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Randy Weaver, antigovernment figure who held off FBI at Ruby Ridge, dies

Randy Weaver in 1996 near Ruby Ridge.
(Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Randy Weaver, patriarch of a family that was involved in an 11-day Idaho standoff with federal agents 30 years ago that left three people dead and helped spark the growth of antigovernment extremism, has died at the age of 74.

His May 11 death was announced in a Facebook post by daughter Sara Weaver, who lives near Kalispell, Mont. Details of Randy Weaver’s death were not immediately available.

The standoff in the mountains near Ruby Ridge in the Idaho Panhandle transfixed the nation in August 1992.

Randy Weaver moved his family to northern Idaho in the 1980s to escape what he saw as a corrupt world. Over time, federal agents began investigating the Army veteran for possible ties to white supremacist and antigovernment groups. Weaver was eventually suspected of selling a government informant a pair of illegally sawed-off shotguns.

To avoid arrest, Weaver holed up on his property near Naples, Idaho.

On Aug. 21, 1992, a team of U.S. marshals scouting the forest to find suitable places to ambush and arrest Weaver came across his friend, Kevin Harris, and Weaver’s 14-year-old son Samuel in the woods. A gunfight broke out. Samuel Weaver and Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan were killed.

The next day, an FBI sniper shot Randy Weaver. As Weaver, Harris and Sara ran back toward the house, the sniper fired a second bullet, which passed through Vicki Weaver’s head as she held an infant and wounded Harris in the chest.

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An Idaho county prosecutor Thursday charged FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi with involuntary manslaughter for killing the wife of anti-government activist Randy Weaver in a 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

During the siege, Sara crawled around her mother’s blanket-covered body to get food and water for the survivors until the family surrendered Aug. 31, 1992.

Harris and Randy Weaver were arrested, and Weaver’s three daughters went to live with their mother’s family in Iowa. Randy Weaver was acquitted of the most serious charges and Harris was acquitted on all charges.

The surviving members of the Weaver family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The federal government awarded Randy Weaver a $100,000 settlement and his three daughters $1 million each in 1995.

“Ruby Ridge was the opening shot of a new era of antigovernment hatred not seen since the Civil War,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center in a 2012 interview on the 20th anniversary of the siege.

After Ruby Ridge, federal agents laid siege to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. It ended violently after 51 days on April 19, 1993, when a fire destroyed the compound after an assault was launched, killing 76 people.

Timothy McVeigh cited both Ruby Ridge and Waco as motivators when he bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Ruby Ridge has been cited often by militia and patriot groups since.

In the 30 years since the standoff, Ruby Ridge remained a rallying cry for antigovernment extremists. The Spokesman-Review reported that Weaver remained popular among white supremacists and extremists in the years following the standoff, and was often seen selling his book, “The Federal Siege at Ruby Ridge,” at gun shows and survivalist expos.

Sara Weaver said she is devastated each time someone commits a violent act in the name of Ruby Ridge.

“It killed me inside,” she told the Associated Press in 2012, regarding the Oklahoma City bombing. “I knew what it was like to lose a family member in violence. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

After graduating from high school in Iowa, Sara Weaver moved to the Kalispell area in 1996. Her sisters and father followed shortly after.

She has been back to Ruby Ridge, to the land her family still owns. All that remains of the family’s modest home is the foundation, she said.


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