Smoking Cannon Discovered in Waco Tragedy

by Benedict D. LaRosa

Video cameras are proving to be a headache to criminals from convenience store robbers to Los Angeles policemen who beat motorists. Now, it's a smoking cannon and other evidence captured on film by newsmen during the initial raid and final hours of the Branch Davidian siege that indicts lawmen.

Indianapolis lawyer Linda Thompson and several associates have obtained copies of news films of the event and are distributing them nationwide. What they show is startling.

Footage of the initial assault was shot at close range since newsmen accompanied Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm (BATF) agents on their February 28 raid. One segment shows scores of federal agents crouched behind vehicles in front of the Branch Davidian complex pouring pistol and automatic rifle fire into the buildings. There is no evidence of return fire. Neither the windows nor the bodies of the cars show damage from gunfire. (Dick DeGuerin, Koresh's attorney, saw no damage to these vehicles during his negotiations with the Branch Davidians.) There are no bullet strikes with their telltale dust clouds along the dirt road behind the agents.

Another scene shows two groups of federal agents climbing ladders to the roof of a building. As one agent climbs the ladder, his leg buckles as he reaches for his pistol. Speculation is that he accidently shot himself in the leg. Once on the roof, at least one agent throws what looks like a smoke grenade through a window, and he and two other agents climb into the building. At this point there is an interruption in the filming as the camera is reloaded or the film is edited.

In the next scene, the fourth agent throws something through the window behind his comrades. Several seconds later, light smoke filters through the window indicating that the object may have been either another smoke grenade or a concussion grenade. (Since the wall and the window were not blown out, it is unlikely it was a fragmentary grenade.)

The fourth agent then sticks his MP-5 submachine gun through the window as if to fire. It is impossible to tell whether he does or not. Almost immediately, several bullets penetrate the wall indicating that someone is firing at the agent from inside the building. The agent again sticks his submachine gun through the window as if to fire before being hit on the side of the helmet by a bullet coming through the wall. He quickly climbs down the ladder to safety.

Initially, a BATF spokesman told Walter Jacobson, a Fox Network broadcaster in Chicago, that this fourth agent was firing into the room to cover the escape of his three comrades. However, this and another video of the same scene show no evidence of recoil, spent bullet casings, or the sound of automatic fire. A silencer or film editing may have covered up the sound of automatic gunfire. and the black curtain hanging from the window may have hidden the recoil and spent casings since it stood between the camera and the gunman.

This photo of what appears to be a modified version of the M48 tank was extrapolated from video film, and in spite of the bad quality, seems to indicate flames coming from the cannon.

The Dallas Morning News reported in a March 6 article that the three agents who climbed through the window were among the four who died that day. It based its story on a BATF press release. The government's original version is that the three were shot by Branch Davidians after entering the building. (The government later denial that the three were among those killed.) However, the video evidence indicates that the fourth agent may have been responsible. Did he, in fact, throw a hand grenade into the room his comrades had just entered? If so, why? Did he fire his submachine gun through the window twice? If so, at whom? Were the BATF agents inside firing back through the wall in self-defense? The answers to these questions are essential in determining who is responsible for the deaths of these agents.

To add to the mystery, President Clinton told Treasury Department employees on March 18 that three of the four BATF agents killed that day had served on his security detail during the presidential campaign. This is suspicious in and of itself. Then on July 21, the President's close personal friend and Assistant White House Counsel, Vincent Foster, was found dead with a bullet in the back of his head. When his death was ruled a suicide, it only added to the suspicion that all four deaths are somehow connected.

When the FBI took over at Mt. Carmel four days later, they moved the press 2 to 3 miles from the complex and the public 5 miles away. Media cameras were now too far away to see anything but gross images, even with telescopic lenses. However, with the help of sophisticated studio equipment, the scenes of the final hours are much clearer.

It is essential to understand that the bunker where many of the bodies were found was not the above ground structure government agents showed the media. That was a concrete well-house. The Branch Davidians had built two underground bunkers just outside the complex which were connected to one of the buildings by a tunnel. The people inside would have been untouched by the fire and smoke that engulfed the buildings. Because of thermal images taken by a specially equipped British Special Air Services aircraft and Fiber-optic cameras placed into the walls and air vents of the Branch Davidian complex, the FBI could see and hear everyone inside.

Before daylight on the morning of April 19, the building at the tunnel entrance had been moved off its foundation. For more than two hours before 6:00 a.m.. an armored vehicle moved back and forth over the bunkers. Government agents entered and exited the vehicle near the tunnel entrance, but the camera didn't catch what they were doing. At 6:10 a.m., almost 5 hours before the fire broke out in the buildings above ground, smoke begins pouring out of the underground bunkers. At the same time, a tank retriever collapses the building over the tunnel entrance preventing the escape of anyone inside the bunkers.

Throughout the morning, armored vehicles punched huge holes into the buildings supposedly to pump in CS gas. However, the holes were much to large for that purpose and the vehicles used are not normally equipped to administer gas. The vehicles were obviously collapsing interior structures such as stairways as survivors have reported.

The most incriminating scene shows a tank spouting flames from the muzzle of its cannon as it moves in and out of one of the buildings, apparently setting fire to it. The vehicle appears to be a modified version of the M48 tank equipped with a flame throwing gas jet. Armored units used such tanks during the Vietnam War. Officials at Fort Hood refused to confirm or deny that they either possessed or had loaned any vehicle so modified to the FBI for use against the Branch Davidians.

Shortly thereafter, smoke pours from the second story window of a building seconds after a tank moves away from it. An individual riding on the tank removes a hood. Another individual jumps off the roof beside the second story blaze after taking off a jacket and calmly walks toward the FBI lines. He removes a hood and appears to be carrying a rifle. He is obviously a government agent, not a Branch Davidian as the FBI reported.

The video images are too unclear to determine whether the hoods and jackets are the type used by airport and oil field firemen to protect themselves from the intense heat of fuel fires. If they are, it may be further evidence of government complicity in the burning down of Mt. Carmel.

As the complex burns to the ground, helicopters fly over the scene with rifles pointing out the doors. Armed agents walk around the burning buildings unconcerned with the danger from exploding ammunition or someone shooting at them.

An FBI spokesman in San Antonio declined to comment on any of the material presented in the video saying that the agency is under a Justice Department order not to discuss the matter because of impending litigation.

Linda Thompson reports that since she has tried to distribute this video, she has been followed by unmarked cars, some without license plates and some with unregistered ones. Black, unmarked helicopters have hovered over her suburban home on three separate occasions. Copies of the film sent to various media throughout the country via the U.S. Postal Service have never reached their destinations. The only ones getting through to the media have been by Federal Express or United Parcel Service. Magnet or x-ray exposure has destroyed others sent to private individuals.

Admittedly, the news footage described above is not absolute proof of a government conspiracy to murder the Branch Davidians and accidently or otherwise kill some of its own agents. However, along with other information which has recently come to light (see "More Evidence of Cover-up & Malice in Waco Tragedy" in the July 15 issue of SA News), it is sufficient to warrant closer scrutiny and an independent investigation.

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