Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Marshals Blame Weaver for Death of Son, 14

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Marshals Blame Weaver for Death of Son, 14

Article excerpt

TWO FEDERAL MARSHALS contended Friday that Randy Weaver accidentally shot his own son to death in the gunfight that began the siege at Ruby Ridge.

In testimony that seemed to defy previous accounts, U.S. Deputy Marshals Larry Cooper and Arthur Roderick told the Senate terrorism subcommittee that they believed the bullet that killed Sam Weaver, 14, had come from his father's 9 mm weapon in the clash in Idaho on Aug. 21, 1992.

Cooper was identified at Weaver's trial as the one who shot the youth in the back as he was fleeing up an old logging trail. Friday, however, Cooper said that he did not fire at Sam Weaver and that he was sure he did not hit him.

The marshals' assertions were quickly challenged by Jack Weaver, the foreman of the jury that acquitted Randy Weaver of murder charges. Jack Weaver and Randy Weaver are unrelated.

Jack Weaver said he wondered why the marshals did not mention it at the trial "if that's how it really came down. . . . The government's story has changed every time you turn around."

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the subcommittee chairman, said after the hearing that he was surprised by the contention that Weaver shot his son. "I think it requires further investigation," he said. "It's a very important matter."

The gunfight began at the intersection of two logging trails known as the "Y." It ended with the deaths of Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan and Sam Weaver. Randy Weaver and a family friend, Kevin Harris, were acquitted in 1993 of charges of murdering Degan.

Foreman Weaver and other jurors said in later interviews that most of them were convinced that the marshals had started the gunfight by shooting Sam Weaver's dog and that Harris was firing back in self-defense when he killed Degan.

The marshals swore Friday, as they did at the trial, that Harris fired first, wheeling on Degan when Degan shouted out, "Stop, U.S. marshals." Cooper, who had been in a "foxhole or depression" behind Degan, said he fired two three-round bursts in the direction of incoming gunfire.

But he said ,"I very strongly believe that none of the rounds that I fired at the `Y' struck Samuel Weaver, because I saw him running up the right fork of the `Y' after I fired my second and last three-round burst. In my opinion, Randy Weaver shot his son accidentally in the back."

Roderick agreed, asserting that Randy Weaver, who saw the marshals first, ran off into the woods and "was firing back into the Y and could have hit his son in the process."

The fatal wound was made with a 9 mm weapon, but the slug was never recovered. Cooper and Randy Weaver were the only ones with 9 mm guns that morning. Weaver said he fired his weapon in the air as he retreated uphill, shouting at his son, "Sammy, come home." He said the last words he heard from his son were, "I'm coming, dad."

Cooper said in the trial that he thought one of his shots hit someone; he thought it was Harris. …

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