Two words. Ruby Ridge.The national spotlight was clearly focused on a hilltop in North Idaho twenty-five years ago. What have we learned from those eleven days that changed the way how many view Federal law enforcement policies?
You may not have lived in Idaho, twenty-five years ago, but ask anybody who did, and they will tell you the story of Ruby Ridge. Michael Johnson was a U.S. Marshall at the time and says it started months before the actual standoff.
"The whole case started a year prior to that when Weaver refused to appear in court on a Federal firearm charge, and that's why the Marshall Service got involved. You cannot tell the government whether it's city, county, or state, I'm not coming to court, if you let that go, then you have anarchy."
U.S. Marshall agents made a series of attempts to have Weaver surrender, but Weaver refused to leave his cabin. That's when things escalated with more Federal agents and hundreds of Weaver supporters converging on Ruby Ridge. Shots were fired, and it didn't take long to see what had just happened.
Boise attorney Chuck Peterson, who was a part of Weaver's defense recalled what happened.
"Really within fifteen minutes, Vicki Weaver would be dead, Kevin Harris would be shot. The entire thing could have been settled, but it simply blew up." Weaver's son Sammy was also a victim. Peterson added, "The Federal agents on the property bear some of the blame, Randy Weaver bears some of the blame. He could have come down before agents showed up, and probably his entire family would still be alive."
The standoff was ultimately resolved by Bo Gritz, a decorated Vietnam veteran. So what have we learned from Ruby Ridge? Johnson put it this way.
"You know what I hope people take away from this, is that it could have been prevented if Weaver would have just shown up in court, nobody wanted to go up there and kill anybody. We just needed him to show up in court."