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FIRE INVESTIGATOR'S CIVIL SUIT AFFIDAVIT
ON ORIGIN OF APRIL 19, 1993 FIRE AT MOUNT CARMEL
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
ISABEL G. ANDRADE, et al. Plaintiffs,
PHILLIP J. CHOJNACKI, et al. Defendants
Judge Atlas (Note: Now Judge Walter J. Smith)
CIVIL ACTION NO. H-94-0923
and consolidated actions:
Holub v. Reno H-94-2153
Ferguson v. Reno H-95-0218
Brown v. U. S. H-95-0587
Riddle v. Reno H-95-0602
Gyarfas v. U.S. H-95-1142
Martin v U.S. H-95-4246
DECLARATION OF RICHARD L. SHERROW
My name is RICHARD L. SHERROW and am President of RICHARD L. SHERROW and
Associates in Mesa, Arizona. I am a former Fire and Explosion Investigator
with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, United States Department
of Treasury, and retired as a Senior Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician
from the United States Army. I
have more than thirty years experience as an explosives and arson investigator, have been involved in over 40 major fire investigations, and have qualified as an expert witness in federal and state court in 18 states. In addition to arson, fire and explosion expertise, I have served as a Staff Instructor at both the U.S. Army Chemical Center and School and Redstone Arsenal and have been a technical writer and instructor in the use of chemical and biological weapons, including riot control agents.
In addition, I have received training from the BATF, FBI, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, DuPont and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). I have attended the Ohio Fire Academy and the National Fire Academy (NFA). I am also a graduate of the Police Academy at Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama. I am a past member of the International Association of Bomb Technicians (IABTI).
I have made a preliminary investigation into the cause, origin, nature and growth of the fire which consumed the Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993, and where members of the Branch Davidian religion perished as a result of said fire. This preliminary investigation was based upon the Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) video, still photographs extracted from the FLIR, still photographs taken from the air and from the ground during the fire, broadcast news video, videography taken by a private investigator while the government was in control of the Mount Carmel Center, signed statements and interviews of Branch Davidians who survived the fire, official reports and case notes of federal and state law enforcement agents, the reports of the United States' fire investigators (namely Paul Gray and James Quiontere) and from my own personal inspection of the fire site.
Based upon this preliminary investigation, I am able to conclude, within my professional opinion, that it is consistent with this evidence that the fire originated from a single point and spread throughout the Mount Carmel structure. It is also consistent with evidence that the original fire was started by a M728 CEV striking the southeast corner tower of Mount Carmel. These conclusions are as consistent with the evidence as the conclusions reached in the Gray and Quientere reports and they are in direct contravention to conclusions reached in the Gray and Quientere reports.
Mount Carmel Center was a multi-storied, wood-frame building of irregular
construction. It was built of about half used lumber and building
materials cannibalized from houses that had existed on the property
previously and from new materials purchased for its construction. The
building was constructed haphazardly over time without any attention to
fire safety. Some of the building's interior lacked wallboard or finishing.
Those areas of the building which had been finished were completed with
highly flammable materials.
Contained within the building on the first floor were the living quarters. dining and kitchen areas, several storage rooms, a chapel and gymnasium. A four-story tower was located near the center of the structure and contained a reinforced-concrete room used to house a walk-in cooler for food storage. This concrete structure was built in the 1930's and had survived a previous fire some years before.
The second floor was contiguous over the first and also contained living quarters. Both corners of the building in front contained a third story. Moreover, the four-story tower had a fourth floor directly over the third.
Foundation, slabs and piers were homemade with unreinforced concrete and did not contribute significantly to the building's resistance to mechanical shock. The roof was of decked plywood construction, overlaid with asphalt composition roofing materials.
External electrical power was turned off to the structure prior to the fire but a diesel generator of unknown capacity was present within the structure and had been known to be energized intermittently between February 28 and April 19, 1993. Moreover, several storage areas and rooms were known to contain large amounts of highly flammable and combustible materials, including, but not limited to, gasoline, kerosene, lamp oil, Coleman lantern fuel, paint, petroleum distillates, tar and roofing materials, acetylene and oxygen containers, gunpowder, metal shavings, and a large quantity of small arms ammunition.
