WASHINGTON (AP) - The special counsel re-investigating the 1993 Branch Davidian siege has asked the FBI to turn over the firearms carried by its on-scene personnel to determine whether federal agents fired shots during the standoff's final hours.
The FBI has long denied that its agents fired any shots during the seven-week standoff, which ended when the Davidians' compound was destroyed in a fiery inferno. Cult leader David Koresh and some 80 followers died during the blaze, some from the fire, others from gunshot wounds.
While the FBI and Justice Department have always maintained the Branch Davidians killed themselves, independent filmmakers, lawyers for survivors suing the government, and others skeptical of the claim contend government agents fired at the compound.
Special counsel John Danforth, appointed in September by Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the revived controversy, has said the issue of government gunfire will be among the "dark questions" he will seek to answer.
Two weeks ago, Danforth asked the federal judge presiding over the Davidians' wrongful-death lawsuit to order an impartial simulation of the FBI's infrared videotaping during the siege to determine whether bursts of light captured on the original tapes were made by gunfire from federal agents.
Now, he is asking the FBI to turn over hundreds of firearms for ballistics tests.
"Their request came in, and we are complying with the request," FBI spokesman Bill Carter said Monday, declining further comment.
Danforth's office refused to discuss the request, first reported by CBS News, or say who would conduct the tests.
Lawyers for the surviving Branch Davidians say shell casings found inside a sniper outpost were from FBI sharpshooters' weapons. Government officials say the shell casings were fired during the Feb. 28 botched raid that triggered the 51-day standoff, when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents sought to serve weapons warrants on the Branch Davidians.
ATF spokesman Jeffrey Roehm said he was unaware of any request by Danforth's office for the ATF weapons used at Waco.
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