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Ruby Ridge Snipers Defend Their Actions in Front of Senate Panel

By Ronald J. Ostrow
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

FBI snipers Thursday defended their actions at the 1992 Ruby Ridge siege where a white separatist's wife was killed, contending that danger to an FBI observation helicopter from armed men outside the separatist's cabin justified opening fire.

But skeptical senators questioned whether permissive shoot-to-kill orders and exaggerated information about the threat of Randy Weaver led to an overreaction.

Dale R. Monroe, the partner of FBI hostage rescue team leader Lon Horiuchi - who fired the fatal shot - said he was preparing to fire but didn't only because Horiuchi fired first.

Horiuchi invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination Tuesday after the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism refused to give him limited immunity from prosecution.

The Senate panel is trying to determine what took place at Ruby Ridge on Aug. 21-22, 1992, when deputy U.S. marshals seeking to arrest Weaver led to a confrontation in which deputy marshal William E. Degan and Weaver's 14-year-old son, Sammy, were killed. The FBI's hostage rescue team then was called in, and Weaver's wife, Vicki, standing behind a cabin door, was killed by a shot that Horiuchi has testified previously that he fired at one of the men running to the cabin.

To some government critics, Ruby Ridge has become a symbol of law enforcement excesses.

But Monroe seemed to speak for his colleagues when he opened his testimony challenging the label of "trained killers" given to the team last week by Randy Weaver's lawyer Gerry Spence. "We are trained to save lives," Monroe said, noting that Congress commended the unit for its rescue of hostages without firing a shot at the 1991 Talladega, Ala., federal prison riot.

"The trained killer accusation is unfair to all dedicated agents and to the widow of U.S. Marshal William Degan," Monroe said.