma City Bombing it inspired.
It is an unfortunate quirk of history that Waco’s residents will not want to see repeated.