The Nightmare of Idaho's Ruby Ridge
As a new inquiry begins, questions linger
As Randy and Sara Weaver and Kevin Harris ran back toward the cabin, Horiuchi prepared to fire again--this time at Harris, who he mistakenly believed was the same person he had fired at the first time. Horiuchi reasoned that this could be his last chance to neutralize someone who might continue firing at agents from the cabin. As Harris approached the porch, reaching out for the open cabin door, Horiuchi tried to "lead" him by firing at the door's edge. But Vicki Weaver was behind the open door, holding a baby, Elisheba. The bullet struck Vicki in the face and then hit Harris in the left arm and chest. Vicki died quickly.
"Inexcusable." The Justice review, differing from a separate FBI report, concluded the second shot was unconstitutional, noting that the Weavers and Harris were running for cover and could not be perceived as an imminent threat. The review also found that Horiuchi unnecessarily endangered others by firing at the door when someone might be on the other side. The review went on to say that blame must be shared by those who developed the special rules of engagement. The matter of the second shot was ultimately referred to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, but officials there declined to prosecute. The review also said the delay of a surrender announcement until after Horiuchi's shots was "inexcusable."
Weaver and Harris, who surrendered more than a week later, were charged with a host of crimes, including murder, conspiracy and assault. But the 12-week trial in Boise in 1993 was a disaster for the government: The jury acquitted Harris of all charges and convicted Weaver only of failing to appear on the original firearms charge. The government effort was plagued by repeatedly tardy deliveries of crucial documents to the defense team. The delays so angered Judge Edward Lodge that he fined the government $1,920 and declared that the FBI had shown a "callous disregard for the rights of defendants and the interests of justice" and a "complete lack of respect" for the court.
When FBI Director Louis Freeh wrapped up the bureau's own investigation by disciplining 12 employees in January, he probably thought the affair was over. But his promotion of one of the disciplined officials, Larry Potts, to deputy director soon after didn't sit well with critics. The controversy only grew when Eugene Glenn, the on-scene FBI commander at Ruby Ridge, charged in a letter to the Justice Department that the FBI review had been designed "to create scapegoats and false impressions." Behind the rhetoric is Glenn's belief that Potts approved the controversial, final "can and should" shooting rules at Ruby Ridge; Potts denies it.
Glenn's letter kicked off a new investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, which has reportedly found that Ruby Ridge documents were destroyed. That probe will continue, probably until late October, but some findings already have been referred to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington; the result could be obstruction-of-justice charges against several FBI executives. Freeh removed Potts as deputy in July and then suspended him along with four other bureau officials. Last month, the Justice Department settled wrongful-death claims by agreeing to pay $3.1 million to the Weavers.