Not satisfied with this initial report, the marshals the next day supplied an affidavit to the court that blatantly, falsely stated that the Weavers had been shooting at the marshals from a pickup truck. And what about this supposed firefight in which the marshals took as many as a thousand live rounds from the Weavers? During the trial, the most favorable evidence the FBI could provide was that from both sides a total of nineteen rounds had been fired -- Roderick, the leader of the Marshal's Special Operations Group (SOG) had fired once, the shot that killed Ol' Yella, in response to which Sammy had fired his rifle, a .223, twice. Degan shot seven times. A marshal by the name of Cooper had shot two three-round bursts, six in all. Two shots from the marshal's fire hit and killed Sammy, and in return, Kevin Harris shot three times with his 30-06. If simple arithmetic serves, the marshals fired fourteen rounds while Kevin and Sammy fired five. But the myth of a massive firefight persisted and the myth was obediently recounted by the marshals at trial, because, one would surmise, that if there had been a firefight, well, perhaps it would go a long way in explaining how the marshals came to shoot in the back both a dog and a small boy running home.
Fed by the lip service of the police themselves, the public believes that the police enforce an unwritten code that provides an effective and summary punishment for any who have killed a police officer. People believe that is it far more serious for a citizen to kill a human being who wears a badge than to kill one who does not. The penalty imposed by the police on the cop-killer is, of course, death. during the trial certain facts and circumstances were revealed which, in several camps, argued strongly for the proposition that federal police officers undertook to execute this unwritten rule against the Weavers at Ruby Ridge in retaliation for the death of Marshal Degan. Let me explain.
During the trial the marshals told how in April of 992, long before the tragic incident at the "Y", the marshals had set up solar powered microwave video cameras from two positions and at some distance from the Weaver homestead. From these surveillance cameras the marshals had retrieved hundreds of hours of film that provided the marshals' task force with "crucial intelligence information as to what occurs on the compound daily." These videos showed that whenever the Weavers came out of the house, even a trip to the outhouse, they carried their rifles. The cameras showed that when the dogs barked, when vehicles happened by, whenever there were strangers approaching, whenever the Weavers came out to investigate any goings-on, they all carried their rifles, even the kids. But in the tradition of the Western Gun handler, Randy Weaver had taught his family that one never points a gun at another unless one intends to kill that person. Not once did a member of the Weaver family put a gun on any stranger who happened by, or on any marshal or on any other law enforcement officer. From time to time many people had stopped by the weaver place, some to seek information about the availability of nearby land, some to ask directions and some just to talk. After cautious inquiry the Weavers proved to be friendly, having even invited some of the folks to come up to the house for cookies. Indeed, more than one of the strangers who happened by, as suspected by the Weavers, were federal marshals looking in on the Weavers as they prepared their strategies to arrest Randy and to bring him down.
The day following the shooting of Marshal Degan (whom the jury later found had been shot by Kevin Harris in self-defense) we see, from the testimony, the Associate Director of the Marshal Service, one Duke Smith, and the leader of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, one Richard Rogers, being flown from Washington to Ruby Ridge where they would soon take on this "crazy skinhead," Randy Weaver, and his equally "crazy skinhead family." According to the testimony, the two men, their own neatly groomed heads together, are agreeing on a new shot-on-sight rule of engagement. A rule of engagement is a euphemism for the authority under which officers are authorized to kill citizens. Under common law, as under the laws of all fifty states, one can intentionally kill another only in self-defense, and then only if one reasonably believes that he or a third person is in imminent peril of death or serious bodily harm. This, too, was the essence of the FBI's traditional rule of engagement as set out in its regulations in plain, easy English, a rule by which the FBI and its Hostage Rescue Team were fully bound.
But now we see Rogers changed that rule. As they flew over the broad, flag plains toward the mountains of Idaho where ruby Ridge lay green as rubies are red, the law of the land was changed into a simple order to kill. Instead, it now read that snipers, bearing their heavy target rifles with their ten-power scopes that can put a bullet into a pea at two hundred yards, could and should kill any adult at the Weaver homestead who was armed, whether that person is threatening with a gun or not. This, when Randy or Kevin, yes, when even Vicki, innocently walked to the outhouse carrying their rifles, they were dead. Thus, when they ran out to see who had just driven up, as was their well-known habit, and they carried their rifles, which was also their well-known habit, they were dead. The officers who decreed into life this new death-dealing rule of engagement must have known from the hundreds of hours of surveillance films the marshals had previously collected that whenever the Weavers left the house they were always armed. The result of the new rule was that all the adults at the Weavers would now be shot, thus eliminating the troublesome Weaver problem once and for all, and in effect executing the well-known unwritten penalty imposed by cops against any who kill a cop.
