American Experience


Ruby Ridge

Drawing upon eyewitness accounts, including interviews with Weaver’s daughter, Sara, and federal agents involved in the confrontation, Ruby Ridge is a riveting account of the event that helped give rise to the modern American militia movement.

AIRED: February 04, 2020 | 0:53:10

MAN: At the time, it was all shrouded in secrecy.

But there were meetings at the highest of levels,

clear back to Washington, D.C.,

like, "How can we effect the arrest of this man?"

Some people, I later found out,

were actually advocating a front-on tactical assault,

to go up there with armored personnel carriers

and, you know, whatever kind of armament they needed

and just shoot it out with him.

MAN: I told Randy, I said, "You don't really understand

"what the full weight and power of this government is,

"and what it would really mean

if you want a confrontation with it."

I think I used the term that it's like a locomotive.

Once you get it rolling down the tracks, it's hard to stop.

You're murderers!

(protesters yelling)

MAN: You call yourself an American?

These are Americans!

These are God-fearing people!

You don't even know your Constitution.

Go back and read what your founding fathers said!

(protesters shouting)

WOMAN: We were taught from a very early age

to never point a gun at anything you don't plan on shooting.

Dad was very, very strict about that.

Guns were tools in our family.

They were there for protection from wild animals,

or to hunt game.

Guns were there for a purpose.

MAN: This is north Idaho, 1992.

50 miles or so from the Canadian border.

Here's a man with his family, armed to the teeth,

who knew that a federal judge wanted him to come to court,

and he was refusing to do that.

And he lived with the consequences.

WOMAN: When Mom and Dad met, Dad was in the Army.

He was a Green Beret.

It wasn't until he was home on leave

that they actually got together

and really started to date and fall in love.

I have memories of hot Iowa summers and cold Iowa winters,

and Grandma and Grandpa's farm.

I do remember my parents discussing

always wanting to move to the mountains.

So, you know, they learned

about how to raise kids without electricity

and things like that.

And then I remember they started to sell things,

and Mom and Dad, you know, just prepared by buying stuff

you might need living on top of a mountain somewhere.

(auctioneer counting bids)

MAN: Randy Weaver wanted to move his family from Iowa to Idaho

partly because of the farm crisis.

By the early 1980s, the economy in Iowa

had been deteriorating for some time.

Fuel and input costs were rising,

and farmers were going bankrupt.

You don't need to sell it.

You don't need to sell it. I'm going to sell it.

It's part of my business, part of my livelihood.

You don't have to do away with the farmers, sir.

I'm not doing away with the farmers.

Give the farmer a break!

MAN: Farmers are losing their family farms,

interest rates are 15, 16, 18 percent.

Randy's working at the John Deere factory,

afraid that he was going to get fired.

And for the Weavers,

who are starting to explore the idea of Bible prophecy,

they began to see things that were occurring

as... as being part of the end times,

the very thing that the Book of Revelations was promising.

(protesters chanting)

And I think those connections

were the ones Vicki especially was making.

WEAVER: My mom interpreted some of the things in the Bible

very literally.

There's a verse in the Old Testament

about not having graven images,

and so there was a point when the TV, you know,

kind of left,

and my parents started to dig deeper into the Bible.

They did believe in an apocalyptic future.

And I think that they started to take that more seriously

as they got ready to leave Iowa.

Fear was a big part of it.

As they leave Iowa, they're telling their friends and family

that a great conflagration is coming

and they must seek a place to be safe.

They must go to the West and find a mountaintop.

They were really imagining this fortress,

this place where they could really separate themselves

from a corrupt and dangerous world.

MAN: It was incredibly remote.

I mean, they had no electricity,

no running water, no indoor plumbing.

We're talking about a cabin made by Randy Weaver and his wife.

On a mountaintop.

They thought that they were living

on the edge of Armageddon,

and this was the sort of sanctuary

that Randy and Vicki Weaver wanted.

WEAVER: There was definitely work involved in living that way.

Dishes and firewood and hauling water,

and doing laundry with a washtub and a washboard.

I loved to garden, so as I got older,

I kind of took over the gardening.

Sam and I, we worked hard,

but we enjoyed working and helping Mom and Dad out.

You depend on each other for your survival, living that way,

so we were very close.

