The Dallas Morning News
Negotiator for sect is called devout Officials say he's taking `more dominant role'
Branch Davidian member Steve Schneider, who authorities said Wednesday is taking a "more dominant role' in negotiations, is regarded as one of David Koresh's most loyal followers.
"He is an individual that you will have to say is totally committed to this operation,' FBI Special Agent Bob Ricks said in Waco.
Agent Hicks said Mr. Schneider, when he entered the compound, "willingly gave up his wife to David Koresh. That takes a lot of dedication.'
Judy Schneider Koresh remains in the cult's compound, among those wounded in the Feb. 28 shootout, Agent Ricks said.
Since the first day of the siege, Mr. Schneider, 42, acted as a spokesman for the group. After the initial gunbattle, Mr. Koresh gave a lengthy telephone interview with The Dallas Morning News, then handed the phone to Mr. Schneider.
He described himself as a lifelong searcher for spiritual truth, and said Mr. Koresh's teachings satisfied him as no others had. "I'm a person who always loved truth, and I found an unending source,' Mr. Schneider said.
He joined the cult in the mid-1980s, after Mr. Koresh made a recruiting trip to Hawaii. In 1986, Mr. Schneider received a bachelor's degree in religion from the University of Hawaii.
Agent Ricks said Mr. Schneider may be playing a larger role in the negotiations because of injuries Mr. Koresh suffered.
"We cannot say -- we can speculate -- that perhaps he's (Mr. Schneider) taken over a leadership role because of the absence of Mr. Koresh's participation,' Agent Ricks said.
Of late, those negotiations have turned testy, with some cult members becoming increasingly belligerent, he said.
In addition to serving as Mr. Koresh's spokesman, Mr. Schneider worked with Mr. Koresh on his musical career. A business card for Mr. Koresh's music business, Cyrus Productions, lists Mr. Schneider as manager.
The Dallas Morning News
Officials flooded with tips, insights on Koresh, his message
CORRECTIONS, CLARIFICATIONS: 1. On Page 27A Thursday, the name of KRLD's station manager was misspelled. His name is Barry Seraphin. (Ran: Friday, March 12, 1993) 2. On Page 2A Friday, a correction misidentified Charlie Seraphin, the station manager of KRLD-AM radio (1080). (Ran: Saturday, March 13, 1993)
WACO -- The callers believe that Armageddon is at hand and that they can help federal authorities break the siege at the Branch Davidian compound east of Waco.
The siege by federal and state authorities of more than 100 followers of David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidian sect, at their compound has prompted a flood of phone calls to authorities offering help in understanding Mr. Koresh's apocalyptic message.
Sociologists say the extensive media coverage of the siege offers people with similar beliefs a relatively painless way to spread their religious message.
For agents of the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, it's a nuisance of monumental scope.
Federal authorities said the calls began coming in the day after the siege began Feb. 28 at the heavily armed fortress compound that Mr. Koresh sometimes referred to as Ranch Apocalypse. And they just kept coming. And coming.
Over the first eight days of the standoff, FBI officials logged more than 2,000 phone calls around the clock, from all over the world, offering Biblical insights and help in understanding Mr. Koresh.
Many came from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, according to federal authorities. Many of the followers of Mr. Koresh barricaded behind the compound's fortified walls are believed to be converts he gained during a visit to those countries several years ago.
"It's amazing how many have come out of the woodwork. It's just been mind-boggling,' said one federal agent close to the investigation, who asked not to be named. "We've gotten a lot of calls from self-styled cult experts who say they can get Koresh out of his compound. But mainly, it's religious types who say they're able to give Biblical interpretations from the Old and New Testament of what David Koresh is talking about.'
Most of the callers told authorities they believe that Mr. Koresh is correct in preaching the coming of the end of the world, authorities said.
The messages initially clogged phones at the McLennan County sheriff's office and the Waco Police Department until federal authorities routed callers to the FBI office in San Antonio.
Callers' names and phone numbers were then faxed to FBI and ATF negotiators in Waco for any potential intelligence purposes, federal officials said.
Joe Handley, FBI spokesman for the San Antonio office referred all media calls about the offers to the FBI negotiating team in Waco. An agent answering the FBI command center in Waco declined to comment on the flood of calls from well-meaning evangelicals, as did a spokesman for the ATF.
