The raid, the siege and the aftermath of Waco

Star-Telegram/July 21, 2000

Key developments in the standoff at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco and the investigations that followed:

Feb. 28, 1993: About 76 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms move in to search the complex and arrest leader David Koresh on illegal weapons charges. Four agents are killed and 16 wounded in gun battles. Six Davidians are killed and several wounded, including Koresh.

April 19, 1993: The compound burns to the ground after FBI agents in an armored vehicle smash the buildings and pump in tear gas. Justice Department says cult members set the fire. Nine members survive; about 80 are believed dead.

October 1993: A review of the FBI's tear-gas assault exonerates the FBI and Justice Department. Later, Harvard professor Alan Stone files a dissenting report blaming the FBI.M

February 1994: Jury convicts five Branch Davidians of voluntary manslaughter and two of weapons charges.

April 1995: Several civil lawsuits filed by family members of Branch Davidians and survivors are consolidated and transferred to U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, who presided over the criminal trial.

July 1995: Two congressional subcommittees hold joint hearings over 10 day  in an attempt to provide ``a full accounting'' of what happened at the compound.

August 1996: A federal appeals court upholds the convictions of six Davidians, saying federal agents did not use excessive force in trying to arrest Koresh.

July 1999: Smith pares the number of defendants and plaintiffs in the wrongful death lawsuit, but rules that the case can reach trial.

August 1999: Retreating from its past denials, the FBI acknowledges that federal agents fired one or more incendiary tear gas rounds during the standoff with Davidians, after a documentary researcher finds potentially incendiary devices among evidence. Later, federal prosecutor Bill Johnston, one of the lawyers for the government in the wrongful-death lawsuit, sends a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno saying government lawyers had known for years about the use of pyrotechnic tear-gas rounds.

September 1999: Johnston is removed from the case, which is then assigned to U.S. Attorney Michael Bradford. Meanwhile, former Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., opens an independent inquiry ordered by Reno into whether the FBI started the deadly fire and later tried to cover its actions.

October 1999: An expert retained by a House committee concludes that videotape of the standoff shows the FBI fired shots on the siege's final day, contrary to the bureau's insistence its agents did not fire a single round. Plaintiffs' lawyers later propose recreating aspects of the siege's final hours.

April 24: Judge announces that court expert's preliminary study of infrared videotapes made during the final hours of the siege found no firearm muzzle flashes from either federal agents or cult members.

May 10: Court experts release final report on the simulation of aspects of the siege, which finds that flashes seen on a videotape were sunlight reflecting off debris, not government gunfire.

June 12: Smith decides the question of whether government agents fired on Branch Davidians during the final hours of the siege will not be considered by the advisory jury. Instead, Smith rules he'll take up the issue later when a court-appointed expert _ who was ill and could not attend the trial _ is available to provide testimony.

June 19: The $675 million wrongful death lawsuit against the government begins.

July 14: An advisory jury decides the government bears no responsibility for the deaths of the Davidians. Smith takes the jury's decision under advisement, saying he will issue his final ruling when he takes up the gunfire issue

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