Attorneys for Branch Davidians suing the federal government over the deadly siege near Waco, Tex., say they have developed evidence that suggests a Delta Force agent may have fired on the compound, according to filings made yesterday in the case.
The attorneys cited depositions of Delta Force agents taken last month in Washington and a "growing number of independent experts" who have identified gunfire from government positions on April 19, 1993, when fire engulfed the compound and 75 people perished.
They also filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Waco asking the judge in the case to compel the Defense Department to answer an interrogatory it has failed to answer after repeated requests: whether Defense Department agents fired at the compound.
The question was first posed to the government in August 1999. The FBI responded in September, saying that "no person in the employment of the FBI or under the supervision, direction, or control of the FBI, directed gunfire at the Branch Davidians."
Since then, in a series of letters and phone calls, Justice Department lawyers have promised they would supplement their original answer, but so far they have been unable to produce answers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and from the Pentagon, according to plaintiff's filings yesterday. Justice Department officials--who are overseeing the government's defense of the case--did not respond to requests for comment last night.
ATF spokesman Jeff Roehm said that no ATF agents fired on the compound April 19 and that the interrogatory has not been answered because "it's a complex administrative process that just hasn't been completed yet. It's no big deal."
Pentagon spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "We have . . . no information to suggest that any DOD personnel fired any weapons at Waco."
The evidence developed by the Branch Davidian attorneys is another development in the case that suggests--but does not prove--that government gunfire was leveled at the compound on the day the siege ended in the deadly blaze. The case is scheduled for trial this spring and has been delayed by special counsel John C. Danforth's probe, which also is trying to answer the question of whether government agents fired.
Last month's depositions in the case featured some new information on the role of the Defense Department's Delta Force agents during the final siege.
"There was testimony that at least three Delta Force team members were at Mt. Carmel on April 19, 1993," the filing stated. Two of the three were technicians, but a third was a combat specialist.
Deposition testimony placed this agent in the back of the compound, "not visible to the media, and the side on which flashes from the ground" have been identified as gunfire by experts for the Branch Davidian plaintiffs.