STANDOFF IN IDAHO
What You Weren't Told about the Case of Randy Weaver
The standoff began on August 21 near Naples, Idaho and ended on August 31. The length of the siege is known ten days but the facts of this incredible story are stiII coming out.
Originally, we were told that a white supremacist. Randy Weaver, had shot and killed a U.S. deputy marshall who attempted to serve him with an arrest warrant for selling an illegal firearm a "sawed-off shotgun," according to Associated Press reports. Weaver then held a group of law enforcement officers at bay for ten days. The final body count on both sides included Weaver's wile and 13-year-old son and a U.S. deputy marshal. On the T. V. news, the entire story played as another sad chapter in our country's long history of loners wreaking havoc with their firearms.
But there is more to this story much more. According to information obtained from reliable witnesses at the scene, the saga of Randy Weaver and his family is, in reality, a nightmare of government foul-ups and half-truths.
The following information comes from retired Army Lt. Col. James "Bo" Gritz; Jack McLamb, director of the American Citizens & Lawmen Association and the most decorated officer In the history of the Phoenix police department; Frank Isbell, retired Los Angeles police captain: and, others at the scene. Local writer Benedict D. LaRosa has communicated with Gritz and others in an effort to present a fuller picture of the Standoff in Idaho. Jon Glllespie
BY BENEDICT D. LAROSA
Randy Weaver, his wife, and four children aged 10 months to 16 years, moved to the remote area of Naples, Idaho approximately nine years ago.
Weaver wished to home-school his children, which his home state of Iowa would not allow, and wanted to escape oppressive government taxation and regulation. The Weaver family wanted to become self-sufficient; they even lived without electricity and telephone in their home.
As a newcomer to the area, Weaver had twice attended services at a local Christian Identity Church out of curiosity. Government officials consider the church to have lies to the Aryan Nation white supremacist group. His attendance at two church services appears to be the only connection he had to any white supremacist group.
Three years ago, Weaver declined a federal government offer to infiltrate the Aryan Nations organization, headquartered in Northern Idaho, as an informant. In late 1990. undercover federal agents purchased from Weaver a shotgun with a barrel 1/4 inch shorter than the law permits. Weaver had bought it from a private individual before reselling it, unaltered, to the agents.
When Weaver slopped one day to help a pregnant woman in a disabled vehicle along the road, federal agents arrested him. The woman was part of a trap to capture Weaver. He pled not guilty and was released on personal recognisance.
After Weaver failed to appear for an arraignment hearing in February 1991, the federal magistrate issued an arrest warrant. His home was then placed under occasional surveillance by federal agents. A month before the standoff, Weaver had written his old Special Forces commander from Fort Bragg, retired Lt. Col. James "Bo" Gritz (who is the Populist Party candidate for President), asking for his help. Weaver wrote to Gritz that he feared the government would destroy him and his family.
According to what officers told retired L.A. police captain Frank Isbell at the scene, the siege began on August 21 when a six-man U.S. marshall SWAT team in camouflage fatigues and without a warrant trespassed on the Weaver property and began a reconnaissance in preparation for an assault on the Weaver home scheduled for sometime in October. When the three Weaver dogs began barking. Weaver, his 13-year-old son Samuel, and family friend Kevin Harris grabbed their rifles and followed the dogs, thinking they had trapped game. Samuel and Harris followed the dogs through the forest while Weaver went around by way of the road to circle the game.
Suddenly, a man in fatigues jumped up from some thick brush and shot one of the dogs. Samuel, not knowing who the intruder was and angry over the death of a dog he had personally raised and trained, fired back. . . whereupon someone fired upon him. wounding him in the shoulder. Samuel turned to run back home when he was hit in the back and killed instantly. Harris, after determining that Samuel was dead by taking his pulse, turned and shot one of the intruders. As the shots were fired, two armed men in camouflage fatigues jumped in front of Randy Weaver and attempted to arrest him. Weaver ran for the house, firing two shots into the air as a prearranged signal for his son and Harris to return. Deputy Marshal William Degan according to Gritz, "an expert from the special operations group on hostage and terrorism" was also killed.
That night, Weaver and Kevin Harris recovered Samuel's body and placed it in a nearby shed. The next day, as Weaver and Harris went to the shed to bury Samuel's body, Weaver was shot by a sniper in the armpit. As Weaver and Harris rushed back into the house without returning fire, the sniper shot Weaver's wife, Vicki, with a large caliber bullet through the forehead, as she attempted to close the door behind the two men. She was killed instantly. Vicki was holding their 10-month-old baby at the time. Harris also was seriously wounded when the bullet, or a bone fragment from Vicki, hit him in the chest, collapsing a lung and breaking several ribs.
Frank Isbell later said: "The incident was handled exceptionally poorly. Law enforcement is not trained to do this. The first thing law enforcement is trained to do is secure the area. Once the area is secured and the suspect is not going any place... then we operate under the three T's, that of time, talk and tear gas. Those procedures were obviously not followed in this whole incident."
