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Russell Eugene WESTON Jr.






A.K.A.: "Rusty"
Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Exact motives are unknown, but he does suffer from mental disorder and maintains a strong distrust of the federal government
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: July 24, 1998
Date of arrest: Same day (wounded by police)
Date of birth: December 28, 1956
Victims profile: Officer Jacob Joseph Chestnut, 58, and Detective John Michael Gibson, 42 (U.S. Capitol Police officers)
Method of murder: Shooting (.38 caliber ahndgun)
Location: Capitol Hill, Washington, D. C., USA
Status: Found incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness in 1999. In 2004, the court suspended (but did not dismiss) the criminal charges against him. He remains in a mental institution

photo gallery


Russell Eugene Weston Jr. (born December 28, 1956) shot and killed two U.S. Capitol Police officers with a .38 pistol at the U.S. Capitol on July 24, 1998.

He was mentally ill at that time and has been confined in psychiatric hospitals since his arrest. The two killed were Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson, both of whom received the honor of lying in state at the U.S. Capitol. (Chestnut was the first African American to receive this honor.)

The location where one of the officers died and where the apprehension of the perpetrator occurred was in the House of Representatives Majority Leader's office suite.

Many of Weston's neighbors had disliked him, and often ignored him rather than communicate. They considered him to be unusual, and sometimes eccentric. Weston had once thought that his neighbor was using his television satellite dish to spy on his actions. He also believed that Navy SEALs were hiding in his cornfield.

Two days prior to the Capitol shooting, at his grandmother's insistence, Weston shot and killed his family's 25 cats because they had fleas.

Weston had also spent around 50 days in a mental hospital after threatening a Montana resident. He was released after testing as being of no danger to himself or anyone else.

In 1999, Weston was found incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness (he was a schizophrenic who stopped taking his medication). A federal judge ordered that he be treated with antipsychotic medication without his consent in 2001, and an appellate court upheld this decision.

In 2004, the court determined that Weston still was not competent to be tried, despite ongoing treatment, and suspended (but did not dismiss) the criminal charges against him.


The United States Capitol shooting incident of 1998 was an attack on July 24, 1998 which led to the death of two United States Capitol Police officers. Detective John Gibson and Officer Jacob Chestnut were killed when Russell Eugene Weston Jr. entered the Capitol and opened fire.

Chestnut was killed instantly and Gibson died during surgery at George Washington University Hospital but not before wounding Weston, who survived. Weston's exact motives are unknown, but he does suffer from mental disorder and maintains a strong distrust of the federal government. As of 2008, because of diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia, he remains in a mental institution and has yet to be tried in court.

The shooting

On the day of shooting, Officer Chestnut and another officer were assigned to operate the X-ray machine and magnetometer at the Document Door entrance located on the East Front of the Capitol, which was open only to Members of Congress and their staff. Detective Gibson was assigned to the dignitary protection detail of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and was in his suite of offices near this door. Weston, armed with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, entered the Document Door at 3:40 p.m.

At the same time, Officer Chestnut was providing directions to a tourist and his son while his partner escorted another tourist towards the restroom. Weston reportedly walked around the metal detector just inside the entrance; Chestnut requested he go back through the detector.

Weston suddenly produced the gun and without warning, shot Chestnut in the back of the head at point-blank range. According to witnesses, he turned down a short corridor and pushed through a door which leads to a group of offices used by senior Republican representatives including then Majority Whip Tom DeLay and Representative Dennis Hastert, future Speaker of the House and a close protιgι of then Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Detective Gibson, who was in plainclothes, was shot after the suspect entered DeLay's office. Despite being mortally wounded, Detective Gibson was able to return fire and wound the suspect, who was apprehended in that office.

A female tourist suffered minor injuries after bullets grazed her shoulder and face. She was treated for her injuries and released. Also injured was USCP Officer Douglas McMillian. Future Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, a heart surgeon who had been presiding on the Senate floor just before the shooting, resuscitated the gunman and accompanied him to D.C. General Hospital.

After the shooting

Officers Chestnut and Gibson were the only two people killed in the attack. Following the shooting, both officers received the tribute of lying in honor in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. They were the first police officers, and Chestnut was the first African American, to receive the honor.

In 1999, Weston was found incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness as he was a schizophrenic who stopped taking his medication. A judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered that he be treated with antipsychotic medication without his consent in 2001, and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the decision.

In 2004, the court determined that Weston still was not competent to be tried, despite ongoing treatment, and suspended but did not dismiss the criminal charges against him. Weston was known to the United States Secret Service prior to the incident as a person who had threatened the President of the United States.

The shooting led to the creation of the United States Capitol Police Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization managed by the Capitol Police Board which provides funds for the families of Chestnut and Gibson. In November 2005, the fund was expanded to include the family of Sgt. Christopher Eney, a USCP officer killed during a training accident in 1984.

The shooting was cited as one reason for the development of the Capitol Visitors Center. The legislation authorizing the construction of the facility was introduced by Washington, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and was entitled the Jacob Joseph Chestnut-John Michael Gibson United States Capitol Visitor Center Act of 1998. The door where Weston entered was renamed in honor of the two officers, from the Document Door to the Chestnut-Gibson Memorial Door.

