The Dallas Morning News
BYLINE:Lee Hancock

U.S. agents clear debris outside cult compound

WACO -- Federal agents cleared debris outside the besieged Branch Davidian compound Sunday while reporters snoozed and crowds gathered to gawk near an outdoor market of cult memorabilia.

FBI officials did not schedule a news briefing for the second consecutive Sunday, but one federal official said Sunday that authorities had learned little from a Houston man who left the compound Saturday afternoon.

Louis Anthony Alaniz, a 24-year-old described by his family as a religious fanatic, was released Saturday afternoon, three weeks after he crept past a small army of federal agents to enter the Branch Davidian compound.

"We got nothing out of him of any value at all,' the federal official said.

Mr. Alaniz remained jailed Sunday on state charges of interfering with a police officer and federal detention as a material witness.

Early in the afternoon a Bradley armored vehicle cleared trees and towed a black Camaro, the favorite car of cult leader David Koresh. Throughout the standoff, FBI officials have said they clear debris for defensive purposes.

There were no other new developments in the standoff's 50th day. On Feb. 28 authorities tried to serve a search warrant on Mr. Koresh. In the ensuing gunbattle four agents and an unknown number of cult members were killed.

At the entrance to FM2941, the road leading to the compound, more than 100 gawkers gathered on a dusty hillside to try to see the compound in the distance and look at the wares assembled by a half-dozen souvenir vendors.

"It ain't been as good this week as last week, but there are a lot of people out here,' said a Dallas man, displaying beer holders bearing Mr. Koresh's visage and a half-dozen different cult T-shirts on a dusty folding table.

And at a roadblock about 1 1/2 miles from the compound, the dwindling ranks of media people still waiting out the siege sunned themselves and watched television while Salvation Army workers discussed tentative plans to remove a mobile canteen that has fed the press since the standoff began.

Several Salvation Army volunteers sported dozens of media pins collected during the standoff. And a young boy wearing a T-shirt emblazoned "D'vidians, D'Guerin, D'Zimmerman, D'End?' showed off his latest acquisition: A cap with four agency lapel pins, including one shaped like a crawfish.

A lone camera crew shot footage of the empty lawn chairs and roadside sand and gravel spits left behind by news satellite trucks and campers that have vacated the area dubbed "Satellite City.'

"Why are you still here?' the crew's sound man asked a lone reporter as his cameraman angled for a shot. "Sorry to blindside you, but there's not much to report out here today.'