The Dallas Morning News
Koresh tells negotiators he won't kill self, denies he's Christ
WACO -- David Koresh says he isn't killing himself, isn't coming out of his lair yet and isn't Christ.
Authorities said Friday that the 33-year-old rock musician and religious leader has related those and other messages to federal negotiators trying to end the armed standoff that began Sunday after a raid on Mr. Koresh's millenarian and militaristic sect went awry. Four agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and an undetermined number of sect members were killed.
Mr. Koresh has said he and his followers will abandon their fortified, well-supplied compound only when God tells him to. Again Friday, he gave no hint of when that might be.
Still, there was cause for optimism on the part of federal authorities striving to avert further bloodshed. Mr. Koresh allowed another child, a 9-year-old girl, to leave the besieged fortress. That brought to 21 the number of children released.
Negotiators remain in nearly continuous communication with Mr. Koresh, said FBI Agent Bob Ricks. Mr. Koresh seems lucid, and for the most part, the discussions are cordial, the agent indicated.
However, he said, Mr. Koresh "has taken offense' at being likened to Christ, an identity the sect leader readily embraced in interviews with news organizations before his phone lines were cut.
"I believe it would be more accurate to say that he describes himself as a prophet,' Agent Ricks said.
A federal official told The Dallas Morning News on Friday that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has joined the investigation of the sect because of reports that Mr. Koresh and his followers may have been involved in drug dealings.
A day earlier, The News was told that Internal Revenue Service officials were trying to determine the sect's sources of income.
Meanwhile, the released children, ages 5 months to 12 years, are together in the temporary care of state workers, who describe them as healthy, happy and alert.
"The children are in remarkably good psychological condition considering what they've been through,' said Joyce Sparks, a supervisor with the state Child Protective Services in Waco.
Another state official working with the children said, "Immediately before they eat, they automatically join hands and start to pray.' She also described them as "voracious readers' of children's books.
The parents of most of the freed children are in the compound. Some of those parents, Ms. Sparks said, lovingly prepared their children for the trip out. Some carried little bags of belongings or notes listing favorite foods.
Federal authorities Friday delivered a videotape and photographs of the kids into the compound "to assure the families inside that the children are well-cared for,' said Agent Ricks.He said the children, who are staying at an undisclosed location, "express a strong desire to be reunited with their families.'
Mr. Koresh laid to rest immediate concerns that he'll end the standoff by ending his own life.
"He has been specifically asked if there is an intent on his part to commit suicide. He has denied that,' said Agent Ricks, one of those in command at the scene of the standoff, about 10 miles east of Waco.
Nor, the agent said, will Mr. Koresh order the suicides of the more than 100 followers he says are with him in the compound.
The Associated Press, quoting an unidentified ATF official in Washington, said one reason ATF agents decided to storm the compound Sunday -- rather than surround it and demand Mr. Koresh's surrender -- was concern that members of the sect, known as Branch Davidian, would stage a mass suicide if given the chance. The agents intended to search the compound for illegal weapons and arrest Mr. Koresh on weapons charges.
ATF spokeswoman Sharon Wheeler called the statement from the unidentified source "absolutely false.'
Authorities refused to confirm the veracity of a Houston Chronicle interview with an unidentified member of the ATF raiding squad. The newspaper quoted the ATF agent as saying Mr. Koresh "smiled defiantly and slammed the front door' on agents right before his followers filled the air with gunfire.
In the hail of bullets, he said, were heavy rounds that easily penetrated automobiles and military-style helmets. In all, the agent was quoted as saying, the sect had amassed an arsenal valued at $100,000, including .50-caliber weapons "capable of going through a tank.'
Authorities believe that a telephone caller tipped the sect to the raid minutes before the ATF agents arrived. The source of that call is under investigation.
The last of the funerals for the slain agents were Friday. Services for Steve Willis were conducted in Houston, those for Todd McKeehan in Elizabethton, Tenn.
Sixteen ATF agents and an unknown number of sect members were wounded in the raid. The last of the ATF agents to remain in a Waco-area hospital was listed Friday as being in fair condition, with six wounds to the chest, abdomen and arms.
Mr. Koresh claims to have been wounded as well. On Friday, in response to his request, agents sent medical supplies -- including sutures and suturing tools -- into the compound.
The sect leader did not request a doctor, despite having said Sunday night that he was shot more than once and was bleeding profusely from a stomach wound.
