The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:Lee Hancock

Files detail evidence of huge cult arsenal
ATF officials say items listed in court document prove suspicions

Authorities found remnants of a huge arsenal from the Branch Davidian compound, including grenades, gas masks, more than a million rounds of ammunition and at least 40 submachine guns -- including three with silencers, according to a federal document unsealed in Waco this week.

Officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms say the weapons and other materiel found in the ashes of the cult's McLennan County compound confirm their fears that Branch Davidian leader David Koresh was amassing a weapons cache capable of carrying out his bizarre, apocalyptic teachings.

"We were right from the beginning,' said ATF spokesman Jack Killorin. "It was our belief going in there that there was a large stockpile of weapons and parts for making weapons and explosive devices. It seems clear that our suspicions were also correct that these were not being amassed for self-defense.

"One of the things that has concerned me was that we found silenced submachine guns, which are typically weapons of assassination or guerilla warfare. It raises the question of what this religious group was planning to do,' he said.

Four ATF agents were killed and 16 were injured Feb. 28 when they and more than 90 other federal agents tried to serve search and arrest warrants on the cult.

ATF officials said that they decided not to try to surround the compound and negotiate a surrender after an eight-month investigation of firearms violations by the cult because they feared that Mr. Koresh would order a mass suicide.

A 51-day standoff that followed the ATF raid ended April 19 when the compound burned. Some of the nine cultists who survived say the fires were touched off when tanks used to inject tear gas into the compound knocked over lanterns inside.

But FBI officials contend that the fires were deliberately set on orders by Mr. Koresh.

According to the lengthy computer printout unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in Waco, weapons were found close to the bodies of at least five cultists who died in the fire.

Autopsies on the bodies recovered from the fire indicated that Mr. Koresh and at least 17 of his followers -- including his chief lieutenant -- sustained gunshot wounds as the compound burned. At least 72 cultists died in the fire, authorities said.

Among approximately 200 separate weapons cataloged during a three-week search of the compound were:

And authorities also discovered dozens of pistols and dozens of barrels for M-16s, AR-15s and other weapons.

Also taken from the wreckage were an unspecified number of gas masks, one chemical warfare suit, several kevlar tactical vests and other body armor, including at least eight kelvar helmets.

The evidence recovered at the compound also includes the remants of the ATF raid: body armor, a battering ram, an ATF medical kit and a federal-issue MP-5 machine gun apparently dropped by a federal agent fleeing withering gunfire.

Also cataloged are a wide array of items tagged as arson evidence. That includes Coleman lanterns, crushed or open gas cans and Coleman fuel cans and two items labeled "torches.'

Perhaps the most poignant items recovered are the cultists' personal effects: items such as Bibles, marriage and death certificates, the library card of one deceased woman, children's clothes, baseball cards and a lock of black hair.

Authorities also found some items echoing Mr. Koresh's doomsday teachings, the dry police prose labels one such item: "Document: Apocalypse -- "Death' and "Grave' highlighted.'