"The media coverage is a tremendous vehicle to help them spread the word to the world,' said Dr. Russell Curtis, a sociologist at the University of Houston. "It's what we sociologists call the "free rider effect' -- the story gives them vicarious recognition and a way to proselytize without pain.'
Dr. Curtis also said that the media coverage helps create a modeling effect among those people who identify with Mr. Koresh or his religious beliefs.
For example, he said, "there's a lot of similarity in the situation in Waco with the well-documented occurrences of many suicides following a highly publicized suicide.'
Dallas radio station KRLD-AM (1080) also has received tips and offers from "every weirdo and wacko in the world,' said station manager Charlie Seraphim.
KRLD was drawn into the standoff early on when Mr. Koresh offered to release children from the compound if the station would broadcast a religious message from him.
Mr. Seraphim says he weeds out "about 99 percent' of the calls. He said he passes any that seem to have substance to the federal agents handling the case.
Mr. Seraphim told of one envelope that arrived at the station addressed to Vernon Howell -- Mr. Koresh's former name -- in care of the FBI. Where the return address would normally have been were the words "Message from God.' The envelope contained a novel about Vietnam.
One caller to The Dallas Morning News sought Mr. Koresh's date and place of birth (Aug. 17, 1959, in Houston). She explained that she and others interested in astrology wanted to work out Mr. Koresh's astrological chart.
David Oates, founder and president of Reverse Speech International Inc. of Wylie, says that his analysis of Mr. Koresh's 58-minute tape broadcast March 2 on KRLD indicates that the cult leader "wants to be heard and accepted, hopefully as the prophet of God, but at the very least as a sane man who loves God.'
Mr. Oates contacted The News this week and said he has been in touch with federal negotiators near the cult's compound, but he said he didn't know how much credence, if any, negotiators give his analysis. He acknowledged that his process of listening to a person's speech in reverse to detect subconscious messages is a relatively new technique and is not broadly accepted.
Mr. Oates faxed printed passages from Mr. Koresh's tape, along with reversals that he said he found in Mr. Koresh's speech at the same time.
For example, Mr. Oates said, when Mr. Koresh said, " . . . we know he just gave counsel to the seven churches of Asia,' he was also saying in reverse speech, "Let me warn you.'
In that case, the forward and reverse dialogues had a connection.
In others, there is no connection. As an example, he said, when Mr. Koresh was saying, " . . . dollars cannot tell you. Look at all these courses. They don't know. Again it's found again in Isaish 45,' this unconnected reverse dialogue came through: "I fought no one/Don't want to kill/I feel afraid.'
"Its almost like he has his religious fervor and his humanity, and they are battling,' Mr. Oates said.
Staff writers Victoria Loe and Lowery Metts in Dallas contributed to this report.
The Dallas Morning News
Cult displays banner seeking talks with rights group
CORRECTIONS, CLARIFICATIONS: On Page 26A Thursday, Dallas radio station KGBS-AM (1190) was incorrectly described. The station's format is talk radio. (Ran: Friday, March 12, 1993)
WACO -- Cagily trying to communicate with the outside world, Branch Davidians draped another banner from their compound watchtower Wednesday, this one asking for a meeting with representatives of a self-proclaimed constitutional rights group.
It was the second consecutive day that cult members tried the strategy, aimed directly at scores of reporters stationed about two miles from the besieged compound.
The sign hung out on Wednesday read: "We want CFA & Don Stewart.' CFA refers to Constitution Foundational Association, a group based in Richland Hills.
Don Stewart is a Portland, Ore., consultant who says he has worked contractually for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The banner asking for the meeting was displayed in response to a request from a religious radio station in Dallas, KGBS-AM (1190).
Ron Engelman, a talk show host, asked cult members who were listening to the station Tuesday evening to hang out the sign if they wanted to talk to the Constitution Foundational Association and Mr. Stewart. Mr. Engelman also said two Portland doctors had traveled to Waco with Mr. Stewart and were willing to enter the compound to treat those wounded in the gunbattle with ATF agents on Feb. 28.
The radio station was promoting Mr. Stewart and the group as people who might be able to negotiate a settlement. Federal officials firmly rejected the offer, saying that any outside attempts to communicate with the cult would be counterproductive and interfere with negotiations.