On March 6, 2008, Weston filed a motion requesting a hearing on his mental status. The hearing was held on May 6 with Weston appearing via teleconference from the Federal Medical Center with his public defender Jane Pierce and two witnesses he selected, a psychologist and vocational rehabilitation specialist.

Federal judge Earl Britt denied Weston's request to be released from the federal facility, arguing that he failed to present enough evidence that he no longer needed to be committed. During the hearing defense psychologist Holly Rogers stated that, "sometimes there are individuals who simply do not respond to medication", implying that Weston was not ready for release. Had Weston been released from the facility, it would have made it possible for him to be taken to Washington, D.C. to stand trial for the murders of Gibson and Chestnut.

The officers

Detective John Michael Gibson (March 29, 1956 – July 24, 1998) was a United States Capitol Police officer assigned to the dignitary protection detail of Congressman Tom DeLay. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery after lying in honor with Chestnut in the U.S. Capitol. Detective Gibson had served with the agency for 18 years. He was a native of Massachusetts who married the niece of Representative Joe Moakley, Democrat of Massachusetts. He had three children, a 17-year-old daughter and two boys, ages 15 and 14.

Officer Jacob Joseph Chestnut (April 28, 1940 - July 24, 1998), was the first African American to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol. Chestnut is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His funeral included a speech by President Bill Clinton and a fly-over by military jets in a missing man formation. In 2000, the building housing the U.S. Air Force's 20th Security Forces Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina was dedicated to Officer Chestnut, a former member of the Air Force Security Forces.

The suspect

The suspect, Russell Eugene Weston, Jr., known as Rusty, was born December 28, 1956 and grew up in Valmeyer, Illinois. Weston attended Valmeyer High School, the only high school in a town of 900 people. Shortly after graduating high school in 1974, Weston moved to Montana, rarely returning to Valmeyer. The only attempt his high school classmates made at inviting him to a class reunion was returned with obscenities written across it.

Many of Weston's Montana neighbors had disliked him, and often ignored him. They considered him to be unusual, and sometimes eccentric. Weston had once thought that his neighbor was using his television satellite dish to spy on his actions. He also believed that Navy SEALs were hiding in his cornfield.

He was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic six years before the shooting and spent fifty-three days in a mental hospital after threatening a Montana resident. He was released after testing as being of no danger to himself or anyone else.

Eighteen months before the shooting, he moved back to Valmeyer from Montana. Once home, he was known to compulsively hack at trees which filled his back yard following the Mississippi River floods of 1993. There was so much downed timber on his family's homestead that they had to ask him to stop cutting at trees.

Two days prior to the Capitol shooting, at his grandmother's insistence to do something about nearby cats which were becoming a nuisance, Weston shot and killed 14 cats with a single barreled shotgun, leaving several in a bucket and burying the rest.

Following the shooting, Weston was transferred to a psychiatric center at Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina. He has not yet been charged with any crime due to apparent mental instability. One contentious issue of Weston's incarceration is the issue of forced medication. Weston has thus far refused to take any medications voluntarily.

In May 2001, a federal judge authorized doctors to treat Weston involuntarily. A panel from a federal appeals court ruled in July 2001 that Weston could be forced to take the drugs which he was forced to do for 120 days. He remains in the Butner facility indefinitely.


Murder Charges Filed in Capitol Rampage

By Michael Grunwald and Cheryl W. Thompson - The Washington Post

Sunday, July 26, 1998

Russell Eugene Weston Jr., a former mental patient from Montana, was charged yesterday with murdering two U.S. Capitol Police officers during a rampage in the Capitol building that allegedly began when Weston walked up behind an officer and shot him point-blank in the back of the head.

Law enforcement sources and court documents added chilling new details yesterday about the Friday afternoon killings of Jacob J. Chestnut, 58, and John M. Gibson, 42, both 18-year veterans of the force. They said that after bursting through a Capitol security checkpoint and shooting Chestnut, Weston chased a screaming woman down a hallway until he was confronted by Gibson, who pushed the woman out of harm's way and exchanged deadly gunfire with the intruder.

Weston, 41, slipped into unconsciousness and was downgraded early yesterday from stable to critical condition after surgery Friday at D.C. General Hospital. Doctors said he had a "50-50" chance of survival. He was ordered held without bond yesterday during a brief hearing in D.C. Superior Court.

An FBI agent's affidavit filed in court says Gibson and another officer – identified by law enforcement sources as Douglas B. McMillan – fired at Weston several times. Angela Dickerson, a 24-year-old employee of a Virginia furniture store, was wounded by stray gunfire. She was released yesterday from George Washington University Medical Center.

Meanwhile, official Washington paused yesterday to pay tribute to the pair of officers who died in service to their government, as the nation's leaders vowed that the domed symbol of American democracy would remain open and accessible to the public. The Capitol did reopen yesterday, with flags at half staff and the Capitol Police force guarding the doors as usual.

