HAYDEN, Idaho -Ruby Ridge, nestled in the Selkirk Mountains was a place Randy Weaver, his wife Vicki, and their four children: Sammi, Sara, Rachael and Elishaba, called home. It was miles from society and a life they one knew in Iowa. But little did they know the federal government watched their every step.
Federal agents kept a close eye on Randy and his family after they went to an Aryan Nations camp near Hayden Lake run by Richard Butler several times. To do that, they threatened Weaver with a federal weapons charge as a way to get him off the mountain and cooperate with their investigation. Weaver skipped his court date. Months of attempts by the U.S. Marshal Service to get Weaver to surrender peacefully went by, until August 21, 1992, a day that will be forever remembered.
While out on surveillance, a team of federal agents got into a firefight with Randy, his son Sammi, and their friend Kevin Harris. It would be Sammi and decorated U.S. Deputy Marshal William Degan that would end up shot and killed. Randy and Harris ran back toward their cabin, and the Marshals headed back down the mountain, And a stand off began.
Helicopters, armored vehicles and over 400 men and women from the FBI, ATF and other agencies zeroed in on North Idaho. With manpower came protesters and supporters.
The Persian Gulf War had ended a year earlier. The federal government was under the assumption that their men were 'pinned down' and teams on the ground were given specific rules of engagement: Shoot if you see anyone armed.
The next day, Weaver wanted to see his son for the last time. A sniper fired twice from over 100 meters away, once wounding Randy Weaver. The second shot killed Vicki Weaver as she held her baby daughter in the doorway. The Weaver family hunkered down.
Near the road block, tensions from protesters and grief from family of both Weaver and Harris continued to rise. The world continued to watch.
Enter Republican presidential candidate and decorated Green Beret, Bo Gritz. Gritz believed that he would be the one who would help Randy Weaver and his family come down the mountain.
"He'll know that I'm someone that he can trust because we have a common brotherhood in the special forces," Gritz said.
Gritz was the first to learn of Vicki Weaver's death after Randy Weaver allowed Gritz up the mountain, but didn't surrender. Gritz informed the FBI, who relayed the message to the rest of the world.
On August 31, 1992, Randy Weaver and his three children would come off the mountain with one final goodbye.
"He just cried his wife's name, he cried his son's name and then he stood up tall like a man and we marched on down the road like we said we were going to do," Gritz said.
The effects of Ruby Ridge still linger 25 years later. Our media partners at the Spokesman-Review held a roundtable discussion that included Jess Walters and Bill Morlan, two reporters who covered the Ruby Ridge story extensively.
"I've always said this case is about two things: The insidious nature of racism in this country and how it can, and it did, lead very directly to the destruction of Weaver's family. But it's also about the government's missteps in the case," Walters said.
"Who's right and who's wrong? I'm not passing judgment on that, but it was an incredible flashpoint," said Morlin.