Branch Davidians Seek To Drop Case
Mar. 13, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Branch Davidian sect members claiming wrongful death in the 1993 Waco, Texas, siege asked a federal judge Monday to dismiss their case against an FBI sharpshooter.
There is ``no credible evidence'' that sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi fired shots on the 51-day standoff's final day, lawyers for the Davidians said. Horiuchi is the only named defendant in the civil lawsuit against the government, which goes to trial in mid-May.
The lead counsel for the Davidians said a forensic analysis of spent shell casings found at the sniper outpost occupied by Horiuchi's team indicate the rounds ``most likely'' were fired by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents during the initial Feb. 28, 1993, gun battle that began the siege.
``Our investigation has determined that, while the FBI was clearly sloppy in gathering evidence following the ATF raid on February 28, there is no credible evidence that Horiuchi or other members of his sniper team fired at Mount Carmel on April 19, 1993,'' said Michael Caddell, the plaintiffs' lead lawyer.
The Justice Department, representing Horiuchi, offered no immediate comment. But weeks ago, Horiuchi's lawyers filed a motion insisting that not a ``shred of evidence'' existed that he fired his weapon on April 19.
Horiuchi gained widespread public attention in 1992 when he killed the wife of white separatist Randy Weaver during a standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
Caddell stressed the move to dismiss claims against Horiuchi does not diminish the plaintiffs' view that other FBI agents directed gunfire at the Davidians' retreat during the standoff's final hours.
``This in no way undermines or alters our strong belief that government agents, almost certainly (FBI Hostage Rescue Team) members, directed gunfire at the back of Mount Carmel, from positions that were not observable by the press or the FBI leadership in Washington,'' Caddell said.
Federal officials insist no civilian or military government personnel fired shots in the waning hours of the Waco siege, when the FBI initiated a tank-and-tear gas operation designed to flush out the Davidians.
Davidian leader David Koresh and about 80 followers died during an inferno that consumed the compound several hours into the operation. Some died from the fire, others from gunshot wounds that federal authorities say were inflicted by the Davidians.
The Davidian plaintiffs contend FBI infrared surveillance footage captured bursts of light that can be nothing other than muzzle blasts directed from government positions into the burning building. The government denies that.
The plaintiffs' theory will be put to the test Sunday in a court-ordered demonstration at Fort Hood in Texas designed to show whether infrared video technology captures gunfire with bursts of light similar to those that appeared on the 1993 videotape.