Internal heating and cooking fires were provided by improvised wood-burning stoves and propane fueled gas ranges, respectively. Due to the lack of external electrical power, internal lighting was accomplished with Coleman-type gas pressurized lanterns and glass oil-burning wick lamps.
It is known that a large, commercial-type gas range was located in the kitchen/dining area adjacent to the four-story tower. This range was fed by a large, 100 pound propane tank located externally to the dining room. The propane was conducted through the wall at that location by a conduit pipe. The tank appeared to be nearly full of propane as evidenced by a spectacular boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE) during the fire.
Mount Carmel Center was occupied as a multi-family residential building with shared common areas, including a commercial-sized kitchen, and compartmented into many smaller rooms used for personal quarters.
On April 19, 1993, at approximately 6:00 a.m., agents of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation began executing a plan to introduce a riot control
agent, ortho- chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS).
CS is a micro-pulverized particulate riot control agent designed for crowd dispersal in open areas. Although no open or closed cup flash point has been determined for CS, it is a combustible solid. Published information on CS by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that the ceiling exposure limit for CS is 0.05 parts per million (ppm) or approximately 0.2 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3). The ceiling exposure limit is not to be exceeded at any time. NIOSH information lists CS as having an immediate danger to life and health (IDLH) exposure limit of 2 mg/m3. Information contained in the U.S. Justice Department report on Waco states that 10 mg/m3 is the concentration of CS which will deter trained troops. Moreover, powdered CS may be a fire hazard in concentrated quantities and can produce a flammable dust.
During the next six hours, the FBI utilized M728 Combat Engineer Vehicles (CEV) to breach the outer walls of the building and to inject CS. A CEV is a large armored vehicle, weighing in excess of 50 tons, is equipped with a 165mm demolition gun and is modification of the M60A1 Main Battle Tank, The CS was injected by use of a Mark V delivery device. The MK-5 delivery device consisted of several bottles of pressurized carbon dioxide which was used to entrain the particulate CS in a gaseous stream, This stream was injected into the structure through a nozzle located on the end of a boom connected to the CEV.
In addition to the CS injection utilizing the Mark-5 delivery systems on the CEVs, FBI agents in Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (BIFV) fired SGA-400 Ferret barricade penetrating cartridges into windows and areas not reachable by the CEVs. A Ferret is a 40 mm projectile containing particulate CS and a liquid suspension agent, methylene chloride. The Ferret is a non-pyrotechnic munition specifically designed for barricade situations. At least 400, and possibly more, of these Ferret rounds were fired in and at Branch Davidians during the breaching and CS insertion operation.
Besides the SGA-400 Ferret cartridges, information from documents obtained from the FBI through the United States Department of justice indicates that military pyrotechnic munitions may have been fired into Mount Carmel. Documents disclosed indicate that agents could not penetrate either the underground shelter roof or the top of the rear four-story tower with Ferrets. Therefore, they fired at least one "military" round and referred to this munition as a "bubblehead." As a retired U.S. Army senior explosive ordnance disposal technician, I am unaware of the nomenclature and function of a "bubblehead" nor can I find any reference to such a munition in official military publications. However, I am familiar with a device known as a "bunker buster," which is a munition about the size of a softball and designed to penetrate fortifications. I recall that this munition was of foreign manufacture and filled with plasticized high explosive (HEP). It may have had other fillers, including chemical riot control agents. The exact identity of a "bubblehead" would have to be determined before any possible contribution to the fire could be established.
In the event that members of the Branch Davidians contemplated or began to execute a mass suicide, it was the plan of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) "to disrupt any suicide attempt with flash-bangs." "Flash-bang" generically refers to pyrotechnic stun munitions designed to temporarily incapacitate or disorient personnel by producing a loud report and blinding flash. These munitions contain an explosive/incendiary pyrotechnic composition. A number of these munitions manufactured by the Nico Corporation were known to be fired during the 51 day standoff and were in the possession of the FBI HRT on April 19, 1993. Use of stun munitions in barricade situations is extremely hazardous due to the potential of causing an accidental fire.
