‘Waco: American Apocalypse’ Ending Explained: Why Did the ATF Assault the Waco Compound?

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Welcome to the Ending Explained for Waco: American Apocalypse, a docuseries that has arrived on Netflix this week and tells the history of the infamous siege. The docuseries is directed by Terri Russell and uses a collection of reenactments, interviews with survivors, and archive footage to paint a very balanced picture of what happened during those 51 days of siege. Of course, many little details are being overlooked for the sake of pacing, but as a comprehensive document that explains what happened, the documentary does a solid job.

If there is one thing that the documentary does well, balancing the stakes for both sides in the conflict. On one side, we have the government figures taking the form of the ATF agency; on the other, we have members of a radical cult. The documentary presents each position with equal respect, but it is clear that both sides are in the wrong. The documentary should be applauded for not falling into the misstep of thinking some of these people have the absolute moral truth in their hands.

The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Waco: American Apocalypse. Read at your own risk.

Who Was David Koresh?

The central figure of the documentary is a man named David Koresh. He is presented as the leader of the cult known as the Branch Davidians. David was a very charismatic and eloquent person who seized control of the cult and positioned himself as the new leader. The documentary tells us that David lived a very tragic childhood. There are rumors that he was sexually abused as a child and that his father was never present, being a thief and a criminal.

So, it seems that David went out into the world to find purpose, and he found it in the Bible. His knowledge of the holy book was extensive, and the documentary presents the possibility that David used this knowledge, combined with his innate charisma, to attract people to his cult. David would take all of his followers to their compound in Waco, Texas, and tell them that a war was coming and that, in the end, they would all die to ascend to heaven.


It is a horrible prophecy, but David’s control over his followers was absolute. It was said that David would stop members of his community from having sex with their own wives because now, their wives belonged to David and no one else. David was allowed to have sex with anyone, including some young girls at the compound. Girls who were in the age range of ten and thirteen. It is alarming and quite disgusting to hear the justification for these acts coming out of the months of his surviving disciples.

David was indeed suffering from a literal God complex. He identified himself as the new messiah and a new God. The worst was that his followers believed him and followed him to his death. More than 70 people, including David, died in a huge fire in their complex. They died by fire and were suffocated by the smoke. Among the victims, 26 kids died in the name of this man, who believed he was more than just flesh. Again, faith can be powerful and inspiring, but it can also be used as fuel for nightmares.


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Why Did The ATF Assault The Waco Compound?

Outside of David’s terrible abuse against his followers inside his cult, what was the reason the ATF attacked their compound? The agency’s job is to regulate the use of Alcohol, Tobacco, and firearms. This last bit was the main reason the agency tried to raid the Waco compound. The agency had received information saying that David and his followers had amassed many weapons and ammo and were ready to use them.

David stated they had weapons in the compound in many opportunities, but this was their right as US citizens. It was no one’s business if they had weapons or not. However, one thing that’s certainly illegal is modifying weapons. The ATF states this as one reason for the initial raid. David’s cult was modding weapons into higher caliber ones and changing them into automatic weapons. Thus, the ATF assembled their small army and walked confidently to David’s front door, not knowing the kind of welcome they would receive.


The first raid was met with fire from the cult’s side, and we are talking about heavy fire. This was all recorded thanks to the presence of the press at the site, and for a moment, what started as a normal show of power from the government agency turned into an embarrassment. What followed was the deaths of several agents and many members of the cult being hurt. In less than a day, the eyes of the entire country were set on it. A line of communication was set between both parties, and David agreed that some of the children could get out of the compound.

From there, the 51 days of siege started, and David’s promise of getting out of the compound to be arrested was broken at several points. David’s refusal surprised the government, and they decided to treat the situation most negatively. The final assault took place on April 19, 1993. The assault was executed as flames engulfed the compound. In the end, the ATF agents could do nothing, and all 76 people inside the compound decided to leave with David to the next life, even leaving some of their kids in the process.

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