For many years now, The Free Thought Project has been bringing you story after story of police killings of citizens’ pets. Many times when an owner’s dog is killed it is because they have called police for an unrelated incident. On other occasions, the police simply show up at someone’s property, and shoot the dog when they begin to feel uncomfortable with the dog’s behavior or barking. So, we felt it would be appropriate to remind our readers of one occasion where the shooting of an owner’s animal ended up costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Randall C. Weaver was a green beret. Weaver reportedly became restless with city life and sought to build himself a homestead. He and his family purchased property in Northern Idaho, in the middle of what some would consider nowhere, and began to live the homesteading lifestyle.
Motivated by their deep Christian faith, the family of six built a cabin, and began to cultivate the land, even harvesting deer to eat from time to time. Being somewhat isolated from society, the family would sometimes venture out and mingle with others in the community.
Inside one of those communities, the government had planted an informant. He was there to monitor the actions of so-called White supremacists. On one occasion, it was learned Mr. Weaver had sawed off one of his shotguns. This was reported to the Feds whose Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agency (ATF) opened a case against Weaver, even requiring him to appear in court, something he did not comply with.
After being a no-show in court, Federal Marshalls were sent to his property to “monitor” his activities. They dressed in camouflage, carried firearms, and were an imposing presence. They may have gone unnoticed, one day in 1992, if it weren’t for the Weaver’s dog.
The canine began to bark. Being located so far away from civilization, Randall Weaver took his son Samuel to investigate. They found what the dog was barking at, and it was one of the federal Marshalls, who reportedly opened fire, killing the dog to silence it.
Does this story sound a lot like what is happening in the suburbs today? So far at least it does…but here’s where things took a turn towards tragedy. Weaver’s son, apparently so attached to the dog, cussed at the agent, who reportedly shot the boy in the back. ATF agent, William Degan, was also killed in the exchange of gunfire which occurred.
Randall “Randy,” as he’s known to his friends, ran back to the house and told his family Sam had been killed by a stranger in the woods. But the unknown person had friends, fellow agents, who considered the killing of one of their agents an action punishable by death and the order was given to shoot any adult on sight.
The next person to die was Weaver’s wife, Vicki, who was shot as she stood in the doorway to their home. Vicki opened the cabin door and stood behind it, holding her 10-month-old baby in her arms. Just then, a sniper’s bullet struck her in the head, killing her.
A family friend named Kevin Harris was critically wounded in that second exchange of gunfire. Randy was shot too, but not as bad. What happened next stunned the nation and opened up a much larger discussion of individual freedoms versus governmental intrusions.
For the next five days, the Weaver family was holed up in their Idaho cabin, the same one they had built to escape what they perceived to be the downfall of society. By all accounts, the Weavers were very similar to modern-day preppers. They just wanted to be left alone.
The standstill with the authorities was only ended when a onetime presidential candidate James “Bo” Gritz (also a Green Beret and someone who Weaver respected) was able to retrieve Vicki’s body and extricate Harris from the cabin for medical treatment. Gritz went back again and finally came down with Randy Weaver and his remaining four children.
Weaver and Harris were both tried for the murder of the fallen ATF agent but were acquitted by a jury of their peers. They then sued the federal government for the wrongful deaths of their mother/wife and son/brother.
The Weavers settled out of court with the Justice Department who feared they’d win upwards of 200 million if the trial were held in Idaho. One hundred thousand dollars was given to Mr. Weaver and one million each to the surviving children; Rachel Marie, Elisheba Ann and Sara Lyn.
Gerry Spence, Weaver’s lawyer, said of the settlement, “The issue never was money…It was restoring confidence in our police. We cannot restore confidence until the F.B.I. comes forward and acknowledges what it has done. Money doesn’t buy justice. Justice is not a commodity for sale.”
Law enforcement officials need to understand that certain truths are valid now, just as they were back then on Ruby Ridge, the mountain where the Weavers made their homestead. You just don’t kill a man’s dog. Period. The entire incident could have been avoided without confrontation had the government’s agents not killed the Weavers’ best friend.
The shooting of the dog touched off the killings of three innocent people, the lifelong wounds of seeing one’s mother be killed by the government, and the fortune invested in attempting to apprehend Randy Weaver. He could have been apprehended in a better way, in a setting that didn’t threaten the lives of everyone involved.