"I want to emphasize that this building is the keystone of freedom, that it is open to the people because it is the people's building," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "No terrorist, no deranged person, no act of violence will block us from preserving our freedom and keeping this building open to people from all over the world."

President Clinton yesterday praised the two men as heroes who "laid down their lives for their friends, their co-workers and their fellow citizens," and he reminded the country that 79 other law enforcement officers have been killed this year. "Every American should be grateful to them for the freedom and the security they guard with their lives," Clinton said.

Friday's incident has brought new attention to the tricky security balance between ensuring public access and protecting public officials, and several members of Congress said it demonstrated the need for a long-delayed $125 million visitor's center that could help security officers control access to the Capitol complex.

But most observers agreed there was little the Capitol Police could have done to stop a determined and apparently deranged gunman like Weston, who had complained to neighbors in Rimini, Mont., that the government was using a satellite dish to spy on him. He once accused his frail 86-year-old landlady of assault and battery, and allegedly harassed several county and state officials when they refused to press charges against her.

Weston spent the last several years in the Montana backwoods, living on disability benefits in a cabin 40 miles from the tiny shack where the reclusive Theodore Kaczynski built his bombs. In early 1996, law enforcement sources said, he was interviewed by the Secret Service about unusual comments he had made about President Clinton and delusional letters he had written about the federal government.

Weston was entered into the Secret Service's computer files as a potential low-level threat, but the agency did not contact other law enforcement agencies about Weston and had no further contact with him, the sources said. "The volume of people that the Secret Service checks out and never comes into contact with again is just unbelievable," one law enforcement official said.

In the fall of 1996, Montana officials said, a judge committed Weston to a state mental hospital for evaluation after he threatened a Helena resident. He was released after 52 days, when a medical team concluded that he no longer posed a danger. But on Thursday, after he reportedly shot his father's cats, he allegedly stole his father's old Smith & Wesson revolver and pointed his red Chevrolet pickup truck toward Washington.

In Valmeyer, Ill., the riverside town where Weston grew up, the Rev. Robin Keating read a statement from Weston's family yesterday apologizing profusely for the deaths of the officers. "It is with great sorrow that we speak today – sorrow for the families that lost their loved ones, sorrow for the children that lost their daddies," the statement says. "Our apologies to the nation as a whole, for the trauma our son has caused."

An affidavit signed by FBI Special Agent Armin Showalter and filed in D.C. Superior Court yesterday recaps the horrifying moments after Weston allegedly walked into the Document Room Door on the House side of the Capitol at 3:40 p.m. Friday. Law enforcement sources said security videotapes that captured some of the incident provide vivid images of the grisly scene.

Chestnut was standing with his back toward a metal detector, writing some directions for a father and son who had just finished a tour of the Capitol, according to one law enforcement source who watched the videotape.

Weston allegedly walked through the detector, setting it off, then immediately pointed his gun at the back of Chestnut's head and shot before the officer had a chance to take action. Chestnut collapsed in front of the tourist and his 15-year-old son, who was soaked in the fallen officer's blood, according to the source.

"He was shot without warning," said Sgt. Dan Nichols, a Capitol Police spokesman.

As congressional aides and tourists scrambled for cover, Officer McMillan fired back at Weston, authorities said. Dickerson, a visitor who was standing nearby, was shot in the face and shoulder by a stray bullet, but officials said they have not determined who shot her.

"I don't really consider myself a hero," said McMillan, who was working near Chestnut's station Friday and said he witnessed his killing. He declined further comment.

Weston ran past them, following an unidentified female bystander who was running for cover toward a door that reads "Private Entrance" leading to the majority whip's suite. Inside, Gibson yelled for DeLay and his staff to take cover under desks and other furniture. DeLay yesterday said he and several staff members hid in his private bathroom and locked the door.

Before Gibson was able to draw his gun, the woman, with Weston behind her, appeared in the doorway. Gibson "pushed her away to safety," and Weston shot him once in the chest, Nichols said. Gibson then grabbed his own gun and shot Weston in the legs.

While the two men fired more shots at each other – one witness said there were at least eight or 10 rounds – the woman scrambled frantically in the hallway from closed door to closed door, pleading for someone to help her. Witnesses told police they heard her yelling, "Help! Help! Help!" but they were too afraid to open doors for her, sources said. Moments later, more Capitol Police officers arrived on the scene and arrested Weston, who had "additional ammunition" for his six-shot revolver in his pocket, according to the FBI affidavit.

"It was just a mess," one police source said. "Chestnut was executed, and Gibson saved everybody's lives in that office. If it wasn't for his fast thinking, I'd hate to think of what could have happened in that office."

A visibly moved DeLay met with reporters yesterday, recalling Chestnut as "a great man and a great patriot" and Gibson as "quite simply the finest man I've ever known." He said Chestnut, a father of five and a grandfather of five, was a Vietnam veteran who greeted everyone with a smile. He said Gibson, a Massachusetts native and Boston Bruins fan who worked as his personal security detail, had become a virtual member of his family.

"He tried to teach me hockey," DeLay said, his voice breaking. "I never did understand hockey."

