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FBI Tightens Security; Militia Leader, Davidian Turned Away

April 17, 1996

JORDAN, Mont. (AP) _ Federal agents increased security around the barricaded Freemen compound Tuesday while a militia leader turned away from federal headquarters said he was trying to avoid ``a field of battle.″

Michigan militia leader Norman Olson said he was trying to meet with the FBI field commander at the temporary headquarters in Jordan, about 30 miles from the compound.

``We are trying to come with an extended hand, trying to find some resolution, so that his people and the militia do not have to converge on a field of battle where there is going to be bloodshed and there’s going to be violence,″ Olson said in an interview aired on WCBS radio.

Afterward, Olson drove to the main FBI checkpoint outside the compound to announce that he would try again Wednesday to meet with FBI officials. He didn’t attempt to go on the Freemen compound.

Security was noticeably tighter Tuesday around the 960-acre farm complex where the anti-government extremists have holed up for 23 days. A normally open road leading to the compound was blocked and vehicles were searched more thoroughly.

In addition to Olson, his colleague Ray Southwell and Don Vos, the brigadier general of the Columbiana County Unorganized Militia in Ohio, were reportedly in Montana, but were not seen near the Freeman compound.

Meanwhile, a former Branch Davidian claiming to be a journalist was refused entrance to a restricted area near the compound. Two people with him were allowed to go in.

Wally Kennett, who said he is a reporter for The Courier newspaper in Hatch, N.M., said the FBI barred him because they were unable to verify that an outstanding warrant had been cleared. The FBI wouldn’t comment.

The number for the newspaper was disconnected Tuesday and there was no listing for Kennett.

Kennett, 32, said he left the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, a year before it was destroyed by fire during an assault by federal agents after a 57-day standoff.

Two people, a man and a woman, were allowed on the Freemen compound. The FBI, who have let some family members and visitors go inside, would not identify the pair.

A Freeman on a tractor finished plowing an alfalfa field Tuesday, another sign that the group, most of whom are farmers by trade, have no intention of surrendering soon.

The standoff near this small town on the eastern Montana plains began after federal agents arrested Freemen leaders LeRoy Schweitzer, 57, and Daniel Petersen, 53, on a variety of charges. Since then three other Freemen, including a mother and son, have surrendered.

About 10 others in the compound are wanted on state and federal charges ranging from writing bad checks and impersonating public officials to threatening to kidnap and murder a federal judge.

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