‘FBI TRUE: Ruby Ridge: The Real Story’ on CBS News sets to unravel the aftermath of the 11-day siege of the Weaver family cabin in rural Boundary County, Idaho, in late August 1992. The incident that garnered national headlines ended with the tragic demise of three lives, including two members of the Weaver family and a Deputy United States Marshal. At the forefront of the ensuing legal proceedings was the controversial former FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi.
Who Is Lon Horiuchi?
Lon Tomohisa Horiuchi was born to a US Army veteran in Hawaii on June 9, 1954. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1976 before enlisting in the army and serving as an infantry officer. He joined the FBI in 1984, slowly rose through the ranks, and was a sniper with the FBI Hostage Rescue Team by August 1992. He was one of the snipers deployed during the Ruby Ridge standoff, working at sniper position Sierra 4, when one Deputy United States Marshal was killed in the early hours of August 21, 1992.
Six Deputy United States Marshals, decked in night vision equipment and dressed in camouflage gear, were tasked with the responsibility of bringing Randall “Randy” Claude Weaver from his isolated cabin near Ruby Ridge, Idaho, on August 21. Randy had been facing felony weapons charges since December 1990 but had refused to appear for his trial despite repeated summons. Around 10:20 am, the Marshals encountered a party consisting of Randy’s friend, Kevin Harris, Randy, his 14-year-old son, Samuel, and their dog, Striker.
While the accounts of the following set of events vary, court records stated that a firefight erupted during which the marshals killed Striker and Samuel. The 14-year-old was shot twice, once in the arm and back. Kevin returned fire and killed Deputy Marshal William Degan as he and Randy retreated to their cabin. The FBI Hostage Rescue Team deployed 11 snipers, including Lon, at the scene on August 22. They were briefed, with sources stating the briefing authorized them to shoot any armed adult without harming the Weaver kids.
At that point, the Weaver cabin consisted of Randy, Kevin, Randy’s wife, Victoria “Vicki” Jordison, and their three surviving children — Sara, then 16; Rachel, then 10; and Elisheba, an infant. The Rules of Engagement were revised to authorize firing only at any armed adult male attempting to leave the cabin. Court documents mentioned that the federal agents were forbidden from firing into the cottage due to the presence of the minors. On August 22 afternoon, Lon and his team of snipers started trekking the hills surrounding the Weaver cabin.
The cabin came into the snipers’ view at 5:30 pm, and the team broke into factions of two and three along a ridge overlooking the house. Armed with a .308-caliber Remington rifle equipped with a powerful scope, Lon took a position about 200 yards from the cabin. Around 6:00 pm, Kevin, Randy, and Sara headed towards the birthing shed where Samuel’s body was located. The FBI marksman, unaware of their identities, observed at least one person carrying a “long gun” and reportedly aimed his powerful scope.
Hearing the FBI helicopter’s engines, Lon thought an armed individual (later identified as Randy) might shoot at it. The sniper fired, injuring Randy and alerting the Weavers and Kevin to snipers. The trio took cover behind a birthing shed before rushing toward the cabin. As Kevin disappeared behind the door, Lon fired again, allegedly unintentionally hitting 43-year-old Vicki, who was behind the door with her infant daughter in her arms. The bullet struck her in the jaw — killing her instantly — before critically wounding Kevin.
Lon later claimed he had no visibility of Vicki behind the door. He asserted that he perceived Randy and Kevin, the latter carrying a rifle, as a potential threat to the FBI helicopter hovering above. After an internal probe of the incident, the Department of Justice decided against prosecuting Lon. They issued a statement noting a case of “willfulness, or knowing, intentional use of unreasonable force cannot be made out against FBI Agent Lon Horiuchi.” However, similar allegations arose against the sniper during the Waco siege in April 1993.
In September 1993, one of Lon’s colleagues claimed to have heard Lon firing from sniper position number one on April 19, 1993. The Waco incident resulted in the tragic loss of 80 members of the Branch Davidian religious sect when the FBI and other law enforcement agencies intervened to conclude the 51-day siege. After Randy and Kevin’s 1993 trial resulted in their acquittals, the Department of Justice (DOJ) created a “Ruby Ridge Task Force” to investigate allegations made during both proceedings against the federal agency.
Where Is Lon Horiuchi Now?
The Task Force submitted its 542-page report to the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility on June 10, 1994. The report determined that the first shot fired on August 22 met the standard of “objective reasonableness” needed for the legal use of deadly force, but the second shot failed to meet that standard. The erstwhile Boundary County charged Lon with involuntary manslaughter in state court for Vicki’s killing in 1997. A federal court dismissed the case in May 1998, citing the Constitution’s supremacy clause granting immunity to federal officers.
The Ninth Circuit later overturned this decision, allowing Lon to stand trial. However, the erstwhile prosecutors dropped the charges in 2000 due to challenges in proving the case and the passage of time. The Ninth Circuit granted Boundary County’s motion to dismiss the case against Lon in September 2001. Reports state Lon’s legal team asserted his innocence following the Waco incident, contending their client did not fire any shots. Some of the Davidians claimed to possess “specific evidence,” indicating Lon did discharge his weapon.
The erstwhile FBI Director also backed his agent, asserting the job entailed Lon making “split-second decisions.” The controversial FBI marksman retired in October 2006 as an FBI Program Manager and Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR). One of his lawyers, Adam Hoffinger, stated, “He’s very private and extremely protective of his family. We’re determined to let him get on with his life.” Lon, now 69, a father of six and a politically conservative Catholic, is presumed to be living with his family in Hawaii.
Read More: Where Are Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris Now?