When the F.B.I. took control of the situation Saturday afternoon, August 22, they imposed a news blackout and cordoned of an area 3 miles in radius from the Weaver home. All residents were evacuated. At least 200 heavily armed lawmen from the F.B.I., Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, U.S. Marshall Service, and state and local police departments surrounded the Weaver home. They were supported by a National Guard command post, two M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers, three heavy trucks. 14 HUMVs, and two helicopters. Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus declared a state of emergency in the county where the Weaver home is located and an adjacent county, citing a danger to government buildings and a fugitive at large.
James "Bo" Gritz arrived Tuesday, August 25, with Jack McLamb to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the standoff. Upon his arrival at the roadblock, Gritz spoke to an angry crowd of over 100 friends and neighbors of the Weaver family, calming them considerably. He asked to speak to the F.B.I. agent in charge, Gene Glenn. Glenn refused to see Gritz and his party or to allow him to negotiate with Weaver. On Friday, August 28, Gritz, McLamb, Isbell, and criminal investigators Eric Lighter from Hawaii and retired. Lt. Col. John Salter from Montana attempted to serve citizens arrest warrants on Gene Glenn, and through him on F.B.I. Director William Sessions, Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus, and Director of the U.S. Marshal Service Henry Hudson for felonious abuse of office and failure to perform their duties.
Gritz read the charges at the roadblock and asked the people mentioned or their representatives to step forward. When no one did. he placed the document on a rock on the government's side of the roadblock. Although the county attorney told Gritz the warrants were of no consequence, within a half-hour Glenn had Gritz escorted to the top of the mountain to make contact with Weaver. From then on, Glenn cooperated fully with Gritz, and the two men worked closely together.
The state and federal governments had attempted to contact prior to that time without success. Since the Weaver house was without telephone or electricity, the F.B.I. had sent a robot equipped with a telephone in one hand, a video camera as an eye, and 12-gauge shotgun in the other hand. Despite an appeal by radio commentator Paul Harvey to "pick up the phone and talk to the F.B.I.," Weaver did not hear the broadcast and was leery of the robot. In his appeal, Harvey had recommended that Weaver not deal with the "political opportunists" on the way up to see him Gritz and McLamb.
While the standoff stretched on, between 200 to 400 people gathered daily at the scene to protest the conduct of federal agents. Those who know Weaver said he merely wanted to be left alone to raise his family as he saw fit, without government interference. His tenure in the area had been peaceful.
Some observers have pointed out that there was plenty of opportunity to arrest Weaver peacefully, that the charge against him was minor and the reaction extreme.
"You don't send a SWAT team to arrest a man for a petty offense," a neighbor remarked.
Another pointed out that anyone likely to reduce the size of a shotgun would cut the barrel far more than 1/4 inch, and that no one can be reasonably expected to notice a barrel 1/4 inch too short when buying a shotgun.
"At best this merits a warning, unless you're out to get that person," a spectator interjected.
Friends are also upset that the government and the media have painted Weaver as a neo-Nazi, a member of the Aryan Nations, and a white supremacist. They claim he is none of these. Newscaster Connie Chung called Weaver a gun-runner on national television. No evidence has come to light to substantiate this claim.
On August 28, Gritz issued a call for outraged citizens to converge on the Naples, Idaho area to demand the peaceful release of Randy Weaver and his family and avert further bloodshed. When news of Vicki Weaver's death reached the crowd, their anger became so intense that Gritz feared they would attack the police. McLamb asked several skinheads at the scene to stand between the police and the crowd. The skinheads cooperated. When they heard of Vicki's death, even the police officers at the roadblock appeared disgusted with the actions of the U.S. marshals in the Special Operations Group who had precipitated the violence, and were grateful for Gritz' influence in calming the crowd. Vicki's body lay under the kitchen table for nine days until Gritz carried it down the mountain on August 29.
On Sunday, a National Guard doctor accompanied Gritz and McLamb to the Weaver home. The doctor determined that Harris would die without medical attention. He surrendered that day.
Several events persuaded Weaver to surrender the next day. Gritz, for whom Weaver has great respect, guaranteed his safety and that of his family. At the request of McLamb, the leader of the skinheads wrote Weaver a letter asking him to continue the fight in court. The F.B.I. told Gritz that they would resolve the standoff their way if Weaver did not surrender by Monday, August 31. Witnesses had reported seeing in the vicinity a helicopter with a large external fuel tank, leading Gritz and McLamb to suspect they were prepared to burn Weaver out.
Finally, news that Gerry Spence, well-known defense lawyer from Wyoming, would represent him convinced Weaver to surrender to authorities. Weaver surrendered at 3 p.m. on August 31. Gritz subsequently accompanied Weaver to Boise, Idaho for booking.
When it comes time for a trial, Gritz, McLamb and others have vowed to present evidence of government wrongdoing in this incident to a special grand jury. One final note: the Standoff in Idaho cost taxpayers $1 million a day. o
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