Sunday’s developments:

  • An FBI spokesman says negotiations with cult leader Vernon Howell have taken a turn for the worse, with Howell reneging on a plan to free more children.
  • Negotiators say Howell is playing loud rock music in an attempt to harass those at the site.
  • An ATF spokesman says Howell bought assault rifles and parts to convert them to automatic weapons. Purchasing the guns and parts is legal, the agent says, but the act of modifying the guns is not.
  • About 40 members of the state Libertarian party demonstrate at the Waco Convention Center, calling for the abolishment of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Supporting the ATF

McLennan County REACT members presented flowers and a sympathy card Sunday to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms at Texas State Technical College.

The Texas REACH Council sent the flowers and card to the families of the deceased ATF agents. The council represents the local public service groups across the state that monitor citizen’s ban radio to help motorists.

“We sent them as a gesture of kindness to officers killed in the line of duty,” said REACT’s John Mullins.

Mullins and Bobby Evans, president of McLennan County REACT, went to the FBI/ATF compound with McLennan County Commissioner Ray Meadows on Sunday.

Meadows is taking hot food donated by Central Texas residents to the agents. Mullins and Evens help serve the officers the hot food.

WACO 100 FM radio is acting as a drop point for food donations. The station is at 314 Loop 340. Jay Harris, an on-air personality at the station, said major companies are donating food, but the officers need canned drinks.

Harris said Central Texas residents donated more than 180 stuffed animals for the children released from the compound and more than 2 tons of food for law enforcement officials.

Elk water problems

The EOL Water Supply in Elk is asking residents to curtail outdoor water use because it can’t repair a broken water well near Mount Carmel.

Walter Dulock, manager of EOL, said one of the system’s two wells is about 500 yards from Mount Carmel. Workers had planned to repair the well last Monday and rewire it last Tuesday.

Following the ATF’s raid Feb. 28, the ATF and FBI have blocked off the area around the compound and won’t let anyone in to fix the well.

“We have plenty of water to use inside the home, but we’re asking people not to use water outside,” Dulock said.

A steady customer

Donna Chapman, manager of Chapman’s Fruit Market, said her market has done business with the Branch Davidians for the past 25 or 30 years.

Chapman said cult member Perry Jones would buy about $200 or $300 worth of groceries there a week. He would pay for them with food stamps and cash, she said.

Jones is the father-in-law of cult leader Vernon Howell.

Jones did most of the buying, she said. Items included leaf lettuce, tomatoes and fruit — especially over-ripe bananas, she said.

“They’d freeze them and make some kind of shakes from them,” Chapman said of the bananas. “He’d come by and buy eight or 10 cases at a time.”

Chapman said the last time she saw Jones was the Thursday before the raid. He had come to pick up a 50-pound bag of popcorn.

Prayer vigils planned

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will hold a prayer vigil for a peaceful end to the Mount Carmel standoff at 5:30 p.m. each day. The Rev. Rayford High said the public is invited to the vigil at the church at 515 Columbus Ave. To ask questions, call 753-4501.

Media examination

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — The Society of Professional Journalists has organized a task force to examine the media’s coverage of the siege at Mount Carmel.

As the weeklong standoff has attracted worldwide media attention, cult leader Vernon Howell has been interviewed frequently by telephone, and radio and television stations have played parts of a tape he demanded be aired.

The panel plans to look at journalism ethics in the wake of such coverage, said Georgiana Vines, SPJ president and assistant managing editor at The Kerrville News-Sentinel.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.