Tuesday’s developments

  • McLennan County Sheriff Jack Harwell joins in negotiations to convince Branch Davidians and their leader, Vernon Howell, to end their standoff in the Mount Carmel compound.

FBI spokesman Bob Ricks says Harwell sought to speak with Howell, also known as David Koresh, at a point when negotiations seemed on the verge of breaking down.

Harwell apparently has had numerous contacts with Howell, who respects him. Ricks says by getting someone in there who Howell trusts, that negotiations can get going in a more positive fashion.

Ricks also says that those speaking on the telephone with Howell and his lieutenants have noticed profanity creeping into the conversations. He also described the cult leader as “mercurial,” liable to change from peacemaker to warrior without warning.

  • In LaVerne, Calif., several dozen armed agents and police officers with search warrants raid a house where several followers of Howell live.

ATF officials in Los Angeles said the agency was not prepared to say what, if anything, they had uncovered at the house.

  • Inhabitants of the compound display a message – “God Help Us We Want The Press” – on a banner after radio talk show host Ron Engelman asked on Dallas station KGBS that cult leaders hang a white sheet from a window if they were listening to the station and wanted the legal and medical assistance that had been offered by cult sympathizers.

NBC plans movie on siege

NBC announced plans Tuesday to present a made-for-television movie about the ongoing siege at Mount Carmel.

Patchett Kaufman Entertainment will produce In the Line Of Duty: Assault in Waco, the show’s working title, as part of the “In the Line of Duty” franchise. Five shows in the franchise have aired so far.

The shows honor law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.

“The production company has a great deal of contacts in place,” said Flody Suarez, and NBC spokesman. “When this event happened, they had it flagged immediately.”

Suarez said the show could air in early May, but producers were not committed to a date yet.

31 Britons in compound

At least 31 Britons are holed up with religious cult leader Vernon Howell in his fortified compound, officials said.

Howell and some of his followers apparently traveled to England at some point to recruit new members, British officials reported.

We’ve had relatives of family members calling the Foreign Office in London,” said Helen Man, spokeswoman for the British consulate in Houston. “From those calls, we know that some 31 people in the compound are British citizens.”

Restraining order sought

A team of attorneys seeking to mediate the Mount Carmel siege filed documents seeking a temporary restraining order requiring federal agents to “stand down” from the conflict.

The action filed by lawyers with the Delaware-based Cause Foundation also seeks to unseal search and arrest warrants that would show what probable cause federal agents had for making the initial raid on the compound.

The group also wants the government to justify its refusal to let foundation attorneys speak with cult leader Vernon Howell and demands that federal agents explain “why they have besieged the congregation,” said attorney Kirk D. Lyons.

“We want to put the gun on safety,” Lyons said. “Let us go in there and talk to him or talk to him on the phone.”

Lyons describes the group as a non-profit public interest law foundation representing those with First Amendment and religiously based actions.

Flights still restricted

The Federal Aviation Administration continues to restrict flights over the Mount Carmel area.

The restricted area is a five-nautical-mile radius around a point one mile northwest of the Tradinghouse Creek Airport and extends upward to an altitude of 11,000 feet.

The restriction reflects the “Hostile situation in the area,” FAA spokesman Roger Meyers said.

The FAA closed the airspace Feb. 28, the day federal agents and members of the Branch Davidians had a shootout at Mount Carmel.

Meyers said pilots who violate the flight restriction will be penalized. As of Tuesday, 15 aircraft had violated the airspace.

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.