Waco Fires Are Still Burning

A new report indicates FBI agents did not fire on the Branch Davidian compound in 1993 — but try telling that to the Branch Davidians

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Seven years after the fact, smoke still lingers over the fatal fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas — but FBI officials hope a new report will finally clear the air. According to Vector Data Systems, a British firm contracted to analyze video and reenactments of the 1993 siege, the flashes of light that fueled accusations of government wrongdoing were not FBI gunfire, as victims' family members believe. Instead, the report contends, the flashes were caused by sunlight glinting off metal and pieces of debris. Case closed? Not so fast. While this latest evidence would appear to set the record straight, the Waco blaze ignited countless feverish conspiracy theories — and one more government-sponsored report isn't likely to do much but fan the flames.

Plenty of people were upset by what happened at Waco, and none more so than family members of the 80-plus victims who died there; they've filed a wrongful death suit against the government, claiming FBI agents on the scene were directly responsible for the fires that consumed the compound. Government officials deny the allegations, charging that the Branch Davidians set the fires themselves. The embattled Attorney General Janet Reno has met with the lawyer representing the victims' families, and although the lines of communication remain open as evidence is gathered for a trial, no one expects any diplomatic breakthroughs. "There is a small but vocal minority of Americans who believe the government lied to them about Waco," says TIME Washington correspondent Elaine Shannon. "The government, of course, says it's telling the truth." And while each side has collected reams of evidence supporting its case, neither party is likely to convince the other of anything. "In the end, it'll come down to whom a court chooses to believe," says Shannon: "The government or the people who think the government is engaged in the worst kind of cover-up."