Robert “Bob” Weaver moved to Cody, Wyoming after his wife passed away in 2001. He loved Geology, fossils, archaeology, and history. When Weaver’s wife passed away from cancer it took its toll on him. He began seeing a therapist for issues related to anxiety and PTSD, according to his close friend Larry Roop. Being a rock hound and spending time mining and exploring was therapeutic for Weaver who, according to all accounts, was one of the kindest guys you would ever meet.
Over the years, Bob Weaver became known as “Bob the Geologist,” and he often shared his knowledge and love of rock hunting with others. Bob spent a lot of time learning about fossils, which led him to make some great discoveries. His friends claimed that his skills were so keen that other rock hunters in Cody were jealous of Bob’s uncanny ability to find fossils. It’s possible that this jealousy is what led others to make false reports about Bob’s activities to the US Forest Service (USFS) or possibly the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). On one occasion the USFS discovered a cave that had been potholed by someone. When agents started asking around apparently a person that didn’t like Bob blamed the destruction on him.
After investigating the incident, the USFS concluded that the allegations against Weaver were false and declined to take any action against him. Despite his innocence, federal land agencies in the area began to harass Weaver anytime they caught wind of alleged prohibited activities. Time and time again, the BLM and other agencies hounded Weaver, but were unable to take action because they lacked proof of any wrongdoing.
It was not illegal for folks to collect fossils, gems, and other rocks, and so there was nothing illegal about Weavers collecting. Over the years he acquired a nice collection of fossils and other items of interest. Although Weaver spent some time pursuing his hobby on public lands, most of his time rock hunting was done on his legally filed mining claim, and other private properties. According to some of the people who had knowledge of his explorations, there was nothing that would indicate that Bob ever broke the law at any time while on public lands.
Nevertheless, USFS and BLM continued to dog him to such a degree that Weaver began to keep a record of the agents who made contact with him. He used a short form document upon which he would enter the name of the agency, why they contacted him, and the name of the federal employee who made the contact. Constant allegations, as well as his vigilance in documenting contacts from federal agencies, began to place incredible stress on Weaver. But there was nothing that could prepare for what would come next.
On the first of December, 2016, six or eight federal agents from the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, accompanied by an investigator from Social Security with the office of the Inspector General, raided Weaver’s home. Larry Roop stated that prior to the raid Bob had set up a display at his church of pictures of a Fish Plate fossil. A BLM employee at the church took a picture of it and turned Bob in. Since it wasn’t illegal for Weaver to have such a fossil it remains unclear why the BLM employee chose to report him to the federal government.
The BLM Special Agent (SA) in charge was Michael Ramirez, stationed in Billings Montana. When Ramirez first questioned him, Weaver presented the agent with the short form and asked why he was there. Ramirez wadded up the form and threw it on the flood. According to Roop, SA Ramirez then told Weaver he wasn’t required to tell him why he was being questioned.
Ramirez continued to interrogate and harass Weaver for approximately four hours. Ramirez peppered him with questions about mining on public lands and made other false allegations about his activities. According to Roop’s account, Weaver explained to Ramirez that it wasn’t him. Despite his efforts to set the record straight, Ramirez called Weaver a liar many times throughout the interrogation.
It appears that federal agents came to Weaver’s home looking for items to seize in order to build a case against him, but were unable to find anything during their search. Roop indicated that the more the agents searched and came up with nothing, the angrier with Weaver they became. In a particularly cruel turn, the Social Security investigator threatened Weaver with the possibility of losing his disability payments because he had allegedly sold a couple of fossils to set up a college fund for his grand kids. Selling fossils that come from public lands is prohibited without the proper permits, but selling fossils that come from a legal claim or that are found on private property is allowed. There was nothing to indicate the items Weaver sold were found on public lands.
This mental abuse continued for several hours. Weaver attempted to tell Ramirez about his fragile mental condition stemming from PTSD. He told Ramirez that he had been seeing a therapist but the agent refused to ease up on his pressure tactics. Finally, Weaver said he was going to leave because he was so distraught from hours of verbal abuse and the ransacking of his home by the agents. He indicated that he could take no more and was no longer able to think straight or talk at that point. Ramirez told him that he couldn’t leave or take a break and continued to harass him, at which point Weaver lost control of his emotions.
After four hours of relentless haranguing, SA Ramirez told Weaver they would break for lunch to give him a chance to get control of his emotions.
