Sept. 13 update -- Dallas Morning News reporter Lee Hancock this morning dropped one of the biggest bombshells in Mike McNulty's new Waco film: The fact that an FBI sniper originally reported that he heard firing from Lon Horiuchi's position during the final day, and that .308 cases were found at that position. Horiuchi, you'll recall is the West Point graduate who was the only FBI sniper to fire at Ruby Ridge, killing Vicki Weaver [while she stood at a window holding a baby -- CWK] and grievously wounding her husband and Kevin Harris. Horiuchi's fellow sniper later claimed his initial written report of firing was in error. An evidence photo included in McNulty's new film shows three expended .308 cases. An inch-thick report from the Texas Rangers to Rep. Dan Burton's Govrnment Reforms committee says they found a dozen .308 cases and two dozen Israeli-made 5.56 cases in the house across the road from the Davidian church. An FBI spokesman said those may have come from the BATF, which fired from that house during the initial raid. Ballistics tests would easily prove what gun fired those cases but a Waco medical examiner said over the weekend that they never got any forensic ballistic info from FBI, which always concerned him. Care to bet whether the guns that fired those cases are ever found? The Rangers' report also identifies recovered M79 flash-bang projectiles which could easily have caused the final fire. And, the report says, when a Ranger asked the FBI about a strange-shaped shell later identified as a military CS round, the FBI agent said it may have been a "thumper round" -- a high-explosive device which he said was used to knock down a door. Surprise. The Rangers couldn't find that "thumper round." The Ranger in charge of the crime scene -- who I happen to have known for 40 years -- told me three or four years ago that he had never scene a crime scene treated like the FBI handled Mt. Carmel. They bulldozed it two months after the fire. ----------------- Yesterday, on Fox News former Sen. John Danforth said his report wouldn't release any information until it had been concluded, and that while he would gladly accept information from the Burton committee, he dodged answering whether he would share his information with Congress. Rep. Burton said he was concerned that the Justice Department might seal grand jury evidence or testimony taken during Danforth's probe, making it unavailable to his committee -- which is what he said had happened in his committee's investigations into foreign contributions to the Clinton campaign. ------------- I seldom agree with Sen. Bob Torricelli (D-N.J.) but he said on ABC yesterday that he though both Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh should go. Most other Democrats and President Clinton are lining up to defend Reno while most Republicans are blaming Reno and unaccountably trying to absolve Freeh -- who Clinton and the Democrats want to fry. Trying to assess blame before all the facts are in is turning this into the kind of political ruckus that Clinton always wins, and may prevent a thorough investigation of what happened at Waco -- which is exactly what happed during the 1995 hearings. ------------- Former CNN reporter Dan Gifford, co-producer with McNulty on "Waco: The Rules of Engagement," in this morning's Washington Times blistered the entire news media for ignoring the film's charges three years ago. Much of the information in that film is the cause of the present media outcry. There was a sharp disagreement, and a parting of the ways, between Gifford and McNulty over whether to leave out of that film some evidence with especially sinister implications. Gifford told me a few days ago that in today's political climate he would have included more in the original film. That original film was nominated for an investigative journalism Emmy award, which were announced last night, but "Waco" didn't win. It was also nominated for an Oscar and received several lesser awards. http://nealknox.com/morgue/old/alerts/alerts.2000/1999/msg00171.html
BY MIKE THARP
The Sierra 4 sniper position was some 200 yards from white separatist Randy Weaver's cabin, deep in the northern Idaho mountains. The man in camouflage nestled in the thick brush there had a clear field of fire on the wooden structure across the furrowed ridges. On Aug. 22, 1992, the morning was cool, cloudy and rainy.
Eight months later outside Waco, Texas, on April 19, the noonday sun was warm with heavy winds out of the north. The Sierra 1 sniper position was in a boxy concrete outbuilding less than 100 yards from the Branch Davidian compound. The agent stationed there could see the front door and several windows of his target over the gentle grassy rise. Whether shots were fired from this site is one of the hottest controversies in the continuing Waco saga, now the focus of a civil lawsuit and a high-profile congressional investigation.
