74°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Sovereign citizen threat looms 5 years after Cicis Pizza attack

Hate fueled the 2014 ambush that killed two Las Vegas police officers and a man who tried to intervene.

Hate for the government. Hate for law enforcement. Hate for courts and hate for the system, authorities have said.

It came at the hands of married couple Jerad and Amanda Miller, who moved to Las Vegas from California just months before the June 8, 2014, attack. Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were on their lunch break at a northeast valley Cicis Pizza when the Millers walked in, shot them and declared a revolution.

The attack continued at a nearby Walmart, where armed civilian Joseph Wilcox also was gunned down when he tried to stop Jerad Miller, not noticing Amanda. Jerad died in the store after a shootout with Las Vegas police. Amanda died in a hospital after she shot herself.

Jerad Miller’s hate was not a secret. He spewed it on his Facebook page, through video rants and status updates, the latter of which remained online as late as last week. His final post, a day before the attack, read: “The dawn of a new day. May all of our coming sacrifices be worth it.”

Authorities would come to associate the Millers with the sovereign citizens movement, a loose network of extremists who reject government and law enforcement, though the couple never publicly declared themselves as such. With no arrests, and no trial to follow, the attack faded from national view.

But nearly five years later, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford considers the movement that the Millers supported the “largest terroristic threat” the state faces.

Levels of threat

Ford said he reached that conclusion after conversations with local, state and federal law enforcement, each of which investigated sovereign citizen cases even before the Cicis Pizza attack. Metropolitan Police Department Detective Ken Mead told state lawmakers in May that about 500 people align with the movement in Clark County alone.

Experts say the 2014 ambush was an extreme example of escalated action. Sovereign citizens more commonly participate in “paper terrorism,” creating and issuing fraudulent documents such as IDs, passports, vehicle registrations and concealed carry permits, as well as court documents, according to Paul Becker, a University of Dayton professor who studies right-wing extremism.

Those efforts can escalate to harassment. Mead told lawmakers he has even received death threats.

“When you look at those types of actions, understanding why law enforcement in our state considers it the largest terroristic threat makes perfect sense,” Ford told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Ford backed a bill this legislative session that would make issuing fake court documents illegal, taking aim at paper terrorism. The bill has passed in both the Assembly and Senate, and awaits the governor’s signature.

Detectives like Mead continue to investigate sovereign citizen cases.

“Are thousands and thousands of people likely to kill? Probably not,” said Carole Gallaher, an American University professor who also studies extremism. “But there’s these kind of levels of threat: the threat of violence, which is real and ever-present, but there’s also this level of making it very difficult for government entities and employees to do their job and undermining state authority.”

Ford said another reason the movement is a concern is the proclivity of its members to be white supremacists.

Gallaher said the anti-government ideals of the movement itself are not racist, and Becker noted that many people of color are sovereign citizens, too.

Still, Gallaher said, the lines can blur. The extremist movement is broad enough that some of its members also associate with white supremacist groups, and in certain factions there are enough “code words and dog whistles” that racism is considered a rallying call.

Tragedy becomes training

The Cicis Pizza attack fell on a Sunday. Officers Beck and Soldo had taken a seat at a table next to the restaurant’s soda fountain shortly before the Millers walked in and made a beeline for them.

A surveillance camera captured a little girl in a pink dress filling up her cup as Jerad Miller drew his weapon just behind her and shot Soldo in the back of the head. The little girl froze, then lunged around Amanda Miller, whose weapon was drawn, and sprinted into her beckoning mother’s arms.

Beck tried to “engage,” police have said. But he didn’t have a chance. As witnesses bolted out of the store, the Millers shot Beck several times, then laid a Gadsden flag — a yellow banner with a coiled snake above the words “Don’t Tread on Me” — on his body and headed to the Walmart.

The attack was the focus of an FBI documentary called “A Revolutionary Act.” It was produced in cooperation with the Metropolitan Police Department, and the FBI now uses it to train both local and federal investigators across the nation on violent extremism, according to Aaron Rouse, the chief of the FBI’s Las Vegas field office.