Contemplate the enormity of the power of these two men from separate federal agencies as they changed the law of the land and, according to Eugene Glenn, On site Commander at Ruby Ridge, and Richard Rogers with the full knowledge and consent of the Assistant Director of the FBI, Larry Potts, in Washington headquarters. They were changing the law by decree, by a bald, secret order, in barely legible handwriting on a small piece of paper, an order that provides that the FBI snipers can and should kill any armed male at the so-called "Weaver compound." From the evidence, as we gathered it from our cross-examination, we watched Rogers change the law in the same way that any tyrant rules, by overt edict, one that emerges on the crest of a whim, without the consent, yes, without even the knowledge of the people. Rogers, with the power to command those who are trained to kill and who are willing to kill and who have at their disposal countless instruments of death, thus deployed such men and such instruments under these new death-warrant rules of engagement.
It is the rule of law that has, for centuries,protected us from the hoodlum, the gun-happy and the vindictive cop. The rule of law, enacted by a duly elected and convened legislative body, is the mark of the enlightened civilization that distinguishes us from all lower forms of government that have historically enslaved the species. As Smith and Rogers flew a resolute route to Ruby Ridge, the Weavers were unaware that the rule of law had been aborted, and that within hours, the FBI would set up its trap, the fulcrum of which would be this new shoot-on-sight rule of engagement. Before the day was over, this new rule would account for the killing of Vicki Weaver and the wounding of all of the males still alive at the Weaver homestead.
We were told that before the killing of Vicki Weaver, the new rule of engagement had been amended to read that the officers could and should shoot any armed male, as distinguished from the original language, any armed adult, who presented himself or herself at the Weaver compound. but the claim that there was such an amendment made before Vicki was shot is in my opinion suspect, for not only was the original order to shoot any armed adult -- which , of course, included Vicki -- but it was Vicki who, indeed was thus killed. For it was Vicki who, from the beginning, had been case by the marshals in the role of the leader, the brains, the heart and soul of the Weaver clan, it having been the marshal's conclusion that none of the Weavers would ever surrender so long as Vicki was alive.
After the shooting and after it became clear that the sniper, Lon Horiuchi, lead man on the FBI Hostage Rescue team, had killed an unarmed mother holding her baby, and considering the fact that no one held a warrant for Vicki's arrest (as the FBI had by then admitted to themselves), it seems more than likely that the new rule of engagement was amended, after the murder of Vicki Weaver, to provide for the killing of only armed males. Without such an amendment, how else could the officers convincingly contend that Vicki Weaver's death had been just a tragic mistake?
But by the time Smith and Rogers arrived at Ruby Ridge, something was obviously amiss. At the scene there was no firefight. That was plain to see. All was silent, except for the heavy rumble of armored military vehicles -- tanks of a kind -- and the popping propellers of helicopters and the hollering of hundreds of uniformed men setting up their tents and packing their knapsacks, and cleaning their pieces and preparing their equipment for war. And, had they listened into the Weaver yard of large boulders and zinnias blooming like squashed red and yellow balls, they would have heard only the whining of one small dog, who ad survived, and the clucking of Rhode Island Red laying hens. And had they listened inside that small flimsy house of plywood scraps, they would have heard the quiet weeping of the mother.
Nevertheless, unbeknown to the Weavers and under the cover of darkness, the FBI spread its Hostage Rescue Team across the way in positions that were unobservable to the Weavers -- six skilled sniper sharpshooters with their sniper guns resting readied for the kill along with six observers. The FBI had made no demand that the Weavers surrender before the officers were to fire. Nor had anyone even hinted to the Weavers that six sniper teams waited with their eyes pushed up against their scopes, ready to kill any armed male who walked out the front door.
Then Randy and his sixteen-year-old daughter, Sara, and their friend, Kevin Harris, stepped out, their guns pointed at no one. They were as innocent as small forest animals walking into the jaws of the steel trap. They strolled slowly toward the birthing shed where Randy and Vicki had lain the body of Sammy the day before. Their mission was one of grief, not of hostility. In their injured hearts they suffered the need to see their beloved Sammy one last time before they buried him. To say good-bye. Then, as Randy slowly walked to to the birthing shed and reached up to open the homemade latch, Lon Horiuchi opened fire. Horiuchi's bullet struck Randy through the soft part of his underarm, leaving a neat round hold through and through the size of a lead pencil.
