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April 19, 2013

Davidian survivors mark 20th anniversary of siege

(Continued)

WACO, Texas —

As the weeks dragged on, federal authorities said they were becoming increasingly worried about the Davidian children possibly being abused. Koresh was known to have multiple "wives," including preteen girls. Then on April 19, 1993, after an FBI negotiator shouted over a loudspeaker for Koresh to lead his people out and "be a messiah, not a destroyer," military vehicles began ramming the buildings and spraying tear gas inside. A few hours later flames were seen spreading through the compound.

Authorities claim the Davidians committed suicide by setting the fire and shooting themselves. But survivors deny there was a suicide pact, saying military vehicles knocked over lanterns and ignited the blaze. Some independent experts have said FBI aircraft footage shows 57 flashes that indicate gunfire toward Davidians inside the compound or on the roof that morning.

In 1994 in San Antonio, 11 Davidians went on trial; all were acquitted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges. However, five were convicted of voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges, and three were convicted on weapons charges. A 12th Davidian pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for testifying against the others; she was sentenced to three years in prison and was released in 1996.

The federal judge sentenced most to 40 years in prison, but in 2000 reduced most terms to 15 years after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his decision.

Paul Fatta, who was released from custody in 2006 and now lives in San Diego, told the group gathered Friday that he still considers himself a Branch Davidian. Fatta, who was at a gun show in Austin the day of the ATF raid but was convicted on weapons charges, said losing his friends — not serving prison time — was the hardest part.

"My suffering or what I went through is nothing compared to my friends who were on the property, and the kids. They are the ones who really suffered, and to live your life without your parents" is awful, Fatta said, referring to the children who left the compound during the standoff.

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