Report Says No Gunfire on Waco Tapes

Associated Press, May 11, 2000

WACO, Texas (AP) -- The final report on a simulation of the Branch Davidian siege indicates that flashes seen on a videotape were sunlight reflecting off debris, not government gunfire as claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Vector Data Systems, the British firm that conducted the March 19 simulation at Fort Hood, submitted its conclusions this week to U.S. District Judge Walter Smith Jr., who is presiding over the Branch Davidian lawsuit. A preliminary report sent to Smith last month gave similar conclusions.

By comparing the simulation to videotapes from the last day of the siege, Vector found that the 1993 flashes were caused by reflections off metal and glass, including a helicopter canopy and falling and wind-blown debris.

``We were unable to identify any gunfire, either from government forces or from Davidians, from either the (infrared tapes) or other collateral imagery available to us,'' the report stated.

The report also states that no one was seen prior to the breakout of two fires that consumed the compound on April 19, 1993. At least 80 people died during the inferno.

``This analysis vindicates those FBI people long accused of shooting into the compound,'' said Deputy FBI Director Thomas Pickard. ``The FBI's long-standing and steadfast position that no shots were fired has now been strongly and independently corroborated.''

But an attorney for Branch Davidian survivors and relatives, Jim Brannon, said he believes Vector's analysis is ``fatally flawed.''

``Vector was either incompetent or they willfully sabotaged the test,'' he said.

The fire started several hours into an FBI operation intended to end a 51-day siege. The government has long contended the Davidians themselves set fire to the retreat and caused their own deaths, whether by fire or gunshots.

Vector was hired to conduct the test by Special Counsel John Danforth, whom Attorney General Janet Reno appointed to oversee an independent investigation into the standoff and fire.

A spokeswoman for Danforth said he would have no comment on Vector's report. Danforth's appointment followed revelations that the FBI, contradicting a position it had taken for six years, used potentially incendiary devices on the last day of the standoff.

In Washington today, Reno disclosed that she had been interviewed about the Waco incident by Danforth. Reno's spokesman, Myron Marlin, said the May 3 interview lasted six hours and Danforth asked all the questions, though he was accompanied by three aides.

Neither Reno nor Marlin would disclose what questions were asked. Reno had been interviewed earlier for two hours by an attorney for survivors and relatives who brought the lawsuit.

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