In addition to the CS and methylene chloride introduced by the above methods, the Gray report refers to the induction of choloracetophenone (CN), another riot control agent. CN comes in both liquid and powder forms: CN-B is a mixture of CN and benzene and CN-C is a mixture of CN and chloroform in a liquid state. CN is highly flammable in its liquid state; in its powdered state, CN has a flashpoint of 59 degrees C.
It is known that many of the Branch Davidians were in possession of protective masks. Therefore, the effective use of CS or CN would require the introduction of quantities of these agents far in excess of that required to deter trained troops (10 mg/m3 for CS) and well past the levels required to pose an immediate danger to life and health (2 mg/m3 for CS). Calculations by engineers for an independent casualty laboratory, Failure Analysis, Inc., have concluded that the average concentration of CS inside of Mount Carmel was 10 to 90 times that necessary to deter trained troops (100 to 900 mg/m3 ). In my professional opinion and based upon my experience with the use of these riot control agents, the concentration of CS and/or CN introduced was designed to overcome the protective masks by rapidly debilitating their filters and posed an immediate threat to the life, health and safety of those inside Mount Carmel, especially the unprotected children.
During the six hours of the escalated plan to introduce CS (and possibly
CN) into the Mount Carmel Center, CEVs made numerous breaches in
the exterior walls of the structure. The purpose of this breaching was
ostensively to provide openings for members of the Branch Davidians to
"escape" the building. However, these operations significantly damaged
the structure, causing numerous internal load-bearing failures and
resulted in restricted egress from the structure.
As an example, the area immediately over the trap door leading to the buried school bus and external underground storm shelter was obstructed by debris. Further, both staircases leading to the upper floors were disrupted or destroyed by the CEV breaching operations. At one point, a significant portion of the building can be seen to be off its foundation because of the repeated collisions of the CEVs with the structure. These breaching operations probably resulted in sprung doors, destruction of flooring and creation of attendant falling and entrapment hazards and probably prevented normal communication between adjacent areas of the structure.
Despite the claim that the purpose of the breaching operation was to secure exits for the Branch Davidians, in reality the CEVs began to systematically dismantle the building as evidenced by the destruction of the gymnasium immediately prior to the fire.
During the breaching operation, one of the CEVs (CEV-1) was ordered to penetrate the structure from one side to the other. CEV-1, with its bulldozer blade pushing debris in front of it, penetrated to the base of the four-story tower, making contact with the concrete storage structure at the tower's base. This structure was already in a weakened condition from a previous fire as noted above. The contact, made by such a large and powerful vehicle, probably caused a structural failure and resulted in an internal avalanche of the room contents and partial failure of the concrete ceiling. This entrapped numerous people, mostly women and children, who had taken refuge therein.
At about 12:06 p.m., CEV-1 was dismantling the southeast corner tower
of the exterior wall at the ground level. At 12:06:24, CEV-1 departed the
southeast corner, possibly clipping the edge of the structure as it turns
away. At approximately 12:07:41, a small heat signature is observed on
the FLIR in the second floor window of the southeast corner tower,
less than two minutes (and possibly as little as one minute, seventeen
seconds) after the CEV had made violent contact with that area of
the building. This heat signature is described by the Quientere report
as a 100 kilowatt fire, consistent with a "wastebasket" size fire
and was estimated to be one-half meter in diameter (about a foot
and a half). This is consistent with a small incipient smoldering
fire that has erupted to produce visible flame.
Survivors of the conflagration reported that a lit Coleman lantern was located in that immediate vicinity. Coleman-type lantern becomes extremely hot in operation, reaching as much as 700 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is sufficient to cause ignition of combustible material even in absence of an external flame source. Moreover, if the flame of the lantern had been extinguished, the fuel would continue to be expelled from the manifold under pressure from the tank. Personal conversations with the manufacturer indicates that combustible materials should not be placed with one foot from the lateral sides of an operating lantern and no closer than four (4) feet from the top side due to heat production and risk of fire.