Growing up on the mountain,

there was so many things for Sam and I to explore

and learn and do every single day.

I was best friends with my brother,

and I think it was good for us, I really do.

MAN: I don't know that Randy Weaver knew

at the time that they moved to Ruby Ridge

that they would be so close to the Aryan Nations compound,

which was just 60 miles south.

But they started showing up.

At first, it was purely social.

They attended family picnics and those kinds of things.

But as Randy began to interact more with them,

he started to buy into the message.

MAN: We, the white race, lost the war.

A plague known as Jews won the war,

infiltrated our bloodstream of our race

in every country in which we reside.

LEVITAS: The founding principle of the Aryan Nations

was something called Christian Identity theology,

which teaches that white Anglo-Saxon Christians

are the true descendants of the lost tribes of Israel,

and that those who call themselves Jews

are not merely imposters,

but are actually children of the Devil.

It also teaches

that African-Americans and other people of color are subhuman.

MAN: Every major city in the United States is now non-white,

following the catastrophic destruction of our race

in the so-called Civil War, or the War Between the States.

America shall again become white and Christian.

There'll be a lot of blood running one day.

I don't advocate it, I don't want it,

but it's going to come,

as sure as day follows night and night follows day.

WALTER: The Weavers were on this journey of religious discovery

that had led them to isolate themselves

and to live in a style they believed

was Old Testament Christian.

Christian Identity shared some of those tenets,

so I think the Weavers saw some kinship in these people.

But they also were really clear that they didn't want to join,

that there were things they didn't believe,

that they didn't agree with.

Essentially, for the Weavers,

the Aryan Nations was a chance to meet people,

and, you know, and to make friends.

WEAVER: Being there as a kid, it was just like a family vacation.

I think my dad took us there out of curiosity.

He was always up for a debate, always up for a discussion.

Being the inquisitive person that he is,

he was, like, "Sure, I'll go check it out."

MORLIN: Every summer, Richard Butler would host a gathering

called the Aryan World Congress,

which would attract fellow racists

from all over the country.

MAN: What do we need?

ALL: White power!

Some of these people were Christian Identity.

Some of them were Ku Klux Klan.

There were outlaw bikers there, and skinheads,

and other neo-Nazis that were atheists.

But their common denominator was their belief

that the white race was the supreme race,

and many of them wanted to basically declare war

on the U.S.

MAN: Some people who had spent time with Butler up at Hayden Lake

would go off in these splinter groups

that became threats in their own way.

They were very violent, very anti-government,

were heavily armed,

so the Aryan Nations was a cause for concern

for those of us in law enforcement.

MORLIN: Starting in the mid-'80s, the Feds wanted to know

who's there, and what are they doing,

and what are they planning on doing next?

So by the time Randy Weaver

started showing up at the compound,

the Feds were listening.

LEVITAS: They had lots of events there

designed to potentially recruit harder-core folks

into the Aryan Nations,

and it was at one of those meetings

that Randy Weaver was spotted

by an undercover federal informant.

MORLIN: This guy got next to Randy Weaver

and learned that he was, you know, clearly a racist,

that he wanted to live his white separatist lifestyle

in north Idaho,

but that he was having trouble putting two nickels together,

and that he was interested in some income.

And one thing led to another,

and pretty soon, Randy Weaver agrees to saw off some shotguns.

WALTER: Everything shifts

when Randy Weaver saws the barrels off of those shotguns.

He had now committed a federal crime.

But it's so clear

that Randy Weaver was not a guy up there

sawing the barrels off shotguns and selling them.

He-he only committed this act

after talking to an ATF informant.

But then the idea is, we can turn this guy.

There's nothing unusual about that.

It's the way the federal criminal justice system works.

If they can take the information

from, you know, suspect number one

and lead them to suspects number two through ten,

that's what they're going to do.

MAN: Here's the government, and they come to you and they say,

"We've been watching you.

"We know that you sold a sawed-off shotgun.

"Now, if you won't work for us,

"if you won't help us to get inside the Aryan Nations

"and to get inside the white separatist movement,

"if you won't do those things for us,

"then we're going to arrest you,

"and we're going to place you in jail,

and we're going to take away your property."

And Randy Weaver said, "No."

