Fuel Cans Found at Davidian Compound

Associated Press Writer, July 10, 2000
By Sherri Chunn

WACO, Texas (AP) - Four gas cans and a homemade torch were recovered from what had been the dining room of the Branch Davidian complex after fires consumed it in 1993, Texas Rangers testified Friday.

Bobby Grubbs, one of the Rangers who helped gather evidence including the fuel cans after the deadly fire, testified that Clive Doyle, one of nine people who escaped, told him the blaze was started with Coleman fuel that was distributed throughout the compound.

When asked if he knew who started it, Doyle refused to answer the question, Grubbs testified.

``I felt he had information; he just wouldn't give it to us,'' Grubbs said.

About 80 Branch Davidians and leader David Koresh died - some from fire, others from gunshots - when their compound went up in flames on April 19, 1993, at the end of their 51-day standoff with federal agents.

Fire investigators have said one of three blazes that day started in the dining room area, and the government was using Grubbs' testimony to support its contention that the Branch Davidians were suicidal and started the fires themselves.

Davidian survivors and relatives of those who were killed in the standoff claim in their $675 million wrongful death lawsuit that federal agents contributed to or caused at least some of the fires.

A fire expert hired by the plaintiffs has testified that tanks used in an FBI tear-gassing operation on the final day turned the compound into kindling by punching holes in the walls, allowing wind gusts to feed the flames.

Plaintiffs also say tanks could have contributed to or caused the flames by knocking over lanterns used to illuminate the compound during the standoff or by tumbling fuel cans used to fill the lanterns. Grubbs said lantern parts were found near the cans.

Grubbs said Rangers interviewed Doyle a day after the fire, as he lay in a burn ward of a Dallas hospital. Doyle's mother, Edna Doyle, who sat in the courtroom with her 59-year-old son, quietly repeated the words ``You're a liar'' as Grubbs testified about the interview.

The younger Doyle, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, testified last week he could feel skin ``rolling off his hands'' as he jumped out of the burning building through a hole made by government tanks.

A government attorney presented Doyle with the melted remains of a blue nylon jacket he wore on the final day of the standoff and asked why the sleeves of the jacket were covered with ignitable liquids.

``It could have come from constantly filling lanterns,'' Doyle testified at the time. ``I don't know.''

Dozens of lanterns were in use throughout the building after FBI agents cut off the compound's electricity.

Texas Ranger Sgt. Lane Aiken also testified that while searching the burned grounds of the compound the day after the siege ended, a fellow Ranger found a damp torch in the mud near the rear of the building.

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Michael Caddell asked Aiken if he knew it really was a torch.

``It certainly looks like a torch. I can't imagine it being used for something else,'' he said. The torch later failed lab tests that checked for flammable liquids.

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