If a lit Coleman-type lantern, which had been operating for some time, had been knocked over by CEV contact with the building or shaking of the building by vibration from the operation of the CEVs outside, the heat from the lantern chassis, the mantle flame, and the continued production of atomized fuel could cause a fire consistent with that observed on the FLIR at 12:07:41.
On April 19, 1993, the day of the fire, the government was operating a United States Customs Cessna Citation jet aeroplane equipped with a Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) video camera. A FLIR camera detects infrared (heat) radiation, both that which is reflected, such as sunlight, and that which is emitted from objects which are "hotter" than their background. These differences are referred to as "heat signatures." A FLIR camera cannot distinguish between reflection and emission or between visible flame and hot smoke and gas. Further, there are no industry accepted standards for use of this technology in fire cause and origin determination.
The following is the sequence of the fire as it appears on the FLIR:
12:06:24 CEV-1 leaves structure, possibly clipping southeast corner tower while turning away.
12:07:41 A small heat signature is observed in the southeast corner tower window, second floor, immediately over where CEV-1 had been operating a minute or so before.
12:08:49 A large heat signature is observed at the rear of the dining area and at the base of the tower.
12:08:56 As the FLIR aircraft circles the structure, sight is lost of the southeast tower but an explosion of hot gas is observed emanating from the southeast side. This appears to be consistent with a flashover and/or backdraft of the room of original fire origin. However, a flashover may have occurred earlier while outside the visual range of the camera.
12:09:12 A large heat signature appears in the front windows of the southeast tower. A long heat signature is observed streaming in the wind and spreading to the adjoining roof of the front of the structure.
12:09:31 A very large heat signature, consistent with fire and hot smoke, is seen breaking out around the eaves of the southeast tower.
2:09:44 A very large heat signature, consistent with hot smoke, gas or flame, is seen at the rear of the structure in the vicinity of the dining room area.
2:09:50 A small heat signature is observed in the windows of the chapel on the southeast side of the structure.
12:10:00 A small heat signature is observed in the windows along the back of the front corridor of the structure and is consistent with hot gas, smoke and possibly flame travelling down the corridor.
12:10:22 A growing heat signature is observed in the wreckage of the gym and is consistent with fire growth from the chapel.
12:11:02 A very large heat signature emanates from the southeast corner, dining area and gymnasium. Hot fire brands are seen blowing off of corner tower roof and landing in vicinity of the dining area.
Firebrands are seen blowing off of the southeast corner tower roof and
are sucked into hole in chapel area wall by ambient external wind and internal
1. At the time of ignition, there were ambient winds in excess of 25 knots gusting to 40 knots (28.7 to 46 mph). These extremelyhigh winds are quite significant with respect to the firegrowth and spread. The angle of the wind to the structure,from southeast to northwest, is in direct line with the fire growth and propagation as would be expected.
2. There were two large holes made in the front of the structure by the CEVs; one through the front of the double doors and one directly in the center of the building. Both of these breaching operations caused considerable structural damage to the flooring of the second story, opening that story to the one below. Moreover, high winds were able to enter through these breaches and create a venturi, or wind-tunnel effect, in the transverse corridors in the front of the building. This venturi effect created a negative pressure zone in the interior and pulled air from the southeast corner of the building toward the west and north sides. The velocity of the airstream was considerable according to eyewitness survivors. Further, an additional venturi is created by the demolition of the gymnasium and breaching of the exterior wall directly behind the chapel on the southeast side of the structure.
the conclusions articulated in the reports authored by Gray and Quientere
stating that the wind had nothing to do with the fire growth and propagation,
another arson investigator retained by the United States to investigate
the Mount Carmel blaze testified at the criminal trial that:
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Publication 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations, 1995 edition, gives standards regarding opinions expressed by fire investigators. When forming opinions concerning the cause and origin of a fire, an investigator should set standards for the degree of confidence in those opinions. There are four levels of confidence that can be regularly applied to such opinions:
(a) Conclusive. At this level of confidence, the hypotheses has been tested and withstood all appropriate challenges while all reasonable alternatives to the hypotheses have been considered and eliminated due to their failure to withstand a valid challenge, leaving only that hypothesis under consideration as true.