WEAVER: A couple posed with a broken-down truck on the road,

and as Mom and Dad stopped to help them,

they were thrown on their faces in the snow and frisked,

and Dad was, you know, hauled off to jail.

He had to post our home as bond

and he told us, you know, "If I lose my trial,

we lose our home."

And he's, like, "How am I going to win this?"

MORLIN: These are people that want to be left alone.

And Randy's arrest just galvanized

the Weavers' hatred of the federal government.

They really thought the government was evil.

Vicki wrote two letters to the U.S. Attorney for Idaho,

which she addressed,

"To the Servants of the Queen of Babylon."

WALTER: "The Queen of Babylon."

This is very much the language

that was coming out of the Aryan Nations,

this language of a coming war,

with the Anglo-Saxon armies defeating the tyrant

that was the federal government.

She believed not only that we were living in the end times,

but that she was being given signs,

and she was defiant.

WEAVER: I think she was at the end of her rope, I really do.

And I think for Mom and Dad,

it was, "We're not going to take any more."

You know, getting thrown in the snow and sent to jail,

and if you lose your case, you lose your house.

They had to have been an emotional mess.

WALTER: And then Randy doesn't show up for trial.

What happened next was the brutality of bureaucracy.

One agency leads to another agency.

So the case becomes the responsibility

of the U.S. Marshals Service.

MAN: Our job was to bring him before the court to answer charges,

and that's all it is.

It doesn't even necessarily mean he's guilty of anything.

Our first step was to do a threat assessment.

He didn't appear like he was going to run

or abscond in some way.

He had roots in the community.

He had a family there.

And I thought that time was on our side.

But that threat assessment also showed

that he was extremely committed to his cause.

And that's what made that situation

a little more dangerous.

WALTER: The threat assessment portrayed Randy Weaver

as a former Special Forces Green Beret

who may have booby-trapped his house,

living with a woman who would kill her own children

rather than surrender.

It was either worst-case scenario or fanciful,

but the assessment of the Weavers

made them look more like criminals

and less like a family.

WEAVER: My parents decided

they would just stay up on the mountain

until the legal aspect got figured out.

And so, all through that summer and winter,

we didn't go anywhere anymore.

We stayed up there.

And the winters could get long.

You know, sometimes we'd read two books in a day.

We would play card games

and Monopoly and Yahtzee and Scrabble, you know,

all of those sorts of things in the long evenings.

We had friends who would come see us

who were concerned about the situation,

who were concerned about us, you know.

They'd bring us food and supplies and things.

And my mom had my little sister up there during that time.

And I think about that,

I'm just, like, "Wow, that took a lot of courage

on both their parts."

HUNT: Winters are tough up there.

And during that time, I learned a lot about Randy.

I must have interviewed several dozen people,

neighbors, friends, and family,

and I'd asked the question:

"Why don't I just go up there and talk to him

and tell him he's under arrest?"

And everyone said, "That would be

the worst thing you could do,"

that he is committed and that Vicki is as committed as he is.

WALTER: During this time, the media caught wind

of the fact that this family of white separatists

was hiding out

and had vowed not to be taken alive.

MORLIN: We published a story in early March of 1992

saying, "Feds have fugitive under our nose."

In that story, I quoted officials as saying that,

"We don't want to go up there

and get in a gun battle with kids."

But the marshals are stuck with a federal judge's order

saying, "Go get this man.

"We're a country of laws.

Bring him to justice."

WEAVER: It was probably an embarrassing thing for the government,

because here's this guy on a mountain

who they think is flipping the bird to them,

and, you know, they need to deal with it

because it's making them look bad.

MORLIN: And so the marshals intensified it

and decided to have motion-activated cameras

placed near the Weaver cabin,

so they could figure out how many people are there,

who's carrying guns, and what are our options

in terms of effecting an arrest.

The tapes showed that Randy Weaver was there

with his wife and his children and a man named Kevin Harris

and that they frequently were armed.

They have to have been shaking their heads:

"What are we going to do?"

And then, in May of 1992, Randy did an interview,

and he said, "I don't care what you do,

I'm not coming off my mountaintop."

BOTTING: The longer a situation goes on, the more frustrating it becomes.

So the marshals brought in their special surveillance team,

and they skunked around the area,

trying to find a location

to take Randy Weaver into custody without a problem.

