An FBI spokesman on Wednesday denied reports of hard feelings between law enforcement agencies involved in the standoff with Branch Davidians.
Meanwhile, chances for the standoff to end after the cultists celebrate Passover have been complicated once again by cult leader Vernon Howell’s insistence on hearing from God before they come out.
FBI spokesman Bob Ricks said there isn’t a cooperation problem among the three organizations involved in the standoff—the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and the Texas Rangers.
A Houston Chronicle article Wednesday alluded to the rift between the organizations because of what some law enforcement officials see as the FBI’s destruction of the crime scene.
The story said cult members destroyed evidence from their Feb. 28 gun battle with ATF agents after FBI negotiators inadvertently tipped the cult members off.
But Ricks said that is not true.
He said there was a general discussion between cult members and negotiators that one of the first steps authorities would make would be to collect shell casings on the outside of the compound.
“So to make the quantum leap from the collection of shell casings on the outside to indicate that they should clean up their crime scene is a pretty big jump,” he said.
Ricks said Maurice Cook, senior Texas Ranger in charge of the criminal investigation, had told him there weren’t any problems.
“He assured us that is not the case,” Ricks said. “We believe the information is a little bit behind.”
Ricks said there were some questions in the past about information distribution, but the Rangers are now satisfied that they are getting the information they need.
As for the standoff, Ricks said, Howell, also known as David Koresh, is once again saying he must hear from God.
Howell’s right-hand man, Steve Schneider said Tuesday that Howell hasn’t received a message from God yet on when to come out, Ricks said. Previously, attorneys for Howell and Schneider said people will come out of the Mount Carmel compound after Passover.
Ricks said the good news is Passover for the cult members could end on April 13, instead of April 14.
“Passover did not begin today. It actually began yesterday. They changed again,” he said.
In related matters, Branch Davidian Woodrow Kendrick pleaded innocent to charges of attempting to kill a federal agent. He was ordered held without bond Wednesday in McLennan County Jail.
He, Mike Schroeder and Norman Allison were reported to be in a second gun battle with authorities Feb. 28. Schroeder died during the incident and Allison was arrested. Kendrick was arrested later.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Convery asked U.S. Magistrate Dennis Green to hold Kendrick without bond. Convery said Kendrick fled from authorities and hid in a nearby mobile home for five days before being arrested.
But Kendrick’s attorney, Rush Milam, said his client did not flee from authorities that day, that he violated no law and had only walked toward the Branch Davidian property because he was curious.
“He was just curious,” Milam said. “The people he was with got in trouble. He didn’t want to get in trouble. He went back home.”
Milam said all three were at the Mag Bag that morning when they walked to the mobile home about four or five miles away, arriving there somewhere around 10 a.m.
Kendrick, 63, testified he was at the Mag Bag the morning of the raid and hadn’t been in the compound for two or three months.
Authorities suspected the Mag Bag on FM 2491 contained a weapon’s cache belonging to the cult. Shortly after the raid, they rammed the building with a Bradley during the execution of a search warrant.
Kendrick testified it is his habit to watch airplanes with binoculars as they fly from Texas State Technical College.
On the day of the raid, he said he saw “what I thought was a beautiful helicopter.”
Schroeder, who was outside the Mag Bag, saw another helicopter go by, too, he said.
The three men were curious, he said, so they headed for the mobile home and then the compound to find out what was going on.
Kendrick said the Mag Bag had a phone. But Milam shook his head no when asked if Kendrick ever tried to call Howell that day.
When they left the Mag Bag, Kendrick testified, he had loaded guns with him — a 9 mm with 31 rounds and a .32 caliber revolver.
Milam said his client didn’t want to leave his guns unattended at the Mag Bag.
Kendrick testified, “Once shots started, I was already on the ground” near the compound and did not see what happened to his companions.
He testified that he heard three shots, one of which sounded like a big “boom,” and then a sudden burst of “50, 60, 70 shots” of what sounded like automatic gunfire, he said. He lay in grass praying about what to do. Then he heard someone say something, so he got up to look. “Nobody was around,” he said.
“I stood up, looked around and walked out” to the mobile home, he said.