“Waco: Madman Or Messiah,” the Definitive Account of the Branch Davidian Religious Sect, Premieres on A&E Network

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25 January 2018
Waco: Madman or Messiah
Courtesy of A&E
"Waco: Madman or Messiah"
Premieres Sunday, January 28 at 9PM ET/PT on A&E
          A&E Network will premiere the new, original two-night special event “Waco: Madman or Messiah” which serves as the definitive account of the Branch Davidian religious sect and their leader David Koresh in the years leading up to and including the 51-day stand-off with the FBI that ended in a fiery tragedy on Mount Carmel, TX back in 1993.  Pulled from the archives of never-before broadcast audio and rare video footage, recovered from 247 FBI negotiation tapes, viewers will hear directly from late cult leader David Koresh himself and 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.  The four-hour, two-part documentary special “Waco: Madman or Messiah” will premiere on Sunday, January 28 and Monday, January 29 at 9PM ET/PT on A&E.

          Few had ever heard of the Branch Davidians and their leader David Koresh, born Vernon Wayne Howell, until the events of February 28, 1993 when a raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) on their center close to Waco, Texas, left four agents and six of the religious sect dead.  It led to a 51-day stand-off with the FBI, the longest in U.S. law-enforcement history, ending in a tragic fire which killed an additional 75 members of the community including 23 children. 

          With the 25th anniversary of the tragedy approaching, this documentary aims to find out exactly who was David Koresh and why were so many of his followers prepared to die for him? This immersive documentary aims to showcase a deep psychological portrait of Koresh including his tumultuous early years growing up as an east Texas working-class adolescent, his arrival at Mount Carmel, his rise to power and his ability to convince his followers that he was, and still is, their messiah.

Waco: Madman or Messiah
Courtesy of A&E
           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.  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.  In addition, key ATF/FBI agents emotionally detail the initial ATF raid, their negotiation attempts with Koresh and his followers over the 51-day siege and open up about the final terrifying hours from the outside as the siege went on to end in absolute tragedy. 

          Integral contributors to this special include former followers Marc Breault, Koresh’s right-hand man and his wife Elizabeth Baranyai, who has never been interviewed before; Kathy Jones who lost eleven members of her family in the fire and her daughter Heather Burson, who was the last child to walk out of Mount Carmel alive; Kathryn Schroeder who was one of Koresh’s wives and the only female member to be charged and imprisoned post-siege; Graeme Craddock who is the only Branch Davidian to admit witnessing other another sect member spreading fuel as the inferno started and theologian Livingstone Fagan who lost both his mother and wife in the fire. 

         Additional contributors include: Koresh’s aunt Sharon Kidd who gives her first interview describing growing up with Koresh and their close bond; Koresh’s half-brother Rodger Haldeman; ATF undercover agent Robert Rodriguez; FBI negotiator Byron Sage and the first television interview given by the ATF officer who believes he shot Koresh during the initial raid, Keith Constantino.
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