We've got a guy heavily armed, reportedly heavily armed.

He's barricaded in a cabin.

He's got his family in there with him.

I mean, they just didn't know what to do with this guy.

MARSHAL: Well, this is the approach from the east.

How far do you figure?

MARSHAL 2: 100 meters.

MARSHAL 1: 100 meters?

WEAVER: At times I had the feeling we were being watched.

It was really hard to trust anybody at that point,

even our friends that came to see us.

I mean, there was always that,

"Ooh, is this person maybe working for the government?"

Or "Is this person maybe..."

You know what I mean?

It was... It was just, it was all pretty unsettling.

HUNT: On the morning of the 21st of August, 1992,

we approached the mountain with two teams, six people.

We followed the south trail.

It was a logging trail that led to the Y area,

and there we split, our two teams split.

MARSHAL: At the first fork in the road, we took a left, up a steep hill.

HUNT: I took my surveillance team

further up the mountain, above Weaver's place,

to a vantage point where we could observe what was going on.

That particular day was nothing but to gain updated intelligence

and see if they're still performing

and doing their normal routines.

Has anything changed?

And to familiarize the other deputies

with the mountain.

I briefed them on various trails on the mountain

and where we were going to go to set up an outpost.

The other three deputies were down below, closer to the house,

when the dog starts barking.

(dog barks in distance)

(dog barking)

HUNT: I was hoping he would stop barking,

but the dog gets more intense in its barking,

and at that time I realized, "Oh, crap.

He's on their trail."

(dog barking)

WEAVER: Sam and Dad and Kevin, they're, like,

"Well, let's go check it out."

I felt slightly torn at that moment.

"Do I follow them, do I go home?"

And I was, like, "Oh, they'll be fine, I'll just go home."

HUNT: It wasn't within a minute or two

that I hear the first shot.

(shot echoes)

HUNT: And a second or two later, I heard a second shot.

And then, in quicker succession, more shots,

and probably as many as...

I don't know, 20 rounds being fired at that point.

WEAVER (voice breaking): I heard gunshots.

And then I heard more gunshots,

and so I started to get worried.

HUNT: I get a radio call that says, "Dave, Billy's been hit."

Billy Degan.

I grabbed my guys, I said, "Let's go."

We headed in down a trail

that would take us towards the Y,

and we find Billy down there.

Frank goes to work on him to try and help him,

and he just looks up, and we know when we look in his eye

that Billy's gone.

How'd it happen, you know?

What happened there?

WALTER: The family's version

is that they're chasing deer into the woods,

and there's a place where the trails come together

in a sort of Y.

Kevin Harris and Sammy Weaver are coming down this way,

Randy Weaver's coming down this way.

And according to the family, at that moment,

they see some men dressed in... in fatigues with dark paint,

and, you know, very much like a strike team,

and that possibly to silence this dog,

which has found their location,

one of the marshals shoots and kills the dog.

14-year-old Samuel Weaver at that moment erupts and says,

"You killed my dog, you son of a bitch,"

and opens fire.

Again, according to the family,

the marshals then fire back, killing Samuel Weaver.

Of course, the marshals tell a different story.

In their version of the telling,

as these groups come together on this Y,

the marshals identify themselves

and call out a surrender order,

and it's at that moment

that Kevin Harris dives for cover,

fires on the marshals,

and shoots and kills William Degan,

a highly decorated U.S. marshal in the Special Operations Group.

And so you have these two incredibly different narratives,

the marshals believing they've come under attack

by white separatists,

and the family believing they've been attacked by federal agents.

I saw Dad come walking up the road, and...

He was visibly upset, and he was by himself.

And I knew something was wrong.

And then, I don't know how long it was after that.

It seemed like a long time.

Kevin came walking up the road, and he said, "Sam's dead."

(crying): And then I think Mom's...

I think her mother side kicked in,

and she's like, "I'm going to get him.

"We got to go get him.

I'm not going to leave him there."


And so they...

They started heading down the mountain.

It seemed like forever before they came walking back,

and I saw them carrying him.

He'd been shot once in the elbow and once square in the back.

My mom was a mess.

I remember her just saying, "I'm going upstairs for a while,"

and Dad following her up, and...

We were just a grieving family.