Weston, who received CPR from Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and a D.C. paramedic shortly after the incident, has undergone surgery twice for gunshot wounds to the torso, buttocks and legs, and his surgeon, Paul Oriaifo, said he has a "50-50" chance of survival. Neither Weston nor the slain officers was wearing a bulletproof vest, law enforcement sources said.

Authorities charged Weston under a federal statute that covers cases in which federal law enforcement officers are slain during performance of their official duties. The case will be moved on Monday from the local court to federal court, which was closed yesterday. Attorney General Janet Reno has the option of seeking the death penalty, but a Justice Department spokeswoman said discussions of the question have not yet begun.

The last federal execution took place in 1963, although more than a dozen federal prisoners are on death row, including Timothy J. McVeigh, who was convicted in the April 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City. Prosecutors have been especially reluctant to seek the death penalty for federal offenses in the District, where voters overwhelmingly rejected a local version of the law in a 1992 referendum.

The Capitol Police force has worked almost round-the-clock on the investigation, along with officers from the FBI, D.C. police and other law enforcement agencies. The arrest warrant for Weston was signed at 2 a.m. yesterday, and federal agents executed a search warrant for Weston's shack yesterday afternoon. Other agents have been interviewing neighbors and family members in Illinois and Montana and more than 80 witnesses in Washington.

It has been a horrible two days for the 1,295-member Capitol force, which had had only one other casualty in its 170-year history, an accidental shooting death during a 1984 training exercise. A visibly exhausted Nichols said yesterday at a news conference that officers are taking solace in the support they have received from the public, and in the fact that they succeeded in protecting the members of Congress.

"It's been a trying couple of days for us," Nichols said as he choked back tears. "It's a difficult time, and the officers are going to rely on each other. ... But the gunman didn't get very far into the building, and that was our intention."

Funerals for the officers have not been scheduled, but DeLay said members of Congress hope to honor them with a joint resolution tomorrow and a memorial service on Tuesday. Congress also has created a memorial fund for the families of the slain officers, and donations can be sent to the U.S. Capitol Police Memorial Fund, Washington, D.C. 20510.

Nichols also said the Capitol Police had received many requests from visitors wanting to know if they could leave flowers on the House steps in honor of the fallen officers.

They certainly could, he said. And yesterday, they did.


Suspect's Family Recalls His Ailing Mind

By Jon Jeter - The Washington Post

Monday, July 27, 1998

When Russell Eugene Weston Jr. complained about the CIA's effort to kill him, or the government spies watching him from a neighbor's satellite dish, his relatives urged him to visit the doctor or get his prescription refilled.

His battle with paranoid schizophrenia, they said, seemed to make him a danger only to himself, but with the illness untreated and unmedicated, the voices in his head seemed louder, his edginess heightened.

"He would argue with a fence post," Russell Eugene Weston Sr. said of his son today. "But the only person I worried about him hurting was himself."

The 41-year-old Weston, who goes by the nickname "Rusty," is charged with killing two U.S. Capitol Police officers Friday. In a lengthy interview here today, the elder Weston, his wife, Arbah Jo, and their daughter, April Callahan, described the disintegration of Rusty Weston's life since his mental illness was diagnosed more than a decade ago. In his unsteady mind, the world was full of conspirators out to get him.

He wrote a letter accusing President Clinton of sending CIA agents to assassinate him. His own parents, he believed, had tried to kill him by planting a bomb in the family's cable television converter box. People talked to him through the television and the government spied on him through a neighbor's satellite dish, he often said.

"We couldn't get him to a doctor," said Weston's father, Russell Eugene Weston Sr. "Most of the time, we would try to say to him, 'Rusty, you know that's not true,' and he would say, 'You're the one that's sick.' "

A stay two years ago in a Montana mental hospital seemed to do him a world of good. The medication that doctors prescribed for him seemed to soothe his nerves, and even after he stopped taking it last year, he seemed slightly calmer than before. When he returned for visits to his parents' home here in this remote, rural farm town in southern Illinois, he still spoke of fantastical government plots, they said. But he was less likely to engage neighbors and relatives in his hour-long rants.

"He is sick," his father said today. "But he was doing better. He was much more in control of himself."

The tragic collision Friday between flesh-and-blood reality and the fictitious world that Weston's delusional mind invented was completely unexpected by those who knew him. Until he allegedly killed two police officers in an exchange of gunfire in the Capitol, perhaps the most violent thing the quiet, 41-year-old loner had done was kill two house cats with a shotgun, his family said today.

For if Weston did battle with an ailing mind for nearly half of his life, it was mostly a struggle played out in solitude, his relatives said. At his worst, Rusty Weston was never threatening, merely odd: a childless, unmarried man who was unable to keep a job and relied on federal disability benefits and his grandmother's kindness as his only means of financial support. He spent most of his days here – including the day before the Capitol Hill shootings – gardening, sawing wood and running errands for his grandmother in his old and dusty pickup truck.

Opening their home to dozens of reporters and photographers today, the Westons showed childhood photographs of their son and described him as an ordinary but overweight boy. He was a Boy Scout, and if it was mechanical, they said, he could fix it.

