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Cult Leader Tries to Rattle Agents With Rock Music : Standoff: FBI official says noisy intimidation tactic has ‘no effect.’ Negotiations take a turn for the worse.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Self-proclaimed messiah David Koresh tried to intimidate a small army of federal agents surrounding his fortified farm complex by playing loud rock music, the FBI said Sunday.

Guitar music blared late Saturday night from inside the compound where Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidian cult, and approximately 106 followers have been holed up since federal authorities unsuccessfully tried to arrest him on weapons charges on Feb. 28, FBI Agent Bob Ricks said.

The loud music was an attempt by Koresh to “harass” hundreds of heavily armed agents camped about half a mile away from the sect’s cluster of peach-colored buildings, Ricks said.

The harassment tactic and what Ricks called a “frustrating and disappointing period in the negotiation process” indicated that tensions were rising as the standoff between Koresh and federal authorities dragged into an eighth day.

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“Let me assure you that we have what I believe is the most professional group of people in the world,” Ricks said, “and those things (harassment tactics) have absolutely no effect on us.”

On Sunday morning, the negotiations became especially testy when Koresh turned down a “package compromise offer” by federal authorities that required “from our side the total release of all the people inside,” Ricks said.

“We offered him what we thought was a reasonable compromise with an item that was of urgent concern to him,” Ricks said. He declined to elaborate on the concern except to say that “it involves a matter with regard to tactics.”

“Once that offer was made to David Koresh, he rejected it and refused to discuss it further,” Ricks said.

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Nonetheless, authorities continued telephone negotiations with Koresh and others in the barricaded 77-acre compound. Officials said the talks are aimed at securing the release of those still inside, including 17 children.

“We will not provide every need that the compound has--that is not our role,” Ricks said. “Our role is to try to do what is in our power to affect the release of the people inside.”

However, he added: “We will not jeopardize the safety of our agents. That’s the bottom line.”

In recent talks, Koresh and federal authorities have haggled over the cult leader’s demands that agents remove a body from the side of a building and deliver milk for the children still inside the compound, which is believed to be stocked with high-caliber firearms.

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“They got a number of people on the phone who talked about how they needed milk for the children,” Ricks said. “We said we were ready to bring the milk in and then they rejected the offer to deliver the milk.”

Talks also stalled over the release of a 6-year-old girl named Melissa, who told authorities on the telephone Saturday that she wanted to leave the compound, Ricks said.

Just as it appeared her release was imminent, Koresh told authorities that the little girl had “changed her mind,” Ricks said.

“My impression . . . was that she was instructed, because in the conversation we originally had with Melissa, she spoke cheerfully of coming out,” he said. “It appeared when she spoke of not coming out she parroted words that were given to her.”

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So far, 21 children and two adults have been released since federal agents raided the compound and became involved in a ferocious 45-minute firefight with cult members.

The disastrous raid, which left four agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms dead and 15 wounded, lost a crucial “element of surprise” because of a telephoned tip to Koresh less than an hour before the attack, authorities have said. At least three cult members died in the assault.


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