WACO, Texas - David Koresh taught women to fire weapons, drilled them for war, instructed them to commit suicide in battle and took 15 women and girls as his wives, witnesses testified Thursday. In the end, the bodies of these women and children were found on top of rifles in a bunker with hundreds of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
The government presented the testimony in the third week of the trial in which the Branch Davidians seek to blame the government for the death of about 80 members in a fire on April 19, 1993.
A Texas Ranger presented grim pictures showing the barely discernible shapes of bodies of women and children found in a concrete storage bunker that the Branch Davidians used as a weapons cache.
Ranger Lt. Ray Coffman testified that he never had seen such a big arsenal of weapons and ammunition as he found in the bunker. "There were more assault weapons in there than when I visited Camp Mabry," he said, referring to the Texas National Guard headquarters.
Coffman found 133 weapons in the small bunker, 22 of them under the bodies. When he rolled over the body of one woman, "a grenade fell out from her waist," he testified.
The government is trying to counter the Davidians' claim that women and children were not involved in armed attacks on government agents.
Justice Department attorneys bolstered that case by reading the testimony of one of Koresh's wives, Dana Okimoto, a psychiatric nurse from Hawaii. She testified that Koresh taught all women to shoot and showed war movies, like "Hamburger Hill," to prepare them for the war that he believed the Bible prophesied. He also convinced her that she should commit suicide if she were captured in that war and was about to be raped.
Koresh showed her guns on the stage of the chapel, apparently including the 5-foot-long, .50-caliber gun known as the "Bear."
Asked about Koresh's mental health, Okimoto testified, "As a mental health professional, I believe he probably belonged in a hospital somewhere."
She left the complex about a year before the siege began.
Earlier in the day, government lawyers showed jurors the burnt remnants of some of the more than 360 rifles, machine guns, pistols and grenades that the Branch Davidians turned on government agents. The arsenal included 48 rifles that had been illegally modified to become fully automatic.
But the lead lawyer for the Branch Davidians, Mike Caddell, quickly turned the tables on the government, suggesting that the FBI had tampered with the evidence in the hours immediately after the fire.
Caddell's questions apparently had an impact on the advisory jury. The only question it asked based on a morning of testimony was what had happened to a missing front door to the Branch Davidians' complex. The Davidians have claimed that the missing door had only incoming bullet holes, suggesting that agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had fired indiscriminately into the complex during the Feb. 28 raid that began the siege.
"I have no idea," replied Lt. James L. Miller, the Texas Ranger who was in charge of collecting evidence. "We collected what we found. If there was a second door to be collected, we would have collected it."
Mike Bradford, the U.S. attorney from Beaumont, Texas, said outside of court that he can't do much to allay the jury's concerns about the door. "There is no evidence the government did anything with that door. It's just missing," he said. Under cross-examination, Miller said FBI and ATF munitions experts had searched the scene in the hours right after the fire and before he and other Rangers began collecting evidence. Miller said federal prosecutors and the FBI determined what evidence was sent to the FBI lab for testing.
WACO Government lawyers Thursday began wrapping up their defense of federal actions in the gunfight that sparked the Branch Davidian siege, meticulously detailing the sect's firepower and its absolute devotion to self-proclaimed messiah David Koresh.
A succession of Texas Rangers were called to testify Thursday about their role in recovering more than 300 guns and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition from the charred wreckage of the Davidian compound.
The Texas lawmen detailed how 60 M-16 machine guns, 60 AK-47 assault rifles, about 30 AR-15 assault rifles, several .50-caliber sniper rifles and dozens of pistols were discovered after the compound burned April 19, 1993. They told jurors in the Davidian wrongful-death suit how some weapons were arrayed in what appeared to be firing positions, and 133 were recovered from the concrete room where bodies of most of the sect's women and all of its children were discovered.
Examples of the arsenal were shown to jurors.
One Ranger, Lt. Ray Coffman, testified that 21 weapons were found among the human remains in the bunker, including one live grenade discovered under the body of a woman. He said another woman found there was wearing a pistol holster.
Lt. Coffman also recounted how an elderly Davidian woman interviewed during the raid described seeing two other women inside the sect's compound carrying guns just before agents arrived there Feb. 28, 1993.
The arrival of federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents to search the compound for illegal weapons and arrest Mr. Koresh touched off a gunbattle. Four ATF agents and six sect members died that day. The sect's lawsuit alleges ATF agents fired indiscriminately and used excessive force.
Davidian witnesses called to testify in the case have denied seeing women carrying guns or shooting in the gunfight.
