Six North Idaho residents gave Congress radically different views Wednesday of Randy Weaver and events leading to the deadly Ruby Ridge siege in 1992.
Weaver’s former neighbors described him as a devoted father who only wanted to protect his home and family, and as a dangerous white supremacist itching for a fight with federal agents.
The six, flown to Washington at taxpayers’ expense, waited on opposite sides of the Senate hearing room until called to testify sideby-side at the witness table.
On one end were Allen Jeppeson and Tony and Jackie Brown. They had nothing bad to say about Weaver and his family.
“Everyone who died at Ruby Ridge was an innocent victim,” said Tony Brown.
The Browns and Jeppeson blamed federal agents for the three deaths and the public’s ensuing loss of confidence in the federal government.
On the other end of the table were Ruth Rau and Beverly and Ed Torrence.
They described Randy Weaver as a lunatic white supremacist who fulfilled his wish for a deadly confrontation with the government.
Rau said Weaver turned his son, Sammy, into a “trained killer, a young neo-Nazi soldier… His death is Randy Weaver’s fault and responsibility.”
The 11-day siege began when a deputy U.S. marshal and Weaver’s 14-year-old son were killed in a gunbattle near the family’s remote cabin. The next day, an FBI sniper shot and killed Vicki Weaver and wounded Randy Weaver and family friend Kevin Harris.
Tony Brown said Congress should demand the appointment of a special prosecutor - he specifically recommended Weaver attorney Gerry Spence - to file charges against federal agents.
Jeppeson told the senators that he never heard Randy or Vicki Weaver “ever threaten any law enforcement officer.”
Jeppeson, wearing a Western shirt and white cowboy hat, said Weaver only intended to protect himself and his family from anyone interfering with their lives atop Ruby Ridge.
Rau told the Senate subcommittee that her family was “threatened and terrorized” by Weaver and his children, who wore Nazi armbands and carried weapons.
Weaver fired shots at her home after the Raus evicted former Weaver friends Bill and Judy Grider from a home they rented from the Raus, she testified.
“It was a nightmare, and I literally feared for our lives during that time,” Rau said.
She said Weaver admired the late Gordon Kahl, a North Dakota farmer and Posse Comitatus member who got in a gunbattle with federal marshals in the early 1980s and later died in a shootout in Arkansas with federal agents.
“I strongly believe he was Randy Weaver’s role model,” Rau said.
Ed and Beverly Torrence said they met Weaver and his family while attempting to sell property next to the Weavers.
Eventually, federal marshals approached the Torrences, wanting to buy their land so they could move undercover officers next to Weaver.
“These men did not want people to die,” Beverly Torrence said of the federal agents.
Sen. Arlen Specter, who chairs the judiciary subcommittee, tried to cut off the testimony after hearing about 10 minutes from each of the witnesses.
But Jackie Brown interrupted, asking, “Don’t you want to hear about the siege?”
She went on to explain how she and former Green Beret commander James “Bo” Gritz eventually got into the Weaver cabin near the end of the 11-day standoff.
She recalled seeing Kevin Harris, wounded and “as close to death as anybody can be. He told me, ‘I didn’t want to shoot, Jackie, but they were killing Sam, and I didn’t have any idea who they were.”’
Brown said the Weaver episode destroyed her confidence in government.
“I find it heartsick…to suddenly wake up and find that everything I was taught was a lie,” she said. “There is no excuse for what happened up there. What happened there is wrong.”
In other testimony Wednesday, Gritz said he believes FBI agents deliberately shot Vicki Weaver because she was the family leader.
“I’m convinced of it,” said Gritz, who talked Weaver into surrendering.
Gritz said he also believes Randy and Vicki Weaver were each shot by different FBI agents using different guns, not the same sniper as federal authorities say.
Gritz couldn’t offer proof to back up his theory, but said he bases his belief on the bullet wounds he saw on the Weavers.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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