Randy Weaver, Who Confronted U.S. Agents at Ruby Ridge, Dies at 74

Randy Weaver, whose 1992 standoff against federal agents at a remote site in northern Idaho called Ruby Ridge left his son, his wife and a U.S. marshal dead and made him a hero to anti-government activists on the far right, died on Wednesday. He was 74.

His daughter Sara Weaver announced his death on Facebook but did not say where he died or give the cause.

Mr. Weaver was wanted by the government for trying to sell a pair of illegal sawed-off shotguns to a federal informant within the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist movement. The group’s compound lay not far from Ruby Ridge, and Mr. Weaver and his family often socialized with its members and shared at least some of their beliefs, in white separatism and anti-government conspiracy theories among them. He also held to an apocalyptic form of Christianity.

He was arrested in late 1990 and released on bail in early 1991. After he failed to appear for a court hearing — he later said that he had been given the wrong date — federal marshals placed his cabin under surveillance, plotting a way to apprehend him peacefully.

Mr. Weaver was a former Green Beret who neighbors said kept more than a dozen firearms in his cabin, leaving marshals to assume that he was likely to respond violently to any arrest attempt.

On Aug. 21, 1992, a team of marshals entered the Weaver property to check on motion-activated cameras that they had placed around the cabin. When the family dog found them and started to bark, Mr. Weaver took his 14-year-old son, Samuel, and a family friend, Kevin Harris, to investigate.

As they approached, one of the agents shot the dog. What happened next remains in dispute, but a firefight ensued, killing Samuel and a marshal, William Degan.

After Mr. Weaver and Mr. Harris retreated to the cabin, the marshals called in support from the F.B.I., and by the next day scores of agents were surrounding the property, including snipers with orders to “neutralize” any adult males.

At one point Mr. Weaver went to a nearby barn, where he and Mr. Harris had placed Samuel’s body. As he returned, a sniper shot and wounded him. Mr. Harris stood in the cabin door, with Mrs. Weaver behind him, holding her 10-month old baby, Elisheba. The sniper turned his fire on Mr. Harris; a bullet passed through him and hit Mrs. Weaver in the head, killing her instantly.

A standoff ensued over the next 10 days. Dozens of reporters and anti-government activists descended on the area. Mr. Weaver became an instant far-right celebrity, and even before the standoff ended, Ruby Ridge had become a watchword for government overreach.

Federal agents eventually brought in Lt. Col. Bo Gritz, himself a former Green Beret and right-wing luminary. He persuaded Mr. Weaver to let Mr. Harris leave the cabin, and eventually to surrender as well.

Mr. Weaver in 1992 at a court appearance in Boise, Idaho. He was ultimately convicted of one charge, of violating the conditions of his bail.Credit…Tom Shanahan/Idaho Statesman via Associated Press

Mr. Harris and Mr. Weaver were arrested on several charges, including first-degree murder, but the government’s case fell apart at trial. The jury fully acquitted Mr. Harris and convicted Mr. Weaver on a single charge, that of violating his original bail conditions.

He was fined $10,000 and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Coincidentally, the trial took place as another deadly encounter between Christian millennialists, called the Branch Davidians, and federal agents unfolded, this time outside of Waco, Texas. A government siege of the group’s compound and the eventual assault on it left four agents and 82 of the sect’s members dead.

Both Ruby Ridge and Waco became touchstones in the modern far-right militia movement and were cited as inspirations for the bombing of a federal courthouse in Oklahoma City in 1995 by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

After Mr. Weaver was released from prison, he and his daughters filed a wrongful-death suit against the federal government. They won. He received $100,000, and each of his daughters received $1 million.

He later testified before a Senate investigation into the episode, and though he remained steadfast in his conviction that the government bore most of the blame, he also said that he was not without fault.

“If I had it to do over again, knowing what I know now, I would make different choices,” he told Congress in 1995. “I would come down from the mountain for the court appearance.”

Randall Claude Weaver was born on Jan. 3, 1948, in Villisca, Iowa, a small town in the southwestern part of the state. His parents, Clarence and Wilma (Truax) Weaver, were farmers, and Randy and his three siblings grew up working in the fields alongside them.

After graduating from high school, he attended Iowa Central Community College for two years before leaving to join the Army. He became a Green Beret, and although he aspired to go to Vietnam, he remained stateside as an instructor, primarily at Fort Bragg, N.C.

He received an honorable discharge in 1971, returned to Iowa and that same year married Victoria Jordison. He briefly returned to college, at the University of Northern Iowa, but with a newborn child on the way, he decided to work instead.

Over the next decade he held a number of jobs in manufacturing and sales, including for Amway. At the same time, he and his wife, both of whom had been raised in strict religious households, adopted a millennial form of Christianity, one that saw the world around them as fundamentally corrupt and full of signs of the coming apocalypse.

They sold their home and most of their possessions and, with their three children, moved in 1983 to Naples, Idaho, about 50 miles south of the Canadian border. They bought 20 acres of pine forest atop nearby Ruby Ridge, where they built a two-story home out of plywood and mill ends.

The Weavers kept to themselves, reclusive even to the scattering of neighbors around Naples. They raised their own vegetables and hunted their own meat. They followed strict rules derived from their readings of the scripture, like not eating pork and requiring Mrs. Weaver to sleep in a shed while she was menstruating.

Mr. Weaver later said that they attended meetings at the Aryan Nations compound simply to make friends, but he also said that he believed in a need for racial separation and that a “Zionist” conspiracy controlled the government.

Although the subsequent events at the cabin made Mr. Weaver a star among militias, gun enthusiasts and assorted pockets of the far right, he approached his celebrity reluctantly. He wrote two books about Ruby Ridge, which he sold at gun shows, and occasionally gave speeches to anti-government activists.

He later lived in Kalispell, Mont., and Jefferson, Iowa, where he married Linda Gross in 1999.

She and his daughter Sara survive him, as do his other two daughters, Rachel Weaver and Elisheba Weaver. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

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