Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Randy Weaver: Siege at Ruby Ridge

Government Gone Wrong

Ruby Ridge cabin, aerial view (AP)
Ruby Ridge cabin, aerial view (AP)

In August of 1992 Americans tensely watched as events began to unfold on a remote ridge in Northern Idaho, involving a white separatist family and the FBI. Eleven days after it had begun, a 14-year-old boy, a 42-year-old mother, a federal marshal, and one yellow Labrador retriever had all been shot dead.

The incident ultimately led to one of the most intensive and controversial investigations in recent history. The FBI faced widespread resentment and Attorney General Janet Reno established a Justice Department task force to investigate what had happened. National debates on the case were said to have fueled anti-government sentiments, which eventually played a role in the Waco, Oklahoma City, and the Freemen conflict. Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the government building in Oklahoma City is said to be at least partially motivated by revenge for what happened at Ruby Ridge.

Prior to the incident, the Weaver family had moved to the remote mountaintop to escape what they viewed as a sinful world. Randy Weaver lived with his wife and four children in a cabin he himself built on Ruby Ridge, just 40 miles south of the Canadian border. The cabin had no electricity or running water. According to friends, the Weavers simply wanted to be left alone as they awaited Armageddon. While many may have viewed their intent as unusual, it appeared to be quite harmless to most who knew them.

Almost a decade later many questions remain: What went wrong at Ruby Ridge? Why did over 400 members of the FBI, military and local law enforcement converge on the mountain? Why did so many have to die? These and similar such questions are not easily answered, however; some answers may lay hidden within the details provided.

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