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Autopsies Confirm Gunshot Wounds Killed 2 in Cult Compound

April 25, 1993| from Associated Press

FT. WORTH — Two victims found in the rubble of the Branch Davidian cult compound near Waco died of gunshot wounds to the head, the chief medical examiner said Saturday.

Dr. Nizam Peerwani, the Tarrant County medical examiner whose office is handling the autopsies of the victims from Monday's blaze that ended a 51-day standoff with authorities, refused to elaborate on the wounds.

Earlier last week, Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern said that an FBI agent saw three people who had been shot, adding that those with bullet wounds could have been suicides, homicides or victims of exploding ammunition.

During a news conference Saturday, Peerwani said that six autopsies had been performed and that no identifications had been made.

Forty-four bodies were at the Tarrant County medical examiner's office and four more have been located at the compound and will be retrieved this morning, he said.

Three of the victims died of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, and the cause of death of the fourth victim was still undetermined pending a toxicology report, Peerwani said.

"We've autopsied four of those bodies. Two of those bodies had gunshot wounds to the head. We had a white male. We don't know his age yet. He had a single gunshot wound to the head and that was his cause of death.

"Next to this person we had a white female, adult also, she also had a gunshot wound to the head and that was her cause of death," Peerwani said.

Medical examiners began the first set of autopsies Saturday on bodies pulled from the remains of the compound as investigators cleared the grim scene.

Most forensic investigators left the compound Saturday so thousands of rounds of bullets and other weapons, including grenades and mortar shells, could be removed.

The Branch Davidian cult, led by David Koresh, built a weapons cache that agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were attempting to seize during a failed Feb. 28 raid that left four agents dead and 16 wounded.

Once the site is clear, investigators hope to continue removing bodies, said Mike Cox, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Cox said one of the recovered bodies was of a woman who appeared to be clutching a 3- or 4-year-old child.

Cox said at least 13 bodies have been found near a concrete structure in the center of the compound. The chamber is where Koresh is believed to have hidden most of his cache of weapons and where he took shelter from tear gas bombardments that the FBI had hoped would prompt him to surrender.

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