KILLEEN, Texas -- Federal officials and the Branch Davidians who are suing the government for wrongful death in the 1993 Waco siege are sifting through the results of an elaborate field test that may resolve whether federal agents fired at sect members during the standoff's last hour.
Representatives of sect members were also to discuss preliminary findings today from Sunday's high-stakes demonstration at a Texas military base.
The nonpublic field test, ordered by the federal judge presiding over the Davidians' lawsuit, was designed to determine whether the FBI's infrared camera is capable of detecting people, debris heated by exhaust from tanks, sunlight reflections and gunfire.
Infrared experts from both sides are comparing test footage with the FBI's 1993 tape to determine whether muzzle blasts fired during the test have similar thermal signatures.
The government presented its side at a news conference early today, contending that initial analysis of the evidence helps show FBI sharpshooters did not open fire on sect members.
''We have now completed a preliminary review of the materials that were provided to us today from the test at Fort Hood and while this was a preliminary examination -- we will obviously be doing a much more detailed examination of the results -- but we are very pleased with the results we have seen so far,'' said U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford, one of the government's lead lawyers in ongoing Branch Davidian litigation.
Even before Sunday's choreographed simulation -- complete with aircraft equipped with infrared cameras, military personnel firing weapons and tanks rolling -- the government had insisted that its forces fired no shots on the siege's final day. That's when the FBI launched a tear-gassing operation designed to end the 51-day standoff.
''There are some particular matters that we think are important in confirming our position,'' said Bradford. ''And we believe we will clearly demonstrate that through the comparison (of) these materials to the tapes'' of the April 19, 1993, raid.
But Branch Davidian plaintiffs suing the government for wrongful death have insisted Sunday's field test will confirm their experts' analysis: that rapid-fire bursts of light appearing on the FBI's 1993 aerial infrared surveillance footage represent gunfire from government positions into the Davidians' retreat.
The plaintiffs' lead counsel, Michael Caddell, was expected to release preliminary results from one of his experts during a news conference today in Houston.
Caddell had hoped to air portions of the test video. But U.S. District Judge Walter Smith barred release of the film, while permitting discussion of its contents. The judge, calling the video evidence, said the court's infrared expert will release its own analysis within 30 days.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.