(b) Probable. This level of confidence corresponds to being more likely true than not. At this level of confidence, the chance of the hypothesis being true is more than 50 percent.
(c) Possible. At this level of confidence, the hypothesis can be demonstrated to be feasible but cannot be declared probable.
(d) Suspected. This level of confidence corresponds to a perception that the hypothesis may be true, but there are insufficient data to draw a conclusion to the exclusion of any other reasonable conclusion.
If the confidence level of the opinion is only "possible" or "suspected,"
the cause should be listed as unknown, undetermined, or under investigation.
However, the following scenario and the opinion expressed herein
is consistent with the data available to me at this time. The degree
of confidence which I set for this opinion is possible.
After reviewing the evidence, I have reached a preliminary conclusion on the cause, origin, nature and growth of the fire. This opinion is only preliminary as much additional evidence is required before any conclusion can be reached which has a confidence level greater than possible.
1. The fire originated in the southeast corner
tower from the tipping of a lit Coleman-type lantern which fell onto
combustible materials, most likely bedding materials, as the room
was utilized as sleeping quarters, and was most likely caused by
violent contact or mechanical shock associated with the CEV removing
the corner of the southeast tower directly under the point of origin.
The time of origin could have been as late as 12:06:24 p.m., but
could have been earlier.
2. The fire smoldered, producing toxic and combustible gases in the room. As these gases collected, the combustible materials ignited, producing visible heat and flame. This ignition Is first detected by the FLIR at 12:07:41 but may have been burning for some time prior to this.
3. A flashover of the second floor room of southeast corner tower occurs, This appears on the FLIR at 12:08:56 but appears to be already in progress. The flashover could not have been observed earlier because the FLIR operator had the southeast corner tower out of the field of view.
4. At the time of ignition, there were ambient winds in excess of 25 knots gusting to 40 knots (28.7 to 46 mph). These extremely high winds are quite significant with respect to the fire growth and spread. The angle of the wind to the structure, from southeast to northwest, is in direct line with the fire growth and propagation as would be expected.
5. There were two large holes made in the front of the structure by the CEVs; one through the front of the double doors and one directly in the center of the building. Both of these breaching operations caused considerable structural damage to the flooring of the second story, opening that story to the one below. Moreover, high winds were able to enter through these breaches and create a venturi, or wind-tunnel effect, in the transverse corridors in the front of the building. This venturi effect created a negative pressure zone in the interior and pulled air from the southeast corner of the building toward the west and north sides. The velocity of the airstream was considerable according to eyewitness survivors. Further, an additional venturi is created by the demolition of the gymnasium and breaching of the exterior wall directly behind the chapel on the southeast side of the structure.
6. Approximately ten minutes earlier, CEV-1 attempted to make a through and through penetration from the front of the structure to the rear. During this penetration, CEV-1 struck the reinforced concrete structure at the base of the center four-story tower wherein most of the women and children had taken refuge. This deep penetration severely disrupted the building structure and opened the ceiling of the dining area to the second story hallway.
7. As the fire flashes over in the southeast corner tower, the fire is pulled into the second story transverse hallway by the venturi created by the ambient winds. Hot, burning and combustible material is sucked by the wind and negative pressure into the hallway and transported rapidly throughout. Once these firebrands encounter the obstructions in the middle of the building from the CEV-1 penetration, they are ducted into the dining area by the breach in the floor.
8. At 12:08:49, approximately a little over one minute, a heat signature is observed at the rear of the dining area which appears to be fire. Most of the heat signature appears to be outside of the building at this point. The signature is unique in that comparisons with visible light video show it producing a white vapor which is consistent with burning propane. Moreover, much combustible material, petroleum distillates, paints, and lantern fuel were stored in the rear of the dining area according to witnesses.