On Friday, he spoke of a wound to the wrist, Agent Ricks said.
Preliminary examination of a body found Wednesday outside the sect's compound revealed that it was that of a man 25 to 35 who had been shot in the head, chest and thigh, said McLennan County Justice of the Peace David Pareya. Authorities believe that the man was a member of Branch Davidian.
There was no information released on the status of any bodies in the compound. Authorities are convinced, based in part on interviews with the children and two elderly women who've been allowed to leave, that some inside the fortress were killed in Sunday's gunbattle. If so, those corpses -- unless refrigerated -- would by now be severely decomposing, said a field investigator for the Dallas County medical examiner's office.
In one more small step toward rapprochement with Mr. Koresh, agents allowed his followers to haul outside the carcasses of two dogs killed in the shootout.
They also were permitted to release a goose.
Staff writers Bruce Tomaso and Lee Hancock in Dallas contributed to this report.
The Dallas Morning News
Getting the word out Koresh characterized as `street-smart' in bid for worldwide publicity on religious message
The besieged head of a Waco cult is a "very cagey, very street-smart' leader seeking worldwide publicity for his claim to be a messianic messenger from God, according to a source involved in negotiating an end to the six-day standoff.
`I don't think this guy would be hospitalized,' said the source, describing the apparent mental state of Branch Davidian leader David Koresh. "He's very good at control. . . . I would guess he thinks he is in control of this situation.'
The source said Mr. Koresh is intelligent and possesses "incredible charismatic skills.'
Federal officials have amassed a negotiating team including specialists from the FBI's behavioral science unit, its hostage response team, religious scholars and outside experts in psychological profiling.
FBI agents managing the ongoing Waco effort were instrumental in negotiating an end to an 11-day standoff with a heavily armed Idaho white supremacist in August 1992 and lengthy 1987 sieges involving Cuban inmates at two federal prisons. Members of the Waco team also negotiated a peaceful end to a two-day standoff in 1985 with the Arkansas white supremacist group the Cross, Sword and Arm of the Lord.
The source assisting in the Waco talks and other hostage negotiating experts say talks with Mr. Koresh and his besieged followers have been slow and laborious by necessity. The process involves establishing trust, making constant, deliberate moves to show that agents do not mean the group harm and gradually convincing Mr. Koresh that he can benefit from surrender.
In such long-term efforts, hostage experts said, negotiators usually view time as an ally.
"As long as nobody's getting hurt and as long as we're making even minimal progress, time is on your side,' said Robert K. Ressler, a former FBI official who taught hostage negotiations at the agency's academy in Quantico, Va. "As time goes on, people get less emotional, more rational.'
But the source involved in negotiations said discussions with the Waco leader are somewhat unusual.
`There are some real differences than normal negotiating. There's some differences about the way he operates that are unusual,' he said.
`The overwhelming majority of hostage situations involve people who have immediate personal crises. Those don't have nearly the kind of philosophy and mission behind them that he does. Here you're having to deal with an entire worldview.'
Initial discussions after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms negotiated a cease-fire Sunday were aimed at reassuring Mr. Koresh that federal authorities were not going to mount another assault, the source said.
In early contacts, the sect leader also appeared focused on practical considerations, such as his safety and the safety of his group.
"He was acting very concerned about everybody's safety and was shocked at the shootout,' the source said. "The impression left was that he was eager to have things resolved, but he was scared that things would go downhill. He thought that if he came out, he would be killed, and he was frightened that there was going to be another attack.'
The source said a decision by authorities to hold twice-daily news briefings probably was a calming influence on Mr. Koresh.
"One of the things that happened when there was not any (official) information coming out, the news reports . . . were more confrontational than the reality was,' he said.
"He'd be watching TV, getting these reports, and thinking, "Oh, my God, they're coming in on me,' ' the source said. "They need to be careful. He's certainly watching those shows.'
Gaining widespread publicity appears to be one of Mr. Koresh's chief aims, negotiators said.
"He's constantly talking about TV coverage. He challenges what happens (in news reports), says the media misunderstands him.' He said Mr. Koresh also feels "he's not being portrayed the way he wants to be portrayed.'
`He wants to be seen as a good guy who is peace-loving and means only the best for people. He wants to be seen as a munificent character who is leading this flock of people.
