WACO, Texas - A Branch Davidian survivor broke down crying on the witness stand Wednesday when questioned about a fire that he managed to escape while his daughter died.
"I live with this everyday," said a tearful Clive Doyle after explaining how he and eight others escaped the flames that destroyed the sect's complex while his daughter, Shari Doyle, died.
Jim Touhey, a lawyer for the government, asked Doyle how he managed to get out, saving his dog in the process. Earlier, Doyle had testified that he threw his dog out of a hole in the wall of the burning building.
"Your daughter's there and you don't go to check on her?" Touhey asked.
"I didn't know where my daughter was," Doyle replied.
Doyle is one of the survivors who have filed a multimillion-dollar wrongful death suit against the government, claiming that agents' actions caused deaths and injuries during the 1993 siege. He testified Wednesday in the trial of the suit after being called as a witness by his lawyer, Ramsey Clark, who is representing some of the Davidian survivors.
Doyle described the conditions within the complex during the siege and outlined the sect's religious beliefs. He said he believed the sect's leader, David Koresh, to be the embodiment of God.
"We believed that God was speaking through him, yes," said Doyle, who was 52 at the time of the government's siege near Waco.
Doyle said that Koresh took as his "wife" many of the women of the complex. He acknowledged that he had heard his daughter was one of them but that he never knew for sure.
"It was not discussed," Doyle said. "My position was, if she made a choice for spiritual reasons to enter into a relationship, it was her decision." Shari Doyle was 18 at the time of the siege.
The government's questions attempted to point blame for the fire at Doyle, whose hands had been badly burned. Doyle had testified that he had moved some cans of fuel to the stairs.
"Isn't it a fact that you poured them on the stairs?" Touhey asked.
"No, I did not," Doyle answered.
Doyle denied starting the fire. He said that flammable liquids later discovered on the sleeves of his jacket may have come from lanterns that he had filled for other residents after the FBI cut off the electricity.
Doyle was never charged with arson, but he was among 11 defendants accused of conspiring to murder federal agents during the initial raid on the complex by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Six Davidians and four agents were killed in a gunfight during the raid. Doyle was acquitted.
He said the first shots he heard during the raid came from outside the buildings, where the federal agents were. He speculated that that may have been the agents killing the Davidians' dogs. Federal agents shot the dogs on the way to the front door of the complex, according to testimony in the criminal trial in 1994.
"Shooting of the dogs is the beginning of a war," Doyle said. "If that's what triggers it, who's to blame?"
"We believed if the authorities came against us, it may be an armed conflict," he said.
The initial gun battle led to a 51-day siege during which the FBI tried to force out Davidians. On April 19, 1993, tanks and FBI agents poured tear gas into the complex, and a fire began.
About 80 Davidians died. Doyle said the group would have come out in about two weeks, after Koresh had completed his interpretation of the Seven Seals of the Bible.
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