"I'm hit," Randy hollered, and when Sara saw that her father was alive but stunned, she'd jumped in behind him and began pushing him out ahead of her. They had run, the three of them, Kevin in the rear, toward the house. They had run with their backs to the snipers. And, under my cross-examination, Horiuchi admitted that he was trying to kill the running Harris, for was not Horiuchi a sniper trained to kill, committed to kill in accordance with the new rule of engagement? And Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris, weren't they armed? More than that, Horiuchi admitted he believed it was Harris, not Weaver, whom he had shot in the first place, although Weaver stands about five feet seven and Harris stands well over six feet tall. And at the door, of course, stood Vicki, armed only with her ten-month-old child, Elisheba at her breast.
"I'm hit, Momma," Randy had cried to Vicki as he ran toward the door that Vicki had been holding open for them. "I'm hit."
"Get in here!" Vicki shouted, and those were her last words. We know the rest. Horiuchi's bullet smashed into her head and blew off the side of her face. And after she fell Randy pried the baby from her hands, and Randy and Sara dragged the body of their slain wife and mother over to the side of the kitchen where she lay, her blood flooding the kitchen floor. Sara spread a blanked over her dead mother. And after that, the body lay there for many days in the hot August air, rotting before the sight of the children, before the small child Rachel, the crying baby, and the Sara huddled with her father, waiting to be killed. And in the other room, Kevin Harris lay slowly dying of his chest wounds from the same bullet that had killed Vicki, and sometimes he begged Randy to kill him, to take his gun and to shoot him in the head to stop the unbearable agony.
In the meantime, the FBI sent agents who crawled under the house and stuck listening devices under the floor. And although Randy many times screamed out to the officers that they had killed his wife, the officers pretended they did not know she was dead, and they mercilessly taunted the family. "Did you sleep well last night, Vicki?" and "Show us the baby, Vicki? We had pancakes," and on it went. And the officers placed a robot on the front porch that was equipped with a sawed-off shotgun, and the FBI approached the Weaver house only in an armored personnel carrier, a tank of sorts, and the FBI brought up its negotiator who spoke to the Weavers over a bull horn. The FBI kept spotlights on the small house all night, and played loud music so the people inside could not sleep, and the FBI tried to drive the people, if not out of the house, then out of their minds.
Perhaps by now we have forgotten by Randy Weaver wouldn't come down to be arrested in the first place. He was not a criminal. He had never even collected a speeding ticket during his lifetime. He had been honorably discharged from the Army, collecting a number of meritorious citations. But he had principles, old-fashioned principles, like a belief that a man becomes what he does, which, of course, made it quite impossible for him to become a snitch for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents.
We still remember that an agent for the ATF, for our government, had talked this thoroughly peaceloving man into sawing off a shotgun for money, and, once having talked him into it, the ATF sprung their infamous trap, following which the agents demanded that Randy snitch for them, or else they would charge him with the gun violation and send him to prison. Predictably, Randy told them to go to hell, that he was not going to become a snitch by snitching, a liar by lying, and he was not going to become one who betrays those who trust him by betraying those who trust him. he would not. And it was after that the ATF had set out to arrest him and to bring him down from Ruby Ridge.
The ATF had dawdled around for eighteen months before they finally decided to bring him in. The ATF chose a winter day when Randy and Vicki had set out in their old pickup to fetch some supplies. The marshal's strategy was simple: They parked an old pickup camper on a bridge as if it were stalled. Inside the pickup several heavily armed marshals waited, guns at ready, and another marshal had taken a strategic position above the bridge where he lay in wait in his white camouflage suit, his machine gun leveled on the scene below and at ready. When Randy and Vicki drove up, a man and a woman, both marshals, both dressed in humble country clothes, were peering under the hood. Randy walked up to see if he could help. At the moment the officers emerged from the back of the camper, guns drawn, and put him to the ground. Vicki, too, was thrown to the ground. She later complained she had been immodestly patted down. That night the officers threw Randy in jail and Vicki was released to drive home, alone.
The next day Randy was taken before Magistrate Stephen Ayers who, at the trial, testified that he had released Weaver on his own bond, and under the powerful cross-examination of Chuck Peterson, our associate, the magistrate admitted that he told Weaver that if Weaver appeared for trial and lost, he might lose his house, the family's major asset. That was a fearsome message Randy and Vicki would never forget, and under Peterson's relentless cross-examination, Magistrate Ayers admitted he had misadvised Randy as to the law in the matter. Magistrate Ayers never corrected that error.
Faced with the fear of losing their home if Randy lost his case, Randy and Vicki began to ask simple questions. how could Randy ever win the case. he had sawed off the shotgun, hadn't he? And that was illegal, was it not? And the feds had him cold on audiotape when he sold the sawed-off gun to the undercover ATF agent. Neither Randy nor Vicki were versed in the sophisticated law of entrapment. Nor did they have the advice of any lawyer in this regard. As they saw it, if Randy lost the case, well, then the government would take the family's home, and where would the family go then? And if they were homeless the government would probably take the kids from them as well. As the facts and the law was presented to them they had no alternative but to stay where they were and to pray.