`I want to think that he's going to understand that he can have more influence by coming out than by staying in there -- that eventually that will hit him,' the source said.
`We're hoping he'll begin to believe that coming out will allow him to have more media contact and more long-term influence on people he can persuade to be followers and more notoriety instead of just being a weirdo.'
In his early discussions with negotiators, Mr. Koresh did not appear preoccupied with the prospect of impending apocalypse, the source said.
"He was not talking about apocalypse or Armageddon or standard biblical references to death,' the source said. "I suspect it's happening more now.'
In his initial contacts with The Dallas Morning News, CNN and KRLD-AM (1080), Mr. Koresh quoted Scripture extensively and detailed apocalyptic visions of what he characterized as his imminent death and the world's impending doom.
He also described himself to reporters as Jesus Christ.
The source and federal officials said, however, that Mr. Koresh has avoided characterizing himself to negotiators in direct messianic terms. On Friday, officials said he prefers to call himself a prophet.
"He doesn't say that (he's Christ) directly,' the source said.
Hinting at divinity
In his conversations with negotiators, Mr. Koresh has only hinted that he has divine powers -- suggesting that wounds he received during the initial assault are miraculously healing, according to the source.
"There's always been a question of if he's wounded, how can he go on so well? Maybe he wasn't wounded,' the source said.
The source said Mr. Koresh does appear convinced that he is communicating directly with God. On Tuesday, he reneged on promises to surrender, contending that he had been told by God to wait until he received a divine sign.
`People like this do believe they are talking to God. It's also a charismatic pull on his followers. It's really a successful manipulative routine, and they do believe it,' the source said.
On Monday afternoon, the source said, negotiators began developing an agreement that ultimately resulted in the broadcast Tuesday of a 58-minute tape from Mr. Koresh on a number of broadcast outlets. In exchange, Mr. Koresh assured negotiators that he and his followers would surrender.
`We really expected him to come out Tuesday,' the source said. Some news reports have criticized the decision to broadcast the message and an earlier written message that Mr. Koresh demanded as a condition of releasing children. Negotiating experts said both moves were sound but may have strengthened Mr. Koresh's sense of control.
`Reading the message is a fairly cheap price to pay for getting kids out alive. The downside of airing that and his tape is that you reinforce people's religiosity by acquiescing. It may be perceived as weakening your own position,' said Peter DiVasto, director of hostage negotiations for the U.S. Department of Energy who is based in Albuquerque, N.M.
Stalling for time
Mr. Ressler, who retired in 1990 as a part-founder and director of the FBI's behavioral sciences unit, said Mr. Koresh may have simply been stalling for time while seeking a visible display of his power over negotiators.
"He's exerting his own power, showing his own control,' Mr. Ressler said. "He has probably never had more power and authority in his life. He's holding the whole government at bay.
"And when one sits back and says he's communicating with God, it pretty much sets the pace for negotiation strategy. You're dealing with a person well wrapped up with grandiosity. You put him right in the same plane as Jim Jones -- a chronic progressive paranoid personality.'
The source involved in negotiations said he remains hopeful that Mr. Koresh is not contemplating mass suicide.
"I think in some ways, the longer it drags out and the more contact, the more talk, the more delay, the more likely it will be settled peacefully. I think that's why people are being careful,' the source said.
Some other experts in the psychology of hostage negotiations say they fear that the situation inside the compound could become more volatile as time drags on.
"It would play into this guy's ego to take out everyone with him,' Mr. Ressler said.
Wayman Mullins, a psychologist who has served as a consultant for hostage negotiating teams with the San Antonio, Austin and Killeen police departments, said time could strengthen the group's religious feelings and devotion to Mr. Koresh.
Dr. Mullins described Mr. Koresh's mindset this way, "It ultimately reaches the point where there is only one salvation for the human race -- that's for me to die, and for me to die as a martyr.'
And, added Dr. Mullins:
"If it drags on long enough, the period around Easter is a crucial period. With the Messiah complex he has, he may think, "That's when Jesus died. that's when I die.' '
Dr. Mullins, who teaches criminal justice at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, said the Davidians "could conceivably hold out for months.'
"You're talking about a place they've been building for years. That place is more fortified than some military installations. They're ready for Armageddon.'
"My advice: Get a lot of cofee and hunker down and wait. I think this is going to be a long one. I don't see this resolving itself soon, and I don't see it resolving itself peacefully.'