Like, "What the heck just happened?"

HUNT: Right after the shooting, I came down off the mountain,

got to a telephone,

and contacted the U.S. Marshals Headquarters.

I briefed them on exactly what's happened, and that Billy's dead.

This is Dave Hunt, U.S. Marshals Office.

I have one officer dead.

I need help quick.

We've had an incident with Randall Weaver.

I want the State Police, I want all the help here I can get.

MORLIN: When a cop gets shot, cops get pissed off.

In this case, it was a federal cop,

killed on the property of a white separatist.

And of course, the word reaches Washington, D.C.,

and it's now, you know, in the front drawer.

WALTER: At this point, we have another bureaucratic shift.

What started

as a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms investigation,

and then became a Marshals Service fugitive hunt,

had now become an FBI case.

The FBI begins to scramble its Hostage Rescue Team.


BOTTING: The HRT was the super-SWAT of the FBI.

They were designed to handle incidents

that went beyond the capabilities

of a local SWAT team.

And Randy Weaver was reported

to be a anti-government, racist, neo-Nazi sort of personality,

with some connection to Richard Butler,

some connection to the Christian Identity movement.

In other words, very dangerous.

WALTER: The Hostage Rescue Team believe

that they are deploying into an ongoing firefight

with a white separatist and his armed family.

Because they believe they're going into a firefight,

the rationale is given that a surrender warning

doesn't need to be called out,

that that warning has already been given

by the U.S. Marshals, deputy marshals on the ground,

so agents can open fire as soon as they see any armed adult.

Well, the Weavers are always armed.

PETERSON: They adopt a military rule of engagement.

This is the enemy.

You may kill them if they're armed.

If they have a gun, you can and should use deadly force.

That was actually the wording,

"You can and should us e deadly force."

WALTER: The very next day,

a team of ten FBI agents in the Hostage Rescue Team

surround the cabin.

These are snipers.

These are the FBI agents

who've been trained to, you know,

to hit a dime from 200 meters.

WEAVER: That morning, we all were just trying to grasp

what had happened the night before,

and at some point, Dad said,

"I'm going to go see Sam one last time."

His body was in the shed.

And before I knew it, Dad and Kevin had headed out.

So I went after them, and that's when I heard a gunshot.

(shot echoes)

WEAVER: I ran over to where Dad was,

and he was holding himself.

And I said, "Dad, what happened?"

And he said, "I've been shot."

My mom came out on the front porch

and was holding the door open,

and she was, like, "What happened?"

and Dad's, like, "I've been shot!"

And she started screaming, "Get in the house,

get in the house, get in the house!"

So we get to the front porch,

and I'm pushing Dad through the door,

and Mom is right next to me, holding baby Elisheba,

and screaming, "Get in the house, get in the house!"

At this point, Kevin was coming in behind us,

and I hear this giant, just, boom!

(gunshot explodes)

WEAVER: And I felt things hit my face, and Mom dropped next to me.

It took me a second to comprehend that...

Mom had just died

(voice breaking): and that it was parts of her

that had hit my face.

That's when Dad, he went and picked up Elisheba

and handed her to Rachel

and pulled Mom in the house so we could close the door.

Because at that point, we were...


We were being hunted, that's how it felt.

MORLIN: Where we were based, at the roadblock,

it was out of view of where this was occurring.

We were down probably a good two miles or so

from where the actual cabin was.

Neighbors, friends of Randy Weaver,

and reporters from all over the country

started gathering there, trying to get information.

If we can tell you something, we will,

but most of it will all come out of Washington, D.C.

You know, I'm just trying to tell you,

the weather's bad, and, you know,

that we're not going to come out and make some big statement.

They didn't let us see firsthand what was going on,

but clearly, it was a big deal.

WALTER: One of the things as a reporter that I reflect upon

is the way we began reporting this story.

Federal law enforcement only had one version

of what was happening,

and that was the way we covered the story.

"These are white supremacists, they are causing some trouble,

there's a shootout with federal law enforcement..."

And the way information came out,

you know, especially in the beginning,

that was the narrative.

And then the FBI discovers Samuel Weaver's body

in the shed where Samuel had been taken by the family.

And the story begins to shift a little bit.

You (no audio) bastards!

Are you proud of yourself?

