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IR Simulation Leaves Waco Tragedy Unresolved

Photonics Spectra
May 2000
On March 19, eight men at Fort Hood, Texas, fired assault rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers as aircraft fitted with forward-looking infrared cameras collected images. Officials hope that the images from the tests will end speculation that agents from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms fired into the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993, setting the fire that killed more than 80 people.

The IR cameras, including one that is virtually identical to that used at the Waco standoff, collected images over a target area that included reflective metal and glass debris and water, simulating the conditions of the Davidian compound. Video cameras on the ground recorded range-firing operations throughout the tests.

Each side of the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Davidian family members against the federal government initially claimed that the results substantiate its position. According to a report in the Dallas Morning News on March 21, they since have agreed that the digital images they received are inadequate for accurate analysis and have requested access to the analog video recording of the tests.

Following the tests, US Federal District Court Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. in Waco ordered that the tapes be sealed from the media and the general public. He gave the court expert, Vector Data Systems (UK) Ltd. of Huntingdon, UK, 30 days to complete its own analysis.

Technical experts from both sides of the debate have been invited to present the results of their research at a special session at SPIE's annual meeting in San Diego, which will be held July 30 to Aug. 4.

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