A relative once handed Rusty, then 5, a broken watch to play with, recalled his sister, a year older. When her brother handed the watch back minutes later, it was working again.

But as he grew older, his father said, he seemed to distance himself from others and the real world. He said that he first took notice of the inner workings of his son's peculiar mind when he was a high school senior. A C student, he told his father that he could have been valedictorian of his class, but chose not to because the honor meant more to a friend.

When his father pointed out that his grades suggested otherwise, the teenager argued tediously.

After high school, Weston never kept a job for long. He clashed with supervisors or co-workers or merely walked off the job and never returned. A job at a nearby mushroom farm ended after Weston woke up one sunny spring morning and just decided not to go, his father said.

"He didn't take instructions real well," the father said.

Bouncing from job to job, he also began to drift between the family's home in this town along the Mississippi River and the family's creekside cabin in a tiny town in Montana 17 miles southwest of Helena.

In 1984, said his family, he applied for federal disability, or SSI, benefits, claiming that his neck had been severely injured when an elderly woman struck him with her cane. The allegations led to a civil lawsuit filed by Weston that was later dismissed by a Montana court.

But the certification process for the monthly benefits required a physician to examine Weston, which eventually led to a psychologists' diagnosis of Weston as a paranoid schizophrenic, according to his relatives. He has been receiving SSI payments for his mental condition ever since, they said.

His condition worsened, however, and Weston's anti-government sentiments seemed to escalate. He accused his parents of trying to steal the modest amount of gold he had mined in Montana, and the calls and letters to local authorities and officials in Washington increased.

A letter to the White House in 1996 accusing Clinton of sending CIA agents to kill him led state health officials in Montana to involuntarily commit him to a public mental institution in October 1996. He was released two months later on the condition that he vacate the Montana cabin and continue his treatments at a clinic in Waterloo, Ill., near here.

But Weston stopped his treatments, and when his prescription expired last year, he did not get it refilled, said his family.

"He just would not go to the doctor," said his mother. "I kept hoping that maybe he would get picked up for something minor and the sheriff would make him go and get the help he needed."

Days before the shooting, Russell Weston Sr. ordered his son to leave the house after discovering two cats that Rusty Weston had shot in the head with his shotgun.

"I gave him 10 days to get out, but I knew that I was giving myself 10 days to cool off too. He's my son. He wouldn't have had to leave," he said, leaning on a cane, choking back tears.

Neighbors in this close-knit community describe the Westons as a respected, churchgoing family that has lived here for four generations. Sitting at a kitchen table inside their modest, single-story home decorated with figurines of rabbits, ducks and deer, the Westons held each other's hands and wiped away tears while repeatedly expressing remorse for the families of the two slain officers, John Gibson and Jacob J. Chestnut.

Police say that Weston used a .38-caliber handgun in the shootings; his father said that he discovered his .38-caliber pistol was missing when a reporter called hours after the shooting and asked whether the gun was still inside the home.

Just the day before, Rusty Weston had left the family's home to replace a worn fan belt and perhaps pick up some groceries for his grandmother.

"He didn't seem angry," said his father. "He didn't seem mad. We had no idea he had gone to Washington until we started seeing the television reports that night."

Weston said that he has supported capital punishment his entire life and would not stop now. "If a jury were to decide that my son should receive the death penalty, then that's the way it will have to be. I just hope that they take into account that this is a very sick man who did this."


Before the Shootings, a String of Excesses

By Gabriel Escobar - The Washington Post

Monday, August 10, 1998

The last known public obsession was wood, carefully chopped and carefully stacked. Now there is an enormous pile of black walnut in front of the green clapboard house, facing the railroad tracks, and another in the back, where the small homestead ends and the corn begins. More wood, abandoned cords of it, await disposal at the home of a patient neighbor.

It is all the tidy, meticulous handiwork of a person with enormous physical energy and a disordered mind. Before he headed east and was charged with killing two police officers in a deadly and still unexplained assault at the U.S. Capitol, Russell Eugene Weston Jr. spent most of his time in the solitude of the woods here, pockets of tall trees visible for miles and set in a monotonous landscape dominated by endless fields of corn and soybeans.

The most salient image of Weston, in the aftermath of the shooting, was of a man prone to shouting at a satellite dish near his remote cabin in Montana. In his madness, he saw menace in the dish.

But here, where he was raised and where he spent most of the last 19 months, his odd behavior was far more nuanced, often camouflaged by the constant work he assigned himself.

Rusty, as he is known in the family, hacked at dozens of tree trunks that had not survived the Great Flood of '93, when the Mississippi River overwhelmed the levee and for two months occupied the town and the surrounding countryside.

Russell Weston Sr., accustomed to Rusty's passionate if fleeting interest in projects, encouraged the woodcutting by offering to pay $25 for deliveries, content to see his 41-year-old son, once diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, focused and seemingly productive.

But the wood eventually threatened to overrun the Weston homestead, which has stood by the railroad tracks in this remote and unpopulated corner of southwestern Illinois since the Depression. The father finally had enough. "Please, Rusty," he pleaded with his son, "don't bring any more wood. I just got so much."

