Randy Weaver was one of four children born to Clarence and Wilma Weaver, a farming couple from Villisca, Iowa. The Weavers were deeply religious and had difficulty finding a denomination that matched their views; hence, they often moved around among Evangelical, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches. Weaver earned decent grades in school and played baseball and football in high school. He professed his faith in Jesus Christ at age 11, however at a 2007 news conference for Edward and Elaine Brown he stated : "I ain't afraid of dying no more. I'm curious about the afterlife. And I'm an atheist."
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When the Vietnam War began to escalate, Weaver dropped out of community college and joined the United States Army in October 1968. He excelled in recruit training. Weaver was promoted to the rank of sergeant following his training.
Weaver was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. As Weaver waited for deployment to Vietnam, his future wife, Vicki Jordison, was finishing her college studies, earning a two-year degree in business and getting a job at the United Way of America.
In 1970, Weaver secured a temporary leave from Fort Bragg and returned to his hometown for a visit. He had already decided to finish his duties with the Army and had told his family so. He reunited with Jordison shortly thereafter.
After the Army
On October 8, 1971, following three years of duty, Randy Weaver received an honorable discharge from the Army. That November, Weaver and Jordison were wed in a ceremony at the First Congregational Church in Fort Dodge, Iowa. In an attempt to impress Vicki's family, the couple arranged for two ministers to conduct the ceremony: a minister from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and a Congregationalist pastor.
After Randy and Vicki wed, Randy enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa to study criminal justice, and wanted to become an FBI agent. Weaver dropped out, however, because the tuition was too expensive.
The couple began to harbor more fundamentalist beliefs, with Vicki believing that the apocalypse was imminent. To follow Vicki's vision of her family surviving the apocalypse in a remote area, the Weaver family moved to a 20-acre (81,000 m2) property in remote Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and built a cabin there in the early 1980s. They paid $5,000 USD cash and traded their moving truck for the land, valued at $500 an acre.
At the time of the Ruby Ridge incident, the Weavers had four children: Sara, 16, Samuel, 14, Rachel, 10, and Elishiba, 10 months. Vicki homeschooled the children, and by all accounts was a devoted mother.
Ruby Ridge incident
Randy Weaver was considered part of the white supremacist movement by the US government. Believing that he attended the Aryan Nations church and Aryan Nations World Congresses, the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI interviewed Weaver and his wife in 1985. Weaver denied belonging to the Aryan Nations, and the couple cited differences in religious beliefs between themselves and the group.
Weaver was approached at a 1986 Aryan Nations rally by ATF informant Kenneth Faderley (posing as a biker named Gus Magisono) who was investigating Weaver's friend Frank Kumnick. Faderley presented himself as an illegal firearms dealer from New Jersey. Faderley met Weaver again at the 1987 World Congress. Weaver skipped the 1988 Aryan Nations meeting and ran as a candidate for county sheriff (and lost). In 1989, Weaver supplied two modified shotguns to Faderley. The ATF maintained that the weapons supplied by Weaver were illegally shortened when Faderley received them, Weaver has claimed otherwise. The DOJ Ruby Ridge Task Force Report (1994) records that Faderley stated Weaver showed him an unaltered shotgun and Faderley pointed out where he wanted Weaver to cut the gun. The ATF wanted to use Weaver to introduce Faderley to Charles Howarth who was starting a group in Montana, after which the ATF intended to drop the Kumnick and Weaver investigations. Weaver refused to take Faderley to Montana in November 1989 and Faderley was told by his superiors to have no further contact with Weaver.
By June 1990, Faderley had been outed to Aryan Nations security. Weaver was then approached by ATF agents and told that they had evidence of his possession and sale of illegal weapons, and offered to drop the charges in return for his co-operation in infiltrating the Aryan Nations. Weaver refused. He was initially arrested by ATF agents on charges relating to transfer of a short-barreled shotgun without a license in January 1991. This was compounded by Weaver's failure to appear in court to answer these charges. Weaver's original court date was Feb. 19 1991; it was changed to the following day, but Pretrial Services sent Weaver a notice citing the date as March 20. As a result, Weaver missed the hearing and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest, with the U.S. Marshals Service directed to serve it. By Feb. 27, it was widely known that Weaver had been given the wrong date. The U.S. Marshals Service wanted to allow Weaver the opportunity to show up in court on March 20, but the U.S. Attorneys Office sought a grand jury indictment on March 14 for Weaver's failure to appear. This convinced Randy and Vicki Weaver that he had no chance of a fair hearing. During the March 1991 to August 1992 standoff, Weaver isolated himself on his property and became increasingly suspicious of the Federal Government, vowing to fight rather than surrender peacefully. A plan for voluntary surrender was negotiated by the Marshals Service with the Weavers during October 1991, but was refused by the U.S. Attorney involved in the case.