Lt. Coffman said the Davidian, Ofelia Santoyo, also told him just after coming out of the compound in March 1993 that the sect had been tipped off before the ATF raid. He added that Ms. Santoyo described hearing one Davidian man yelling, "The Assyrians are coming!" a reference to Old Testament "enemies" of God's chosen.
"She became afraid. . . .Through his teachings ... [Mr. Koresh] said this day would come and the police would come to attack the compound," Lt. Coffman recalled. "She said the Davidians were well-armed and justified in being well-armed because the Bible told them to do that."
Lt. Coffman said Ms. Santoyo told him that another Branch Davidian woman who surrendered during the siege, Ruth Riddle, was one of Mr. Koresh's 15 sexual partners. Ms. Riddle testified earlier that she considered herself only a spiritual wife of the Davidian leader and never had a physical relationship with him.
Ms. Santoyo acknowledged that her daughter was also a Koresh "wife," but she refused to say whether her 13-year-old granddaughter was among his sexual partners, the Ranger recalled. "But she would say that any woman in the compound age 12 or older was old enough to have sex with Koresh."
Government lawyers followed the Rangers' testimony by reading deposition testimony in which a former Davidian told of Mr. Koresh's domination of his followers.
That former Davidian, Dana Okimoto, recalled being sent to California to hide after she became pregnant with the first of her two children by Mr. Koresh. She said in her deposition that she was berated for taking one of them to the hospital after he broke his arm.
"He was very upset that I took him ... because now his name was in the system," Ms. Okimoto testified.
She said that argument so shook her faith in Mr. Koresh that she and her children, Sky and Scooter, eventually left the group. She is now a psychiatric nurse and lives with the boys, 11 and 9, in Hawaii.
Before she left, she said, Mr. Koresh had begun showing her guns, once ordering the younger women to practice firing shotguns. She said he also taught that his wives should kill themselves if they believed they were about to be taken by enemies and raped.
She said Mr. Koresh also controlled the group's diet, first imposing kosher dietary laws from the Old Testament but later adding his own "weird food-combining theories."
"It constantly changed," she said. "He wanted absolute control."
Plaintiffs' lawyer Michael Caddell dismissed the government's presentation as part of a continuing effort to prejudice jurors with tales of Mr. Koresh's obsession with guns and his strange religious and sexual practices.
In questioning the government's witnesses, Mr. Caddell repeatedly pointed out that he and his clients had previously acknowledged the exact number of weapons found in the compound.
After another Ranger testified that a pistol, loaded magazines, military vests and belts and even a live grenade were dropped by some of the Davidians who fled the fire, Mr. Caddell said a number of the fire survivors were convicted in a 1994 criminal trial.
"No kiddos came out . . . did they?" Mr. Caddell said. "The [ammunition] vest, the web belt, none of those were child-sized, were they?"
Pointing out how weapons displayed for jurors were charred and melted in the compound fire, Mr. Caddell told one Ranger, "You can imagine what that did to flesh, couldn't you?"
The sect's wrongful-death lawsuit alleges that FBI commanders in Waco were negligent in failing to have firefighting equipment on hand before trying to force the sect out with tear gas. More than 80 Davidians died in the blaze, which government lawyers maintain was caused solely by the sect.
Questioned about search
Mr. Caddell closely questioned Ranger Lt. James L. Miller about the FBI's involvement in the post-siege search of the compound. He noted that key evidence including one of the compound's front doors was never .
foundSome Davidians have alleged that government agents fired indiscriminately through that door, while ATF agents have countered that many of the first gunshots in their battle with the sect came through the same door. Mr. Caddell noted that some FBI explosives experts were allowed to search the smoldering wreckage of the compound before the Rangers came to the scene April 19.
Another plaintiffs' lawyer, James Brannon, pointedly suggested that and other evidence could have been removed by FBI agents who loaded objects into a U-Haul truck at the compound April 19.
At the end of the exchange, one juror asked the judge to query Lt. Miller about the missing door, but U.S. Attorney Michael Bradford later told reporters that he considered the issue insignificant. "We've said it's missing," he said. "If you've got one door full of bullet holes and another door full of bullet holes, what's the big deal?"
But notably absent from the list of witnesses called Thursday were any of the FBI agents who helped to search the compound. Mr. Bradford also confirmed Thursday that the government will not call FBI agent James Cadigan, the FBI's chief laboratory official assigned to lead the evidence-gathering effort in the Waco case.
In his questioning of the Rangers, Mr. Caddell noted that one of their colleagues who recently inventoried evidence found some items had been misidentified.
