Workers bulldozed the Mount Carmel site Wednesday in preparation for pulling out as the state health agency considers quarantining the ruins.
Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Mike Cox said Wednesday that bulldozing was “under way right now” and that DPS is preparing to leave Mount Carmel.
“We’ve already disconnected our phones out there,” Cox said.
Cox said private contractors are bulldozing, filling in holes and separating debris at the site into piles of metal, masonry material and combustibles “in the name of safety.” The compound burned to the ground April 19 and more than 70 members of the Branch Davidian cult died that day.
Houston attorney Jack Zimmerman, whose client died in the standoff’s conclusion, said the bulldozing action will prevent independent investigation of actions by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
“I guess what it does, it forever prevents any checking on the ATF’s rendition that the fire was intentionally set,” Zimmerman told the Associated Press. The attorney represented cult member Steve Schneider and entered the compound to meet with his client during the 51-day standoff.
Federal dollars are paying for the cleanup project, Cox said.
DPS officers will pull out once the work is complete, which is expected to be today or Friday, he said. At that time, Cox said, state health officials may determine if any health risks exist.
Cox said 20 Texas Rangers and seven highway patrol officers remained at the compound Wednesday to retrieve any possible evidence that the bulldozers exposed.
The Rangers, who are investigating the deaths of four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents killed in the Feb. 28 raid at the compound, have finished collecting evidence at the site, Cox said. Anything else they may find, such as bullets and other physical evidence, will be sent to an FBI crime lab for analysis like all other evidence gathered so far.
Cox said Wednesday that ATF agents who returned to the Mount Carmel compound Saturday reenacted the initial raid for the investigating Texas Rangers. The visit was characterized by officials last week as being a way to help agents emotionally recover from the incident.
However, Cox said the visit was primarily to aid the investigation. He added he did not know when their criminal investigation will end.
“They were saying, ‘This was where I stood,’” he said, adding that the agents were there for evidence.
“Closure . . . is certainly a happy side effect,” he added.
A the Texas Department of Health in Austin, spokesman David Vaughan said no decision had been made to quarantine the site despite reports that one health department official said people walking through the area might contract dysentery-type diseases, hepatitis A or cholera from the waste.
In a Waco news conference Wednesday, Dr. Scott Lea, consulting physician for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, said the district has been monitoring the situation.
Lea said the main concern is infectious diarrhea and hepatitis A. Law enforcement officials working at the compound have taken precautions, such as using gloves and masks, against contracting any disease, he said. Immunizations were also given, he said.
That quarantine decision would be up to Dr. David R. Smith, Texas commissioner of health, Lea said.
“I am unaware of any contamination of the water supply,” he said, “but I would think that that’s also being looked at. I know the Water Commission is actively looking into well water to make sure that’s OK.”
If the site is quarantined, Lea said, signs would be posted at the property and law enforcement officers would enforce the rule.
In other developments:
- U.S. Senator Bob Krueger announced he is seeking $200,000 to help McLennan County fix roads in the area damaged by tanks driven by agents during the standoff.
- McLennan County Justice of the Peace James Collier released the identification of two more Branch Davidians killed in the fire. Rosemary Morrison, 29, of Great Britain, died of smoke inhalation. The cause of death for Catherine Andrade, 24, of Canada, is pending.