The CAUSE Foundation filed a $50 million civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. government on behalf of relatives of two Branch Davidians who died during the April 19 fire.
CAUSE Foundation, a non-profit legal foundation based in Black Mountain, N.C., represents Australians Oliver Gyarfas Sr. and his wife Elizabeth Gyarfas, the parents of deceased Branch Davidians Aisha Gyarfas Summers, 17, and her 1-year-old daughter, Startle. Gyarfas Summers was pregnant when she died.
The suit also seeks damages for Aisha’s brother, Oliver Gyarfas Jr. of Australia, who was released from the compound before the fire.
The suit claims Gyarfas Summers and her daughter were deprived of their constitutional rights and their deaths were wrongfully caused.
It names the United States; President Bill Clinton; Attorney General Janet Reno; director of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Stephen Higgins; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and numerous ATF and FBI agents as defendants in the suit.
Startle, whom the FBI listed as cult leader Vernon Howell’s daughter, Gyarfas Summers and at least 80 Branch Davidians were killed after a fire broke out April 19 at the Mount Carmel compound. On Feb. 28, four ATF agents and at least five Branch Davidians died after the ATF agents tried to serve search and arrest warrants on Howell, also known as David Koresh.
The suit claims that the ATF’s Feb. 28 raid “terrorized” Gyarfas Summers and her daughter and subjected them to “excessive use of force, unreasonable search and seizure” and deprived them of their religious freedoms and freedom of association.
The suit also claims that during the standoff between the government and the Branch Davidians, the ATF and FBI tried to forcibly remove Gyarfas Summers and her daughter when no probable cause existed for the arrest, and the agencies had no arrest warrants for them.
It says that the ATF and FBI used psychological terror techniques such as bright lights, loud music and the sounds of animals being killed to “alarm, terrify and frighten the Branch Davidians.”
The suit claims that the defendants launched an “attack” by armored vehicles on the compound that “willfully, maliciously and intentionally, without legal justification, caused a fire to consume the building” where the Branch Davidians were trapped because the armored vehicles caused severe structural failure that prevented escape from the compound.