Five deputy marshals involved in the start of a siege in which a white supremacist’s son and wife were killed received the U.S. Marshals Service’s highest award for valor Friday.
Larry Cooper, David Hunt, Frank Norris, Arthur Roderick and Joseph Thomas, along with Bill Degan, formed a special reconnaissance unit that patrolled the area around Randy Weaver’s remote Idaho cabin.
Degan and Weaver’s 14-year-old son, Sam, were killed in a gunfight with the deputies that started the siege on Aug. 21, 1992. It has never been determined who shot the boy.
Weaver’s wife, Vicki, was shot to death the next day by an FBI sniper as the standoff continued.
The five deputies were cited by Marshals Service Director Eduardo Gonzalez for their exceptional courage under fire.
A phone call to Weaver’s home in Grand Junction, Iowa, was not returned Friday, but his lawyer, Gerry Spence, said he was saddened by the honors.
“I’m sure that the country will be surprised by it. There’s still a boy there lying on the ground that was shot in the back,” he said.
Asked why the service waited so long after the siege to honor the five men, Gonzalez cited the recent conclusion of hearings in Congress.
“It was the first opportunity we had after we had the formal hearings on Ruby Ridge,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t think it was appropriate while the hearings were going on.”
According to testimony last year before a Senate committee, the deputies had gone to the Weavers’ cabin in hopes of peacefully arresting Randy Weaver for failing to appear in court on weapons charges.
The deputies testified the shootout began when the deputies and the Weavers unexpectedly crossed paths and Roderick shot the Weavers’ dog. Kevin Harris, a friend of Weaver’s, then turned and shot Degan.
The marshals said they believed Weaver accidentally shot his son himself, while Weaver denied ever firing his weapon. The government concluded the boy was shot by a 9-millimeter gun, the type carried by both Weaver and Cooper.
Without admitting wrongdoing, the government agreed to pay Weaver and his surviving children $3.1 million for the killing of his wife and son.