Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Agent: `Davidians Fired First' ATF Official Tells Hearing He Is `Sickened by Any Other Assertion'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Agent: `Davidians Fired First' ATF Official Tells Hearing He Is `Sickened by Any Other Assertion'

Article excerpt

A federal agent told lawmakers Wednesday that law-enforcement officers did not instigate the gunfight that started the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

"We were taking an awful beating," Jim Cavanaugh, a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said, his voice breaking. "Their guns sounded like cannons, our guns sounded like popguns. We didn't shoot first."

Cavanaugh and others also testified that they did not believe David Koresh, the cult's leader, was on the verge of surrendering, as Koresh's attorney contended Tuesday. The offer was an empty promise, like others during the 51-day standoff, they said.

"He (Koresh) constantly made promises he did not keep. We pushed and pushed. And all we got was stall," said Jeffrey Jamar, the FBI agent in charge at Waco.

Cavanaugh said he watched in horror from a nearby house on Feb. 28, 1993, as an attempt to serve warrants turned into a gunbattle that left four firearms agents and six Davidians dead.

In one poignant recitation, he described his attempts to negotiate an end to the gunfight and rescue wounded agents. "I had a radio mike in one ear with an agent pleading for his life, and I had a guy on the phone who thought he was God," he said, referring to Koresh.

Cavanaugh rejected Tuesday's testimony by attorneys who accused government agents of starting the siege by firing first and ending it by launching a tear gas attack after Koresh and his followers had agreed to surrender.

"The Davidians fired first, and I am sickened by any other assertion," Cavanaugh said. "If I thought an ATF agent would drive up to a structure and start firing, I'd throw my badge in the garbage. It didn't happen."

He also said Koresh had reneged on several offers to surrender and probably would not have come out, no matter how long the FBI waited before using gas to try to flush the Davidians out of the compound. …

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