9. In addition to the venturi ducting down the transverse front corridor, the fire grows because of the flashover from the southeast corner tower fire and spreads rapidly through the attic of the adjoining chapel. A surviving witness has stated that he heard a cry of fire coming from the second floor and went up into the chapel attic to investigate, crossing a causeway built over the rafters. The chapel attic and causeway were contiguous with the second floor front corridor and separated only by a blanket. When the witness arrived at the junction of the transverse corridor hallway and the chapel attic, he observed a "wall of fire" traveling down the corridor. The witness stated that:
The conclusions of the Government's experts assert that the occupants
of the building could have escaped the fire had they wanted to. In fact,
the Gray report states that occupants had up to five (5) minutes from the
ignition of the fire to exit the building. This is not consistent with
the fire spread or known reactions of fire-related human behavior.
As noted above, the breaching operations of the CEVs caused considerable disruption and mechanical failure to large portions of the structure; in fact, the entire southeast side of the building was knocked off its foundation by action of the CEVs. This disruption probably created multiple hazards including entrapment, crushing, and restrictions of egress and community between floors. Early breaching operations are known to have occluded access to the trap door leading to an underground shelter. Eyewitness testimony and statements establish that CEV operations destroyed or significantly damaged the two stairways leading from the upper floors, trapping those occupants to the upper levels of the structure. Moreover, doors were known to be sprung and were unable to be opened because of structural distortion.
The noise generated by the high winds blowing through the building and that from the unmuffled CEV engines also would inhibit the spread of an alarm. In fact, eyewitness interviews establish that the alarm of fire, first broadcast from the site of origin, was not transmitted to the other occupants because of noise interference and attenuation or acoustic disruption due to structural damage.
Many of the fire victims, mostly the women and children, died inside or in close proximity to the concrete structure at the base of the four story tower. This is the same structure which had been in the path of CEV-1 during its deep penetration. The actions of CEV-1 in making this penetration had bulldozed large amounts of material, if not against, then in front of the door, limiting egress. Witnesses believe that many of the women took their children into the walk-in cooler to protect them from the effects of the CS. The cooler had an air-tight door and was not electrically energized.
The injection of CS had occurred numerous times during the day. Each injection filled at least part of the building with a dense cloud of particulate matter, limiting breathing and visibility. When flashover occurred in the southeast corner tower, the combustion products were rapidly distributed throughout the building. This initial warning was ignored by some occupants because they mistook the fire products as another CS injection, delaying their apprehension of danger and severely limiting their time for escape.
As with all fires, the combustible products, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen cyanide (all of which were found in the Branch Davidian victims who died by smoke inhalation), deprive the brain of oxygen and cause confusion, limiting a fire victim's ability to apprehend danger and to execute a plan of escape. Moreover, the toxic combustion products produced by the injection of methylene chloride into the structure, phosgene (PG) and chlorine (CI) gas, could have rendered large numbers of people unconscious and prevented their escape from the fire. According to the Material Safety Data sheet and hazardous chemical data published for methylene chloride, the vapors can readily accumulate and can cause unconsciousness and death in confined and poorly ventilated spaces, it is an eye, skin and respiratory tract irritant. Toxic, methylene chloride is a narcotic in high concentrations and is metabolized by the body to form carbon monoxide. Moreover, methylene chloride is flammable in its vapor state, and may have contributed to the spread and rapid growth of the fire.
Taken in a totality, the government experts' claim that the occupants of Mount Carmel Center could have escaped and that they had at least five minutes to do so is not supported by the evidence. In fact, one expert testified at the criminal trial that:
Q. All right. But in any event -- but prior to it being -- and all of it's involved, and so people that may have been in there at the time of the fire's beginning were in serious trouble within two minutes of the start of that fire, weren't they, from the smoke and whatever else was going on?
