DALLAS (AP) -- A spent illumination flare found in evidence stored after the Branch Davidian tragedy may have been one of two such devices fired by FBI agents to stop an intruder from entering the sect's compound during the early days of the standoff, The Dallas Morning News reported today.
Two of the flares were fired as members of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team kept watch over the compound near Waco, FBI spokesman John Collingwood told the newspaper.
"From talking to people in our Hostage Rescue Team, at one time, when your floodlight illumination was not active, they shot two parachute illumination rounds because of concern about people trying to sneak into the compound," he said.
Texas Rangers discovered the spent remains of one of the devices, a star parachute flare, when they searched a Waco storage facility Friday for missing pyrotechnic tear-gas grenades.
James Francis Jr., chairman of the Texas Public Safety Commission, said the discovery was troubling because the government had powerful spotlights trained on the Davidian compound during most of the 51-day standoff and would not have needed a flare to light up the area.
Collingwood said none of the devices were used by the Hostage Rescue Team on April 19, 1993, the day the Branch Davidian compound burned, killing David Koresh and about 80 followers.
The government has maintained the Branch Davidians deliberately set the fires. An independent review of the standoff has been ordered by Attorney General Janet Reno.
A major focus of the investigation will be whether the FBI fired flammable devices into the compound and why it took six years to acknowledge the use of military tear-gas canisters.
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