"He wants to put out his message. And the longer that he feels he's able to capture the attention nationwide of the media . . . we believe he will continue to hold out,' said FBI Special Agent Bob Ricks of Oklahoma City.
Jim Long, KGBS program director, denied that his radio station was hindering the negotiation process. "All they had to do was tell us to leave,' he says. "What did we do? We left. How could we hinder the process? We don't have guns; we don't have an army of personnel down there. If anything else, maybe we opened up the process.'
Mr. Long, who has been program director for only two days, characterized his station's actions as "humanitarian first and freedom of speech second. That is our priority.'
Mr. Engelman, however, said his station will continue trying to communicate with cult members despite the FBI criticism.
There have been no specific reports on how many cult members were killed or wounded in the battle, but Branch Davidian children released from the compound have described gunshot injuries to several members.
Four ATF agents were killed and 16 wounded in the incident.
"I think both sides should be told,' said Mr. Engelman, referring to the cult's account of events. He went to Waco to see the Branch Davidian compound.
Phone lines in and out of the compound are controlled by federal agents, who have been negotiating with cult leader David Koresh and others.
Mr. Stewart, who was involved in another siege in Idaho last year, said he was offering his services to end the standoff without further bloodshed. "The main thing is to get the people out,' he said.
Mr. Stewart also criticized the federal agency for the the way it handled the cult and Mr. Koresh.
Greg Sali, president of the Constitution Foundational Association, said his organization was interested in bringing a "peaceful solution' to the standoff. Mr. Sali said his group had no previous connection with the Branch Davidians.
"We don't know them. We have never met them,' he said. "But they are American citizens and have the same rights as everybody else.'
Mr. Sali said the Branch Davidians have the right to bear arms and defend themselves. But he added, "He (Koresh) needs to be brought to justice if he broke the law.'
Mr. Sali said he was involved in a petition drive in Idaho last year to put Dallas businessman Ross Perot's name on the ballot in last year's presidential election. Mr. Sali later became disenchanted with the movement and quit.
Richard Ortt, Constitution Foundational vice president, told The Associated Press that the "group of patriots' was formed in part after an Idaho incident last year when Randy Weaver held off federal agents for 11 days after a shootout killed his wife and a U.S. marshal. Mr. Stewart was identified as someone experienced in negotiations who has appeared on a talk show broadcast on KGBS.
On Tuesday, cult members first displayed a white banner, and then one which stated: "God help us. We want the press.'
Staff writer Diane Jennings contributed to this report.
The Dallas Morning News
Agents claim control Man arrested outside cult site
WACO -- Federal agents said Wednesday they are in "complete control' of a heavily fortified religious cult and announced the arrest of a man who apparently fled the sect's compound after a firefight.
Authorities also expressed concern over news media efforts to orchestrate communications directly with the cult's leader, David Koresh.
"This has caused the negotiation process to divert from trying to gain release of all those inside to Mr. Koresh's attempts to gain access to the media,' said FBI Agent Bob Ricks. "This is counterproductive.'
Initially, federal negotiators thought that giving Mr. Koresh access to the media would be useful, but Agent Ricks said: "We found that he loves the attention. If he sees he can get the attention of the media, the longer he will hold out.'
As the standoff moved into its 12th day, a group of lawyers went to federal court in Waco in an effort to gain access to Mr. Koresh and his followers.
"Before anyone else dies, please call me,' said North Carolina lawyer Kirk Lyons in an open letter to Mr. Koresh.
All outside communications to the group have been cut off, and the FBI said Wednesay that it learning more of the inner workings of the Branch Davidian sect.
Agent Ricks said a core group exists within the sect, "with certain trusted males, called the Mighty Men, allowed to carry weapons around the compound. Another group, the SS, are apparently also involved in enforcement.'
Woodrow Kendrick, 62, was the second man arrested in connection with the Feb. 28 shootout with Branch Davidian sect members that left four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents dead.
Mr. Kendrick arrived at a nearby mobile home of a cult member that Sunday, wet and cold, said the cult member's mother, Mary Jones.
Then, the sound of gunfire echoed a few miles away at the Branch Davidian religious compound where her son, David, and his three young children were, she said Wednesday.
"I asked him what was going on, had he done something wrong,' Mrs. Jones said. "He just said he had fallen down. That he hadn't done anything wrong.'
