A preliminary report indicates U.S. agents did not fire at the Branch Davidians

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 21, 2000
By William H. Freivogel

The British firm that performed last month's simulation of the Waco siege has issued a preliminary report that generally supports the government claim that agents did not fire at the Branch Davidians in 1993, the Post-Dispatch has learned.

Vector Data Systems provided a written report to U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. earlier this month giving its analysis of the simulation that it conducted March 19 at Fort Hood, Texas. Vector found that flashes produced by glint reflecting off of debris were considerably longer in duration than flashes produced by guns, informed sources say. That finding supports the government because flashes on a 1993 infrared tape of the Waco siege also were long in duration. This means that the 1993 flashes could have come from sunlight reflecting off the airborne debris caused by the crumbling of the complex.

Vector also reported that the infrared cameras in aircraft above the Fort Hood simulation site picked up flashes from six of the nine weapons tested. But wherever flashes were visible from weapons, the shooters were also visible, the sources said. By contrast, the flashes on the 1993 Waco tape do not show shooters.

Vector followed up the preliminary report with an oral briefing for Smith on Monday. At that briefing, the infrared experts were planning to tell the judge whether they thought the flashes on the 1993 infrared tape of the incident were from gunfire.

Mike Caddell, the lawyer for the Branch Davidians, said Smith has not yet relayed the conclusions of Vector's oral report. He takes that as "a bad sign for my side."

Caddell said he had grown weary of the emphasis on the gunfire issue. He says he has strong evidence on other issues that he will stress at the June trial of the Branch Davidians' wrongful death suit against the government. Principal among them are the Branch Davidians' claim that the FBI failed to provide fire equipment as instructed by Attorney General Janet Reno and that the FBI commanders on the scene abused their discretion by prematurely knocking down part of the complex.

As long as he can prove that the government's negligence in not having fire equipment contributed to the death of the 80 Branch Davidians who perished at Waco, it doesn't matter if he cannot prove government gunfire caused the deaths. "You can only collect on a death one time," Caddell said.

Regardless of Vector's conclusions, Caddell plans to present his own experts who will argue in testimony that the flashes on the 1993 tape are from government guns. But he acknowledges they cannot show that any particular Branch Davidian died from a government bullet.

Caddell said that in a deposition last week his chief medical expert testified that there was no way to use forensic or medical evidence to make his case.

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