Cult Says Three Men To Leave Compound
WACO, Texas (AP) _ Federal agents locked in a standoff with a doomsday cult for a 12th day were told three men would leave the group’s fortified compound today, the first to exit in nearly a week.
A member of the Branch Davidians told the FBI early today that three men, including an Australian, had received permission from sect leader David Koresh to leave, FBI Agent Dick Swensen.
″I think it’s an excellent sign that three people are going to be coming out,″ Swensen said.
But he cautioned, ″Until they come out, we won’t be comfortable that they are coming out.″ Last week, Koresh reneged on an agreement to surrender the entire cult in exchange for having a lengthy statement of his played on radio.
Koresh has allowed 21 children and two elderly women to leave the sect since a deadly shootout Feb. 28 with federal agents who tried to arrest him. The shootout killed four agents and an unknown number of Branch Davidian sect members dead.
One of the men said to be ready to leave was identified as Oliver Gyarfas of Australia, Swensen said. He was unsure of the spelling of the man’s name.
Koresh, an apocalyptic preacher who has claimed to be Jesus Christ, has not talked with agents since Tuesday evening, Swensen said.
But cult member Steve Schneider, who has taken a leading role in the talks with agents, occasionally consults with Koresh, the FBI said.
″He’s still remotely or indirectly involved,″ Swensen said.
On Wednesday, agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms carried out raids in La Verne, Calif., and Richland, S.C., of arms transactions involving the cult.
″We’re looking into many different sources of arms for Mr. Koresh,″ said Dan Conroy, ATF deputy associate director.
Federal agents have said Koresh and his followers have a huge cache of weapons, including semiautomatic and automatic guns.
The search of a house owned by the cultists in California yielded audio and video tapes and other records ″that reflect evidence of violence by David Koresh and others″ in the cult, Conroy said. He would not give details.
Conroy did not elaborate on the search of Shooters Equipment Co. in South Carolina. No phone listing for such a company could be found, and the ATF said no such company existed in South Carolina with a federal firearms license.
In another development, Woodrow Kendrick, a 62-year-old described in 1988 court documents as a member of the cult’s governing body, was arrested Wednesday and charged with attempted murder of a federal agent, Conroy said.
Kendrick, who didn’t live on the compound, was arrested in Waco without incident, and two semiautomatic pistols were taken, Conroy said. Conroy offered no other details on the arrest and Kendrick’s whereabouts since the shootout.
For the second day Wednesday, the cultists displayed a banner calling for help - apparently in response to suggestions from a KGBS-AM talk show host. The compound’s telephone contact with anyone but law officers has been cut off.
The FBI criticized the Dallas radio station for trying to communicate on its own with the cult and for urging members to signal with a banner.
″They are going to try to reach out to you and try to divert our efforts to get this matter settled,″ FBI agent Bob Ricks said. ″These efforts are counterproductive.″
KGBS program director Jim Long said the station was not hindering the FBI and would abide by any of its requests.