Mr. Kendrick, an itinerant handyman, allegedly was involved in a brief skirmish outside the compound that afternoon, said Dan Conroy, deputy assistant director of the ATF. The second gunbattle left one cult member, identified as Michael Schroeder, dead, and another, Del-roy Nash, wounded and placed in federal custody. Mr. Schroeder's wife, Kathryn, is believed to be in the compound.
Mr. Conroy declined to explain how Mr. Kendrick could elude federal agents surrounding the compound and make his way four miles to the trailer home where he was arrested by Texas Rangers.
Mr. Conroy said Mr. Kendrick's arrest was without incident, and two semi-automatic pistols, a .380-caliber and a 9mm, were seized. All arrest information has been sealed by a federal court, Mr. Conroy said.
Mr. Kendrick is being held without bail after an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Dennis Green.
At the home, Mrs. Jones warily answered questions about Mr. Kendrick. Although he claimed to be a member of the Branch Davidian sect, he didn't live at the compound or visit there often, she said.
After arriving at the trailer, she said, they monitored news accounts of events for the next nine days.
Mr. Kendrick did odd jobs for sect members, Mrs. Jones said, working most recently at the Mag Bag, a large metal shed near the compound. ATF agents with a search warrant raided it Tuesday, finding six shotgun shells.
Mrs. Jones said Mr. Kendrick is the father of her son's ex-wife, Kathy Jones.
Federal authorities Wednesday identified David Jones as one of four sect members confirmed as suffering gunshot wounds.
Mrs. Jones declined to discuss her three grandchildren, who are now in state custody, or the efforts by her former daughter-in-law to regain custody.
During the news briefing Wednesday, Mr. Conroy also announced that ATF agents had raided Shooter's Equipment in Richland, S.C., on Tuesday to try to find evidence in connection with arms sales to Mr. Koresh or cult members.
Information on that raid and another conducted that day in LaVerne, Calif., has also been sealed by federal authorities, Mr. Conroy said.
Besides Mr. Schroeder, authorities said cult members identified the other follower killed in the initial assault as Peter Gent of Australia. Authorities stressed there has been no independent confirmation, although family members have been notified.
In discussions with cult members, Agent Ricks said agents confirmed that four sect members suffered gunshot wounds.
Agent Ricks also said that Mr. Koresh has consistently refused to give in to federal negotiators' continuing requests for the release of more people from the compound.
"That would violate my God-given views,' agents quoted Mr. Koresh as saying. "I'm dealing with God, not you.'
Meanwhile, another copy of a videotape of children released from the compound was delivered after sect members complained that the first was a blank. Members then complained that the children weren't being disciplined properly.
"They were particularly disturbed that the children were eating candy, drinking Cokes, watching TV, and one child was seen jumping on a couch,' Agent Ricks said.
Agent Ricks reiterated that negotiations continue, with sect member Steve Schneider, 42, a Koresh associate, taking a larger role. Mr. Schneider's wife was one of those wounded.
Agent Ricks said the FBI has control of telephone communications to the cult, can cut its electricity at will and can control the conflict in other ways.
"We can turn off the electricity or cut off any access they have to the outside world. We will use that at various times, and it will be used until this is resolved,' he said.
Agent Ricks said negotiators have talked to 70 cult members since the abortive assault, but some are duplications and they're trying to reconcile accurate numbers of all those involved.
Mr. Koresh has said 90 adults and 17 children remain in the compound.
He also said that several sect members have asked what charges they face. They were told they will have legal representation and be given a forum to tell their side, Agent Ricks said.
Mr. Lyons, executive director of the Cause Foundation, and a group of other lawyers are pressing to provide such legal advice. A ruling on the lawyers' motion in federal court to force authorities to provide them access to the cult is expected after government lawyers have responded in writing.
Meanwhile, Wednesday in Washington, ATF Director Stephen Higgins again defended the agents who stormed the Branch Davidian compound.
"The (agents) did exactly what they were trained to do,' Mr. Higgins told members of the House appropriations subcommittee that allocates ATF funding.
Mr. Higgins also deflected criticism his agency has drawn from outside experts since the raid.
Once the facts about the operation are known, Mr. Higgins said, "I suspect some of these "self-styled experts' may have to hang their heads.'