Vicki Weaver PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 February 2009 20:01 Vicki Weaver

Born: 1950

Died: August 22, 1992. Ruby Ridge, Idaho

Age: 43

Cause of death: Bullet impact to the head.

Notable because: Her right wing Christian ways led her to a secluded life atop Ruby Ridge where the apocalypse she and husband Randy feared would consume them materialized when an FBI sniper, Lon Horiuchi, a Catholic father of 6 elected to put a high velocity bullet in her head as she stood in the doorway of her home holding 10 month old daughter Elisheba in her arms, leaving a legacy of hate that rolls on to this day. Ridge was the site of a violent confrontation and siege in the U.S. state of Idaho in 1992. It involved Randy Weaver, his family, Weaver's friend Kevin Harris, federal agents from the United States Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The incident was cited as a motivation for the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.

Randy Weaver, a former Iowa factory worker, moved his family to northern Idaho during the 1980s in order to "home-school his children and escape what he and his wife Vicki saw as a corrupted world". In January 1985, the U.S. Secret Service investigated allegations that Weaver had made threats against the President and other government officials. While the Secret Service was told that Weaver was a member of the Aryan Nations and had a large weapons cache at his residence, Weaver denied the allegations and no charges were filed. Weaver later filed an affidavit with the county clerk that he believed that he may have to defend himself and his family from an FBI attack.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms first became aware of Weaver in July 1986 when he was introduced to an ATF informant at a meeting of the Aryan Nations. Weaver had been invited by Frank Kumnick, who was the original target of the ATF investigation. Over the next three years, Weaver and the informant met several times. In October 1989, the ATF claims that Weaver sold the informant two sawed-off shotguns, with the barrels shortened beyond the legal limit set by federal law. Weaver denied this, claiming agents purchased legal shotguns from Weaver and later shortened the barrels themselves. In June 1990, ATF agents attempted to have Weaver act as an informant for their investigation into the Aryan Nations organization. When Weaver refused, the ATF filed charges in June 1990 and a federal grand jury later indicted him in December 1990 for making and possessing, but not for selling, illegal weapons in October 1989.

ATF agents posed as broken-down motorists and arrested Randy and Vicki Weaver when they stopped to assist. Randy Weaver was told of the charges against him, released on bail, and told his trial would begin on February 19, 1991. Two weeks later, the trial date changed to February 20, but the U.S. Probation Office sent out a letter which stated the date as March 20. Weaver did not appear on the correct trial date, and the judge issued a warrant for his arrest. On March 14 a grand jury, which the U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) had not informed of the incorrect date in the letter, indicted Weaver for failing to appear on the correct trial date.

Weaver, distrustful of the federal government, refused to leave his cabin. U.S. Marshals Service officers made a series of attempts to have Weaver surrender peacefully. Marshals exchanged messages with Weaver through intermediaries several times until the US Attorney directed that all negotiations would go through Weaver's court-appointed counsel; however, Weaver did not have any contact with the attorney and refused to talk with him. Marshals then began preparing plans to capture Weaver to stand trial on the weapons charges and his failure to appear at the correct trial date. Surveillance teams were dispatched and cameras were set up to record activity at Weaver's residence. Marshals observed that Weaver and his family responded to vehicles and other visitors by taking up armed positions around the cabin until the visitors were recognized.

The Weaver family property was located in northern Idaho in Boundary County, on a hillside between Caribou Ridge and Ruby Creek near Naples. Ruby Ridge is a portmanteau of these two names. On August 21, 1992, six marshals were sent to scout the area to determine suitable places away from the cabin to ambush and arrest Weaver. The marshals, dressed in camouflage, were equipped with night-vision goggles and M16 rifles.

At one point, one of the marshals threw two rocks at the Weaver cabin to test whether the dogs would be alerted. The dogs indeed became alerted, and Weaver's friend Kevin Harris, and Weaver's 14 year old son, Samuel, emerged and followed the dogs to investigate. Harris and the younger Weaver were hoping that the dog had noticed a game animal since the cabin was out of meat. The marshals initially retreated, but later took up hidden defensive positions. Accounts differ at this point as to who first opened fire, but agree that the marshals shot and killed Weaver's dog. Samuel Weaver then became extremely agitated and a firefight arose. Samuel Weaver, who was shot in the back while retreating, and US Marshal William Degan were killed during the initial gun fight. Marshals then retreated from the hillside in order to request assistance from the FBI while Weaver, his wife Vicki, their two daughters and Harris holed up in their house. Samuel's body was placed in a shed near the cabin. A stand-off ensued for 12 days as several hundred federal agents surrounded the house and negotiations for a surrender were attempted. August 22, the second day of the siege, an FBI sniper, Lon Horiuchi, shot and wounded Randy Weaver in the back with the bullet exiting his right armpit, while he was lifting the latch on the shed to visit the body of his dead son. Then, as Weaver, his 16-year-old daughter Sara, and Harris ran back toward the house, Horiuchi took a second shot, which struck Vicki Weaver killing her, the bullet passing through her head and wounding Harris in the chest. Vicki Weaver was standing behind the door through which Harris was entering the house, holding their 10-month-old baby Elishiba in her arms. A Justice Department review later found the lack of a request to surrender was "inexcusable", since Harris and the two Weavers were running for cover without returning fire and were not an imminent threat. The task force also specifically blamed Horiuchi for firing through the door, not knowing whether someone was on the other side of it. While controversy exists as to who issued the orders that were being followed by the sniper, the task force also condemned the so-called "rules of engagement" allowing shots to be fired with no request for surrender.

The stand-off was ultimately resolved by civilian negotiators including Bo Gritz, Jack McLamb and Jackie Brown. Weaver and Harris surrendered and were arrested. Weaver was ultimately acquitted of all charges except missing his original court date and violating his bail conditions, for which he was sentenced to 18 months and fined $10,000. Credited with time served, Weaver spent an additional 4 months in prison. Harris was acquitted of all charges.

The surviving members of the Weaver family filed a wrongful death suit and Randy Weaver received a $100,000 settlement while his daughters received $1 million each. Kevin Harris received a $380,000 settlement. Randy and Sara Weaver wrote a 1998 paperback book, The Federal Siege at Ruby Ridge, about the incident (the appendix of the book is a reprint of a US Senate investigation of the incident).

FBI director Louis Freeh disciplined or proposed discipline for twelve FBI employees over their handling of the incident and the later prosecution of Randy Weaver and Harris. He described it before the U.S. Senate hearing investigating the incident as "synonymous with the exaggerated application of federal law enforcement" and stated "law enforcement overreacted at Ruby Ridge."

Horiuchi, the sniper, was indicted for manslaughter in 1997 by the Boundary County, Idaho prosecutor just prior to the statute of limitations for the crime of manslaughter, but the trial was removed to federal court and was quickly dismissed on grounds of sovereign immunity.

A CBS mini-series about the Ruby Ridge incident, entitled Ruby Ridge: An American Tragedy, aired on May 19 and May 21, 1996. It was based on the book Every Knee Shall Bow by reporter Jess Walter and starred Laura Dern as Vicki, Kirsten Dunst as Sara and Randy Quaid as Randy. The TV series was edited together in movie form as The Siege at Ruby Ridge.


Last Updated on Monday, 23 February 2009 20:24

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