Life for residents near the Branch Davidian compound continues to spiral downward as the standoff between the cult members and the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continues in its second month.
Stops at barricades, interrupted garbage and mail service, the FBI’s use of noise and music and flyovers by helicopters have contributed to a decline in their quality of life, some residents say.
Tory Steakley said he and his neighbors are getting fed up with “the hassle of having to go through checkpoints.”
“Some of the officers are nice,” he said, “but some of them out there will grill the hell out of you. I’ve left and come back five minutes later and had to go through the grilling all over again.”
A.P. Felton, who also lives inside the barricades, said she is usually waved through the checkpoints except when officers are on duty who haven’t worked there before.
Her life inside the barricades has become harder as the standoff continues.
“It’s difficult,” Felton said. “I don’t get my mail or paper delivered. My garbage doesn’t get picked up and I have to haul it out.”
“I just wish it was over with,” she said.
The standoff began Feb. 28 when ATF agents attempted to serve search and arrest warrants. A gun battle erupted in which four agents and at least two cult members were killed.
Law enforcement officials set up roadblocks later the same day to control traffic in and out of the area near the compound.
Laureen Chernow, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman, said the federal agencies asked DPS to help, but she wasn’t sure if officers ask residents to present an I.D. every time they passed.
Steakley said he no longer has time to go home for lunch because too much of his time is spent at the checkpoints.
“The Pizza Hut man can get in easier than I can,” he said.
Steakley said a lot of his problems stem from his driver’s license which lists his permanent address at his parents’ home. He said that is because he plans to move soon from a rented home to one he is going to buy.
Robert Cervenka, who farms land on the compound’s south side, said the activity by the FBI and ATF threatens to damage his ranching enterprise.
The music and noises blasted through loudspeakers by the FBI has sent his Brahman hybrid cattle into frenzied stampedes, tearing down fence and running down into nearby river bottoms where he can’t get to them because they’re too close to the compound.
Cervenka said at least eight cattle are missing. He is unable to plant crops in an area two miles long and a mile wide.
The helicopters spook the cattle, putting stress on them which makes them lose weight. Ranchers sell their cattle based on weight, so the more they lose the less ranchers earn.
Vance Gore, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, said farmers and ranchers contacted Edwards regarding damages to their property or livestock.
Gore said their concerns were forwarded March 9 to the FBI which will consider damage claims.
The FBI asked farmers to document all damages and submit them for consideration.
Steakley said even though he lives about four miles from the Branch Davidian compound, life has changed for the worse since the standoff.
Though he could drive his truck and trailer about six miles out of the way to avoid the checkpoint and go home on a serpentine gravel road that leads to the one past his home, Steakley said he didn’t want to go that far out of the way and risk an accident.
Despite increased security with the roadblocks, there are still ways around them that he said some are taking advantage of to commit burglaries. He said someone tried to break into his shed but his dogs ran them off.
“The idiots sneaking in (the compound) are coming down my road,” he said. “We had a quiet community. Now we have helicopters hovering over our land and break-ins.”