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Surrender Ends Mountain Siege : Standoff: Survivalist gives up, ending an 11-day ordeal that saw three die. The confrontation became a rallying point for political and religious extremists.

September 01, 1992|ASHLEY DUNN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After an 11-day standoff in the mountains of northern Idaho, survivalist and avowed racist Randy Weaver surrendered to 200 federal agents Monday, ending a strange siege that became a rallying point for some of the most extreme political and religious movements in the country.

Weaver had been holed up in his cabin near Naples, Ida., after a confrontation with federal agents Aug. 21 that resulted in the death of U.S. Marshal William F. Degan and Weaver's 13-year-old son, Samuel. In a gun battle a day later, Weaver's wife, Vicki, was killed.

Weaver, who had become a hero to some of the survivalists and religious devotees in the isolated mountains, had vowed to die rather than give up.

But after hours of negotiations with former Green Beret Lt. Col. James (Bo) Gritz, Weaver and his three other children walked out of the cabin Monday at 1:15 p.m.

Gritz, a onetime Populist Party presidential candidate, said federal authorities had agreed to let Weaver's girls stay with a family that lives in the area. A Marshals Service spokesman said authorities made no deals for Weaver's surrender.

Weaver, who was wounded the day his wife was killed, was flown by military helicopter to Boise, where he was led away in shackles under heavy guard. He was taken to a hospital for medical treatment and then to county jail pending his arraignment today, said Mike Johnson, U.S. marshal for Idaho.

"He does have a gunshot wound in the arm, but it is pretty much healed," Johnson said.

Weaver faces charges of assault on a federal officer and attempted murder of a federal officer.

Kevin Harris, a family friend who also was holed up in the cabin, surrendered Sunday and has been charged with Degan's murder, the FBI said.

Weaver fled to his cabin in February, 1991, after being charged with selling two sawed-off shotguns to a federal informant.

His first arrest was part of an undercover investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms into illegal gun operations by white supremacists in northern Idaho.

Weaver had said that he would surrender only if the government admitted that he was set up and apologized to him.

U.S. marshals monitored Weaver's cabin for months in hopes of arresting him without violence. But on Aug. 21 a shootout unexpectedly erupted near the cabin. In a statement released Sunday, Harris said that the shootout began after a man dressed in camouflage, apparently Degan, shot and killed one of Weaver's hunting dogs.

The ensuing standoff attracted an assortment of neo-Nazis, skinheads, survivalists, constitutionalists and devotees of the Christian Identity movement, which holds that whites are the true chosen people of God. Weaver holds many of the same beliefs as followers of the Christian Identity movement.

At a barricade set up below the cabin, Weaver supporters yelled "Baby-killers!" each time an FBI car drove by. They also carried signs with such messages as "FBI Burn in Hell" and "Zionist Murder."

Authorities believe that Weaver had ties to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, although family friends said that he is a white separatist without formal affiliations.

For more than a week of the siege, Weaver maintained a stubborn silence but began talking after Gritz went to the scene last week. Gritz is best known for his unsuccessful missions into Southeast Asia in search of American prisoners of war. Weaver also was a Green Beret.

"It was left up to Weaver to decide who he wanted to talk to and he wanted to talk with Bo Gritz," FBI Agent David Tubbs said. "He (Gritz) did an outstanding job."

Gritz accompanied Weaver as he surrendered to authorities. "He cried his wife's name, he cried his son's name and then we just marched down the road like we said we were going to do," Gritz told reporters.

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