At the hearing, called an "arraignment," the magistrate had set Randy's trial on the gun charge for February 19, 1991, but soon thereafter Randy got a letter from the parole and probation officer, who had been assigned to his case, one Karl Richins, a man the magistrate said Randy was to obey. Richins' letter stated in black and white that the trial was set for March 20, 1991. And after that, Randy had been shown an article that had appeared in the Kootenai Valley Times in which Richins' boss, the head of the department, one Terry Hummell, denied that Richins had ever written such a letter -- the letter Randy held right there in his hand. So Randy wondered, how does one believe these government people who lie to you and who lie to the people by lying to the press? How could he submit to any system so evil, he thought. How could he trust these servants of "lawlessness?"
Then he and Vicki and the children had prayed for guidance, and they had received the word, and they sent the word down from Ruby Ridge by letter addressed "To the Servants of the Queen of Babylon" and delivered to the U.S. Attorney, Maurice. The letter, dated March 5, 1991, read as follows:
"And judgement is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off; and truth is fallen in the street and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil is accounted as mad and Yahweh saw it and it displeased him that there was no judgment." Isayah [sic] 59:14-15.
We the Weaver family, have been shown by
our savior and King, Yahshua the Messiah of Saxon Israel,
that we are to stay separated on this mountain and not
leave. We will obey our lawgiver and King.
Whether we live or whether we die we will not obey your lawless government.
(The letter, written in Vicki's perfect script, bore the carefully penned signature of each member of the family who could write, including little Rachel who signed it, very officially, as "Rachel M. Weaver.")
As I revisit the letter just quoted, the word "innocence" seeps to the forefront of the mind and other words as well, words like "misguided" and "childlike" and "unreasoned," but when I am about to attach such judgments to this naive man, and his prayerful family, I remember that his faith, and the faith of mainstream America are, despite their differences in substance, still faith. Faith is the desperate gift, some say the divine gift, to the man who cannot see God, who understands only his puny, mortal existence -- and who is afraid. Afraid, we grasp frantically at whatever protruding twig is within reach as we slip over the canyon wall. Randy Weaver's twig differed from the other twigs to which the masses in America clung, but, at last, they are all twigs and he as as afraid as they, as afraid as we, as afraid as I.
That I find major aspects of their political and religious ideas at extreme odds with my own is not the issue here. Nor do I either apologize or defend Randy and Vicki;'s beliefs, whatever they were. But when I hear Randy and his family referred to as "cultists," and hated because of that label, hated because they believed differently than most of us, I remember that, whoever they are and whatever they believe, belong to their own cult, and it is only when the cult becomes large enough and powerful enough to dominate major segments of society that the cult loses its label as "cult" and becomes, as if from the beginning, a respectable religion. And so it was with the original Christian cult whose cult members were Christ and the apostles, a cult whose members were required to hide, who held secret meeting sunder the sign of the fish and who were reviled and hated and finally persecuted and crucified. the Pilgrims were cultists in England, as were many other sects who found refuge in America. America's heritage is rich in so-called cults, some good, some not, but the right of the citizen to worship as a member of a cult as he or she pleases, has been protected from the beginning under the admonition of the founders that no citizen should be persecuted for his beliefs, for his religion, for his clinging to "cults," no matter how obnoxious, so long as his beliefs to not turn to violence.
As the months passed, David Hunt, the inspector in charge of the local Idaho marshals, had already determined from friendly Weaver sources that the Weavers remained so isolated, so resolute, so armed, because of their fear, based upon Magistrate Ayer's earlier erroneous admonition. Armed with this knowledge, Hunt wrote the Assistant United States Attorney, Ronald Howen, suggesting that simple assurances be given Randy Weaver -- that if Weaver surrendered, his home and his children would remain secure. but it didn't take long for Howen to squelch that idea. he responded that the "areas of proposed negotiation are either not within my power to grant or bind the government, too broad in their scope, or are the type of matters properly addressed in a plea agreement in exchange for guilty please, but not mere surrender [my emphasis]. As I later argued to the jury, as as the Department of Justice investigators thereafter found, however and been provided an opportunity early on to seek a peaceful end to this horror, an opportunity he had scornfully dismissed out of hand.
Howen's response argues he was not into a peaceful solution. I never saw him when he was His hard-nosed, hard-line stance against this frightened little family was, in effect, to say, "Your fear about your home and your kids be damned. You come down and plead guilty, or we will take you the hard way." And with Howen's decision Inspector Hunt had no other choice but to proceed with his plans to capture Weaver.