Waco 30 Years Later: What to Watch and Remember About the 1993 Tragedy

Waco: American Apocalypse

As the events in Texas turn 30, there are two new major projects looking back on what happened between David Koresh and the government.

Over the course of 51 days, from Feb. 28 to April 19, 1993, various U.S. federal government agencies were in a tragic and violent standoff with the religious group, Branch Davidians led by cult leader David Koresh, which has since become known as the "Waco Siege" or the "Waco Massacre." 

Believed to be stockpiling illegal weapons, search and arrest warrants for Koresh, who was a suspected child abuser and rapist, and members of his cult based in a ranch community just outside of Waco, Texas, were issued by the ATF. The agency's attempt to execute those warrants, however, turned into a bloody battle, resulting in the deaths of multiple ATF agents and Branch Davidians before leading to a subsequent siege led by the FBI. 

The 51-day standoff between Koresh's community and the government eventually ended when the FBI launched a tear gas attack in an attempt to force everyone out of the ranch before the area became engulfed in flames, killing many of the followers inside. 

In the years since the violent tragedy unfolded, there have been several investigations -- as well as many debates -- about what exactly happened in Waco and the fallout that followed. As the events in Texas turn 30, there are two new major TV projects looking back on the 1993 disaster -- and reflecting on why it still matters today.

Waco and Waco: The Aftermath

Following Waco, the 2018, star-studded six-part scripted limited series depicting the 1993 standoff, co-creators and brothers Drew and John Erick Dowdle are back with a sequel, Waco: The Aftermath, which chronicles the aftermath and subsequent trials that followed the tragedy. 

The new Showtime series, which premieres April 16, is led by Michael Shannon, who reprises his Waco role as FBI hostage negotiator Gary Noesner, while John Leguizamo and Shea Whigham return as ATF agent Jacob Vasquez and FBI agent Mitch Decker, respectively.

While Taylor Kitsch does not return as Koresh, who ultimately died of a gunshot wound during the siege, Euphoria actor Keean Johnson portrays a young version of the cult leader.   

For the Dowdles, the sequel offers them a chance to connect the dots with what happened in Waco to acts of violence and domestic terrorism, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, that have followed. "Without Waco, the January 6 insurrection would not have happened, full stop,” John Erick tells Vanity Fair

Waco: American Apocalypse

The three-part Netflix documentary from director Tiller Russell (Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer) offers an immersive account of the tragedy that happened during the 51-day siege between the cult and the federal government. And for the filmmaker, "it is still a deeply present-tense story," he tells Vanity Fair

Released in March, the nonfiction series features exclusive access to previously unseen or never released content, including hundreds of hours of footage filmed inside the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit, raw news coverage and FBI wiretap recordings.

Additionally, Russell's documentary also has new interviews from both sides of the conflict, including one of Koresh’s spiritual wives, the last child released from the compound, an FBI Hostage Rescue Team sniper, the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit Chief as well as members of the ATF tactical team.