Letter forged by 'skinheads' led to surrender of fugitive

September 02, 1992|By Dee Norton | Dee Norton,Seattle Times

NAPLES, Idaho -- A letter with the forged signatures of racist "skinheads" restarted stalled talks with federal fugitive Randy Weaver, leading to his surrender Monday.

Yesterday, Mr. Weaver, 44, pleaded innocent to a charge of assault on a federal officer, a 1990 charge that he sold a sawed-off shotgun to an undercover agent in 1989 and a 1991 charge of failure to appear for trial.

Mr. Weaver's wife and son and a U.S. deputy marshal died in shootouts at the family's remote, heavily-fortified cabin in northern Idaho.

"They killed my wife as she stood in the doorway of our cabin with our daughter in her arms," he said in a statement after entering his plea. "She fell with her arms still clutching our baby."

"When I lifted her head, half of her face had been blown away," Mr. Weaver said. He called it "a horrid premeditated murder" and said he surrendered to protect his other children.

During the standoff, two skinheads forged the signatures of others who apparently refused to endorse a letter written by negotiators James "Bo" Gritz, a former Army Green Beret and independent presidential candidate, and Jack McLamb, a retired Phoenix police officer.

Mr. Gritz and Mr. McLamb assumed leading roles last week in delicate talks for Mr. Weaver's surrender, which ended an 11-day siege by law enforcement officials.

The talks, overseen by FBI hostage specialists, were stalled until Mr. Weaver agreed to talk with Mr. Gritz, who was his commanding officer in a Special Forces training camp at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Mr. Gritz and Mr. McLamb had secured the release Sunday of Kevin Harris, 24, of Spokane, who was wounded Aug. 22 by the same bullet that killed Mr. Weaver's wife.

Sunday night, Mr. Gritz and Mr. McLamb met with a contingent of skinheads at the Deep Creek Inn, a restaurant near Mr. Weaver's mountaintop cabin.

Skinheads have been leaders of a vocal and frequently profane group of about 150 people who taunted federal authorities at the siege scene for their handling of the standoff.

Mr. McLamb said yesterday that he and Mr. Gritz felt they could persuade Mr. Weaver to give up. But they wanted a clincher from the skinheads, whom Mr. Weaver respects. They asked the skinheads to sign a letter to Mr. Weaver that Mr. Gritz and Mr. McLamb would draft for them.

Skinhead leaders replied that they would write their own letter to Mr. Weaver and would seal it, and they asked Mr. Gritz and Mr. McLamb to deliver it.

On Monday morning, only two skinheads arrived for breakfast with Mr. Gritz and Mr. McLamb. Mr. McLamb said the two skinheads, whom he did not identify, then forged the signatures of a number of other skinheads on the letter to Mr. Weaver.

The letter, which urged Mr. Weaver to come out and pledged support, was slid underneath Mr. Weaver's cabin door by Mr. Gritz and Mr. McLamb. After additional negotiations, Mr. Weaver surrendered.

Mr. Weaver's daughters were turned over to close friends and neighbors of the Weavers. The girls will return to the Weaver cabin on Monday and will not be separated, according to an agreement Mr. Gritz won from officials.

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