Are you proud of yourself?

You're going to kill all the children to get one man

if it takes 800 of you.

You're going to have nightmares about this!

You're going to burn in Hell...

Huh? Come on!

Baby killers, baby killers! Baby killers!

Smile! Smile!

BOTTING: When we arrived on Sunday evening,

we went through a group of demonstrators

right at the bridge

that were yelling and screaming,

and we drove off that and then in about a mile,

and then they had a big open field

with tents and trucks and helicopters.

It looked like a real military base.

I was working with the FBI's Crisis Negotiation Team.

We were called in because the Hostage Rescue Team

had not been successful in communicating with Randy.

They had been bull-horning Randy in the cabin,

but Randy had not responded to them.

And they hadn't been able to get in a hostage phone.

He had no phone in the cabin itself,

so HRT had just simply been yelling at the cabin.

(faint voice shouting over bullhorn)

MORLIN: This was all going on behind a cloak of secrecy.

I mean, the FBI is a secret agency

and the public doesn't need to know everything they do,

but this was government in the dark.

If we can have your attention for a few moments, we can...

give you an update.

Once a day or so, the special agent in charge

would come down and hold a, you know,

a, you know, a pretty feeble press conference.

REPORTER: Do you consider this overkill?

To get two people? All these people?

No, I don't.

I don't at all.

This is a complicated situation,

because in the residence,

there are juveniles.

That's a critical factor

that sometimes in our busy society

we tend to overlook.

That's a critical factor.


In our society, we place a high value on a human life.

WALTER: At this point, they don't know Vicki Weaver's dead.

The hostage negotiators would begin every morning by saying,

"Vicki, send the children out, we're having pancakes."

"Vicki," you know, "We, why won't you come talk to us?

You know, "We won't harm you."

Inside the cabin, where Vicki's lying dead,

the family believes they're taunting them.

(faint voice shouting over bullhorn, dog barking)

WEAVER: My dad, he lost it.

And he started to yell at them, and I wanted him to stay quiet.

I was scared to death that they would find out his location

and just open up on him.

But he's, like, "You shot my wife, you cowardly S.O.Bs."

BOTTING: The negotiations were addressed to Vicki

because we thought she was very influential towards Randy,

and we thought that she was very strong as a personality

and that she would be very helpful.

Little did we know that she had been killed,

and that she was incredibly,

I mean, he was incredibly offended

by any mention of his wife, who's laying in the kitchen.

It was, it was awful.

I mean, it was awful!

In his mind, we had proven everything

that he felt and believed and been taught to believe

about the federal government

was true,

and that it was coming true piece by piece.

Hey, Pastor.

Hey, Doug, nice place to see you.

MORLIN: Ruby Ridge became a huge propaganda opportunity

for people like Richard Butler,

who wanted to galvanize anti-government hatred.

You're a disgrace to the white race!

MAN: Disgrace to the race!

MORLIN: But they all had their own agendas.

Some of them were religious-based.

Some of them were neo-Nazi.

At one point, a group of skinheads,

and I was in the front row to see this,

attempted to smuggle in

a bunch of weapons and guns in to Weaver,

hoping they could somehow assist him.

WALTER: It felt very much like there might be more violence.

The FBI is trying desperately to find a peaceful solution.

We are taking every step we possibly can

to, through the use of a phone, effect a surrender.

I remember listening to Paul Harvey

and hearing him appeal to Randy on his radio program.

HARVEY: A telephone has been left

right outside your door, on the porch.

Reach out and pick it up.

Nobody will shoot.

Your family wants to know what to do with Samuel's body

and also, I will arrange for an attorney in Spokane

to represent you in the death of Deputy Degan

with a plea of self-defense.

Consider your options-- I'm offering you a chance

to resume the isolation you prefer with your family,

if you will just reach out and pull in,

and talk into, that portable telephone.

WEAVER: We heard it on the radio

when Paul Harvey had a message for my dad.

HARVEY: I am talking to you personally.

WEAVER: But we didn't trust anybody for any kind of help, for anything.

I think it made me angry, more than anything,

at the misinformation that we heard.

I would cringe every time the media portrayed my dad

as this wild man in the woods

that the Feds needed to take out.

REPORTER: His one-man stand against the law

is suddenly taking on the appearance of a full-blown war.

