-Caveat Lector-


Expended flares found among siege evidence
DPS chief calls find important, questions use
By Lee Hancock / The Dallas Morning News
© 1999, The Dallas Morning News
Expended military illumination flares fired by U.S. government
personnel have been discovered in the tons of evidence recovered
from the Branch Davidian compound, the head of the Texas
Department of Public Safety said Tuesday night.
Texas Rangers searching a Waco storage facility Friday for
missing pyrotechnic tear-gas grenades discovered one of the
military devices, a star parachute flare. Evidence logs indicate that
more of the flares were recovered in the weeks after the compound
burned following an FBI siege and tear-gas assault April 19, 1993,
said James B. Francis Jr. of Dallas.
"These flares are potentially a very important issue, inasmuch as
the government had enormous spotlights trained on the compound
throughout the standoff," Mr. Francis told The Dallas Morning News.
"They didn't need these flares to light the compound. One or more
was fired. For what purpose or reason would these rounds be
used?" he said. "I can't tell you whether they were [shot by] the
military or FBI, but certainly, they were fired by government
FBI spokesman John Collingwood said he could not flatly rule out
FBI use of illumination rounds at Waco. "Several times during the
standoff they had people sneaking in or out of the compound at
night. Whether they ever used them then, I don't know," he said.
"But I can say categorically, we did not use illumination rounds on
the 19th."
The discovery of the incendiary illumination rounds raises new
questions for federal officials already scrambling to explain why it
took six years for the FBI to admit that its agents used pyrotechnic
tear-gas rounds against the Branch Davidians on April 19, 1993.
The government made that admission only after a former senior FBI
official told The News that the use of the flammable rounds in
Waco was "common knowledge" within the bureau's hostage
rescue team.
Attorney General Janet Reno has said that its use violated her
strict instructions that nothing capable of sparking a fire be used
during the FBI tear-gas assault.
What next?
With the discovery of the spent illumination round, Texas law
enforcement officials said they are concerned about what else may
be found in the 24,000 pounds of evidence recovered after the
compound burned.
The Rangers, who were asked to develop a criminal case after the
siege began, were asked by the U.S. Justice Department to keep
all evidence needed for the prosecutions of Branch Davidians that
But tons of other debris, including more than 300,000 rounds of
ammunition and other ordnance stockpiled by the sect, has been
kept in Waco.
"There is a big semiwarehouse of spent munitions that has not
been investigated," one Texas official said. "Nobody knew what
they were looking for before now. Nobody was hunting for
incendiary devices."
A government investigator said Tuesday that a General Accounting
Office investigation on military involvement during the siege was
unable to resolve questions about the FBI's acquisition of high-
explosive 40 mm military rounds during the standoff or the number
of U.S. Army Special Forces personnel sent to Waco.
Fort Hood source
Defense Department records indicate that the high-explosive
rounds were acquired along with the illumination rounds from
nearby Fort Hood during the standoff.
The sect's compound burned on April 19, six hours after FBI tanks
began battering the building and inserting tear gas. Leader David
Koresh and more than 80 followers died.
Government officials have long maintained that the fires were
deliberately set by the Branch Davidians.
Federal officials also have insisted that the pyrotechnic tear-gas
rounds were fired into a bunker away from the compound and were
used more than three hours before the fire began.
But where or when those devices, known as M-651 CS rounds,
were acquired by the FBI is unclear.
Mr. Francis said Texas Rangers on Tuesday obtained two unfired
M-651s from the same manufacturing batch as those used at
Waco from Redstone Arsenal in Alabama and Pine Bluff Arsenal in
Arkansas. Mr. Francis said Rangers have traced a shell casing in
their custody to a batch made for the U.S. military in the late
Defense denials
Some recent news reports have included Defense Department
denials that any pyrotechnic gas used at Waco came from U.S.
military stores.
Mr. Francis said Texas Rangers plan to return to Waco in the near
future to search for a second parachute flare listed on evidence
logs and other questioned items.
"They have no military value other than to be an incendiary flare,"
he said of the flares. "The question this raises is how many are still
to be discovered."
Illumination rounds have been controversial in past high-profile FBI
cases. They were used by FBI teams to burn the hideout of white
supremacist Robert Mathews after he shot and wounded one FBI
agent and engaged in a gunbattle with others in 1984. Mr. Mathews
died in the blaze.
GAO inquiry
Defense records reviewed in the GAO inquiry commissioned by
Congress to examine military assistance during the Waco siege
indicated that five special forces soldiers maintained specialized
technical equipment loaned to the FBI and watched government
But other records indicated that eight people from special forces
were present at various points during the 51-day siege, said GAO
investigator Melissa McDowell.
The number of special forces personnel in Waco has been
questioned since the Waco controversy reignited. A former CIA
employee recently told The Dallas Morning News that
acquaintances in the Army's secret Delta Force claimed that the
anti-terrorist unit was actively involved in the FBI's tear-gas assault.
Defense Department officials have insisted that no military
personnel took active roles.
Ms. McDowell said many defense documents shown to the GAO
were heavily redacted, with all information about the names and
units of the military personnel blacked out.
"I can only assume that some of them were there for technical
support, others were there to spell the others off or to be observers.
We had no reason to be suspicious," she said.
Military records
She said military documents indicated that classified technical
equipment provided to the FBI in Waco included highly specialized
robot-driven video equipment as well as electronic jamming
equipment. Military records indicated some of the classified
equipment was on the ground and in use in the siege on March 2,
three days after the standoff began.
Ms. McDowell said the two-year GAO inquiry ended before
investigators could resolve the discrepancies in the number of
special forces personnel reported to have traveled to Waco.
"I have seen no documents that would say that they were there for
more than observation purposes, liaison or to train operators or
operate some certain equipment," she said.
The other question left unresolved was the supply of 250 40 mm
high-explosive rounds to the FBI's hostage rescue team. Records
from Fort Hood's III Corps indicated that the Army supplied those
rounds along with 50 illumination rounds and 200 practice rounds
to the hostage rescue team, along with a refresher training session
in mid-March 1993 at a Fort Hood firing range.
FBI agents were armed with shoulder-fired grenade launchers, and
they used those to fire both nonflammable tear-gas and
pyrotechnic tear-gas rounds during their final assault.
While military records tracked a specific request for the illumination
and practice rounds, no records explained who asked for the high-
explosive shells and why they were needed, Ms. McDowell said.
"We questioned it and we weren't able to get any more
information," she said.
Asked about the matter Tuesday, Mr. Collingwood, the FBI
spokesman, said, "I'm 100 percent sure that we did not use H-E
[high-explosive] rounds at any time during the Waco standoff."
[ Waco Re-examined | Texas & Southwest | Dallasnews.com ]
©1999 The Dallas Morning News

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