Thursday’s developments

  • FBI agent Jeffrey Jamar said cult leader Vernon Howell, who claimed in a radio interview to be gravely wounded, “seems to have recovered miraculously.”

Jamar said life on the 77-acre fortress appears to be returning to some normalcy, despite the lengthy standoff. He said the holed-up members also have a “substantial number” of military-like meals that are “ready to eat.”

  • Journalists at barricades set up several miles from Mount Carmel reported that when fresh law enforcement officers passed by Thursday afternoon they wore gas masks. However, no action had been reported by 10 p.m.
  • Two more children were released, bringing the number of children out of the compound to 20. Anthony Jones, 14, and his 11-year-old brother, Kevin Jones, were released. They are the children of cult member David Jones, according to former cult members.
  • The body of a dead man found in green fatigues about 300 yards from the compound was recovered about 8 a.m. Thursday. Authorities did not identify the body, which was sent for an autopsy.

Injured agents transferred

Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center announced Thursday that all seven Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents at the hospital have been transferred to other facilities to continue their recovery.

HBMC President Richard Scott said three of the agents left Wednesday and four left Thursday.

Two of the agents apparently left Wednesday by a corporate airplane provided by Stephens, Inc., the investment banking firm at Little Rock, Ark. The two agents worked at the ATF’s Little Rock office.

That leaves one ATF agent in a Waco hospital. Kenneth King, an agent with the New Orleans field division, was listed in stable condition Thursday night at Providence Health Center.

Agent eulogized as hero

About 1500 friends, family and law enforcement colleagues gathered in Pearl, Miss. For the funeral of ATF agent Robert Williams, one of four agents who died Sunday in the Mount Carmel shootout.

“He probably could have stayed down and covered up, and maybe he would have survived,” said Stephen Higgins, director of ATF. “His responsibility was to protect the other members of the team. So he stood up and fired. Because he did that, those people – their wives won’t be going to ceremonies like we’re having today.”

Then, turning to other ATF agents, Higgins said. “You’re here today because of people like Rob.”

Williams is survived by his parents, his wife of three years, his sister, and three grandparents.

Edwards praises agents

In a brief speech on the House floor, U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards of Waco praised the ATF agents involved in Sunday’s shootout as “modern-day heroes.”

The speech came as Edwards and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., introduced a resolution honoring the ATF and its agents. The measure was quickly adopted by the House.

“I don’t think that anyone who saw those agents being shot at the roof of that compound didn’t feel some pain for the agents and their families,” Edwards said in an interview after his speech.

No night-vision lenses

As hundreds of news media personnel dig in to cover the siege of Mount Carmel, the FBI is asking television cameras not to use night-vision lenses.

Jeffrey Jamar, FBI special agent-in-charge of the San Antonio division, said a live nighttime TV broadcast had shown the position of the law enforcement task force surrounding the compound.

“If you (TV cameras) supply the ability for someone to harm our people, I think you’re exceeding your role here. So please consider that,” he told a news briefing.

Puppies adopted

Local residents have adopted a dozen German shepherd puppies brought out of the Mount Carmel compound by a child.

ATF spokeswoman Franceska Perot said the animals needed homes because some were sick. The puppies’ mother was killed in the shootout between federal agents and cult members.

Headlines worldwide

The siege at Mount Carmel has grabbed international headlines, with reporters from England and Australia among the hundreds waiting near the cult’s compound.

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.