Report: Evidence may contradict FBI on Davidian fire

Associated Press, July 29, 1999

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Evidence held by the Texas Rangers may call into question the U.S. government's claim that it did not use incendiary devices when it moved into the Branch Davidian compound, which was consumed by fire during the raid.

The group's leader, David Koresh, and about 80 followers died in the 1993 inferno at outside Waco.

Authorities denied using incendiary devices during their assault, and investigators concluded that sect members set the fire.

But a researcher for a 1997 documentary critical of the government's conduct was says the evidence may prove otherwise.

More than 12 tons of evidence was gathered in the aftermath of the disaster and much of it is stored in Waco. A probe by the Texas Rangers became the backbone of a 1994 criminal trial in which eight Branch Davidians were convicted of charges ranging from manslaughter to weapons violations for the inferno.

But Michael McNulty, who is preparing a new documentary on the standoff, said he found that at least six items listed in Ranger inventories as silencers or suppressors were actually "flash-bang" devices, commonly used by law enforcement to stun suspects, The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday.

McNulty said the devices sometimes ignite fires in enclosed spaces because the loud bang and flash they emit are driven by a small pyrotechnic charge.

The Rangers' evidence logs indicate the devices were found in areas of the Davidian compound in which the fires broke out, McNulty said.

"It's our belief that these pieces of ordnance could and probably did have an impact on the fire on April 19th," he told the Morning News.

Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin called the allegations "nonsense" and said they ignore evidence that the fire was set in several places at the same time.

"We know of no evidence that any incendiary device or flash-bang device was fired into the compound on April 19," Marlin said.

James B. Francis Jr., chairman of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday he has asked a federal judge to take control of the evidence, which despite being held by the Rangers is under the Justice Department's control. The judge has not yet ruled.

"Some of the evidence may be problematic but I'm not an expert," Francis said. "I think an expert ought to take a look at it."

The Davidians and authorities became locked in a 51-day standoff after agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were fired upon when they tried to arrest Koresh on Feb. 28, 1993.

Congressional hearings have pointed to mistakes by the law enforcement officers, but none has been charged with a crime. A lawsuit filed by surviving Davidians and the relatives of the dead challenges the conclusion that the Davidians started the fire and shot first during the raid.

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