Lawyer Complains About Bulldozing Work at Burned Cult Compound
WACO, Texas (AP) _ Bulldozers rolled across the burned rubble of the Branch Davidian compound Wednesday, prompting complaints from the lawyer of a cult member killed in the fiery conclusion of a standoff with federal agents.
″They’re just filling holes so people won’t fall in the pits,″ said Jeff Jamar, the FBI special agent in charge during the 51-day standoff. ″That’s just part of taking care of the scene.″
Jack Zimmermann, the lawyer for cult member Steve Schneider, said the bulldozing work will prevent independent investigation of the behavior of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
″I guess what it does, it forever prevents any checking on the ATF’s rendition that the fire was intentionally set,″ said Zimmermann said, who was let into the compound during the standoff to talk with his client.
The compound burned to the ground on April 19 after the FBI began ramming holes in walls and inserting tear gas. The government says it has evidence cult members set the blaze; surviving cult members said the FBI’s tanks knocked over a lantern, spilling fuel which ignited the fire.
Mike Cox, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state agency handling the cleanup, said the bulldozing was necessary so the Texas Health Department and the Texas Water Commission can begin work at the site.
″Some of this area is basically an unlicensed solid waste landfill,″ said Dr. Dennis Perrotta, director of the Health Department’s epidemiology division.
″I had never seen a facility that had uncontrolled deposits of human feces, trash and garbage,″ he said.
State officials want to dispose of debris at the compound and make sure all water from the underground tunnels and the water tower is pumped out. They also will take soil samples to check for lead content and other chemicals.
The Department of Public Safety will remain in control of the scene until all evidence is removed. Cox said the department hopes to give control to local authorities by the end of this week.
Cox said a federal search warrant is still in effect for the area, meaning only law enforcement officials are allowed at the scene. Cox said that’s why relatives of cult members have been denied access to the site.
Last weekend, more than 100 ATF agents toured the site near Waco in what was described as part of their grief therapy to help them cope with the loss of four colleagues in a raid.
Since then, relatives of the dozens of cult members who died said they would like the opportunity to do the same.
In another development, State District Judge Bill Logue issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday on behalf of Janet Kendrick and six other cult members that prevents former cult member George Roden and others from entering the compound.
Roden, who is now in a state mental hospital, had a shoot-out with Koresh in 1987 over leadership of the cult. The 77 acres where the compound was built belonged to Roden’s mother, whose will named Koresh as trustee of the property. Koresh died without a will.