A. Probably two minutes and thereafter, yes.
Some consideration must also be given to the psychodynamics of the
group considering their subjugation to psychological pressure tactics,
sleep deprivation and general apprehension and fear of the government
agents outside contributing to their delay to exit the building. The
behavioral response of an individual's awareness of the initial fire
incident cue (odor or visible smoke) often is a determinant outcome of
the fire incident. The manner in which an individual is alerted to
the occurrence of a fire may predispose the perception of the threat
Processes of social inhibition, diffusion of responsibility, and mimicking appear to be primarily responsible for the inhibition of adaptive and assistance behavior responses (rescue of self and others) by participants in emergency situations. The inhibition of behavioral responses in the early stages of a fire incident (when the fire incident cues are relatively ambiguous) may predispose participants to a nonadaptive type of behavior (failure to rescue self or others) since the available evacuation time has been expanded.
Thus, the psychological condition of the occupants after 51 days of siege, the excessive introduction of CS or CN and any attendant toxic effects, general and pervasive fear of external conditions and induced group social dynamics most likely led to a delayed perception of danger with tragic consequences.
Before an expert opinion can be rendered in this case, much additional
discovery information is required. Much could be learned from examination
of the forensic evidence in the hands of the investigators, including
in situ photographs, fire pattern analyses, aerial video other than
the FLIR (there must be some), the original FLIR, identification of
all munitions and ordnance used, audio and video surveillance recordings
prior to and at the time of the fire, tactical and voice traffic logs and
recordings, sketches, drawings, line-sight diagrams, etc.
Moreover, before an opinion can be rendered about the efficacy of using FLIR technology to determine the cause, origin and growth of the Mount Carmel fire, the exact manufacturer and nomenclature of the FLIR used and the altitude of the orbiting aircraft would have to be known to determine the FLIR's capabilities and resolution.
At this point in time, since the fire scene has been completely destroyed by the government, it is impossible to form an opinion on the cause and origin of the fire with any degree ofcertainty greater than possible without unrestricted access to the forensic information available to and relied upon by the government's fire investigators. Until such time as this information is available, no opinion can be expressed other than a tentative, preliminary opinion as contained in this declaration.
The accepted rule in fire investigation is to look for arson as the
cause only after all other sources of ignition have been eliminated. It
appears from an examination of the Gray andQuientere reports that they
proceeded in reverse fashion: determined that the fire was arson and set
out to prove it. Moreover, much valuable evidence was destroyed at the
direction of agents of the United States by the subsequent and needless
destruction of the fire scene by bulldozers.
There are many occasions where suspicious, multiple origin fires were initially thought to be arson but later were confirmed to be accidental. For example, a large fire in Hialeah, Florida had multiple points of independent origin and was ruled arson. Subsequent investigation showed that the initial investigators where wrong in their conclusions and the fire was determined to be accidental electrical in origin.
It also appears that the initial investigation at Mount Carmel did not attempt to rule out all possible causes of accidental origin as is required in any fire cause and origin determination. In 1986, a large loss-of-life fire occurred at the DuPont Plaza fire in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in which myself and the United States' expert, Dr. Quientere were involved. Despite the highly suspicious origin of the fire, an exhaustive search was made for possible accidental origins prior to focusing on arson as the cause. I do not believe this was done in this case.
Based upon the information and evidence available to me, that published by the United States Departments of Justice and Treasury, and that submitted in the United States' Motion for Summary Judgment in the above-captioned case, it is my expert opinion as a fire and explosion investigator that no opinion could be reached by the government's investigators which has a confidence level greater than possible as explained above.
The preliminary opinion expressed in this declaration is just as consistent with the evidence and as plausible a scenario as that postulated by the reports authored by experts for the United States. However, only through the examination of additional forensic evidence believed to be in the possession of the government's experts can a probable or conclusive cause and origin determination be made.
I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct with in my personal knowledge except where such is based upon information and belief, in which case I believe it to be true.
Executed on January 17, 1996
RICHARD L. SHERROW
Richard L. Sherrow & Assoc. Fire & Explosion Investigator
Note: There have been several updates to this orginal Declarations.