It was the last of Rusty's obsessive acts, but for family members it followed a prescribed pattern that stretched back years, from mining in the foothills of Montana to wood-chopping in the flatlands near the Mississippi.

Each began as a worthwhile project. Each became excessive. Each was eventually abandoned. What started as a normal enterprise with a clear goal suddenly turned abnormal, at times pathologically obsessive.

Today, Rusty Weston is in stable condition at D.C. General Hospital, shackled to his bed, recovering from gunshot wounds he suffered in the Capitol shootout.

A federal judge in Washington last week granted his mother, father, sister and brother-in-law permission to visit him in the hospital, but his mother said the family likely would not make the 750-mile trip for several more days.

In a way, Rusty's work mirrored his personality. He was perfectly normal, for a while, until the passage of time revealed a penchant for wild stories and wacky theories. His behavior alienated people. He was a solitary figure even in the company of others, and he was often left to himself, alone with his obsessions. Even his sister, April, stopped seeing him.

His tolerant parents tried to comprehend him and couldn't.

"You wouldn't know there was anything wrong with him. He'd talk just like we're talking right now. But the people he knew, they didn't want him coming around because he'd tell all these crazy stories," said Russell Weston Sr. "We loved him. I'm a warehouse worker, so I'm not too well versed in that stuff," he said, focusing on the illness that consumed his son and left them helpless.

"We just kept telling him we loved him, and we still love him. But it really wears on you. All the time. All the time. All the time."

Before the wood there had been the obsession with a large vegetable garden, which yielded far too much bounty for a family of four -- tomatoes, corn, green beans, climbing-pole beans, lettuce, broccoli and peppers. Without saying anything to anyone, as was his habit when embarking on one thing or abandoning another, Rusty left the garden to the weeds.

Just days before the shootings at the Capitol, he decided to pick flowers, from his parents' garden, from his grandmother's garden, from his neighbor's garden, far too many for any practical purpose.

It was the same with the cats. His grandmother, Lillie Weston, told him to do something about them because they were a growing nuisance. He shot 14, burying 12 and leaving two in a bucket.

Much has been made about this incident because it occurred within two days of the attack on the Capitol -- the behavior was so shocking that Russell Sr. ordered his son to leave within 10 days. But the cats, the horrifying results aside, was another job that Rusty may have taken too far, carried away by a task that suddenly consumed him.

It was assigned by a grandmother who doted on her grandson and who often gave him money. And, just as with the wood, the garden and the flowers, there was a disturbing excess to the way he carried it out.

"He'd just go on kicks like that, and he'd go overboard," the father said. "Rusty was not lazy. He'd start work in the morning, work all day and up until late evening."

With the exception of May 1 to mid-June of this year, when he returned to his cabin in Montana, Rusty Weston spent the last 1 1/2 years in Valmeyer, returning home in December 1996 after he was released from Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs.

He settled in the outskirts of a town that ceased to exist after the '93 flood. A new Valmeyer is on higher ground, on a 500-acre parcel that sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi. It has 115 new homes, new streets, rows of saplings, few residents. The overall effect is surreal.

The Weston homestead is about 15 miles away, in the middle of a flat expanse farmed by a giant grain consortium. Westons have lived there since 1937, when Rusty's grandfather got a job as section foreman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, now the Union Pacific.

After his return in 1996, Rusty Weston led an isolated life in this isolated place, interacting so seldom with people that reconstructing his daily activities is simple if only because there is so little to chronicle.

The federal investigation into the shooting has already yielded scores of documents and other personal belongings retrieved from here, from the cabin in Montana, and from the pickup truck he left parked on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Capitol.

The government's retrieval includes guns, gunpowder, ammunition, assorted books and documents, maps and even a receipt from a McDonald's where Weston ate en route to Washington.

Some of the material seized may be significant in light of what happened July 24 at 3:40 p.m. Weston is accused of bursting through a security checkpoint at the U.S. Capitol and provoking a gunfight that left two officers dead and a tourist wounded.

The government has notes, memos, videos and audiotapes that presumably record his views. The inventories now part of the court record are not detailed, but they provide telling hints. Something, likely a videotape, is labeled FREEMAN - CNN, a possible reference to the extremist group that had a long, and frequently televised, standoff with the FBI in Montana.

Two books have been mentioned by name. The first, "Spy Game," could refer to several works of fiction of that title, either in whole or in part. "Spy Game," written by John McNeil in 1982, focuses on computer crime. McNeil's other books have dealt with subliminal manipulation.

Another book, listed in the inventory as "Don't Bug Me," may refer to a 1992 nonfiction work by Michel Shannon, who specializes in high-tech spy methods.

Here in Valmeyer, authorities focused on two file cabinets that Weston kept locked. His father said that after he learned of the shootings, he thought of the cabinets and even considered opening them to see whether anything inside would explain his son's behavior.

The county sheriff stopped him, saying that the cabinets were now part of "the crime scene." The inventory from the seizures here is sparse and does not describe the contents of the metal cabinets. Some letters were retrieved from a brown satchel in Rusty's bedroom, and the inventory describes them as "LETTERS RE: US GOV - CIA/MILITARY."

