In 1993 – fifteen years after Jonestown – the FBI engaged in a 51-day stand-off with the Branch Davidians at their Mount Carmel ranch near Waco, Texas. The siege ended when the FBI launched an assault on the group, resulting in the deaths of 76 people. The cause of the deaths has been a matter of debate ever since – was the fire that killed the Branch Davidians result from the assault, or did the members of the group commit suicide? – but during the 51-day siege, many former group members, religious scholars and others contacted the FBI on the question of how Davidian leader David Koresh would respond, should an attack ensue.
One of the people who contacted the FBI was Tim Stoen. On March 28 – about halfway through the stand-off –Stoen spoke on the phone with FBI negotiators. According to an FBI message sheet summarizing the conversation, Stoen suggested that the FBI “immediately withdraw all tanks, armor, uniformed personnel, and other signs of a military invasion (which simply feeds the Armageddon consciousness of the leader and plays into his hold over his followers).”
A “Suicide Addendum” to an FBI status report dated April 18, 1993 – one day before the final assault – catalogues various communications the bureau had received. According to the document, “Timothy Stoen, attorney for Jim Jones, wrote in a letter that, based on his experience with cults, he believed it increasingly likely that a mass suicide would occur. He saw ‘disquieting parallels’ between Jonestown and Waco. Stoen did not further define the parallels, but offered suggestions for resolution.”