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Davidians Talked of Fuel, Fire

February 15, 1994

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Federal agents eavesdropping on David Koresh and his followers heard them talk about fuel and fire hours before a deadly blaze ripped through the Branch Davidian compound, prosecutors said.

Transcripts of the bugged conversations include fragments such as, ″Got any fuel?″ ″Start the fire?″ ″I want a fire around the back,″ and ″Let’s keep that fire going.″

In one passage, Koresh asked top aide Steven Schneider about ″two cans of Coleman fuel,″ according to transcripts given Monday to the jury in the murder trial of 11 Davidians.

Some defense lawyers questioned the accuracy of the transcripts. Electronics engineer Paul Ginsberg, who worked to decipher and enhance the tape recording, acknowledged that some words could sound like others.

Jurors donned headphones and began listening to excerpts today from the sometimes indecipherable FBI tapes.

The blaze began after FBI-driven armored vehicles repeatedly rammed the compound and lobbed in tear gas, ending the 51-day standoff. Koresh and 78 others died.

The fire was part of the Davidians’ doomsday plan to be ″sucked up to heaven,″ prosecutor Ray Jahn has told the jury.

The defendants are charged with murdering four federal agents when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms stormed the compound on Feb. 28. Six Davidians are believed to have died in the raid.

Defense lawyers say their clients acted in self-defense. The Davidians face up to life in prison if convicted.

Earlier Monday, a weeping, severely burned Davidian described in videotaped testimony how her clothes and gas mask melted onto her skin as she fled the cult’s burning compound.

″I could feel my legs moving furiously,″ said Marjorie Thomas, who was granted immunity from prosecution. ″I thought, ‘But I’m alive.’ I don’t know where I got the strength from, but I managed to get up.″

She escaped by jumping from an upper story.

Thomas also testified that she saw three defendants with guns the day of the Feb. 28 shootout and that one said he shot an agent. Under cross- examination, she admitted she never heard the defendants plan to harm agents.

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