After lunch, federal agents continued to interrogate and harass Weaver for an additional four hours, according to Roop. When the agents finished interrogating Weaver and ransacking his home they seized the majority of Bob’s legally-obtained fossils and rocks. The agents also confiscated his home-crafted fish and leaf plates, and other items. The agents seized Weaver’s personal property without regard as to what was legally obtained by him.
After eight hours of intense interrogation, the agents left. Weaver was not arrested. He then called his therapist who placed him in the hospital under a suicide watch. Weaver apparently never recovered from the abusive treatment at the hands of BLM SA Michael Ramirez and his team.
On December 31, unable to cope with the humiliation, verbal abuse, intimidation and threats made by Ramirez and the other federal investigators, Robert (Bob) Weaver took his own life. Larry Roop, who related the terror and trauma of the earlier events, found Weaver following his suicide.
The seizure of Weaver’s collections, protracted mental torture, and intimidation inflicted by Ramirez and the other agents can be described as nothing less than an unjust and gross overreaction to false reports by resentful associates. Despite the fact that SA Michael Ramirez filed no charges against Weaver, the experience crushed his already fragile mental state. In an effort to justify the raid and interrogation of Weaver, Ramirez seized property from other rock hounds and shops in the area under the pretense that they were illegally selling items on consignment for him.
Following his suicide, Lynnette Hawkins Kelley, one of Weaver’s friends, made the following post on Facebook
Ned and I thought we should let people know that our friend, Bob Weaver, took his own life a few days ago. A funeral is pending, and we will post the details for those who knew “Bob the Geologist”. Bob knew and loved, and lived for discovering and sharing the beautiful geological wonders of this world. His death is a tragedy of circumstances…we, his friends, hope to find a way to make the wrongs right. Rest in Peace Bob the Geologist! — with Ned Kelley.
Lynette Kelley also wrote the following editorial about Bob Weaver and tried to get it printed in several newspapers in the area and the only one that printed it was the Powell Tribune in their Jan. 17th issue. Another of Weaver’s friends in Kemmerer, Wyoming tried to get the editorial published in the local Gazette newspaper, again with no response.
She finally posted the editorial on Facebook.
Editorial to the Cody Enterprise and Powell Tribune
By Lynette Hawkins Kelley — January 9, 2017
A funeral will be held in Cody this week for a man, Bob Weaver, who took his own life. He was a geologist, who moved to Cody to spend his retirement years enjoying the natural wonders and treasures of Wyoming.
I am writing this editorial to bring to light the cause of Bob’s suicide, which was tragic and could have been avoided. Recently Bob’s home was raided by about six law enforcement employees of various government entities. They had a search warrant for illegal collection of fossils on public land.
There is not room in an editorial to argue the complicated legal system on the subject of collection of specimens on public land, which will continue to be hashed out in courts, and unending documents, and conflicting opinions between the Public and Government agencies.
My purpose is to share what Bob told us about what happened in his home the night he was overwhelmed by men intruding on his privacy. He described to us a scene from wartime Germany with Nazis after a Jew.
The leader of this group of intruders burst into the home with aggression, yelling and cursing, threatening and absolute bullying. When Bob tried to defend himself, the word “Liar!” was again and again thrown in his face. They tried to get him to sign a pile of papers on the spot, under duress of the atmosphere they created, to admit guilt.
Dozens of items were taken from Bob’s home. Upon verbally defending himself, he was physically escorted outside so as not to be able to be a witness to much of his life-time valuable collections being confiscated. Many of these items can be proven to have been collected legally, including being obtained with permission on private property and according to the laws of the land.
A video camera was used to film Bob’s home and belongings. I can only hope the intruders videotaped their own entry and methods and actions as well. I understand that it will take a court, attorneys, judges, and maybe even a jury to sort this all out.
But my point is that the raid was overzealous to the point of illegal, and that it caused a man so much anxiety and fear that he took his own life. These vigilantes may have well as shot him themselves, for this was the outcome of their actions.
The public deserves the accountability of those involved in this raid. While accusing Bob the Geologist of breaking the law, did they break the law themselves?
