Waco Conditions To Be Recreated

New York Times, February 17, 2000

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Six gunmen armed with pistols and submachine guns will dart from post to post, firing their weapons in detailed sequence. Grenades will be launched overhead and an advancing tank will crush glass and aluminum siding.

Those were the elements approved Wednesday as part of a court-ordered recreation designed to put to rest questions about the role of federal agents at the Branch Davidian compound on the last day of the April 1993 siege near Waco, Texas.

The recreation was to be recorded on special infrared cameras attached to aircraft flown by British pilots and the Air Force. A variety of weapons were expected to be used, and debris -- glass, water and aluminum -- could help determine whether they could have caused the flashes picked up by the FBI's infrared cameras.

The government and lawyers made public details of the recreation after meeting for more than five hours behind closed doors at the St. Louis office of Special Counsel John Danforth.

However, it remained uncertain whether the news media would be allowed to witness the event, tentatively expected to take place in March at Fort Hood, Texas.

The decision to open the test rests with U.S. District Judge Walter Smith of Waco, who is presiding over a wrongful death lawsuit the Branch Davidians filed against the government.

Lawyers Michael Caddell and Jim Brannon, who represent surviving Branch Davidians and their families, and Texas U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford said they believed the media should be present. Danforth apparently objected. Danforth and his chief of staff declined to comment after the meeting. After the test, a court-appointed expert will verify whether the conditions of the test were satisfactorily met. The original tapes will then be left with the court.

The parties hope the test will determine what caused more than 100 flashes to show up on an infrared tape the FBI filmed of the siege. They plan to compare that tape with aerial surveillance footage from Fort Hood. The government has long insisted that none of its agents fired their weapons. But the Branch Davidian plaintiffs, backed by infrared experts, contend the bursts of light on the FBI tape can be nothing but gunfire. Davidian leader David Koresh and some 80 followers died in the final hours of the 51-day standoff, some in the fire that engulfed the compound, others from gunshot wounds. The government insists the Davidians perished by their own hands.

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