Supporters of Nevada rancher backed by militia take grazing fight with BLM to Vegas sheriff

  • Article by: KEN RITTER , Associated Press
  • Updated: May 2, 2014 - 6:25 PM
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File-This April 12, 2014 file photo shows Rancher Cliven Bundy, center, addresses his supporters along side Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, right, while being guarded by self-described militia members in the foreground.

Photo: Jason Bean, Associated Press - Ap

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LAS VEGAS — Family members and other supporters took a Nevada rancher's grazing rights fight against the U.S. government to the sheriff in Las Vegas on Friday, filing reports alleging crimes by federal agents against people protesting a roundup of cattle from public land.

Rancher Cliven Bundy wasn't among those who filed handwritten complaints with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department — the agency with jurisdiction over Bundy's ranch in the Bunkerville area and much of Clark County.

Sheriff Douglas Gillespie issued a statement saying the complaints would be investigated and the results shared with the Clark County district attorney and U.S. attorney for Nevada.

"We will then provide a response to the citizens who filed complaints as to the course of action taken," the statement said.

In encampments around the Bundy ranch, self-described militia members from around the country continue to camp with handguns on their hips and heavier weaponry within reach in a show of support for Bundy.

But no weapons were seen Friday among those who responded to his call for supporters and witnesses of a tense April 12 standoff beneath an Interstate 15 overpass — and lesser confrontations in preceding days — to file complaints against U.S. Bureau of Land Management police.

Ammon Bundy of Phoenix headed a delegation of three Bundy sons, two sisters and perhaps 15 other supporters who filed reports accusing Bureau of Land Management agents of wielding high-powered weapons, using attack dogs and stun guns, closing public lands, blocking roads, harassing photographers and threatening people.

Police said the Bundy family members were joined by about 40 other people. Twenty-two filed what the department called voluntary statements alleging acts such as impersonating a police officer, assault, threats, aiming a firearm, blocking road access and intimidation.

"We fervently hope and pray that these heavy-handed tactics will not be used on us or any other Americans ever again," Ammon Bundy said as he read a three-page media statement at the door of police headquarters.

"Will our sheriff keep his oath this time and use his lawful forces to stop them?" Bundy asked. "Or will the people be left to their own protection?"

Ammon Bundy said Cliven Bundy didn't join supporters Friday in Las Vegas because he previously filed a complaint asking Gillespie to investigate.

Gillespie didn't immediately respond to questions about Ammon Bundy's comments.

Bureau of Land Management officials have accused Cliven Bundy of failing to pay grazing fees for 20 years, racking up more than $1.1 million in fees and penalties, and failing to abide by court orders to remove his cattle from vast open range that is habitat for the endangered desert tortoise.

The agency responded to the filing of police reports with a wry statement.

"We welcome Mr. Bundy's new interest in the American legal system," spokesman Craig Leff wrote.

Openly carrying a pistol or rifle is legal in Nevada, and permit holders can carry concealed weapons.

Ammon Bundy credited armed guardians with coming to the aid of his family when the sheriff in Las Vegas would not. He also worried that armed federal agents who pulled out after the standoff nearly three weeks ago will return to Bunkerville.

"Will they come back with greater force and more cunning tactics than before?" he asked.

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