19 Feb THE INCIDENT AT RUBY RIDGE, Part 2
THE INCIDENT AT RUBY RIDGE
PART TWO – THE SEIGE
Kevin Harris, the teenager who had been taken in by the Weavers, Sammy Weaver, and Striker, the family dog, were walking down the trail to their home. They heard a noise coming from the brush. Striker led the way down the Y shaped path to investigate the sounds; they were actually made by federal agents, hiding in the bushes and trees on the Weavers’ property. The agents were covered head to toe in camouflage, only their eyes visible, no marking or insignia on there clothing to indicate they were federal agents.
What happens next is in dispute, the agents’ account is different than the Weavers.
As the dog approached the hiding spot of a federal agent, the agent opened fire, killing the dog. Sammy Weaver, who did have a gun in his hand, shouted, “You shot my dog, you son-of-a-bitch!” and shot at the place in the brush. Sammy’s shots drew return fire and he was hit first in the arm and then in the back as he was running toward the house. Sammy fell facedown in the grass as the second bullet tore through his body. Kevin Harris opened fire, hitting the agent in the chest. Marshal Degan would soon die from his wounds. Harris ran back to the house alone, and the family’s cries could be heard as they realized their only son and brother, just fourteen, lay dead. Randy Weaver rolled on the floor pounding his fists and fired his gun into the air in rage. Vicki, the source of the family’s strength tried to calm her husband.
According to the government, Weaver was with Sammy and Kevin Harris as they approached the Y. The agents said they shouted to identify themselves and Kevin Harris fired, hitting Agent Degan. The mortally wounded Degan then shot seven times toward the trio. One of the other agents then shot Striker, claiming he was afraid the dog would attack. At this point Sammy fired at the agents and he was shot. Some even suggested that Weaver shot his own son to prevent arrest. Officer Cooper denied that he was the one who shot Sammy, claiming instead that he shot Kevin; forensic evidence, though not conclusive, indicates that Cooper killed Sammy, and Harris left the scene uninjured.
The Weavers brought Sammy’s body up the hill and placed it in the birthing shed. By now, the agents had sent for reinforcements, claiming they were pinned down by gunfire and needed help. The agents claimed they did not know Sammy Weaver had been killed; the intense level of surveillance ought to have revealed the Weavers’ crying and bringing Sammy up the hill.
As a result of the reports that the agents were “pinned down” and under heavy gunfire, additional snipers and special agents were sent to the area near the Weaver residence. Two people were already dead, and the Weavers were armed and dangerous. A crown began to gather at the base of the mountain and hurl insults toward the federal agents.
During the standoff, drastic changes were made to the FBI’s standard rules of engagement. Normally, the “enemy” can only be fired upon if the shooter or other agents are in danger of bodily harm or death. In this case, however, the rules were changed. Now the agents and snipers could fire at “any adult male with a weapon, if the shot can be taken without endangering children,” without the existence of any threat to the agents. These revised rules were never officially agreed to by the FBI, but SAC Eugene Glenn later claimed that Larry Potts, the assistant director to the FBI’s criminal division, told him that they were approved. Potts later denied this.
Randy, Sara, and Kevin got ready to pray over the body of Sammy, out in the shed, before they buried him. As the three made their way to shed, armed as usual, the snipers were ready to act. As the three reached the shed, Randy was shot near his armpit by sniper Lon Horiuchi. Sara tried to shield Randy from another shot and pushed him in front of her toward the house. The three ran toward the house, where Vicki, with ten-month-old Elisheba in her arms held the door open. Randy and Sara ducked inside, but as Kevin was going into the house, Horiuchi fired again. He claims he was aiming for Kevin, however the bullet tore through Vicki’s face before hitting Kevin in the chest. By the time Randy and Sara dragged Vicki into the house shed was dead, still clutching the crying infant in her arms. They laid her in the kitchen, where she would remain for several days. Kevin was seriously injured, and he begged Randy to kill him and end his pain.
Following the second shoot-out, the federal agents used their equipment to communicate with the Weavers. “We had pancakes for breakfast today. How about you, Vicki, what did you eat today? …How did you sleep last night, Vicki?” they would taunt. The other agents claimed they did not know Vicki was dead, though it seems unlikely that they could hear the family mourning and Elisheba’s repeated cries of “Mama” through their surveillance equipment.
The agents next sent a robot carrying a phone, and armed with a gun. The Weavers, feeling that it was a trap refuse to take the phone and communicate. They had also heard erroneous radio reports that randy had killed a federal agent, and assumed that this was the government’s way to justify their impending deaths to the American people.
Eventually Bo Gritz, a former well known Green Beret, was called in to negotiate with Randy. Over the course of three days Gritz was able to get Randy to come off the mountain. This was only after he convinced Randy he would help him get a fair trial, and Kevin was brought down the mountain to be treated for his wounds. It was on that second day that Gritz contacted attorney Gerry Spence, and he said he would seriously consider taking Randy’s case.
Part three will tell the story of the case against Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris.