The Freemen believe God makes them invincible in their standoff with the FBI and have taken an oath never to give in, says a former Green Beret colonel who has tried to negotiate a surrender.
"It will come down to a confrontation of wills," James "Bo" Gritz predicted Wednesday after leaving a 21/2-hour meeting at the compound - his fifth with the group.Gritz, a leader of the self-styled patriot movement who helped negotiate an end to the deadly 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, said the Freemen were resolved never to submit to the federal courts, only to their own tribunal.
The Freemen "have had communications with God - Yahweh," and vowed not to leave their ranch unless their demands are met, Gritz said. "I don't see any way they're going to deny this oath to God."
Later Wednesday, John Connor Jr., an assistant state attorney general, confirmed that the Freemen had rejected an offer of leniency on state charges in return for their surrender to federal authority.
"They are convinced of the rightness of their position and they are intractable on that position," Connor said. "I can't for the life of me explain that position."
No offer was made to dismiss any federal charges against Freemen who are in the compound, said U.S. Attorney Sherry Mat-teucci.
Members of the anti-government group are wanted on state and federal charges ranging from writing bad checks to threatening to kidnap and kill a federal judge. The standoff began March 25 after two of their leaders were arrested. The FBI believes 18 Freemen are on the compound.
Connor said he was disappointed but not pessimistic about hopes for a peaceful resolution. "I think as long as you can keep talking, there's a chance," he said.
But Gritz said he believes the standoff won't end unless the FBI moves in and makes arrests.
In an unrelated incident Wednesday, FBI agents at a checkpoint near the Freemen compound grabbed their automatic weapons and spread out rugs of nails when five identical cars approached on a dirt road. At least one agent drew his gun and another was heard saying, "We're expecting a confrontation."
An FBI agent who requested anonymity later told The Associated Press it was actually a road test of new cars by Ford Motor Co. The drivers were stopped, frisked and escorted back into town.