The upcoming 25th anniversary of the disastrous federal raid of the compound of the Branch Davidian religious cult outside Waco, Texas, has resurrected public interest in the cult and its sociopathic leader, David Koresh.
The raid began in the February of 1993. Authorities, believing the Branch Davidian were stockpiling weapons, attempted to storm their compound, only to fall back after exchanging gunfire with members. Four government agents and six Branch Davidians died in the gunfight.
The media rabidly covered the ensuing 51-day standoff, which came to a tragic end on April 19, 1993, when the FBI launched a tear gas attack on the cult’s headquarters. Ultimately, a fire engulfed the compound and killed 76 Branch Davidians, including Koresh.
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On Jan. 28, 2018, A&E will premiere the beginning of a two-part, four-hour documentary on the botched siege. The first two hours of Waco: Madman or Messiah premiere at 9 p.m., with the final two hours airing the following evening — again beginning at 9 p.m.
The A&E documentary will feature never-before-broadcast audio and rare video footage recovered from 247 FBI negotiation tapes, featuring the late cult leader speaking to FBI and ATF officials.
A trailer for Waco: Madman or Messiah appears at the top of this article. The documentary will also feature interviews with nine surviving members of the Branch Davidian sect.
“This special will also include first-person accounts from key ATF/FBI officers as they detail the initial raid, their agonizing negotiation attempts with Koresh and his followers throughout the siege and their mounting fears and frustrations from the outside,” reads a press release from the network.
The documentary will examine Koresh’s life, from his childhood to his rise to power in Texas.
“With Koresh’s own haunting voice acting as the spine to this documentary, nine Branch Davidian survivors tell how they believed he was sent by God to lead them into the final battle and how he prophesied, with uncanny accuracy, the events that were to ultimately unfold,” the press release adds.
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“They give emotional accounts of what happened after Koresh announced it was God’s will that all the women in the group were to be his wives; how he separated married couples and impregnated young girls to raise the chosen race. They relive what daily life was like inside the compound during the siege and some explain why, to this day, they wish they had perished in the fire.”
Born into a troubled household to a teenage mother, Koresh turned to religion and joined the Branch Davidian church, a splinter group of the Seventh Day Adventists. He proclaimed himself a prophet and the leader of the group, and in that role, he exercised total control over cult members, abusing them both physically and sexually.
Koresh’s message to his followers was apocalyptic: He told them the end of the world was imminent — and that the U.S. government would fatally attack the Branch Davidians.
Waco: Madman or Messiah premieres at 9 p.m. on Jan. 28, 2018.