The Dallas Morning News
DATE:03/20/93
BYLINE:Victoria Loe, Lee Hancock

2 leave sect compound; Koresh talks to agents

WACO -- Two men left the besieged Branch Davidian compound Friday night following a day in which federal negotiators said cult leader David Koresh expressed a desire "to get this thing resolved.'

The two men, who appeared to be young and white, were driven out of the compound area about 8:30 p.m. in a red, four-wheel-drive vehicle accompanied front and rear by Texas Department of Public Safety vehicles.

Federal authorities would not comment. There were indications from authorities that the two may be cult members who had discussed leaving with authorities earlier this week.

They bring to 27 the number of people who have left the sect's compound since a gunbattle Feb. 28 left four federal agents dead. Mr. Koresh and 102 of his followers -- by his count -- are still in the compound, with federal, state and county authorities outside.

In a news briefing Friday morning, FBI Special Agent Bob Ricks said negotiators had had an early-morning conversation with Mr. Koresh and he assured them that he will not commit suicide, because he realizes that surrendering is the only way to spread his message.

Agent Ricks would not characterize Mr. Koresh's remarks as a breakthrough but said the brief conversation marked "a complete change in Mr. Koresh's demeanor' and a newfound willingness "to focus on the main issue.'

"He has a message to get across, and he realizes that if he is killed, his message won't get out,' the agent said.

He summarized Mr. Koresh's attitude as: "Let's take some time. I think we can work it out.'

Asked how long "some time' might be, Agent Ricks said his impression was that Mr. Koresh meant "days rather than weeks.'

He attributed Mr. Koresh's change of heart to "certain astrological signs' that the cult leader apparently interprets as favorable -- perhaps even as his long-awaited message from God. Mr. Koresh reneged on a promise to surrender March 2, saying he was waiting for divine guidance.

No unusual astronomical events are expected within the next few days, said Sandra Barnes, director of public information for the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory.

But the vernal equinox -- when the sun is directly above the equator, making day and night equal in length around the world, and marking the beginning of spring -- will occur Saturday.

A new moon is due Monday, and Dallas astrologist Dan Fry noted that Easter, which falls on April 11, is an astrologically significant period.

Agent Ricks rejected a suggestion that a change in the government's tactics was designed to "squeeze' the Branch Davidians into compliance.

Mr. Koresh's abrupt change of tone came just one day after Agent Ricks had painted him as a weak leader and the chief obstacle to a resolution of the 20-day-old siege.

Friday, negotiators again bombarded the Branch Davidian compound with taped messages. They began Thursday with amplified recordings of previous negotiating sessions -- in effect sidestepping Mr. Koresh to take government offers directly to cult members.

Negotiators played a tape from Wednesday, when buses were sent to the compound to pick up as many as 30 Branch Davidians who said they wanted to leave. Agent Ricks said negotiators on that day challenged Mr. Koresh to show true leadership by letting his people go. The buses left empty after Mr. Koresh broke off talks.

Agent Ricks said negotiators decided to broadcast the tapes because they feared cult leaders were not accurately relaying the government's offers to other cult members.

After speaking to Mr. Koresh on Friday morning, Agent Ricks said, a package was delivered to the compound containing copies of the search and arrest warrants carried by federal agents when they entered the property Feb. 28.

Agent Ricks said the package also contained audio tapes recorded by religious scholars; recent copies of Time, Newsweek and People magazines; and messages from lawyers who have been hired to represent various cult members.

He said that although negotiators wanted people in the compound to know they will have legal representation once they surrender, no deals had been struck regarding immunity from detention or prosecution.

Agent Ricks also said officers cleared the compound grounds of debris and removed four 55-gallon drums of diesel fuel and gasoline Thursday. He said the moves were strictly to ensure agents' safety by improving sight lines and removing potential incendiary devices.

As evidence of Mr. Koresh's improved spirits, the agent said the cult leader even joked with negotiators about removal of the drums, saying he was scared one might explode.

Despite his optimism, Agent Ricks acknowledged that Mr. Koresh has yet to back his conciliatory words with actions. The FBI spokesman said negotiators told Mr. Koresh that they "expect positive signs to start coming out' of the compound, but he did not say what those signs might be.

As the standoff ground toward its fourth week, Agent Ricks said that the government's ability to shape public perception of Mr. Koresh may be a more potent weapon than tanks and helicopter gunships.

In response to a question, he said the daily media briefings, which often focus on characterizations of Mr. Koresh, are a megaphone through which authorities convey a message to their adversary.

"We are definitely trying to reach him,' Agent Ricks said.

Although electricity to the compound was shut off more than a week ago, Agent Ricks said cult members using battery-operated radios can monitor news reports.

Agent Ricks also said that negotiators had debated for days whether to supply the magazines requested by Mr. Koresh. He said they feared the generally negative portrayals of the cult leader might harm the talks.

In the end, however, Agent Ricks said negotiators decided that Mr. Koresh's desire to correct what he sees as unfair and inaccurate reporting may be a lever to dislodge him from his lair.

"If he wants it told his way, he'll have to come out,' Agent Ricks said. "I think he realizes that.'

