Did the CS gas harm any of the people, especially the twenty-two children, inside the compound?

According to medical examiners who performed the autopsies, CS gas did not directly kill any of the more than 80 Branch Davidians, including 22 children, who died in the fire on April 19. Nor did anyone perish from inhalation of CS gas--or its byproduct from a fire, cyanide--the medical examiners told FRONTLINE. Other experts have told FRONTLINE that CS gas may have totally incapacitated the children and others so that when the fire occurred, it would have rendered them incapable of escape. It should be noted that Mount Carmel had not been gassed preceding the last hour of the fire. Experts also noted that CS gas only has a persistence factor of about ten minutes.

Why did the tear gas fail to roust the Branch Davidians out of the compound?

FBI agents and various experts who are familiar with the events at Waco have suggested several reasons why the CS gas did not roust the Branch Davidians out of their compound. For one thing, the adult Branch Davidians had gas masks. Holes that the FBI's armored vehicles punched in the walls of the compound to insert the gas also allowed the high winds on that day to disperse it. And, for many of Koresh's followers inside the compound, fleeing the compound and deserting him would have amounted to renouncing their religious faith; many apparently chose to stay. Furthermore, the thirty-mile winds gusting to 31 miles per hour caused the gas to quickly dissipate and FBI listening devices showed that the gas seemed to have little effect on the adult occupants during the six hour assault. All the adults had gas masks with filters, which the FBI believed would last up to 48 hours. FRONTLINE has learned that is why the FBI's initial plan called for incremental gassing over a 48 hour period.

Who started the fire that erupted a little more than six hours after the FBI began inserting the tear gas on April 19?

Although several of the surviving Branch Davidians insist that they did not start the fire, a panel of arson investigators concluded that the Davidians were responsible for igniting it, simultaneously, in at least three different areas of the compound. Unless they were deliberatley set, the probability of the three fires starting almost simultaneously was highly unlikely, according to fire experts. Furthermore, the videotapes show the use of accelerants that strongly increased the spread of the fire. Although one Branch Davidian stated that a FBI tank had tipped over a lantern, videotapes show that the tank had struck the building a minute and a half before the fire began. Also some of the surviving Davidians' clothing showed evidence of lighter fluid and other accelerants. In addition, FBI listening devices seemed to establish that the Davidians were overheard making statements such as, "Spread the fuel," some six hours before the fires began. (Joint Hearing of the Crime Subcommittee July 1995.)

What caused the death of more than 80 Branch Davidians inside the compound on April 19?

Medical examiners, Dr. Nizam Peerwani and Dr. Rodney Crow, have told FRONTLINE that many of them died from asphyxiation when the intense fire raced through the compound. Others, particularly women and children who huddled under wet blankets in a concrete chamber, were fatally injured when debris collapsed on them during the fire, the officials said. Still others were shot to death, suicide or homicide victims in apparent mercy killings, they said. Both the coroners and some FBI sources have told FRONTLINE that the pattern of most of the bodies was not consistent with a theory of mass suicide.

Have any federal agents been disciplined for wrongdoing in the Waco affair? And were any of the surviving Davidians convicted of federal charges?

Two ATF supervisors, Chuck Sarabyn and Phillip Chojinacki, were fired, although they were later reinstated at a lower rank. No FBI agents have been officially disciplined. Eight of the surviving Branch Davidians were convicted on charges ranging from voluntary manslaughter to weapons violations. Seven got 40-year prison terms, and the eighth got five years. A ninth, Kathy Schroeder, got three years in prison after testifying for the government.


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