The case of Bob Weaver is not the first account in which military-style home raids, over-the-top interrogations, and cruel threats from federal agents have led to the deaths of decent, law-abiding citizens. On the morning of June 10, 2009, 140 BLM and FBI agents dressed in body armor and armed with automatic weapons, arrived in dozens of SUVS and stormed into the small town of Blanding, Utah, raiding the homes of more than 20 local citizens. The teams were searching for archaeological items as part of a two-year investigation into supposed illegal artifacts trading. With little actual evidence, the agents in charge fabricated an elaborate story saying the people whose homes were raided were part of a complex, million-dollar black market scheme.
The raid took place under the direction of BLM SA Dan Love*. Agent Love, and others behind ‘Operation Cerberus Action,’ fabricated evidence, inflated the value of actual artifacts, and subjected suspects in the case to prolonged interrogations, suffering, humiliation, and terror.
Dr. James Redd, a beloved local family physician, along with his wife and daughter, was the target of the Cerberus investigation. When agents raided the house, they handcuffed and detained Dr. Redd in his garage where both BLM and FBI agents taunted him. They called Dr. Redd a liar and, despite the fact that there were never allegations of grave looting on his part, the agents chided him, asking him which, among the shovels hanging in his garage, was the one he liked to dig bodies with. Love’s agents also threatened him by saying that he would never practice medicine again.
At one point during the raid, Dr. Redd had to go to the bathroom, so two agents marched him down the stairs to his bathroom. In a humiliating display, the two agents stood six inches from his right knee and from his left knee as he used the bathroom. When he was done the agents refused to remove his handcuffs so he could clean himself.
After hours of verbal harassment and physical abuse, the agents then loaded him into a vehicle and drove him to the BLM office in Monticello, Utah where he was shackled to others arrested in the sting. The suspects were then transported an hour north to Moab where they were brought before the federal judge to hear their charges and enter a plea. Dr. Redd pleaded not guilty.
The charges filed against Dr. Redd stemmed from him picking up an effigy bead off the surface of the ground while hiking. Dr. Redd never tried to sell or trade the bead or any other artifact to the informant or to anyone else. The fair market value of the bead is $75 dollars. The Feds inflated its value to $1,000 dollars in order to reach the felony threshold. With a felony, Dr Redd would lose his medical license and it would allow the federal government to possibly seize his home and property.
After returning to his Blanding home, during the early hours of the next day, Dr. James Redd committed suicide by suffocation in his Jeep. A respectable and beloved citizen, church member, and servant of those on the Navajo reservation who depended upon his medical care, James Redd took his own life as a direct result of the federal agents’ overzealous tactics and inhuman treatment.
The linked video and article by the LA Times is an accurate depiction of the scope of this tragic injustice, Operation Cerberus Action, which ended in the suicide deaths of 3.
Within 9 months following the raids, two defendants as well as the informant BLM SA Love used to gather information about Dr. Redd and others, died at their own hands. Dr James Redd, Steven L Schrader, and Ted Gardiner took their own lives as a result of Operation Cerberus and ten of the remaining suspects pleaded guilty to minor charges. None of the suspects involved received punishments other than probation and some minor fines. In actuality, there was no black market antiquities trade in the small town of Blanding, Utah and the only individual to receive jail time was Charles “Chuck” Armstrong of Blanding, who, in his outrage over the death of his friends Dr Redd, he threatened to beat up the federal informant while talking with another Blanding resident.
Armstrong was charged with threatening a witness by SA Love, subsequently convicted and sentenced to one year in federal prison and 24 months probation. The federal government sent him to what was described as one of the most violent prisons in the federal system. Mr. Armstrong served his term, but never recovered from the mistreatment at the hands of SA Love and the federal judicial system. Mr. Armstrong passed away from an accidental overdose on February 12, 2015.
Robert “Bob” Weaver is the latest victim of heavy handed and unconstrained federal agents who, for incomprehensible reasons, seem to target innocuous activities by law-abiding citizens.
Now is the time for our elected officials and the citizens to demand change. These agencies have been give a free reign under the Obama Administration to run roughshod over rural America, especially in the West.
Rogue agents in overreaching agencies, such as the BLM and USFS, have put the value of rocks, fossils and ancient artifacts — no matter how insignificant — over that of civil rights and human life. And many people have died as a result. Millions of Americans throughout the West and into the heartland hope that the Trump Administrations will remedy the calloused culture and arrogant disregard for lives and property displayed by federal agencies, to whom citizens, such as Bob Weaver, have fallen victim.
*Dan Love was also the agent in charge of the raid of the Bundy Ranch in 2014, and the attempted confiscation of cattle by the BLM and FBI.