The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:Diane Jennings

Agents doubt Koresh will surrender soon

WACO -- Cult leader David Koresh could take months to finish his biblical opus, leaving federal authorities doubtful about whether he will make good on his vow to give up when finished.

The endless talks and no sign of surrender has frustrated some federal agents, who say Mr. Koresh is receiving more attention than their comrades wounded and killed in a Feb. 28 raid that began the seven-week standoff.

"Everyone is focused on a man who murdered four federal agents or ordered other people to do it. The agents who were killed, their families, their children, have all kind of been forgotten here. Who are the victims here?' said Bill Buford, an agent of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms from Little Rock who was wounded during the initial raid.

Agent Buford, who still has two bullets lodged in his thigh, was one of six agents who tried to take the compound's second-story armory in the first seconds of the assault.

He was shot several times in the leg while inside the armory, broke several ribs in a fall from the compound's roof and was shot again as he lay wounded on the ground. Although he has returned to work and no longer has to use a cane, Agent Buford, 47, said he has lingering nerve damage and does not know whether his injuries will require more operations.

In Waco, FBI Agent Bob Ricks resorted to sports metaphors and cartoon references to describe how federal authorities feel after waiting 48 days for the cult leader to surrender.

"Do we go see if he's going to bat zero for four,' Agent Ricks asked, referring to Mr. Koresh's three broken promises about leaving, "or do we trust him one more time?

"It's sort of like the Peanuts cartoon. Is Lucy going to pull that football out one more time? You get the impression that's probably what's going to happen.'

According to the Bible's book of Revelation, the seven seals hold the plagues and natural disasters expected to befall humans during the world's final days.

Mr. Koresh has told negotiators he spent three to four days working on his writings about the first seal, producing 28 to 30 pages of a handwritten manuscript. That work has yet to be edited by his chief aide, Steve Schneider, however, Agent Ricks said.

The religious sect's heavily armed compound has been surrounded by federal agents since Feb. 28, when an unsuccessful attempt to serve a search warrant resulted in a firefight that left four agents dead and 16 wounded. An unknown number of cult members were also killed.

Agent Ricks would not say how long federal authorities were willing to wait for Mr. Koresh to surrender peacefully.

"We have to continue to plan, study, see what our options are,' he said.

Also Friday, U.S. Judge Walter Smith ruled that cult member Kevin Whitecliff, 31, must remain in custody. Mr. Whitecliff, who left the compound March 19, faces a two-count indictment charging conspiracy to murder federal officers and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Staff writer Lee Hancock contributed to this report.