We didn't feel at that point very confident

that we were going to be allowed to share our side of the story.

We weren't even confident we were going to make it out alive.

REPORTER: ...from Weaver's home-built fortress.

By this time, I had contacted

Randy and Vicki's families in Iowa--

I'd tracked them down--

and they were telling another story,

not of white separatists bent on a race war,

but on a family that took to the woods

because they believed the end of the world was going to come.

And that, I think, was the first time

that the media started to shift the narrative a little bit.

And, at the same time, the FBI is realizing

that this is not the situation

that they thought they were coming into.

REPORTER: Is there any progress?

We can't comment on anything of that nature.

REPORTER 2: Have you talked to him, though?

I didn't say that.

REPORTER 3: He has been in contact with you, then?

I didn't say that.

REPORTER 4: How many men do you have up here?

I won't comment.

We have sufficient resources to accomplish the task.

MORLIN: The FBI didn't have many options.

They were at wit's end.

I don't think they knew what to do.

They'd reached out to Vicki Weaver's sister

and other family members,

and he wouldn't respond.

But clearly, they weren't going to pack up and go home.

I mean, they've got 400 federal agents on the payroll up there.

And they've got the national media watching this.

A standoff between a man who is wanted by the FBI

and a large number of federal agents.

It's entered its sixth day.

The man has been holed up in a cabin

in a remote section of Idaho

with his wife, three daughters, and a friend.

WEAVER: My mom was on the floor, dead.

It was torture.

But I didn't want to come out.

I was scared to death of the door opening.

I mean, they had proven that they were there to shoot at us.

So them begging us to come out

was like begging us to walk to our death, in my mind.

And I think Dad felt that way, too.

BOTTING: When a suspect doesn't talk to you,

that's a very negative situation.

We were government negotiators,

and Randy Weaver hated the government.

That was going to be very difficult for us to overcome.

And so we realized that Randy was going to need

a third-party negotiator.

It was, like, "We got to find somebody that he trusts

that can speak on our behalf and represent us,"

but we just didn't know who that was going to be,

until Bo arrived.

MAN: What's the word, Bo?

The word is very encouraging, I think.

I was assured this,

that they have every intention to treat Randy and Kevin

with utmost human dignity.

Now, that is encouraging,

because normally you get this one-digit IQ

federal government mindset...


And I was very, very encouraged by it.

I think we're going to get a chance.

WALTER: Bo Gritz was a hero to the radical right.

Some people said he was the model for Rambo.

He was a third-party candidate for president that year

and made his way to Ruby Ridge,

hoping that he could negotiate an end to the standoff.

I think the FBI was desperate at this point.

I have been maybe-ly overly optimistic.

Not about Randy, but about Agent-in-Charge Glenn.

He has been so cooperative, it's as if Washington was on holiday.

He's affiliated with this Christian Identity movement,

he's a former Green Beret,

he's a big personality, and he said, "I can help

because Randy and I are both Green Berets."

So on Friday afternoon, and this thing now is in the eighth day,

HRT brings Bo Gritz up in a jeep.

GRITZ: So I was maybe 20 steps from the cabin.

And I said, "Randy, this is Bo Gritz, and I'm right here."

And then I saw his face in the window,

and he said, "Is that you, Bo?"

I said, "Yes, I'm standing on this rock."

And then he said, "They have killed Vicki."

BOTTING: So they're up there about an hour,

and he comes back, and he says,

"Boy, you guys really screwed that one up."

I said, "What do you mean?"

He says, "Randy's been shot, Harris has been shot,

and Vicki's dead."

We just couldn't believe it.

It was devastating, just absolutely devastating.

The three children

are in good health.

Kevin is all right,

but he did suffer a wound.

Randy is in good health.

Unfortunately, Vicki is dead.

(crowd gasps)

The reaction was a physical gasp.

For the people that had gathered,

it was like a thunderclap.

Never will you take another woman!



MAN: We're going to war!

MAN 2: You're nothing!

Don't (no audio) touch me!

It was horrifying.

I mean, it was the first time and we're a week into this,

and now we're finding out

that Randy Weaver's wife has been shot.

So we now have three people dead,

and the thing's still not over.

WEAVER: Kevin was critically wounded.

