Once again into the breach, dear friends, into the very ‘Lion’s Den.’
It started off with an official FOIA (Freedom of Information Request) request. COPS asked the assistant US Attorney in Waco for a document. The Davidan criminal trial had been completed and appeals were done. The Civil trial had begun, but that was not legally connected to the government criminal proceedings. So COPS took a shot in the dark and McNulty placed a call to USAS Bill Johnston. This single act opened a door that lead to amazing opportunity. Meanwhile, MGA Films had decided that there was, indeed, more to the Waco story, and after lengthy discussions with McNulty, they agreed to back a second film effort on the subject. So we were off to the races, once again! Although a bit reticent at first, Mr. Johnston wanted to talk about the horror called Waco. He had some things on his mind, and as McNulty and Johnston got to know each other, McNulty offered a couple of insights into the business that seemed to let Johnston know that he understood that something went terribly wrong, especially that the events on April 19th were not exactly as the FBI had stated in their endless press statements. “The FBI had not fired a single shot in response to the Davidan broadsides fired at the FBI tanks. The FBI had not started the fire – David Koresh and the Davidians had set the fire!” And so on. So began a long series of phone conversations and letters that led to the Texas Ranger evidence locker located in Austin, Texas. This was the location where most of the Branch Davidian case evidence was kept and no one other than law enforcement had ever been inside.
In the Lion’s Den with Bill Johnston
As the relationship grew with Johnston, certain photos were shared with him that COPS had obtained from the Branch Davidian Criminal defense and Civil litigation attorneys. They were pictures of three or four different kinds of pyrotechnic devices, recovered by the FBI from the scene of the fire at Mt Carmel, that had belonged to the Government, not the Davidians. Had these several types of devices started the fires that burned the place down? Mr. Johnston had the same question. He was genuinely concerned and wanted to get to the bottom of this strange development. How did these dangerous devices, known to be fire starters, come to be in the evidence recovered from Mt Carmel? They were never mentioned, much less presented as evidence, by either side in the criminal trial. And so it was that COPS Productions team of film makers and advisory experts found themselves at the Texas Ranger Headquarters in Austin with cameras in hand and no idea what we would find inside the bunker-like complex.
Although we didn’t know it at the time, this was about to be the greatest part of a seventeen year adventure chasing the “Waco” story. As Bill (Johnston) opened the double steel doors of the complex and the two Texas Rangers with him cleared the way for us. I stumbled, literally, over a cut –down Corona Beer case full of Super VHS tapes of all the action at Mt Carmel during the 51 day siege. I took a photo to document the find and noted their content labels. I casually asked Bill if I could have Beta Cam copies of all of the cassettes if I supplied the raw tape, rather expensive stuff. He said “Sure” and to write him a FOIA request before we left and he’d get it done. Sure enough, he did it! A few weeks later the tapes arrived. The cache of tapes was the single most important find of the trip along with the various kinds of pyrotechnic devices that had been misidentified by the FBI evidence team. They were portrayed as being almost anything besides what they were – hand thrown ‘Flash Bang’ devices called Dev Tech 25’s, military CS gas 40mm munitions as well as FBI 40mm PSM’s (Penetrating Stun Munitions- a flash bang device fired through walls and windows to detonate on the other side). One of our explosives experts, Col. Jack frost, had designed, manufactured and sold these devices to the FBI Hostage Rescue team that was operating at Waco! It became apparent upon closer examination that the FBI had monkeyed with them and had a much larger explosive charge put into the nose opening than the amount used by Col Frost. This increased charge capacity made them much more dangerous when fired blindly through a wall or door to explode on the other side amidst a group of unsuspecting women and children.