The man in the Sierra 1 sniper post at Waco and the Sierra 4 post at Ruby Ridge was FBI marksman Lon Tomohisa Horiuchi. Over the past seven years, he has become the most controversial law enforcement officer in America. For most of that time, the 45-year-old West Point graduate and former infantry officer has been in courtrooms or preparing his defense. At Ruby Ridge, Horiuchi shot and killed Weaver's wife, Vicki, 43, as she held their 10-month-old daughter behind the door of their cabin. He also shot and wounded Weaver, 44, and his friend, Kevin Harris. At Waco, some 80 members of the Branch Davidian religious sect perished after the FBI and other law enforcement agencies moved to end the 51-day siege.
Being there. Now it's Horiuchi who is in the crosshairs. He is the only individual defendant still left in the wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by Branch Davidians and their survivors against the federal government. His attorneys say he is innocent, that he "didn't take any shots whatsoever at Waco." But Houston lawyer Michael Caddell, who represents some of the Davidians, says the group has "specific evidence" showing that Horiuchi did fire his weapon. Earlier this year, a federal judge in Waco ruled that the Davidians had uncovered "at least some evidence to support their claim" that Horiuchi fired into the burning building.
How did this 15-year FBI veteran, the son of another U.S. Army officer, wind up in such a legal quagmire? What caused this husband and father, a politically conservative Catholic who homeschools some of his six children, to become such a figure of hatred? Horiuchi's actions at Waco and Ruby Ridge have been documented in great detail. Perhaps it is the significance militia groups have attached to both events, rather than the events themselves, that has intensified the focus on him. For now at least, Horiuchi is not saying. His attorneys have counseled silence, and that seems to be Horiuchi's preferred response in any case. "He's a very private person, very protective of his family," says Adam Hoffinger, one of the lawyers for Horiuchi, a third-generation Japanese-American who grew up in Hawaii. "We're determined to let him get on with his life."
To his defenders, Horiuchi–who has testified he could hit a quarter at 200 yards–is a consummate pro, honed as a military officer, burnished as a leader of an FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) sniper crew. "He was dedicated, hard working, aggressive. He was trying to do the right thing, trying to serve his country in a stressful environment," David W. Johnson, head of the HRT from 1985 to 1989 and once Horiuchi's supervisor, told the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union in 1995. FBI Director Louis Freeh has also stood by his agent, stressing that his job entailed making "split-second decisions."
To his critics, Horiuchi is a "paid FBI assassin" carrying out the wishes of an increasingly hostile and unresponsive police establish- ment. "After a year-long review, the U.S. Justice Department decides . . . not to charge sniper Lon Horiuchi with any crime. Like the Germans at Nuremberg, [Justice Department officials] declare he was 'just following orders,' " snapped a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial after the government closed an investigation of Horiuchi's actions without filing charges.
Repeat defendant. By the time he became a defendant in the current Waco case, Horiuchi had already been in an Idaho federal court on involuntary-manslaughter charges in connection with Vicki Weaver's death. A federal judge dismissed the case last year, ruling that "Mr. Horiuchi, rightly or wrongly, was clearly acting under orders authorized by the U.S. government to go shoot and kill an armed male adult because the threat to human lives had already been determined by his supervisors based on the facts then known to them." The decision is being appealed by the state of Idaho.
Horiuchi and 10 other HRT snipers were flown to the Idaho siege after U.S. Marshal William Degan and Randy Weaver's 14-year-old son, Sam, were killed. They were positioned around the cabin when Randy Weaver, his daughter Sara, and their friend Kevin Harris attempted to go to a shed where Sam's body lay. As the trio neared the shed, Horiuchi fired once with his .308-caliber Remington rifle, equipped with a powerful scope, hitting Randy Weaver in the arm. He fired again as the group ran back to the cabin. This round smashed through the door, striking Vicki in the jaw and killing her almost instantly. The same bullet also seriously wounded Harris. Horiuchi later testified he did not see Vicki behind the door and that he believed Randy Weaver and Harris, who was carrying a rifle, posed a threat to an FBI helicopter hovering overhead. (According to Jess Walter, author of Every Knee Shall Bow, a book about the showdown at Ruby Ridge: "There were 11 snipers on the hill, and they all heard the same helicopter. He was the only one who fired.")
