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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Murder Charges Filed in
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."