Attorney: Bullet holes evidence ATF was aggressor at Mount Carmel

Wacp Tribune-Herald, June 21, 2000
By Mark England

Bullet holes in the front door convinced him that agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were the aggressors in their Feb. 28, 1993 raid on Mount Carmel, Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin testified Wednesday in the Branch Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit against the government.

"All the bullet holes I saw had smooth edges from bullets coming from the outside," DeGuerin said.

DeGuerin told the seven-member advisory jury and U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Waco that he entered Mount Carmel seven years ago to try to get the Davidians to surrender and take their chances in court. He was enlisted to represent David Koresh by the Davidian leader's mother, Bonnie Haldeman.

"It was a parallel interest I had, I thought, with the FBI," DeGuerin said. DeGuerin told Houston attorney Cynthia Chapman - who is assisting her husband, attorney Mike Caddell - that Mount Carmel had a pair of hollow-core steel front doors. Only the door on the right had bullet holes, according to DeGuerin.

Chapman poked a hole through paper to illustrate a bullet's entry and exit patterns, causing the government to complain that her object lesson wasn't legitimate.

"You don't think so?" Smith asked. "Overruled."

Government attorney James Touhey asked DeGuerin during his cross-examination about DeGuerin's testimony before Congress in 1995. Then, DeGuerin said "almost all" the bullet holes in the front door came from the outside.

"It's a lawyer's way of covering all your bases," DeGuerin said. "I don't know that every bullet hole in the door was from the outside. I know all I saw or ran my hand over were from the outside. It was a typical lawyer's wishy-washy way of talking."

DeGuerin also told Touhey that Koresh reported sending all the Davidian men to their rooms before the ATF raid and telling them, "do not fire until I give the word."

Opposing attorneys each thought DeGuerin's testimony buttressed their case. "If a majority of the bullet holes came from the outside, it indicates the ATF fired the first shot," Caddell said. "Remember, they said bullets erupted through the front door at them."

Michael Bradford, government co-counsel, said DeGuerin's testimony helped the government by showing that Koresh "put people in rooms to shoot, to start firing."

The plaintiffs in the $675 million lawsuit played a portion of the 9-1-1 call by Wayne Martin, the late Waco attorney who was a Davidian. Jurors intently followed the transcripts given them. The tape captured the chaos that reigned as ATF agents and Davidians shot it out, resulting in the deaths of four ATF agents and five Davidians.

Martin opened the call by blurting, "There are men, 75 men around our building shooting at us."

Lt. Larry Lynch of the McLennan County Sheriff's Department responded, "Mount Carmel?" That prompted Martin to yell, "Tell them there are children and women in here and to call it off!"

Periodic gunfire interrupted both men's efforts to work out a cease-fire - each side accusing the other of firing.

"If they attack us, we're going to fight to the last man," Martin promised. The government also played portions of the 9-1-1 tape, trying to counter the plaintiffs' portrayal of the Davidians as the raid's victims. One dealt with a conversation between Koresh and Lynch.

"You don't know what we have," Koresh said. "You don't know what we've got." "No, sir," Lynch said.

"You'll end up like this ATF, BATF," Koresh said. "You guys, you're going to get a big butt-whipping."

Koresh also told Lynch, "We knew you were coming and everything. You see we knew before you even knew."

The plaintiffs Wednesday also presented depositions from several women at Mount Carmel. All of them said they were not warned about the ATF raid and did not carry guns.

In a videotaped deposition, Annetta Richards, who was 63 years old at the time of the raid, said a bullet whistled through her bedroom window "within inches of my face. Then I got on my hands and knees and crawled out into the hallway."

Richards said she saw the Wendel children hiding there. Their mother, Jaydean, died in the raid.

"I was afraid a bullet might hit the baby, so I shielded the baby with my body," Richards said. "So I would take the bullet rather than the baby." Caddell later said Richards' experience was typical of the women at Mount Carmel.

"You saw Annetta Richards," Caddell said. "You think she was a pistol-packing grandma?"

Bradford read jurors a portion of Richards' deposition concerning Koresh's hold on the Davidians. Richards was asked if Koresh spoke for God.

"If he told you to do something, if God told you to do something, whatever he told you, it wouldn't be a sin," Richards said.

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