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FBI to acknowledge firing potentially flammable devices at Waco

Branch Davidian
Fire consumed the Branch Davidian compound in 1993  

August 25, 1999
Web posted at: 7:35 p.m. EDT (2335 GMT)

From Terry Frieden at the Justice Department

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- FBI officials late Tuesday were set to officially drop their long-held claim that agents had not fired any potentially flammable devices into the vicinity of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, the day it erupted in flames, killing more than 80 people.

FBI sources tell CNN the agency plans to release a formal statement acknowledging for the first time that two CS gas canisters were fired at a concrete bunker in a pit outside the wooden structures which went up in flames hours later.

But the FBI still insists it is not responsible for causing the blaze. "The ordnance was fired at the bunker in a direction far away from the compound," an official said.

The FBI said the ordnance used was not designed to be pyrotechnic, but could start a fire under certain circumstances. The bureau insisted that in this case the canisters simply bounced off the roof of the bunker and fell into a puddle.

The FBI acknowledgement that even potentially flammable grenades were fired in the direction of the compound on April 19, 1993, is a source of embarrassment to both the FBI and Justice Department, officials said privately.

Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI Director Louis Freeh and their subordinates have repeatedly denied any such devices were fired on the day of the fatal fire.

The FBI's revised position came just one day after the Dallas Morning News quoted former Deputy Assistant FBI Director Danny Coulson as revealing that two pyrotechnic grenades were fired several hours before the blaze began, but were not to blame for the inferno later the same day.

Government investigations determined Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and some of his followers set the fires that destroyed their compound.

The issue recently re-surfaced following allegations by surviving Branch Davidians and family members of victims who are suing the government in a wrongful death lawsuit. The case is scheduled to be heard in federal court in Waco.

Reno last month repeated the Justice Department's long-standing position that no pyrotechnic devices were fired on the day of the fire. Her chief spokesman, Myron Marlin, said Tuesday that Justice officials had asked the FBI to review records in the case following Coulson's statement.

Reno rejects suggestions FBI was responsible for Waco fire
July 29, 1999
Waco, Oklahoma City mark anniversary of tragedies
April 19, 1998
McVeigh letter bitterly blames FBI for Waco deaths
April 8, 1997

The Dallas Morning News
U.S. Department of Justice
  • Office of the Attorney General
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Texas Department of Public Safety
Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
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