White separatist Randy Weaver says he thought he’d be killed during his 1992 mountaintop standoff with federal agents.
Weaver takes center stage today on another mountaintop - this time, Capitol Hill.
The 47-year-old widower is set to tell a U.S. Senate subcommittee about watching his 14-year-old son and 43-year-old wife die during the 11-day siege at the family’s Ruby Ridge cabin near Naples, Idaho.
“I knew I was dead,” Weaver said in an interview taped last week at the former family cabin. “I knew that was it; it’s over, it’s just a matter of time.”
Weaver wasn’t killed but was wounded along with his friend, Kevin Harris. The two eventually surrendered to the FBI and were acquitted in 1993 of murdering Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan.
“I didn’t trust the government before it happened, and, you know, they proved to me everything that I believed about them before,” Weaver said in the interview.
Weaver’s interview with Sam Donaldson of ABC-News will be broadcast today on the network’s show, “PrimeTime Live.” It airs at 10 p.m. on KXLY-TV in Spokane.
Weaver will be the center of attention on Capitol Hill when he testifies as the lead-off witness before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information.
The Ruby Ridge hearings will examine the entire Weaver case and may touch on what many say is an FBI cover-up.
Five top FBI officials, including former Deputy Director Larry Potts, are suspended while a criminal investigation continues into their roles in the Weaver case.
That criminal investigation centers on whether FBI documents, modifying the agency’s shoot-to-kill policies, were destroyed during a subsequent FBI in-house investigation.
In excerpts from the ABC “PrimeTime Live” interview, Weaver says he believes Degan and other federal marshals attempting to arrest him on firearms charges deliberately killed his son, Sam Weaver.
“They didn’t have to kill that little kid,” Weaver says. “He was 14 years old, but he was (only) 4-foot-11, weighing 80 pounds.
“He hadn’t matured yet.”
Sam Weaver “had just walked by these guys” when he was shot, Weaver says. Federal authorities say the teenager was shot after he fired at the marshals, who were checking a damaged video surveillance camera they had placed earlier near the Weaver cabin.
After an FBI sniper shot and killed Weaver’s wife, Vicki, on the second day of the siege, Weaver says he ignored a request that he and Harris surrender.
“I was at a point where I knew we were dead,” Weaver recalls. “They were going to kill us all, that is what their plans were.”
Of the FBI sniper, Weaver says: “I know with that 10-power scope, he saw my wife standing there, he knew exactly what he was doing.”
During Weaver’s 1993 trial, sniper Lon Horiuchi said he fired the shots intending to hit Harris and did so believing he was defending other FBI agents.
Weaver’s daughter, Sara Weaver, now 19 and living near her father in Iowa, also is set to testify before the Senate subcommittee.
“I was just praying that we’d all go at once, because I didn’t want to watch us go one by one,” Sara Weaver says in the “PrimeTime” interview.
She and Weaver’s two other daughters, Rachel, 13, and Elisheba, 3, each received $1 million to settle the family’s civil suit against the government. Randy Weaver received $100,000.
The hearings were called by subcommittee chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., after Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, voiced strong criticism of the promotion of Potts to the No. 2 spot in the FBI.
Craig, a board member of the National Rifle Association, told the Idaho Statesman that he thinks the Ruby Ridge hearings will help in his push to abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Federal ATF agents also were involved in the botched raid at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, carried out during Weaver’s trial in Boise.
“Is it only coincidence that the ATF created each environment that resulted in a crisis that the FBI had to bring a conclusion to,” Craig said.
But the Republican senator seemed to soften his stand Tuesday when asked about ATF comments.
“After three years of witnessing federal law enforcement agencies mishandling the Ruby Ridge case and stonewalling the truth, perhaps I am too close to this case,” Craig said.
He will sit as a non-voting member of the subcommittee.
“I do not want to prejudge the outcome of this week’s hearings nor advocate in advance which reforms may take place to re-establish the public’s confidence in their federal police force,” Craig said in a prepared statement.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TV COVERAGE Three years after government agents killed Vicki and Sam Weaver and lost one of their own, the siege atop Ruby Ridge is big news nationally. The following programming is tentatively scheduled (all times are PDT): C-SPAN will televise today’s opening day of Senate hearings, 7-10 a.m. and 10-11 a.m. The entire first day of testimony, featuring Randy and Sara Weaver, will be rebroadcast tonight. Spokesman-Review reporter Jess Walter will discuss his book on the Randy Weaver siege, “Every Knee Shall Bow,” on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” 7-9 a.m. today. ABC’s “PrimeTime Live” will air Sam Donaldson’s return to Ruby Ridge with the Weaver survivors at 10 p.m. today.
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