Less than a year later, Horiuchi was again at a sniper post, this time outside the Davidian complex, and his actions there are emblematic of why questions about Waco won't go away. New evidence has spawned charges of a government coverup, which the feds deny and former Sen. John Danforth is now investigating (box). The FBI denies its officers fired any shots. But Branch Davidian attorneys insist that the FBI's own infrared videotape, taken from a small aircraft circling above during the last day of the Waco standoff, reveals "characteristic repetitive flashes" associated with gunfire coming from federal agents and from inside the house. They say there are also photos of shell casings on the undercover building where Horiuchi and other snipers were stationed. But firearms experts say it would be nearly impossible to match them with Horiuchi's weapon. "They re-barrel those [sniper] weapons no less than every two years," says one weapons analyst.
In the wake of Ruby Ridge and Waco, the FBI has tempered its tactics, emphasizing negotiation over force. To wit: The bureau used third-party mediators instead of force to peacefully end the 81-day Montana Freeman standoff in 1996. "Lon Horiuchi changed the history of how the government deals with so-called right-wing groups," says Kirk Lyons, chief trial counsel of the Southern Legal Resource Center, who represents several of the Davidian plantiffs. "Before Lon Horiuchi, they were considered extremist, but he made [their] criticism of the government legitimate and mainstream."
If true, it is an ironic legacy for a man who has dedicated his life to defending that government.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CRM THURSDAY, AUGUST 21, 1997 (202) 616-2777 TDD (202) 514-1888 JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE REGARDING CHARGES FILED AGAINST LON HORIUCHI WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Following the filing of a state complaint against FBI agent Lon Horiuchi in Idaho today, the Justice Department said it will continue to pay for his legal representation. The Department also explained that when examining Horiuchi's conduct, federal prosecutors and Idaho prosecutors enforce different criminal laws, using different legal standards. Horiuchi was a member of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team involved in the August 1992, standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Since his 1995 appearance before Congress, and his involvement in a civil case, Horiuchi has received legal representation paid for by the Justice Department. On August 21, 1992, Deputy United States Marshal William Degan and Samuel Weaver were killed at Ruby Ridge, during a confrontation between the Marshals Service and Randall Weaver, Samuel Weaver, and Kevin Harris. The following day, Horiuchi fired two shots. The first shot struck and wounded Randall Weaver. The second shot struck both Vicki Weaver and Harris, killing Vicki Weaver instantly and wounding Harris. A stand-off between law enforcement and the occupants of the Weaver family cabin ultimately resulted in the surrender of Randall Weaver and Kevin Harris to the FBI. DIFFERENT STATE & FEDERAL STANDARDS FOR PROSECUTION The complaint against Horiuchi, unsealed today in an Idaho state court, accompanied a separate charge against Kevin Harris, who allegedly fatally shot Marshal Degan. In the state case, Idaho Boundary County prosecutor, Denise Woodbury, charged Horiuchi under Idaho's involuntary manslaughter statute, which makes it a crime to use a firearm recklessly, carelessly, or negligently. A different showing is required to prove a violation under federal law, which contains different standards than state law. A federal criminal investigation that concluded last week did not address the same issue as the state investigation, because no federal crime covers the reckless, careless, or negligent use of a firearm. The federal investigation, which involved hundreds of interviews and hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, concluded that the available evidence did not support a federal criminal prosecution of Horiuchi. The federal criminal investigation considered whether Agent Horiuchi violated federal civil rights law, and found that the critical element of willfulness necessary for a federal civil rights violation could not be established beyond a reasonable doubt. Such willfulness -- defined as knowing, intentional use of unreasonable force -- could not be made out against Horiuchi. In addition, the Idaho prosecutor's decision to charge Kevin Harris, alone, for the death of William Degan during the August 21, 1995, confrontation, is consistent with the federal criminal investigation's conclusion that the United States Marshals on the scene should not be the subject of federal prosecutions for their actions at Ruby Ridge. The Department also indicated last week that the findings of the federal criminal investigation were being furnished to the Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, which is considering what, if any, disciplinary sanctions should be imposed. The Justice Department and the FBI will continue to cooperate with Idaho law enforcement officials in their investigation. ### 97-342
The man in the Sierra 1 sniper post at Waco and the
Sierra 4 post at Ruby Ridge was FBI marksman Lon Tomohisa Horiuchi.
IDAHO v. HORIUCHI
Prosecutor declines to prosecute FBI
sniper in Ruby Ridge case
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