Lt. Miller acknowledged that one key item a spent pyrotechnic tear gas grenade photographed by a Texas Department of Public Safety employee after the fire was never turned over to the Rangers and remains missing. Under cross-examination, Lt. Miller also acknowledged that FBI agents were assigned to each of the teams assigned to collect evidence from the compound after the fire.
One internal FBI document previously entered into evidence by the plaintiffs states that half of the 100 law enforcement officials assigned to the search were FBI personnel.
That bureau document also indicates that Mr. Cadigan received a top bureau award for running the Waco crime scene search.
The award noted Mr. Cadigan "did in fact guide the overall course of the operation without appearing to." The document, stamped "confidential" by government lawyers, stated that was done so that the Texas Rangers could be publicly and "nominally" identified as lead investigators in the Davidian case while the FBI laboratory served as "de facto leader in the eventual gathering of physical evidence."
Weapons ranging from a machine gun to grenades were paraded in front of U.S. District Court Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. and a five-member advisory jury in the Branch Davidians' $675 million wrongful-death lawsuit against the government.
All the weapons were found in the rubble of Mount Carmel, after a fire of disputed origin led to the deaths of David Koresh and 75 followers on April 19, 1993.
Government attorneys spent Thursday meticulously detailing many of the 300 weapons recovered. The list included 60 M-16 rifles, 60 AK-47 rifles, more than 30 AR-15 rifles and two .50 caliber rifles.
Texas Ranger Lt. James Miller, who helped search the ruins, testified that 47 machine guns were also found.
Government attorney Steve Mason asked another Ranger, Lt. Ray Coffman, if he had ever seen more assault rifles in one place.
"I have not," said Coffman, who helped search the concrete bunker at Mount Carmel.
That included the Texas National Guard armory in Austin, Coffman said.
"There were more assault rifles here than I ever saw at Camp Mabry," Coffman said.
He said the Rangers found 10,000 rounds of live ammunition inside the bunker and 400,000 rounds of ammunition destroyed in the fire. The bunker also contained the bodies of men, women and 24 children.
Many of the bodies were found under a stack of ammunition several feet high.
Houston attorney Mike Caddell, lead plaintiffs attorney, tried to cast doubt on the number and types of weapons found by asking Miller what agency examined Mount Carmel immediately after the fire. Miller said an FBI explosives unit went through the area before allowing the Rangers to conduct their search.
Caddell also noted in questioning Miller that the Rangers determined the FBI mislabeled numerous items in compiling its list of weapons at Mount Carmel.
That became apparent last year when Mike McNulty, one of the producers of "Waco: Rules of Engagement," toured the DPS' evidence room, which at that time held the Davidian evidence. McNulty found flashbangs misidentified by the FBI as silencers.
Caddell asked Miller if anything had been done to correct the FBI's mislabeling. Miller said no.
"We'll just take their word for it," Caddell said, sarcastically.
He also questioned the FBI's labeling of items like lanterns, propane bottles and gas cans as "arson debris."
"That doesn't mean that every lantern out there had anything to do with the fire or if any of them did?" Caddell asked Miller.
"No, sir," .
Miller saidSeveral Davidians have testified the group collected weapons to sell at gun shows.
However, a former "wife" of Koresh's testified via a transcribed deposition that Koresh stockpiled weapons as part of "preparing for the end."
Dana Okimoto, 34, said she met Koresh in Hawaii in 1986. He invited her to come to Texas to study with him and other Davidians, who were living at the time in Palestine, Texas.
She said Koresh asked her to become one of his wives or part of the House of David in August 1987. She and Koresh had two sons, she said. One was born in Torrance, Calif., in September 1988 and the other was born at Mount Carmel in April 1991.
Okimoto said Koresh had 14 or 15 "wives" and had sex with some of them when they were 13 or 14 years old.
Koresh taught all the women at Mount Carmel how to shoot a shotgun as part of preparing for the end times, Okimoto testified, adding that the preparation also involved marching military-style and watching war movies on video.
She said she came to doubt her belief in Koresh about a year before leaving the Davidians. She left with her sons when Koresh screamed at her for taking their oldest son, Sky Borne, to a doctor after he broke his arm.
She said Koresh was upset that his name "would be in the system" as the boy's father.
Okimoto, now a psychiatric nurse, said her feelings about Koresh are ambivalent.
"He's the father of my children, yet I was part of this very strange belief system," Okimoto said. "... As a mental health professional, he probably belonged in a hospital somewhere."
Waco, FBI and the Branch Davidians: Updates
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