Soldier Says He only Watched Final Assault

CNN News, January 31, 2000

DALLAS, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A Delta Force commando whose whereabouts have been in question during the final hours of the deadly Branch Davidian siege says he only watched the FBI tear gas assault from the command post, the Dallas Morning News reported Monday.

The soldier was questioned last week by attorneys for the surviving Davidians, special counsel John Danforth's office and congressional investigators in Washington during an unusual polygraph examination, the paper said.

Questions have been raised about whether FBI agents or other government forces at Waco fired gunshots into the compound during the tear gas assault April 19, 1993. The FBI and the Pentagon have denied any gunshots were fired by their agents.

Davidian leader David Koresh and more than 80 of his followers died during a fire that broke out during the operation. The Davidians have accused the FBI of starting the fire, but the FBI says the fires were started by members of the sect.

The whereabouts of the commando came into question when two other Delta Force soldiers -- electronics technicians -- testified that they did not know where he was during the final days. They said he showed up hours after the siege ended and appeared red-faced, tired and disheveled. The retired sergeant, who was a sniper in the secret Army unit at the time of the siege, insisted during the interview that he only watched part of the FBI operation and did not take part. He also said he never carried a gun and never got within a half-mile of the compound, officials told the paper. None of the Delta Force soldiers have been identified because of the secret nature of the military unit.

Michael Caddell, a lawyer for surviving Davidians, said he is troubled by conflicting testimony from the two Delta Force technicians and the retired sergeant, but he said the issue may never be resolved. "The contradictions between his testimony and that of the previous two soldiers are striking and incredible," he said.

A wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the surviving Davidians is scheduled to go to trial in May in Waco.

The Defense Department has said that the sergeant was the only combat soldier among the three Delta Force soldiers at Waco. The other two soldiers testified that they only handled electronics surveillance equipment for the FBI during the standoff.

The issue of Delta Force involvement in the Waco siege is viewed as sensitive by some officials in Washington because of constitutional restrictions on the use of the military in U.S. civilian police actions.

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