Negotiations with Branch Davidians have reached a lull after a marathon negotiating session between cult leaders and their attorneys, an FBI spokesman said Friday.
“I think there is some guarded optimism that progress was made by the attorneys. I think we are in now what might be characterized as a ‘cooling off period,’” FBI agent Richard Schwein said. “However, we’re here for day 34, and we’ve heard all this. We’ve had cooling off periods before, and guarded optimism is the best face we can put on it.”
Schwein told reporters Friday morning that agents have not talked to those inside the compound since the attorneys left the building Thursday where cult members have been holed up since a bloody February 28 raid that left four agents dead.
“If he wants to talk to us, he just needs to pick up the phone and talk to us. We will continue to try to resolve through peaceful negotiations,” Schwein said.
Those attorneys were out of town by Friday afternoon. Dick DeGuerin, representing Howell, left Thursday to make a court date in Beaumont Friday. Jack Zimmerman, representing top Howell lieutenant Steve Schneider, left early Friday afternoon.
Schwein endorsed DeGuerin and Zimmerman’s plan to be summoned to escort their clients out of the compound when the time should come.
“That’d be fine; we don’t care. If the attorneys can go in and bring them out, God bless them,” Schwein said. “We’re not sure that would happen but that would be an ideal solution.”
Schwein said the coming Passover commemoration might prove to be “significant” in resolving the standoff at Mount Carmel. He also said agents won’t be taking any special precautions to guard against a possible armed attack.
“From the beginning, he has indicated there is some special significance to his Passover season,” Schwein said. “It could be they will surrender or it could be that they will take some action; it could be they will do nothing.”
Schwein said agents will continue the practice of using recorded, amplified music to help convince the Branch Davidians that it’s time to come out. “It will give them many hours of wakefulness to ponder many things, yes,” he said.
Meanwhile, Howell’s grandmother, Jean Holub, renewed her efforts to get a tape inside to her grandson and to get inside to see him.
The tape was a recording of a telephone conversation of Houston attorney Jim Brannon being retained by Howell’s father, Bobby Howell, as well as a minute long message from Holub expressing the hope she will be able to come in and talk to him.
“The FBI is sending in the lawyers and whatever information they want to,” said Brannon. “It’s time to send the family in and see if they can’t help end this thing. It’s past time.”
After talking to reporters, Holub and Brannon drove out to the checkpoint guarding access to Mount Carmel and delivered the tape to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms supervisor.
Holub is Howell’s paternal grandmother. She said she raised him until he was 3, and that they have been in regular contact since he was 17. Holub tried to get an audio-tape in to her grandson previously but was rebuffed by FBI agents.
Holub said she wants to go into the compound to talk over “private matters,” including religious matters, with her grandson.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t understand the things we do,” Holub said, adding that her appearance would be a “last resort” to get the situation resolved peacefully.
“If you’re off in a predicament somewhere, I think you want to see some member of your family,” Holub said. “The lawyers have had their turn – now it’s time for family.”
Meanwhile, an attorney for a former Texas Ku Klux Klan leader lost his bid for a temporary restraining order that would allow him to attend daily news briefings.
U.S. District Judge Walter Smith denied the application by Louis Ray Beam Jr. on Friday. The request for an order accompanied a $550,000 lawsuit Beam filed against federal agents, Waco police and Texas Rangers for their role in escorting him from a March 13 news briefing.
At that press conference, Beam asked a question comparing what happened during the Feb. 28 raid on Mount Carmel to something that would have happened in Nazi Germany. He has been barred from those briefings since.