The latest Branch Davidian to walk out of the besieged compound was cult recruiter in Great Britain once valued by leader Vernon Howell, former cult members said.
Livingston Fagan, 33, of Great Britain left the Mount Carmel about 10 a.m. Tuesday, making him the 34th person to be released and the first since Sunday.
Ian Manning, an Australian who left the cult in 1990, said in a phone interview that Fagan at one time trained as a Seventh-day Adventist minister at a college in Great Britain and helped recruit people in Great Britain into the cult.
“As far as we know,” Manning said, “he’s quite well looked upon” by Howell.
Manning added that Fagan may have been highly valued by Howell, also known as David Koresh.
Marc Breault, a former high-ranking follower of Howell’s, said in a phone interview from California that Fagan is a very intelligent man who could have been in Howell’s inner circle at one time.
“He would be the closest of the ones released to being in the inner circle,” Breault said.
But Breault said Fagan may have been a fleeting favorite of Howell’s. His value stemmed from his ability to recruit.
“When Vernon needs you for something, you would be pretty important at the time,” Breault said, adding that Fagan was “instrumental” in getting many of the British followers.
But after Howell shifted his focus to a new recruitment plan, then Fagan may have fallen from favor, Breault said.
Fagan opposed Howell’s doctrine on multiple wives as late as 1990, which could have hurt his status, too, Breault said.
Breault said he still believes those released are not a part of Howell’s inner circle.
Those remaining at the compound may be part of the wavesheaf, Breault said. The Branch Davidians think the wavesheaf will be the first to go to heaven and are the ones who will go through the hardest times before they die.
Those who leave the compound would be considered part of the 144,000 who remain behind and become like apostles, Breault said.
Manning, too, said that many of those released were at some point a problem for Howell or not very important to him.
Several, such as Kevin A. Whitecliff, Gladys Ottman and James Lewis Lawter, left the group at one point and then returned, Breault and Manning said.
“All these people . . . it just occurs to me they’re not very important to Vernon,” Manning said. “It’s not that they weren’t committed. It’s just that Vernon was not very interested in them.”
“He releases people he can afford to release,” Breault added.
So far 21 children, nine women and five men have left the compound. Howell, says 17 children, 40 women and 38 men remain.
Meanwhile, Howell let one opportunity to surrender pass.
The cult also hung a new sign from its tower Tuesday. It read: “We Want Ron Englemond,” referring to the Ron Engleman Program, a copyright broadcast of HGBS-AM radio in Dallas that featured an interview with released cult member Brad Branch.
FBI spokesman Bob Ricks said Howell rejected an offer in a letter by authorities that would have allowed him air time on the Christian Broadcasting Network and access to followers after he surrendered.
Ricks said Howell’s right-hand-man Steve Schneider, told negotiators Howell was concerned about communicating with followers in McLennan County Jail if he left the compound and about access to the media upon his release.
Ricks said the letter, delivered to the compound on Monday, included assurances from the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department that Howell would have access to followers inside the jail as long as their attorneys didn’t object. CBN also agreed to supply air time.
“Basically he said it’s not worth the paper it’s written on,” Ricks said. “The broadness of it and our willingness to agree to those terms will evaporate at noon today . . . He will probably not be able to get as generous a response from us.”
Although Howell rejected the air time, one of his followers called a Dallas radio station to give his version of the Feb. 28 raid by agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
“All of a sudden two trucks come barreling down our drive. I’m standing up there at the front door, and they bail out, and it’s ATF running at the door, yelling and screaming,” Brad Branch said in a live interview on the Ron Engleman Program.
“Dave opened the door and had his hand out said, “Now hold on there’s women and children in here, and bullets started hitting the door. I never heard ‘em say they had search warrant. Never,” Branch said.
The ATF has said cult members started the 45-minute gun battle that ended with four agents and at least two cult members dead. The standoff is now into its 25th day.
Ricks said authorities continued to play chants of Tibetan monks Monday night and cleared debris around the compound, both of which annoyed Howell.
Ricks said negotiators are still somewhat optimistic because people keep coming out. They hope to resolve the issue peacefully, he said.
Howell has apparently backed away from looking to the heavens for a sign, he added.
Breault said he believes Howell is looking for a sign in Revelation before coming out.