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Independent test concludes FBI didn't fire on Branch Davidians

burning complex
About 80 Branch Davidians, including leader David Koresh, were killed when the complex burned following a 51-day standoff  

May 10, 2000
Web posted at: 3:39 p.m. EST (1939 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN)--An independent study of aerial infrared tapes taken by the FBI on the final day of the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas, seven years ago found no evidence that FBI agents shot at the compound.

A British company, Vector Data Systems, analyzed the video shot on April 19, 1993 and compared it to footage from a reenactment conducted in March. The analysis was paid for by Special Counsel John Danforth, appointed by the Justice Department to provide an independent investigation of the government actions in the Waco case.

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Vector's 65-page report said the 57 instances of flashes on the original tape were caused by reflections of light and atmospheric conditions.

The findings support the FBI's position that its agents did not fire shots at the burning compound.

Lawyers representing the relatives of the Branch Davidians in a wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government claim the flashes were caused by gunfire that cut off the Davidians' escape.

Plaintiffs' attorneys said a separate review of the tape conducted by their analysts shows 15 instances of government gunfire, three flashbang detonations, 18 instances of Davidian gunfire, and one sighting of a person on the ground.

Deputy FBI Director Thomas Pickard promptly issued a statement hailing the findings in the Vector study.

"This analysis vindicates those FBI people long accused of shooting into the compound," Pickard said. "The FBI's longstanding and steadfast position that no shots were fired has now been strongly and indpendently corroborated."

Pickard, second-in-command to FBI Director Louis Freeh, added, "We are grateful for these impartial findings. Scientific analysis can now replace speculation and rhetoric".

Michael Caddell, lead attorney for the families of Davidians killed in the fire, was not immediately available for comment, according to his Houston office.

It is unclear what impact the report will have in the wrongful death trial, which is scheduled to start next month.

The Davidians' attorneys are still expected to argue that the FBI fired at the compound and to call their own experts to the stand.

At a hearing last month, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith said the Vector report would be treated like any other expert testimony and is not considered by the court as conclusive evidence.

Waco investigator found dead at his office in Maryland
April 30, 2000
Judge: Question of whether FBI shot at Branch Davidians remains open
April 24, 2000
Branch Davidians attorney critical of Reno's deposition
March 28, 2000
Opposing views of new test videotape in Waco debate
March 20, 2000
Documents: FBI wanted clearance to shoot unarmed Branch Davidians
October 8, 1999
Tear gas canister 'bounced off' Waco bunker
September 3, 1999
FBI tape shows field commander OK'd use of tear gas at Waco
September 2, 1999

Federal Bureau of Investigation
United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California
Branch Davidian

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