White supremacist's son found dead near standoff site

August 25, 1992|By Boston Globe

NAPLES, Idaho -- The 13-year-old son of a fugitive white supremacist was found dead outside his father's cabin, slain apparently in a gun battle last week that claimed the life of a U.S. marshal, authorities say.

Samuel Weaver, 13, son of Randall Weaver, died during a gun battle last week that was touched off when a family dog picked up the scent of marshals crouched in a ravine below the Weavers' cabin, according to authorities.

Federal authorities discovered Samuel Weaver's body Sunday night while securing the area around the cabin.

"He appears to have died of a gunshot wound," said FBI agent Gene Glenn. "It appears that Samuel Weaver was killed in the initial exchange of gunfire."

He was probably killed Friday in a shootout that left U.S. Marshal William F. Degan dead, Mr. Glenn said. An autopsy was scheduled.

One marshal who reported firing three rounds during the gun battle told officials that he believed he had hit someone, but there was no immediate confirmation of that, a federal official said yesterday.

News of the youth's death outraged local residents gathered at the scene, where federal agents doubled their presence yesterday to quell any confrontation. "They kill a 13-year-old boy over a sawed-off shotgun," said a neighbor. "We won't stand for this."

Local residents who have gathered at the scene in a show of support for Weaver said that if children were hurt, the agents would suffer. Neutral residents said they feared a riot.

"If there is any harm done to those children, you will see the start of the second American Revolution, right here," said one resident.

Details of the gunfight were included in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Boise, Idaho, where Kevin Harris, 24, a logger holed up with fugitive Randall Weaver, has been charged with firing the shot that killed Mr. Degan. Weaver is charged with assault on a deputy U.S. marshal for grazing one of Mr. Degan's colleagues with a bullet.

The standoff continued yesterday as FBI and U.S. marshals formed a defensive perimeter within "a stone's throw of the cabin" and Mr. Weaver and Mr. Harris refused to accept phone calls from FBI negotiators or respond to messages delivered with bullhorns.

Mr. Glenn said authorities are treating Weaver's three remaining children, ages 8 months, 10 and 15, as hostages. Mr. Glenn declined to speculate on how long the standoff, involving hundreds of federal and state law enforcement officials, will continue.

"Because we are aware that Mrs. Weaver and her children are involved, we are taking a cautious approach," Mr. Glenn said. "It must be understood that Harris and Weaver have been charged with serious crimes and pose an immediate danger. Efforts to apprehend them must and will continue."

Weaver, 44, has been hiding in his cabin with his wife, his children and Mr. Harris since defaulting on a federal charge of possession of a sawed-off shotgun 18 months ago. He is known to federal agents and local residents as a white separatist who has his own unorthodox religious beliefs and ties to Aryan Nations, a white supremacy group headquartered in nearby Hayden Lake.

Mr. Harris has been described as a loyal follower of Weaver who moved into his cabin here in early 1991.

As the standoff on Ruby Ridge continued yesterday, those who know Weaver best said if he had not surrendered by now, he would not surrender alive.

"If he has not come down off the mountain yet, he's not coming down at all," said William Grider, a neighbor of Weaver's. "How much more threatened could he be? He's willing to die for what he believes in. He has real high morals."

Local supporters of Weaver arrived throughout yesterday afternoon, holding signs and jeering at authorities.

"This isn't about race, this isn't about shotguns, this is political," said Sean Macguire, a resident. "This is just a political try to intimidate people in the West."

The night before, a delegation of members of the Aryan Nations handed out anti-Jewish literature.

Throughout yesterday, jeeps and official cars continued to come and go from the scene, some carrying agents with faces blackened by camouflage paint. Early in the day, massive gravel and lumber trucks delivered supplies that authorities planned to use to rebuild the primitive road -- called a goat path by one neighbor -- that leads to Weaver's cabin. Even a garbage truck was brought to the scene.

Mr. Harris' mother and stepfather, Barbara and Brian Pierce, maintained a vigil at the police blockade, sitting on a blanket next to Ruby Creek pondering their son's fate.

Late Sunday night, a bizarre scene unfolded near police barricades. Bespectacled women mixed with skinhead teen-agers, and a mother sat with her four young sons, holding signs that read "This is freedom?" and "Leave Weaver alone."

About 75 of the group gathered by the side of the road in a circle, held hands and prayed for Weaver's and Mr. Harris' safety.

Because of the seclusion and lack of minorities, the hills of the northern Idaho panhandle have been fertile ground for white supremacists over the past decade. Aryan Nations is based in nearby Hayden Lake, and anti-Zionist rhetoric, like that espoused by Weaver, is commonplace.

Roke Shelman, 77, a longtime friend of Weaver's, said he had asked authorities for permission to talk to Weaver.

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