NAPLES, Idaho – Kevin Harris surrendered at Randy Weaver’s mountaintop cabin Sunday, as former Green Beret Bo Gritz continued coaxing Weaver and his daughters to give up and bring an end to a 10-day siege by federal agents.
Weaver also permitted Gritz and Jackie Brown, a Weaver family friend, to carry the body of his wife, Vicki Weaver, off the mountain. Vicki Weaver was killed by gunfire on Aug. 22 and her body had remained in the cabin until Sunday afternoon.
Harris, wounded in the arm and chest, was examined by a doctor near the cabin, then flown in an Air Force medical evacuation helicopter to Spokane’s Sacred Heart Medical Center, where he arrived shortly before 4 p.m. Hospital authorities said Sunday night that Harris was in serious condition, but they would not describe his injuries.
Harris is charged with murdering deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan in an Aug. 21 shootout that began the standoff.
In a letter carried from the cabin by a family friend, Harris said he shot a deputy marshal after Weaver’s son Samuel was killed by marshals’ gunfire.
“I can’t over-emphasize how pleased we are,” FBI supervising agent Gene Glenn said after Harris’ surrender. “We’re optimistic that there will be further progress.”
Gritz, who helped break the silence between Weaver and federal agents, agreed.
“I believe that tomorrow, you will see him and his daughters in absolute safety,” Gritz said after returning from his last trip up Ruby Ridge Sunday. “We’ve been letting it go at his agenda, his speed.”
In a letter carried from the cabin on Saturday, however, Weaver indicated he may never give up.
“If they think we are going to trust them (we didn’t trust them before they shot us) they are crazy!” Weaver said in the letter, dated Wednesday. “Even if the rest of us die, we win.”
Gritz, the colorful independent presidential candidate, spent most of the day near the cabin, where he has been yelling through its plywood walls, trying to get Weaver to surrender.
At 1:47 p.m., Gritz convinced Harris to give himself up, Glenn said. Harris had been wounded by fragments from the bullet that killed Vicki Weaver nine days ago.
Glenn credited Gritz and his aide, Jack McLamb, with talking Harris into surrendering.
“Those two individuals have worked long and hard,” Glenn said. He said Gritz and McLamb met Harris and helped him get outside to where a doctor was waiting.
Within minutes, Harris was being flown to Spokane.
After Harris left, Brown cleaned the cabin, Gritz said.
Weaver’s daughters also let their pet parakeets go out with Brown, who collapsed on a friend’s shoulder and cried after she reached the bottom of Ruby Ridge.
“Those girls love those parakeets; they’re their favorite pets,” said their aunt, Julie Brown, who is not related to Jackie Brown.
Sunday evening at Sacred Heart, Harris’ mother, stepfather and other relatives and friends gathered in a small waiting room. A deputy U.S. marshal, a hospital security guard and other law enforcement officers paced the hallways.
About 7 p.m., Harris’ stepfather, Brian Pierce, said doctors hadn’t yet informed him of Harris’ condition.
Sipping coffee, Pierce said waiting at the hospital for word of his stepson’s condition wasn’t nearly as difficult as the eight days of waiting for his surrender on the mountaintop.
“This has been like something out of ‘The Twilight Zone,’” Pierce said. “It was really strange, getting back in town and seeing that the rest of the world is just going on, that other people are still going on with their lives.”
Weaver’s trouble with the federal government began in October 1989, when he allegedly sold two sawed-off 12-gauge shotguns to a federal informant. He was indicted more than a year later on charges of possessing illegal firearms.
It was another year before U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and Boundary County Sheriff Bruce Whitaker could catch Weaver. He and his wife were arrested when they left the cabin for supplies in January 1991.
But Weaver was released the next day and he and his family haven’t left the cabin since, federal marshals said. He missed his court date in February 1991, when marshals began watching his cabin. Harris had lived with the Weavers for several years.
At the roadblock where Weaver supporters have been protesting since the standoff began, Sunday’s developments were regarded by most as positive progress. But some people who know Weaver say they doubt he will follow Harris’ lead.
Wayne Jones, a friend of Weaver’s and security chief for the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist organization near Hayden Lake, Idaho, said he remains skeptical that Weaver will throw down his arms.
“He knew this was going to happen,” Jones said of the siege. “He made it very clear to me that he was going to take it all the way to the end” and would probably die in a shootout with the FBI.
Jones, who has visited the Weaver home, said the white separatist is a “man of honor and a man of his word, and I fully expect him to do what he has said he will.”
Jones said many Aryan Nations members and those who follow Christian Identity beliefs are convinced that federal agents were involved in a conspiracy to silence Weaver because he once ran for sheriff of Boundary County.
It’s one of the many conspiracy theories being traded by the skinheads, separatists and constitutionalists encamped with Weaver’s neighbors alongside Ruby Creek Road.
Among the stranger theories: federal agents have dumped phosphorus in Deep Creek, poisoning several dogs; the Belgian National Guard has come to North Idaho; and federal agents were killing animals on top of the hill.
“Obviously, the feds aren’t telling us everything,” said a 45-year-old constitutionalist. “We know. And we know they know we know.”
Late Saturday, one person even convinced a few demonstrators that Gritz would be the victim of a government conspiracy.
“They’re going to kill Bo!” a Gritz supporter yelled at the roadblock.
But the peaceful Harris surrender also increased optimism at the roadblock, where perhaps 100 Weaver supporters sat stoically around a campfire and waited.
A short time later, Weaver backers at the roadblock stood locked arm in arm. They sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” while skinheads gave the Nazi salute.
In the late summer heat, with campfire smoke and dust from Ruby Creek Road hanging in the air, federal agents and Idaho State Police continued the stare-down with the Weaver sympathizers.
It was the sort of evening that brought out an assortment of spectators, from bikers on Harley-Davidsons to curiosity seekers armed with Kodaks.
“I’m just up here to see what’s going on,” said Spokane tire dealer Duane Alton, who once ran for Tom Foley’s congressional seat as a conservative Republican.
“To me, it’s hard to believe this is really, truly happening in America,” he said as his wife took snapshots.
If there was support for the federal action, it wasn’t visible at the roadblock Sunday.
There was, however, a hand-painted sign, presumably done by children, which had been attached to a motorhome used by federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents behind the roadblock.
“Thank You For Keeping North Idaho a Safe Place to Grow Up,” the sign said.
Staff writers Kevin Keating, Susan Drumheller and Jeanette White contributed to this report.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter