FBI Siege of Ruby Ridge
photo by Art Wolfe
"If public officers will infringe men's rights, they ought to pay greater damages than other men, to deter and hinder other officers from the like offences."
Judgement in Ashby vs. Aylesbury, 1702
When federal agents set up Randy Weaver on minor weapons violations, Weaver refused to show up in court for the charge, instead holing up with his wife and four children in his mountain cabin on Ruby Ridge, forty miles south of the Canadian border.
A Justice Department attorney got an arrest warrant for Weaver, despite knowing that a court official notified Weaver of an incorrect court date. (Weaver wasn't going to show up anyway.)
For the charge of refusing to appear in court for a minor weapons violation, the government conducted a military siege of Ruby Ridge worthy of a small war. As reported by James Bovard in the January 10, 1995 Wall Street Journal, after Weaver's February 1991 missed court appearance, Federal agents then launched an elaborate 18-month surveillance of Mr. Weaver's cabin and land.
David Niven, a defense lawyer involved in the subsequent court case, noted later: "The U.S. marshals called in military aerial reconnaissance and had photos studied by the Defense Mapping Agency. ... They had psychological profiles performed and installed $130,000 worth of solar-powered long-range spy cameras. They intercepted the Weavers' mail. They even knew the menstrual cycle of Weaver's teenage daughter, and planned an arrest scenario around it."
On August 21, 1992, the siege began in earnest. Six U.S. marshals, armed and camouflaged, went onto Weaver's property to conduct undercover surveillance. When Weaver's dogs started barking, they shot one of them.
Weaver's 25-year-old friend Kevin Harris and 14-year-old son Sammy saw the dog die. Sammy Weaver fired his gun towards the agents as his dad yelled for him to come back to the cabin. "I'm coming, Dad," were Sammy Weaver's last words before he was shot in the back and killed by a U.S. marshal.
Kevin Harris, witnessing the agents' killing of the dog and child, fired at the agents in self-defense, killing one of them.
After the initial shootout, the Weavers and Harris retreated into their cabin, and a small army surrounded the area. Says Bovard: "the commander of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team was called in, and ordered federal agents to shoot any armed adult outside the Weaver cabin, regardless of whether that person was doing anything to threaten or menace federal agents. (Thanks to the surveillance, federal officials knew that the Weavers always carried guns when outside their cabin.)"
Against a handful of rural Idahoans with shotguns, the U.S. arrayed four hundred federal agents with automatic weapons, sniper rifles and night vision scopes.
On August 22, 1992, Randy Weaver went to see his son's body in the shack where it lay. He was shot and wounded from behind by FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi. As Weaver struggled back to his house, Horiuchi assassinated his wife Vicki as she stood in the doorway, holding their 10-month-old baby.
Although the feds later claimed Vicki Weaver's killing was an accident, the New York Times reported in 1993 that an internal FBI report justified the killing by saying she put herself in danger. Horiuchi testified in court that he was an accurate shot at 200 yards.
Everything about the federal government's actions in this case is sickening, but possibly the worst was their taunting of the Weaver family after Vicki Weaver's murder: "Good morning, Mrs. Weaver. We had pancakes for breakfast. What did you have?" That was one of the FBI's tactics revealed in court records, reported by Jerry Seper in the Washington Times in September 1993.
After the initial shootout, the only shots fired were by federal agents. Eleven days after the shootout Randy Weaver surrendered.
Sources: January 10, 1995 Wall Street Journal.
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