Is Netflix's "Waco: American Apocalypse" Based on A True Story?

waco american apocalypse cr courtesy of netflix © 2023
Is "Waco: American Apocalypse" a True Story?Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

After the success of true crime movies, documentaries, and series about Jeffrey Dahmer and, most recently, The Murdaugh Murders, Netflix is back with another chilling tale to add to your watch queue. In Waco: An American Apocalypse the streamer dives into what it describes as the "infamous 51-day standoff outside of Waco, Texas, between the US government and the Branch Davidian religious sect led by David Koresh". According to Netflix, this was the biggest gunfight standoff to occur on American soil since the Civil War. If you're ready to find out if Waco: American Apocalypse is based on a true story, read ahead for everything we know about David Koresh and Netflix's new true crime series.

Is Waco: American Apocalypse based on a true story?

Yes, Waco: American Apocalypse is based on the true story of David Koresh, a cult leader who would eventually take on the US government in a bloody standoff. According to ABC News, Koresh was born in Houston, Texas, as Vernon Howel Howell in 1959. He grew up in a churchgoing- Seventh-Day Adventist family. "He claimed that when he was a child, God had spoken to him and said, ‘You’re the chosen one. You are my messiah,’" journalist Mary Garafolo, who covered the events at Waco for the news program “A Current Affair,” told ABC News. Koresh would eventually be kicked out of the church because he consistently bumped heads with church leaders.

waco american apocalypse david koresh in waco american apocalypse cr courtesy of netflix © 2023
Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Koresh took his talents to Hollywood, where he unsuccessfully tried to pursue a career in music, The History Channel reports. He returned home to Texas and joined the Branch Davidians, a religious group who claimed they were people of the messiah and focused on apocalyptic prophecy. Three years before the Waco Siege, he changed his name from Howell to Koresh.

Koresh once stood trial for attempted murder. According to The History Channel, he tried to seize control of the group after being involved in an affair with Branch Davidian group president Lois Roden, who passed away. He fought with Roden's son George for control, and during the fight, Roden was shot in the chest and hands. Koresh was tried for attempted murder but was ultimately acquitted due to a mistrial.

After his acquittal, Koresh successfully took over as a self-proclaiming prophet and reportedly practiced "spiritual weddings" that he described as the right to be intimate with "God-chosen" female followers of all ages. He reportedly fathered at least a dozen children with several members of the religious organization.

What was the Waco Siege?

The US government received a tip that cult leader David Koresh and his followers, the Branch Davidians, were violating federal firearms regulations in early 1993. Government officials raided a compound in Axtell, Texas, in early 1993 as a response to the tips, and a blood bath ensued. Several law enforcement agents and members of the cult were killed in the initial standoff before 1,000 more police officials surrounded the compound. News of the standoff spread, and reporters flocked to the area to capture footage of the 51-day standoff between Koresh's cult and police officials.

waco american apocalypse cr courtesy of netflix © 2023
Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

There were times during the siege when it appeared as though the negotiations were going well, as the cult released children in exchange for food, but ultimately it ended violently. At the end of the nearly two-month standoff, 80 people, including cult members, US agents, and Koresh himself, were killed. According to The Associated Press, Koresh was killed from a gunshot wound to the head.

What happened at the end of the Waco Siege?

According to ABC News, a Congressional investigation concluded that Koresh and his followers set the fires" that would ultimately mark the end of the massacre.

What is Waco: American Apocalypse about?

According to the streamer service, Waco: American Apocalypse is an "immersive three-part" docuseries that reveals what happens in the "biggest gunfight on American soil since the Civil War." The series was released "to coincide with the 30th anniversary of this national tragedy" and features "exclusive access to recently unearthed videotapes filmed inside the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit, as well as raw news footage never released to the American public, and FBI recordings. American Apocalypse also includes close "intimate and revealing interviews with people from all sides of the conflict, including one of David Koresh's spiritual wives, the last child released from the compound alive, a sniper from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit Chief, the key journalists covering the story and members of the ATF tactical team who watched their colleagues die in the shootout."

When will Waco: American Apocalypse be released?

The three-part docuseries hits Netflix on Wednesday, March 22.


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