The bullet that killed my mother

went through his arm, into his chest,

and barely missed his heart, tore his arm open.

I remember him begging to be just shot,

put out of his misery.

And I was like, "No, this can't be happening.

This cannot be happening."

GRITZ: The next day came, and I went right up to the cabin.

And I said, "Weaver, if you don't let me take Kevin Harris,

get him out of here and to a hospital in Spokane,"

I said, "I am going to testify against you in court,

"because it'll be your fault that he is dead.

"You make the decision.

Now, I'm telling you, give him up."

GLENN: At 1:47 today, Kevin Harris came out of the house.

He was given emergency medical treatment near the residence,

then transported by air to the hospital.

I can't overemphasize how pleased we all are,

and I want to give a lot of credit

to the efforts of Bo Gritz,

and we're optimistic

that we'll be able to, in the near future,

report further progress.

WEAVER: After Kevin left the cabin,

Bo Gritz came with a body bag to take Mom.

I remember Dad being really, really upset.

Everyone just started crying.

GRITZ: I came in.

I think he was probably just holding the girls,

because I came in and went right straight to Vicki's body.

Randy came over and he got her centered in the body bag,

and then I got it zipped up and carried her out of the cabin.

Randy was just... he was grieved beyond imagination.

MORLIN: Randy Weaver had seen his dead wife

lying on the cabin floor for a week.

He had a dead son.

He probably knew there was a dead marshal.

He knew there were 400 other agents

down in the field below him.

It's, like, "How much longer are you going to do this, Randy?"

And maybe common sense finally started to set in.

GRITZ: That last morning, as soon as I got to the cabin,

Weaver said, "Bo, the girls and I have prayed all night,

"and the girls have told me, 'We are not coming out.

'They're going to have to kill us,

'just like they did our little brother

and just like they did our mama.'"

I went right up to the door, and I said,

"Weaver, damn you!

"Don't you tell me that we're not going to continue

"when I have carried your bride out of this cabin,

and we've got Kevin Harris, who's still alive."

I said, "Don't you tell me you're going to quit now."

All of a sudden, the door came open.

And Randy was looking at me, and he said,

without turning around, he said,

"Girls, get your things together.

We're going to follow Colonel Bo down the hill."

WEAVER: When we finally left the cabin

and stepped out into the sunshine,

I still expected to hear gunshots,

and... I pretty much expected to die.

But my dad made the decision for the family

and we just held hands,

and, you know, that was the end of it,

and I had peace with it at that point.

They put my sisters and I in a car,

and we drove down to the meadow,

and it looked like a scene out of an army movie.

I mean, it was just surreal.

There were a lot of guys walking around in their shorts,

like they had just been on a camping trip or something.

And all for us.

You know, it made no sense.

RANDY WEAVER: You guys wouldn't believe how pretty my wife was.

Jesus Christ, the first time I saw her,

if I ever thought this was going to happen, I'd have never...

I broke in on a friend of mine dancing with her.

I'd let Nick had her.

MAN: What this is, is force

to try to scare the average American

so he won't open his mouth against the New World Order.

That's all this is.

Western people are independent.

More than East Coast people, who have already been pacified.

So they got to pacify the West, where people are true Americans.

That's all this is.

HUNT: I remember standing at the bridge afterwards,

listening to some of the guys.

They were joking and they... commenting and saying,

"Boy, the government has really screwed up now."

And it was, like, you know, they wanted this to happen.

I just turned around and walked off.

I said, "Yeah, you know, this is what they wanted."

WALTER: People focused so much on who was to blame.

But if you look at what happened

and how many times it could have been averted and avoided,

how many mistakes had to be made,

and how many times both sides would multiply those mistakes,

the question of who was more to blame

is less interesting to me

than the question of, how did an all-American Iowa family

end up with these beliefs?

And how did the government end up treating them

like a group of armed terrorists?

WEAVER: I do know there's a lot of remorse,

and I know the FBI uses what happened to my family

as a training tool as to what not to do,

and that is hugely gratifying to me.

But the same way they stereotyped my dad

and blew him up into this thing that he wasn't,

I think a lot of people do that with our government, as well.

And when you operate out of misinformation and fear,

things can go wrong.

"American Experience: Ruby Ridge" ♪


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