Federal officials said Monday they are disappointed that the trickle of Branch Davidian cult members leaving the Mount Carmel compound this weekend did not turn into the flood they had been promised.
Seven left the compound Sunday and two left Friday. Authorities last spoke to cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, at 1 a.m. Monday.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agents turn up the pressure by removing trees around the compound and playing chants from Tibetan monks late at night.
FBI spokesman Bob Ricks said authorities continue to carry out defensive and pressure tactics around the compound.
On Monday, KWTX Channel 10 showed film footage of military vehicles pushing down trees near the compound. Authorities are clearing “debris” that might block sight of the compound, Ricks said,
He also said authorities used loud speakers until 3 a.m. Monday to amplify chants from monks who follow the Dalai Lama. The chants are used during mediation, he added.
The music selection was one of many suggested, Ricks said.
“One person was recommending we play ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ continuously,” Ricks said.
Electricity has been cut to the compound. Reportedly, cult members have been catching rain water, an indication that water be may in short supply.
Ricks said Howell and his right-hand man, Steve Schneider, have expressed a desire for a quick resolution.
Howell also has seemed less belligerent since Friday, he said.
But Ricks called the number of people who’ve left the compound disappointing, saying authorities had lessened pressure on the cult over the weekend in return for a substantial release of people.
Last Friday officials delivered items to the compound, including national magazines, and agreed not to broadcast over loud speakers during the Davidians’ Sabbath, which is Saturday.
Howell was to gather cult members so they could be told the situation was going to end, Ricks said.
“They said they were going to start taking very positive action to end this matter in a matter of days,” he said.
“So even though we remain hopeful, I would have to characterize yesterday as disappointing,” Ricks said.
Howell says 96 men, women and children remain inside the compound. So far, 21 children, nine women and four men have been released.
Those who left Sunday were identified as: Rita Fay Riddle, 35; Gladys Ottman, 67, of Canada; James Lewis Lawter. 70; Sheila Judith Martin, 46; Ofelia Santoyo, 62; Victorine Hollingsworth, 59, of Great Britain; and Annetta Richards, 62.
Brad Eugene Branch, 34, and Kevin A. Whitecliff, 31, left the compound Friday night.
Eight of the nine people released since Friday were brought to the federal courthouse Monday for a hearing.
The ninth, Victorine Hollingsworth, was hospitalized.
U.S. Magistrate Dennis Green ordered the eight held as material witnesses to the Feb. 28 shootout between cult members and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Green scheduled detention hearings later this week to determine if they should be held for trial or released on bail.
Green also appointed attorneys for the Davidians. However, two members, Ottman and Martin, requested Green appoint Waco attorney Gary Coker as their attorney.
Coker represented Howell and seven of his followers in their 1988 attempted murder trial after a shootout with rival prophet George Roden.
Jurors forced a mistrial in Howell’s case after they could not arrive at a verdict and acquitted the other seven.
Any release is welcome
Former FBI hostage negotiator Bob Wiatt said that while the number released may be small, any release is welcome.
“I feel as long as people are coming out . . . the negotiation is going to continue as is,” said Wiatt, now director of the Texas A&M University police.
“Time is your ally, and patience is a virtue,” he said.
Wiatt said a less belligerent attitude from Howell is positive.
But he said it is always possible that Howell is stalling negotiations as a way of fulfilling his own agenda.
Ricks said the ultimate goal is to end the situation peacefully.
“We will continue to do what we have to do to get the issue resolved,” he said.
“We are not going to be jerked around.”
The people released from the compound, many of them old and sick, “are the ones who do not necessarily supply them with any benefits to accomplish what they want to accomplish,” Ricks said.
He added that the wavesheaf teaching of the Branch Davidians has always been a concern.
The wavesheaf are the people who will go through the hardest times before they die and go to heaven. Those left behind will become like apostles.
One former cult member has suggested that those being released are the ones who will be left behind when the others are martyred.
Negotiators would consider the release of children and more younger people as significant, Ricks said.