Steve Schneider: Who Was He? How Did David Koresh’s Spokesman Die?

Netflix’s eye-opening documentary series ‘Waco: American Apocalypse’ chronicles how a major gunfight broke out between members of the Branch Davidians and the ATF when the latter tried to serve a search warrant at the Mount Carmel Center ranch outside of Waco, Texas. The gunfight led to a few lost lives, and law enforcement officials laid siege to the ranch for 51 days imploring the members inside to surrender.

However, the location was engulfed in flames on the last day of the siege leading to more than 80 deaths. While the show explores the events through one-on-one interviews, it mentions Steve Schneider, who was David Koresh’s right-hand man. Well, let’s learn more about Steve and find out how he died, shall we?

Who Was Steve Schneider?

A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Steve Schneider was brought up in a close-knit family who belonged to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Growing up in a religious background, Steve developed an interest in theology from quite a young age and was determined to pursue it as a career. Even his parents were supportive of him and encouraged him to chase his dreams. Hence, after his initial education, Steve traveled to England and began attending the Newbold College of Higher Education in Bracknell.

However, Steve’s time in England was cut short, as sources claim that the college expelled him on account of his allegedly drunken behavior. Consequently, he returned to the States and earned a P.hD. in comparative religion from the University of Hawaii. By this time, Steve was already married to Judy Schneider, although the couple faced some financial issues as the former was without a proper job. While job hunting, Steve eventually came across a Branch Davidian by the name of Marc Breault, who was able to pique his interest in the religious movement.

Realizing that his services and knowledge might come of use in such a place, Steve decided to convert to the new faith. Incidentally, reports insist that Judy was not so eager to convert but was eventually convinced by her husband to do so. Once Steve came in contact with David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians, he began believing in his teachings and was ready to do anything in order to spread the movement. Besides, like most of David’s followers, Steve was confident that their leader was the Messiah and would lead them to salvation.

Subsequently, with time Steve became David’s right-hand man and was responsible for all communications with outside agencies. However, sources interjected that even though Steve was a good orator, he did not have the freedom to act independently. On the other hand, while Steve remained legally married to Judy, David claimed her as one of his wives and even had a child with her.

How Did Steve Schneider Die?

On February 28, 1993, Steve was staying with the other Branch Davidian members at the Mount Carmel Center ranch right outside of Waco, Texas, when the ATF arrived at their doorstep to serve a warrant. Law agencies claimed that David was amassing weapons and breaking federal gun laws, which led to the search. Although it is unclear as to which side began firing first, the ranch was soon surrounded by agents who started shooting into the building. Similarly, the people inside returned fire with automatic weapons, and the situation soon led to one of the worst firefights the country has ever witnessed.

By the time the smoke cleared, four federal agents and five Branch Davidians were killed in the line of fire. Even though the failed raid forced the ATF to withdraw, the ranch was soon surrounded by law enforcement agencies as the FBI tried to get the men inside to surrender. Expert hostage negotiators were called in, and authorities managed to get nineteen children, as well as a few adults, to safety. However, the rest of the Branch Davidians refused to cooperate, and the FBI decided to use tear gas in a last-ditch attempt to force a surrender.

Incidentally, Steve Schneider was the one who primarily communicated with the FBI and brought David’s demands to the authorities. Yet, all negotiations broke down the moment Steve learned that the use of tear gas had been authorized. Unfortunately, details are quite hazy from that time on as the building suddenly caught on fire on April 19, 1993. While opinions differ on who started the fire, the entire structure burned down with the Branch Davidians, including several children, inside.

Later, law enforcement officials confirmed that both Steve Schneider and David Koresh passed away in the fire, although some believe that Steve shot David before dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. However, readers should note that the official cause of death mentions that Steve died of carbon monoxide poisoning from inhaling smoke, while there was evidence of trauma to his head from an explosion or a gunshot.

Read More: Who Was Rachel Koresh? How Did She Die?