“The threat presents a unique challenge for law enforcement and our communities because extremists do not share a common profile, may be self-radicalized, self-trained and many believe violence is an acceptable solution to a perceived or actual grievance,” Rouse said in a statement. “Their experiences and motives are often distinct, increasingly unpredictable, and demonstrate a willingness to act alone — making them difficult to identify and stop.”

About a month after the Cicis Pizza attack, a 2014 study from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism classified the sovereign citizens movement as the highest-rated threat to local, state and tribal law enforcement.

Of the 364 officers surveyed, who worked for 175 different agencies at the time, 86 percent agreed that the movement was a serious terror threat. A similar study in 2007 ranked Islamic extremists the top concern to law enforcement.

Three years before the Las Vegas attack, an FBI bulletin also described the movement as a “growing domestic threat to law enforcement.”

On the fringe

Though Jerad Miller’s hate was well-documented, Amanda Miller’s Facebook posts didn’t raise red flags. They were mostly about work, the couple’s cats, their wedding, their move to Las Vegas.

Authorities never determined if Amanda shared in her husband’s hate or mirrored his actions out of devotion. But Gallaher said Amanda Miller’s silence is common in extremist circles.

“It’s a good movement for people who are introverts, paranoid and sort of suspicious of joining things and being parts of bigger things,” Gallaher said.

Perhaps because of the movement’s anti-government views, there is no national sovereign citizens organization. Instead, the movement operates in separate circles, allowing followers to wade from one group to the next or exist on the fringe without becoming entrenched, Gallaher said.

Still, there are national symbols, like the Bundy family, whose 2014 armed standoff with Bureau of Land Management officials made national headlines about two months before the Cicis Pizza attack.

