SAN ANTONIO — A federal agent testifying Monday in the murder trial of 11 Branch Davidians described how he climbed, wounded, to the roof of the cult compound during a cease-fire Feb. 28 to retrieve the bodies two colleagues slain in the gun battle with the cult.
"I said . . . 'We need to go back and get our dead,' " said Gerald Petrilli, who was wounded in the hands and arms.
Four agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were killed and 16 were wounded in the 45-minute firefight, which led to a 51-day standoff between David Koresh's followers and law enforcement officers. Six Branch Davidians are believed to have died in the gun battle.
Koresh and about 80 followers died April 19 when a fire engulfed the compound outside Waco, Tex.
Petrilli said he saw Conway LeBleu on the roof, then "rolled him over. He had a 12-gauge shotgun clutched in his hands. He was dead." He said Todd McKeehan also was still holding his gun when agents took his body from the roof.
Agent Larry Shiver, who was wounded in both legs, limped into court and testified that he saw shots fired at an ATF medic who attempted to reach slain agent Steven Willis.
"I basically told the medic there was no use in coming any further," Shiver said, wiping away tears.
The 11 defendants being tried on murder and murder conspiracy charges could face up to life in prison if convicted.
Defense attorneys say their clients were acting in self-defense. The government says the agents were attempting to search for illegal weapons.
Prosecutors have displayed a cache of nearly 400 firearms recovered from the burned compound, but have not said whether they are illegal.
According to previous testimony, 76 officers poured out of trailers driven up to the compound on Feb. 28. About two dozen more were in nearby houses.