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Jim Jones

Jim Jones, the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple, fled California in 1974 with his followers and set up a compound in Guyana, which he dubbed Jonestown. Jones, a charismatic and disturbed individual, had become paranoid that the CIA and FBI were watching him. Jones ruled his community with an iron fist and did not permit anyone to leave. His actions made it back to officials in the U.S. and, on November 18, 1978, California Congressman Leo J. Ryan paid a visit to Jonestown. After touring the facility, Ryan left the compound with a number of defectors. Angered, Jones sent some of his men to the airstrip in Port Kaituma, where they gunned down Ryan and four others. Later that same day, 909 of Jones' followers, 303 of which were children, died of apparent cyanide poisoning. Jones died from a gunshot wound to the head consistent with suicide. "We didn't commit suicide; we committed an act of revolutionary suicide protesting the conditions of an inhumane world," Jones said in a 45-minute audio recording that was made that day. The incident was, until Sept. 11, 2001, the single greatest loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster.

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