Saturday’s developments:

  • Federal officials use a press conference to make an appeal to cult leader Vernon Howell and his followers to end a seven-day standoff, but expressed doubt that anyone who wants to leave the compound can without Howell’s approval.

“If he is listening, we want to give him and his follower sour assurance that he and everyone inside would be treated fairly and humanely if they come out,” said FBI special agent Bob Ricks.

Some radio and television stations have been carrying the briefings live, and authorities have said they are monitored by Howell, also known as David Koresh, and members of his Branch Davidians sect inside the compound.

  • Negotiations for Howell’s surrender shifts as Howell asked about the judicial process and possible retaliation against him by federal agents.
  • Howell and another cult member, Steven Schneider, begin discussing the removal of an unidentified cult member who was killed in last Sunday’s gun battle.

Change in food drive

McLennan County Commissioner Ray Meadows said there’s been a change in the food drive for law enforcement officers staking out Mount Carmel.

“All we’re going to accept are canned and packaged goods,” Meadows said. “We really can’t accept cooked food. What we’ll do is buy the meat and open the cans and warm the food up out there.”

Anyone interested in donating food may take it to the WACO-FM radio station at 314 W. Loop 340 beginning at 10 a.m. today.

Meadows said the food will be added to donations from members of the Waco Restaurant Association and served to the officers today.

Cash donations to buy food also will be accepted.

Otwell appears at scene

The Rev. W.N. Otwell paid a surprise visit to the Mount Carmel siege Saturday, where he told reporters that the federal government should have left Vernon Howell along.

Otwell was mobbed by reporters, who had little to do but read books and toss footballs.

Several foreign correspondents interviewed Otwell at length, then asked Texas reporters who he was.

During the 1980s, Otwell, a fundamentalist Christian, ran a home for wayward youth, which was shut down by then-Attorney General Jim Mattox for operating without a license.

“I think that the government handled it wrong,” Otwell said of the Howell standoff. “They say they have sympathy for the women and the kids. Well, they went in and killed a 2-year-old.”

Feazell offers to help

AUSTIN — Viz Feazell and Vernon Howell have a lot more in common than one might expect.

Feazell is a highly successful Austin lawyer who once was the district attorney in Waco, and Howell is the cult leader whose automatic weapons are keeping hundreds of law officers at bay 10 miles east of Waco.

They once were adversaries, when Feazell’s office prosecuted Koresh on a charge of attempted murder. But now, with Howell besieged and facing possible charges of capital murder, Feazell is offering to represent him and his followers for free.

Feazell also is offering to negotiate with Koresh to persuade him to surrender, and it is the common experiences the men share that leads Feazell to think he could succeed where trained experts have failed.

Both men quote the Bible feely, both are former preachers and both say they have found themselves persecuted by single-minded federal agents.

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.