After long-term surveillance, the Deputy Director of the Special Operations Group of the Marshals Service recommended against a tactical assault on the Weaver residence. He recommended that the indictment be dismissed and then refiled later under seal, so that Weaver would be unaware of the new indictment, in hope of causing him to drop his guard. An undercover operation could then be executed to arrest Weaver without incident. His recommendation was rejected.
On Aug. 21, 1992, several well-armed U.S. Marshals went to the Weaver property to clandestinely survey it; they hoped to update their information about the property, since it had last been surveyed in May 1992. The group had strict orders that they were to avoid all contact with the Weaver family. According to a Department of Justice report on the incident, the marshals were detected by the Weavers' dogs and began to retreat. Randy Weaver's 14-year-old son Sammy and his house guest, 24-year-old family friend Kevin Harris, left the house to investigate, both carrying firearms. The DOJ report corroborates this with a statement dictated by Randy Weaver to his daughter, in which he says that "Approximately 11:30 Friday morning....the dogs started barking like they always do when strangers walk up the driveway. Kevin, and Sam ran out to the rock with their weapons." Eventually the Marshals stopped retreating and took up defensive positions in the woods.
The sequence of events during the ensuing shootout is disputed, with Weaver and Harris saying that the camouflaged marshals fired first and did not identify themselves. The marshals' version of events is when they were rising to identify themselves, they were fired on first by Sammy and Harris. In another version of events, the Weavers' dog, Striker, was shot as he exposed a hiding Bill Degan, Sammy Weaver shot Bill Degan in retaliation, then a running Sammy was shot in the back by a dying Bill Degan and/or other federal agents. Both died. After this, the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) was called in to assist with the situation. Much controversy was later generated by the fact that, after the first day's events, the FBI had changed its usual rules of engagement; specifically, "deadly force can and should be used against any armed adult male if the shot could be taken without a child being injured." No request for surrender or announcement of officials' presence would be needed to shoot. 
The next day, August 22, 1992, HRT sniper/observer teams were deployed on the north ridge overlooking the cabin. Randy Weaver, Harris, and Weaver's 16-year-old daughter Sara were seen outside the cabin. Weaver went to view the body of Sammy Weaver, which had been placed in a shed after being recovered the previous day. Weaver's back was to FBI HRT sniper Lon Horiuchi. Horiuchi aimed to sever Weaver's spine for an instant kill. Weaver moved in the last split second as Horiuchi fired and the bullet entered Weaver's right shoulder and exited the armpit. As the three ran back to the house, Horiuchi fired again at Kevin Harris as he ran away, but this time hit Weaver's wife Vicki in the head as she held their 10-month-old daughter Elishiba at the door. Vicki Weaver collapsed on the floor, dying instantly with her bloody but uninjured daughter in her arms. Harris was hit in the chest by the same bullet. A Justice Department review later found this second shot was unconstitutional and the lack of a request to surrender was "inexcusable", since Harris and the two Weavers were running for cover and could not pose an imminent threat. The task force also specifically blamed Horiuchi for firing at the door, not knowing whether someone was on the other side of it, and criticized those who had decided on the special rules of engagement allowing shots to be fired with no previous request for surrender. Much later, a robot vehicle approached the cabin and announced the presence of law enforcement. According to the Weavers, this was the first announcement of the source of the violence.
A stand-off ensued for 10 days as several hundred federal agents surrounded the house, in which Weaver and his three surviving children remained with Harris and the body of Vicki Weaver, under a blood-soaked blanket. During the stand-off, the government force, which numbered 350 to 400 men, had named their temporary camp "Camp Vicki". The negotiators who later claimed they did not know Vicki was dead would call out in the morning 'Vicki, we have blueberry pancakes.' To Sara Weaver inside with her dead mother's body, they were deliberately taunting the survivors. A vigil was maintained at the Ruby Creek Bridge by protesters who believed the government actions were heavy-handed. James "Bo" Gritz, then a third-party presidential candidate who had formerly been Weaver's commanding officer during the Vietnam War, served as a mediator between Weaver and the government. Eventually, Weaver elected to abandon the stand-off and surrender.
Aftermath of the Ruby Ridge incident
Weaver was charged with multiple crimes relating to the Ruby Ridge incident, a total of ten counts including the original firearms charges and murder. Attorney Gerry Spence handled Weaver's defense, and argued successfully that Weaver's actions were justifiable as self-defense. The judge dismissed two counts after hearing prosecution witness testimony. The jury acquitted Weaver of all remaining charges except two, one of which the judge set aside. Weaver was found guilty of one count, failure to appear, for which Weaver was fined $10,000 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was credited with time served plus an additional three months, and was then released. Kevin Harris was acquitted of all criminal charges.