The confrontation attracted militia members from across the country to take up arms at the family’s Bunkerville ranch, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The family believed the officials had no right, despite a court order, to round up Bundy cattle grazing on federal land. Jerad and Amanda Miller went out to the ranch, too.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Crime Videos
Woman suspected of pushing man off Las Vegas bus stays on house arrest - VIDEO
Cadesha Bishop, accused of pushing a 74-year-old man off a Las Vegas bus to his death, will remain on house arrest until her trial in April 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trial begins for man with wire left in his body after medical procedure
Opening statements began today in a trial where a man says a physician left a wire in his body during a heart procedure in 2005. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police warn of fuel thieves
Las Vegas police and fire officials are warning the public of the danger of fuel thieves using modified vehicles to transport and dispense gasoline. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Surveillance video captures details of man pushed off bus
RTC surveillance video captures multiple views and audio of Cadesha Bishop shoving 74-year-old Serge Fournier off a Las Vegas bus.
LVMPD Investigates 9th Officer Involved Shooting of 2019 -- Armed Robbery Suspects in Summerlin
LVMPD Captain Yasenia Yatomi gives preliminary details about an officer involved shooting that occurred in the 1200 block of N. Town Center Dr.(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas woman accused of pushing man off bus pleads not guilty
A woman caught on video shoving a 74-year-old man off of a Las Vegas bus pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder and other charges related to his death. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect faces 15 counts in shooting at Las Vegas Strip mall - VIDEO
Hasean Quinn, the man who faces multiple counts including assault with a deadly weapon after a gunshot was fired inside the Fashion Show mall on the Las Vegas Strip on Memorial Day, appeared in court Wednesday afternoon. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A man whose wives were found dead 8 years apart under similar circumstances is denied bail - VIDEO
Alan Sylwester, the man suspected of killing his wife, was denied bail again Wednesday morning during his preliminary hearing in Henderson.
Chief deputy district attorney: “Justice was done” in child pornography case - VIDEO
Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney James Sweetin speaks with the media after the sentencing of Christopher Sena, the man who was found guilty in February of multiple counts of sexual assault with a minor, incest, use of a minor in the production of pornography, lewdness with a child younger than 14 and child abuse. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas man gets 54 life sentences for sexually assaulting children - VIDEO
Christopher Sena, who was found guilty in February of multiple counts of sexual assault with a minor, incest, use of a minor in the production of pornography, lewdness with a child younger than 14 and child abuse, was sentenced to over 337 years behind bars.
CCSD police on the arrest of Deamonte Warren - VIDEO
CCSD police arrested Chaparral High School custodian Deamonte Warren on Friday on three counts of a school employee having sex with a student and an additional count of providing alcohol to a minor. (Courtesy CCSD Police)
Woman charged with sex trafficking an 11-year-old girl on the Strip
Gigi Mitchell faces seven felony charges including sex trafficking and child abuse for bringing an 11-year-old girl to the Las Vegas Strip to work as a prostitute. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bel Air Drive Officer Involved Shooting Presser - Video
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly goes over the officer-involved shooting on Bel Air Drive.
Former Las Vegas police officer get 25 life sentences for sexually abusing child
Former Las Vegas Police officer Bret Theil was sentences to 25 consecutive life sentences at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, May 15, 2019, for sexually abusing a child over a decade. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Man pushed off bus in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Las Vegas police arrested 25-year-old Cadesha Bishop on May 6, after she allegedly pushed Serge Fournier, 74, off of a parked bus near Fremont Street and 13th Street about 4:50 p.m. March 21.(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
$1 million bail set for mother charged with drowning 2-year-old daughter
The 44-year-old mother who police say drowned her 2-year-old daughter in a bathtub in a northeast Las Vegas apartment on Saturday made her first court appearance on Tuesday, May 14th.
Officer arrested on suspicion of lewdness with a child appears in court
Matthew James Terry, a Las Vegas police officer arrested on suspicion of lewdness with a child, appears in court Monday morning, May 13, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police seek hit-and-run driver
A motorcycle officer pulled over a Mercedes SUV, and after the officer came to a stop, it shifted into reverse, intentionally hitting the officer.
Thedrick Andres becomes Henderson Police Department acting chief
Henderson Police Department Acting Chief Thedrick Andres speaks about his goals in his new position at the Henderson Police headquarters, Monday, April 29, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2 dead, 1 wounded after east valley neighborhood shooting
One man and one woman are dead and another man wounded after a shooting Thursday afternoon in an east valley neighborhood.
Bail denied for former police detective charged with murder
Bail was denied Tuesday for former Metropolitan Police Department detective, Pamela Rene Bordeaux who is accused of fatally shooting her daughter’s ex-husband during supervised visitation with his child.
Third suspect in death of California doctor appears in court
The third and final suspect in the killing of a California doctor, Jon Kennison, 27, appears in court Friday, April 19, 2019. Kennison, Kelsey Nichole Turner, a former model, and Diana Pena, face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Richard Cleaves of Pahrump arrested in burglary on former Binion property
Updated press release regarding burglary on a former Binion property: Richard Cleaves, 56 of Pahrump, has been arrested on a warrant for burglary, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, and destruction of property. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Judge denies bail for suspect charged in the killing of California doctor
Diana Pena, one of three people charged in the killing of a California doctor, is being held without bail after her fingerprints were found on the car where Dr. Thomas Burchard's body was discovered.
Ex-NFL player and girlfriend held without bail in child’s death
Former professional football player Cierre Wood and his girlfriend, Amy Taylor, face charges of murder and child abuse in the death of Taylor's 5-year-old daughter. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP identifies man who was shot by trooper on Mount Charleston
Nevada Highway Patrol updates the media on the April 2, 2019 officer involved shooting on Mount Charleston. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas court grants '90 Day Fiancé' defendant continuance
"90 Day Fiance" stars Colt Johnson and his mother Debra left the Las Vegas Justice Center Thursday, after the court granted Larissa dos Santos Lima a continuance in her misdemeanor case, in which she is accused of domestic violence against Colt. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Details released on in-custody death
Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank addresses media about details of an in-custody death at Clark County Detention Center on March 31. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man hurt in shooting with Nevada troopers at Mount Charleston
A man was injured in a shooting involving Nevada Highway Patrol troopers Tuesday afternoon at Mount Charleston on state Route 157 near Echo Trail. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Officer wounds inmate during escape attempt
An officer fired on an inmate who stole a vehicle and tried to flee, ramming several cars and leading officers on a chase until he ran out of gas.
Man fatally shot during a 'beer skip'
A store clerk is being questioned after a man was fatally shot during a robbery at a gas station Friday. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Person of Interest Found For Downtown Las Vegas Bar - Video
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is seeking help to find a person of interest in a potential homicide case at a bar in downtown Las Vegas.
THE LATEST