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Davidian Compound Had Huge Weapon Cache, Ranger Says

July 07, 2000|From Associated Press

WACO, Texas — About 300 assault rifles and pistols were found in the charred remains of the Branch Davidian compound hours after the structure burned to the ground in 1993, a Texas Ranger testified Thursday.

Government attorneys presented jurors with five burned weapons recovered at the site outside Waco, called Mount Carmel. Some of the guns were charred black with soot and appeared melted.

The presentation was made in the government's defense of a $675-million lawsuit filed by Branch Davidian survivors and relatives of those who died in the government's standoff with the cult.

About 80 Davidians died from either fire or gunshots on the final day of the 51-day standoff. Six other Davidians and four agents were killed the day the standoff began when agents tried to search for illegal weapons and arrest cult leader David Koresh.

Plaintiffs say the government helped cause at least some of the three fires that engulfed the compound at the end of the siege; the government says Branch Davidians started the fires.

The plaintiffs also say the agents fired indiscriminately into the building during the raid, but agents claim they were ambushed by heavily armed cult members and were defending their lives.

Lt. James Miller, who helped collect and examine evidence from the site, said the recovered weaponry included 60 M-16 machine guns, 60 AK47 assault rifles, about 30 AR-15 assault rifles and numerous smaller pistols and unused bullets following the April 19, 1993, blaze.

Miller said 85 weapons, including assault rifles, were found in the front area of the complex. An additional 144 guns were found in a concrete vault inside the building.

Lt. Ray Coffman testified that 22 weapons were removed from underneath bodies in the concrete vault where many bodies of Branch Davidians were found. An unexploded grenade was found underneath one.

"There's more assault weapons in this photograph than I've ever seen," Coffman said when shown a picture of the guns recovered from the vault.

Another Ranger, Lt. Ray Cano, testified that Davidians set up at least three shooting positions along the front of the compound.

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Michael Caddell cross-examined each of the Rangers and tried to show jurors their testimony was irrelevant to the case.

Caddell asked Cano if he gathered any body parts. Cano said yes.

"Did you find any body parts for children?" Caddell asked.

"I don't know; I couldn't tell," Cano replied.

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