Dozens of pyrotechnic devices were found in the rubble, and most significantly, several were found at the points of origin of the fires started that day inside the building.The evidence we found that day in the Texas Ranger evidence locker eventually showed that there were not only multiple types of pyrotechnic devices, there were in some cases, dozens of them used against the folks inside Mt Carmel that day. And it seems that our friendly local military commander, General Wesley Clarke, at Ft. Hood, Texas, had been kind enough to supply the FBI HRT with 200 rounds of 40mm HE, (High Explosive) fragmentation grenades and two 40mm, Mark 19 automatic grenade launchers. All of which the FBI had consistently denied was in their possession , much less “used” by them against the Davidians…but FBI/US Army documents and photos don’t lie! The Attorney General sure knew how to twist the Cats tail! When confronted by a dim-witted media during Reno’s once-a-week press conference, she was very careful to direct the press’s attention to one pyrotechnic Military CS gas device. She misled them into thinking this was the “only” device used and “it was fired long before the fire started and away from the building.” What a crock! But the lame-brained media knew no better and swallowed it whole, without question. So all of the other devices were ignored because Reno didn’t own up to them. Even though multiple devices implied something much more sinister, the FBI wouldn’t do something like that, especially when they said they didn’t do it, Right? And on a special note – As a result of this embarrassing moment, (and several others later) for Ms. Reno, she appointed a Special Counsel to investigate our allegations. In each and every case, the Special Counsel used the same technique and ignored the obvious, multiple types of devices that the FBI had used. “It didn’t happen”, in spite of the physical evidence to the contrary- “if we say it didn’t happen.” The Special Counsel’s action turned into a very expensive and extensive whitewash in preparation for the final burial of the truth about Waco. We always referred to the Special Counsel, Sen. Jack Danforth, as “Undertaker Jack,” a title befitting his focus on burying this case. For the record, we also found a number of additional “interesting” items like used gas masks and personal items like Bibles, clothing, etc. We also found the “missing” watch cap worn by Davidan Michael Schroder when he was gunned down by the BATF on the perimeter of the scene the day after the Feb 28th gun fight. Seems it was important because the Davidians with Michael said that after the initial shooting, they heard two more shots. There were two bullets fired into the back of Michael’s head and they allegedly had been fired at close range, execution style. There was the cap, and there were the holes that aligned with the two wounds in the back side of his head. Lo and behold, there were powder burns around the holes and flakes of burned gun powder in the melted fibers of the material – he had been shot at point blank range. I showed it to Bill and he was visibly upset with what he saw. This kind of insight was repeated on several occasions during the day and several subsequent visits that we were allowed to make to the locker and another storage facility where larger materials were kept involving the Waco case. As we progressed, additional revelations began to emerge. “Why is there a large hole in the top of the ‘bunker’? It looks like a breaching explosive was used…” said COPS Productions explosives experts- Dr. Fred Whitehurst, Col. Jack Frost and others.
We also discovered a large number of heretofore unseen photographs of the aftermath of the fire. A mass of new detail came into play. One of the most important items was the picture of the burned out church records vault referred to by the FBI as “the Bunker.” After several days in Austin, we made our way to Mt Carmel in search of some physical evidence of the explosive breeching charge that made the hole in the roof and killed the children and their mothers on April 19th. We gained permission to excavate and began digging for a 2 day search for the remains of the bunker, specifically the roof portion that surrounded the blast hole in hopes of taking samples that might reveal the nature of the explosives. Our explosives experts, Dr. Fred Whitehurst and Col. Jack Frost visited the Ranger evidence locker and the warehouse where the materials of the trial were kept, they also went with us to the site of Mt. Carmel when we excavated the remains of the so-called “Bunker.” It seems after the bunker had been cleared of evidence it was deemed unsafe and was demolished in place. Even the foundation was uprooted. When we excavated the rubble remains,we could roughly reassemble all of the structure except the right side of the roof where the hole had been. That portion was missing and we could not test for the traces of the device that was used to blow the hole on April 19th. It had to be a very specialized shape charge involving a copper directional cone used to shape the blast. Interestingly, that was the only part of the entire structure missing.
Seven Years Later…
(Caution disturbing pictures below)
The following photographs illustrate why we worked so hard to find the evidence that would identify the persons who placed the device on the roof of the bunker.
This is the ugly ‘Truth’ of Waco.
These were just two of 17 children found with their mothers at this location in Mt Carmel. There were also two trauma borne, full term infants and their mothers located here as well.
Next installment COPS Productions Blog 3.5
The rest of the revelations that came out of the Texas Ranger evidence locker…