All these documents may eventually shed some light on Weston's behavior, particularly in the days and weeks leading up to the shootings.

But for now, his parents have little to go on. His father said Rusty led an almost predictable, unremarkable life after his return from Montana, where he had gone shortly after graduating from high school. His mother, Arbah Jo, works at the Wal-Mart in Waterloo, the seat of Monroe County, and she told Rusty when he moved back that she would not be around to cook his meals.

His habit was to have one meal a day at home, at around 2 p.m., when he would eat cold cuts and as many as eight slices of bread in a row. He loved Diet Pepsi but only in 12-ounce cans. (He said the economical liter bottles his parents preferred lost their fizz.)

His mental illness earned him a disability check, and every month he received $494. The money was gone in less than two weeks, spent, as far as his parents could tell, on breakfast at Hardee's, cigarettes and other small purchases. A heavy smoker, he would frequently drive across the river into St. Louis County, Mo., about 11 miles, just to buy cartons of Winston cigarettes at a tobacco shop known for low prices.

The bizarre stories he told often placed him in a starring role, and in the weeks before the shooting, there were many such episodes. One day, he told his father that he and a woman had made a movie with President Clinton. He kept insisting it had happened.

"No, Rusty, you didn't," his father said.

"Yes," the son replied. "You even took me down to the theater. . . . You've just forgotten."

Rusty Weston's mining efforts in Montana focused on the Cousin Jenny Mine, which he still owns, and even while here in Valmeyer he sometimes talked about going back and resuming work.

Friends from Rimini, where he lived, said he was quite adept at the trade. Myron Goss, a onetime mining partner, dates Weston's problems with the government to 1988, when the two dug a 60-foot shaft in the abandoned gold mine and ran into problems with the U.S. Forest Service.

During his long stay here, Weston managed to save $2,000, and he told his parents that he wanted to buy an air compressor and an air drill for the mining operation.

"I'm going to do some mining this year," he told the family. "Of course, we heard that every year," his father said. "And he never did." Instead of moving back to Rimini, he bought a 31-inch RCA television, a shortwave radio, and an expensive watch. And just as suddenly, on May 1, he was gone.

His grandmother called neighbors in Rimini and finally found him. She gave him $130 so he could hire someone to dig a trench on the property for an underground electrical wire, part of Rusty's effort to bring the cabin up to code.

He showed up here in mid-June, again without warning, and plans to work on the cabin and resume the mining operation were abandoned.

Looking back on his son's life, Russell Weston Sr. finds nothing that foretells the tragedy that has now gripped the family.

Relatives have been remarkably open about discussing their son's life, and by now there is a resignation to the effort. "I just tell it over and over and over again," Russell Sr. said.

On the Monday after the shooting, reporters lined up at the front door, and the family patiently sat through interviews all day long.

They have received almost 500 cards and letters through the United Church of Christ, to which they belong. Many of them are from relatives of family members diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenics, and the solidarity expressed has touched the Westons.

"We do appreciate the thought from people we've never seen," Russell Sr. said.

The Rev. Robin Keating, the family's spiritual adviser, said the Westons are relying on their faith, "basically believing, perhaps, that there is a higher purpose to this." The higher purpose, Keating said, may be illuminating the plight of the mentally ill, who he said are often left to their own devices.

But at the Weston homestead, where the piles of wood stand as an odd and imposing testament to their son's predicament, there are still more questions than answers. Reporters still drop by, not as many as before, but they are always welcome.

Asked why the family was so forthcoming, Russell Sr. said, "You must remember that we are Christians, and we feel that God will give us strength."


Capitol Shooter's Mind-Set Detailed

By Bill Miller - Washington Post

Friday, April 23, 1999

Russell Eugene Weston Jr. told a court-appointed psychiatrist that he stormed the U.S. Capitol last summer, killing two police officers, to prevent the United States from being annihilated by disease and legions of cannibals.

"He described his belief that time was running out and that if he did not come to Washington, D.C., he would become infected with Black Heva," wrote Sally C. Johnson, the psychiatrist who examined Weston last fall. Weston called this imaginary ailment the "most deadliest disease known to mankind" and said it was spread by the rotting corpses of cannibals' victims, Johnson wrote.

Weston told Johnson he went to the Capitol to gain access to what he called "the ruby satellite," a device he said was kept in a Senate safe. That satellite, he insisted, was the key to putting a stop to cannibalism.

The former mental patient told another doctor that he fatally shot officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John M. Gibson on July 24 because they were cannibals who were keeping him from the satellite.

These accounts of the shootings, never before made public, were included in a volume of materials unsealed by a judge in U.S. District Court yesterday. The items included the findings of Johnson and five other mental health specialists, two videotapes of interviews conducted in recent months by a defense psychiatrist and a videotape made in July 1996 when Weston showed up, unannounced, at the Central Intelligence Agency. In that tape, Weston tells a note-taking CIA employee that President Clinton "is a Russian clone, brought to the United States for the purposes of communist insurgency." Weston began his discussion with the CIA by saying that he, too, was a clone.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan released the materials after finding that Weston is not mentally competent to stand trial for the rampage that killed Chestnut and Gibson and wounded Officer Douglas B. McMillan. Sullivan ordered that Weston, 42, spend the next four months in a federal correctional facility, getting psychiatric treatment in hopes of making him better. He set a follow-up hearing for Sept. 9 to determine whether there is any chance that Weston's condition will improve in the foreseeable future.

