BONNERS FERRY — Twenty-five years ago, the Boundary County community made global headlines for what is now known as the Randy Weaver Siege at Ruby Ridge.
Idaho Public Television revisited the Ruby Ridge saga Tuesday night on the American Experience documentary “Ruby Ridge.”
The controversial story is about Randy Weaver, his wife, Vicki, their four children, and a family friend named Kevin Harris, who found themselves between the cross hairs of federal agents during an 11-day standoff in August 1992, after Weaver failed to appear in court on federal weapons charges resulting from a BATF informant’s “sting” operation against him.
On the morning of Friday, Aug. 21, 1992, retired Boundary County Sheriff Bruce Whittaker was initially notified that there had been shots fired in the area of the Weaver cabin that had resulted in the death of deputy U.S. Marshal Bill Degan. As events unfolded, law enforcement discovered that 14-year-old Samuel Weaver and his dog, Striker, had also perished. The subsequent standoff resulted in the wounded Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris as well as the death of Vicki Weaver.
The iconic geographical location “Ruby Ridge,” as reported by members of the national press, is actually incorrect, as the Weaver’s family cabin was situated on Caribou Ridge.
In a 1992 press conference, Eugene F. Glenn, the special agent in charge of the Salt Lake City office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and commander during the Weaver stand-off, said retired United States Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel James “Bo” Gritz was instrumental in negotiations between Weaver and federal agents. The siege ended with Weaver surrendering the critically wounded Harris on Aug. 30, so that he could receive medical treatment. Harris was arrested and treated for a gunshot wound to the chest. On Aug. 31, Weaver was also arrested, after Gritz convinced him to surrender by promising him the council of renowned trial lawyer Gerald Leonard “Gerry” Spence.
Harris and Weaver were subsequently arraigned on a variety of federal criminal charges, including first-degree murder over the death of Degan, conspiracy to commit murder, federal weapons charges deriving from the BATF informant’s “sting” operation against Weaver, and other charges, including failure to appear for a hearing on the illegal weapon? count.
On April. 14, 1993, the murder trial of Weaver and Harris opened in the federal courthouse in Boise before Judge Edward Lodge.
On July 8, after a record-setting, 20-day deliberation, the jury voted to acquit Harris on all charges and Weaver on all major charges. Weaver was convicted of failing to appear in court. On Oct. 18, Judge Lodge sentenced Weaver to eighteen months in jail and $10,000 in fines. With fourteen months already served and good behavior, Weaver was released from jail on Dec. 17, 1993.
Both Weaver and Harris brought civil suits against the government over the events of the 11-day stand-off, with Weaver winning a combined out-of-court settlement in August 1995 for $3.1 million dollars, and Harris awarded a $380,000 settlement in September 2000.