In August 1995, the US government avoided trial on a civil lawsuit filed by the Weavers, by awarding the three surviving daughters $1,000,000 each, and Randy Weaver $100,000 over the deaths of Sammy and Vicki Weaver. The attorney for Kevin Harris pressed Harris' civil suit for damages, although federal officials vowed they would never pay someone who had killed a U.S. Marshal (Harris had been acquitted by a jury trial on grounds of self-defense). In September 2000 after persistent appeals, Harris was awarded a $380,000 settlement from the government.
Controversy over the Ruby Ridge Rules of Engagement led to a standardization of deadly force policy among federal law enforcement agencies, implemented in October 1995 after the Ruby Ridge hearings by the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information, Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
In 1997, the District Attorney for Boundary County, Idaho charged Horiuchi with involuntary manslaughter, but the indictment was removed to federal jurisdiction based on the Supremacy Clause and eventually dismissed at the federal prosecutor's request. Kevin Harris was also charged with the murder of Bill Degan in spite of the fact he had been acquitted on that charge in federal court; that charge was dismissed also.
In 2000, Randy Weaver visited the site of the former Branch Davidian church in Waco, Texas. On April 19, 1993, during what is known as the Waco siege, the complex burned to the ground, killing a large number of men, women and children. A new church was being built at the time of Weaver's visit. He let it be known that he supported the assertion that government agents deliberately set the complex on fire. This visit was documented by British journalist Jon Ronson in an episode of his five-part documentary, Secret Rulers of the World entitled "The Legend of Ruby Ridge" and his book Them: Adventures with Extremists.
Randy Weaver and the Siege at Ruby Ridge have been the focus of several documentaries.
- Season 1, Episode 1: "The Legend of Ruby Ridge" of the documentary series Secret Rulers of the World. – April 2001
Support for New Hampshire tax protesters
- Great Lives from History: Notorious Lives. Three volumes. Edited by Carl L. Bankston III. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2007.
- "Ruby Ridge leader visits Browns, warns of increased provocation". Associated Press. June 18, 2007. Retrieved 2010-12-09.
- Hewitt, Bill (1995-09-25). "A time to heal". People Weekly.
- Jess Walter, Ruby Ridge, ReganBooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2002, pp. 30, 34, 38.
- Jess Walter, Ruby Ridge, ReganBooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2002, p. 54.
- Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility, Ruby Ridge Task Force Report, 1994.
- Ruby Ridge Task Force, Department of Justice Report on Internal Review Regarding the Ruby Ridge Hostage Situation and Shootings by Law Enforcement Personnel, US Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility, June 10, 1994. Made publicly available by Lexis Counsel Connect.
- Witkin, Gordon (1995-09-11). "The nightmare of Idaho's Ruby Ridge". US News & World Report.
- Jess Walter, Every Knee Shall Bow, ReganBooks, 1995.
- Wiener, Tim (1997-08-16). "U.S. Will Bring No More Criminal Charges Against F.B.I. Officials in Ruby Ridge Siege". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-26.
- Jess Walter, Every Knee Shall Bow, (Harper Collins, 1995), p. 196.
- Nieves, Evelyn (2001-06-06). [Vicki was holding her infant child in her arms when she was deliberately shot in the face by a federal agent. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F7081EF83B5B0C758CDDAF0894D9404482&n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fOrganizations%2fF%2fFederal%20Bureau%20of%20Investigation%20 "F.B.I. Agent Can Be Charged In Idaho Siege, Court Rules"]. The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-26.
- Alan W. Bock, Ambush at Ruby Ridge, Diane Books, 1998.
- Randy and Sara Weaver, The Federal Siege At Ruby Ridge: In Our Own Words, Ruby Ridge Inc., 1998.
- Jess Walter, Ruby Ridge, Regan Books, 2002.
- Ronson, Jon (2001). THEM – Adventures With Extremists.
- Jess Walter, Ruby Ridge, ReganBooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2002.
- Jess Walter, Ruby Ridge, ReganBooks, HarperCollins Publishers, 2002, pp. 392–393.
- Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information, Ruby Ridge, 1995.
- General Accounting Office, Use of Force, March 1996.
- "On day seven of Freemen standoff, outsiders offer help – March 31, 1996". CNN. 1996-03-31. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
- McVeigh Vents On '60 Minutes', CBS, 2009.
- ABC News: $1M in Unpaid Taxes: Couple Dares Feds
- CNN http://beta.cnn.com/2007/US/06/21/tax.evaders.ap/
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- Chapter two of From Freedom to Slavery by Gerry Spence
- "Idaho vs Randy Weaver" from the CourtTV Crime Library
- Summary of an Appeals Court ruling on Horiuchi; includes Special Rules of Engagement and a dissent by Judge Alex Kozinski
- "Ambush at Ruby Ridge" by Alan W. Bock, Reason, October 1993