The FBI spokesman brushed aside suggestions that agents' public statements or the loudspeaker broadcasts were efforts to foment a schism inside the group.

"Most members have great confidence in Mr. Koresh,' he said. "He sets any agenda and any itinerary.'


The Dallas Morning News
DATE:03/20/93
BYLINE:Victoria Loe

Koresh wants standoff resolved, FBI says

WACO -- Federal negotiators put David Koresh on record Friday as wanting "to get this thing resolved.'

After an early morning conversation with Mr. Koresh, FBI Special Agent Bob Ricks said Mr. Koresh assured negotiators he will not commit suicide, because he realizes that surrendering is the only way to spread his message.

Mr. Koresh and 104 followers of the Branch Davidian sect have been holed up in their rural compound since a gunbattle Feb. 28 left four federal agents dead.

Agent Ricks would not characterize Mr. Koresh's remarks as a breakthrough but said the brief conversation marked "a complete change in Mr. Koresh's demeanor' and a newfound willingness "to focus on the main issue.'

"He has a message to get across, and he realizes that if he is killed, his message won't get out,' the agent said.

He summarized Mr. Koresh's attitude as: "Let's take some time. I think we can work it out.'

Asked how long "some time' might be, Agent Ricks said his impression was that Mr. Koresh meant "days rather than weeks.'

He attributed Mr. Koresh's change of heart to "certain astrological signs' that the cult leader apparently interprets as favorable -- perhaps even as his long-awaited message from God. Mr. Koresh reneged on a promise to surrender March 2, saying he was waiting for divine guidance.

No unusual astronomical events are expected within the next few days, said Sandra Barnes, director of public information for the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory.

But the vernal equinox -- when the sun is directly above the equator, making day and night equal in length around the world, and marking the beginning of spring -- will occur Saturday.

A new moon is due March 23, and Dallas astrologist Dan Fry noted that Easter, which falls on April 11, is an astrologically significant period.

Agent Ricks rejected a suggestion that a change in the government's tactics was designed to "squeeze' the Branch Davidians into compliance.

Mr. Koresh's abrupt change of tone came just one day after Agent Ricks had painted him as a weak leader and the chief obstacle to a resolution of the 20-day-old siege.

Friday, negotiators again bombarded the Branch Davidian compound with taped messages. They began Thursday with amplified recordings of previous negotiating sessions -- in effect sidestepping Mr. Koresh to take government offers directly to cult members.

Negotiators played a tape from Wednesday, when buses were sent to the compound to pick up as many as 30 Branch Davidians who said they wanted to leave. Agent Ricks said negotiators on that day challenged Mr. Koresh to show true leadership by letting his people go. The buses left empty after Mr. Koresh broke off talks.

Agent Ricks said negotiators decided to broadcast the tapes because they feared cult leaders were not accurately relaying the government's offers to other cult members.

After speaking to Mr. Koresh on Friday morning, Agent Ricks said, a package was delivered to the compound containing copies of the search and arrest warrants carried by federal agents when they entered the property Feb. 28.

Agent Ricks said the package also contained audio tapes recorded by religious scholars, recent copies of Time, Newsweek and People magazines and messages from lawyers who have been hired to represent various cult members.

He said that although negotiators wanted people in the compound to know they will have legal representation once they surrender, no deals had been struck regarding immunity from detention or prosecution.

Agent Ricks also said officers cleared the compound grounds of debris and removed four 55-gallon drums of diesel fuel and gasoline Thursday. He said the moves were strictly to ensure agents' safety by improving sight lines and removing potential incendiary devices.

As evidence of Mr. Koresh's improved spirits, the agent said the cult leader even joked with negotiators about removal of the drums, saying he was scared one might explode.

Despite his optimism, Agent Ricks acknowledged that Mr. Koresh has yet to back his conciliatory words with actions. The FBI spokesman said negotiators told Mr. Koresh they "expect positive signs to start coming out' of the compound, but he did not say what those signs might be.

As the standoff ground toward its fourth week, Agent Ricks said that the government's ability to shape public perception of Mr. Koresh may be a more potent weapon than tanks and helicopter gunships.

In response to a question, he said the daily media briefings, which often focus on characterizations of Mr. Koresh, are a megaphone through which authorities convey a message to their adversary.

"We are definitely trying to reach him,' Agent Ricks said.

Although electricity to the compound was shut off more than a week ago, Agent Ricks said cult members using battery-operated radios can monitor news reports.

Agent Ricks also said that negotiators had debated for days whether to supply the magazines requested by Mr. Koresh. He said they feared the generally negative portrayals of the cult leader might harm the talks.

In the end, however, Agent Ricks said negotiators decided that Mr. Koresh's desire to correct what he sees as unfair and inaccurate reporting may be a lever to dislodge him from his lair.

"If he wants it told his way, he'll have to come out,' Agent Ricks said. "I think he realizes that.'

The FBI spokesman brushed aside suggestions that agents' public statements or the loudspeaker broadcasts were efforts to foment a schism inside the group.

"Most members have great confidence in Mr. Koresh,' he said. "He sets any agenda and any itinerary.'