The four hours of tapes bring Weston's thoughts vividly to life. On them, he maintains an easygoing, sometimes cheerful disposition as he talks about his beliefs, sprinkling his comments with "of course" and "obviously." He links nearly everyone to a grand conspiracy, with the exception of his lawyers, who he maintains have been representing him for millions of years.

The tapes and documents depict a man obsessed with the idea that he alone could save the country from imagined enemies, including Clinton, who he said was put in the White House by the communists in a secret coup.

Weston, who has a lengthy history of paranoid schizophrenia, including a 53-day involuntary commitment to a Montana hospital, maintains that he has valiantly battled enemies thousands, if not millions, of times.

On the tapes, he describes the ruby satellite system as a means of reversing time. Because of the satellite's ability to manipulate time, Weston told one doctor, Chestnut and Gibson are "not permanently deceased."

The doctors said Weston believes he is perfectly healthy.

The materials provide the most comprehensive look to date at Weston's mind-set. Mental health specialists have said that Weston's illness may be so severe that he never will be deemed competent to stand trial in the killings. Even if the case does go forward, defense attorneys A.J. Kramer and L. Barrett Boss are all but certain to raise an insanity defense. Doctors said Weston now opposes such a plan and views the trial as his best chance to defeat the cannibals. He also views his trial as one of the most significant events in history.

In a conversation with defense psychiatrist Phillip J. Resnick, of University Hospitals in Cleveland, Weston was able to accurately recite the charges against him: two counts of murder, one of attempted murder and three of unlawful use of a weapon. Weston said he has faced this same trial many times in the past. If he does not prevail, he warned, the human race could be wiped out. Weston said it is in the government's best interest to drop the charges against him, and he declared that he has the "upper hand."

"We are just going to let the federal court system know that we know what's going on, and we make sure that they are awake and make sure that they know what's going on, and we give them a chance to turn it over," Weston told Resnick in the interview, conducted in a District jail facility. "You know, I guess you might call that, in the style of the French Revolution, which it is, a coup d'etat of the government with as little bloodshed as possible."

During the interview, Weston appeared calm and confident, espousing his views as if he were a university professor. Indeed, he said he was a professor in one of his many previous incarnations, just before he became the dean of both the medical and law schools of Harvard University. He also said he once was a lawyer who successfully tried thousands of cases.

Details about Weston's psychiatric problems surfaced soon after last summer's shootings. Weston's parents opened their home in Valmeyer, Ill., to the news media and told how he struggled with mental illness for at least two decades. They said "Rusty" believed the federal government was out to kill him and thought that his enemies had planted mines and booby traps and that Clinton had even dispatched an assassin from the Navy Seals to silence him for good. Sometimes he got treatment, they said, but mostly he denied he was sick.

The meeting at the CIA came at a time when Weston's problems repeatedly were drawing the attention of authorities, the psychiatric reports showed. Despite numerous warning signs, however, officials failed to ensure that Weston got the treatment he needed to overcome his illness.

During the spring of 1996, Weston told a sheriff's deputy that government officials were following him, and he warned that he would kill Clinton if Clinton ever tried to kill him. The Secret Service then interviewed Weston, who denied making any such threats. In May, Weston showed up at a hospital emergency room and complained that federal agents were poisoning him with soap. Authorities determined that he did not meet the criteria for civil commitment to a mental hospital and released him even though he declined medication.

At the CIA, Weston linked Clinton to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and warned that Clinton would detonate an atomic bomb to stay in the White House. The CIA alerted the Secret Service, but it was not until October 1996 that Weston was involuntarily committed to a Montana mental hospital. That action came after Weston went to a hospital to complain he had been brainwashed. After his commitment, Weston moved in with his parents in Illinois. He was staying at the house when he suddenly left for Washington after talking to his sister about Black Heva, cannibals and other delusions.

Weston told psychiatrist Resnick that Judge Sullivan "was involved with black market racketeering. Murder and cannibalism also." He expressed fear that Sullivan would attempt to influence the makeup of his jury to include some cannibals.

For months, prosecutors suggested that Weston could control his delusions and still stand trial. They accused Weston of refusing to cooperate for strategic reasons with a doctor they had selected. But Weston told Resnick he would not talk to the prosecution's psychiatrist because she was a cannibal.

At one point, Weston expressed surprise that none of the doctors who had interviewed him performed the appropriate competency test. "You put your tongue out and hold your tongue out for longer than a minute," Weston said. If the tongue turns purple, he said, that suggests brain problems.

Weston asked Resnick: "Since I told you about this test, did you do any studies on it and hunt for it?

Resnick replied, "I did, and I didn't run into anyone who is familiar with it." Weston appeared disappointed but then moved on to another familiar subject: "the statutes and codes on cannibalism."


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