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Las Vegas police had contact with shooters days before ambush

Jerad and Amanda Miller weren’t afraid to broadcast their radical, violent anti-government views to the world.

But Las Vegas police, who spoke with the future cop killers three times since they moved to Las Vegas in January, never found evidence they hated police or were planning an attack, Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill said at a news conference Wednesday.

The married couple’s last contact with police came about a week before Sunday’s rampage, in which they ambushed and executed two officers and killed another man before police stopped them.

It’s still unclear if something recent pushed the Millers toward killing innocent people, police said, or if they were hiding in plain sight all along.

“What happened to change these two people into murderers, we don’t know, and we are working diligently to find out,” McMahill said.

McMahill said three seasoned detectives from Metro’s Southern Nevada Counterterrorism Center learned in February that Jerad Miller had threatened to “shoot up” the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Jerad was frustrated after federal authorities at the Hoover Dam stopped his car in January and confiscated his suspended license, McMahill said.

Jerad Miller, 31, left an angry message on a recorded Indiana BMV line, and that threat eventually found its way to Metro’s counterterrorism “fusion center,” which consists of local, state and federal authorities.

But he downplayed the incident to detectives during an interview at his apartment, McMahill said. Jerad Miller told them he never planned to shoot anyone; he was simply airing frustrations and telling them “this is how people get shot,” McMahill said.

Police found no probable cause for an arrest, McMahill said, and detectives didn’t note any anti-government attitude. The case was closed, and the detectives never discovered the couple’s rambling rants against police and government on YouTube or social media until after Sunday’s rampage.

“They did not feel through their interview that the suspects were an ongoing or potential threat,” McMahill said.

Even if police had discovered the videos, McMahill said, people’s ideology doesn’t automatically mean they’re criminals.

“It is a significant challenge nationwide for us to be able to take this rhetoric, that you see from so many people, and translate it into actionable intelligence,” he said.

Officers later discovered the couple had joined the protests in Bunkerville — 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas — against Bureau of Land Management agents removing rancher Cliven Bundy’s livestock from federal land. But they were kicked off the ranch after the militia learned Jerad Miller was a felon carrying a gun.

Officers spoke with the couple twice more before Sunday, although the Millers were witnesses — not suspects — to possible crimes.

On April 10, officers interviewed the Millers at their Bruce Street apartment complex about a neighbor’s domestic violence case. Each gave a written statement.

“They had a lot of interaction with uniformed police officers on that call,” McMahill said.

On May 31, the Millers again provided voluntary statements after a report of sexual assault involving an acquaintance, McMahill said.

The Millers cooperated with police in every case. They seemed “normal,” McMahill said.

But just a week after their last official contact with Metro the couple ambushed officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, in a northeast valley CiCi’s pizza parlor.

The couple then covered Beck with a Gadsden Flag, a yellow banner with a coiled snake above the words, “Don’t Tread on Me.” They then put a note on Soldo’s body with a swastika pin that said this was “the beginning of a revolution,” McMahill said.

The couple took the officers’ handguns and left for the nearby Wal-Mart, where Jerad Miller fired a single shot and yelled about starting a revolution.

It’s still not clear why the Millers picked Beck and Soldo.

“Not at this time. We do not have something that tells us why,” Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said Wednesday.

Armed bystander Joseph Wilcox, 31, was shot and killed by Amanda Miller, 22, after he confronted Jerad Miller in the store. Wilcox, called a hero by police after his death, never fired a shot.

Gillespie said Metro still believes the spree was an isolated incident carried out by the Millers alone.

Jerad Miller was shot and killed by a police tactical team that swarmed the store, McMahill said Wednesday, confirming the Review-Journal’s Tuesday report. Officials had first said Jerad Miller was killed by his wife.

Amanda Miller shot and killed herself.

Police released a short video from a Wal-Mart security camera that showed the couple’s final moments.

In the video, posted on Reviewjournal.com, Amanda and Jerad are already on the floor of the Wal-Mart. Jerad Miller is on his stomach; Amanda Miller, who had already been struck by police gunfire, is on her back. Jerad Miller had pulled items from store shelves in an effort to fortify his wife’s position, McMahill said.

Amanda Miller points her gun at her husband several times. At one point, the gun appeared to recoil, McMahill said.

Metro’s video also included audio from an unidentified police officer watching the scene unfold live on the security camera and relaying the details to other officers on his radio.

“It looks like they’re shooting at each other… The female suspect did just shoot the male,” the officer said. “The female just shot herself in the head.”

Police did not show her suicide because of its “graphic” nature,” McMahill said.

Jerad Miller’s autopsy revealed that he’d actually been fatally shot by an officer’s rifle earlier in the gunfight. Amanda Miller never shot at him, as was suggested on the video, McMahill said.

It’s not clear which officer killed Jerad Miller.

McMahill also revealed Wednesday that another officer was injured during the shooting spree. Of the three officers who fired at the Millers in the store, one realized hours later that he’d been struck in the thigh by shrapnel.

The officer drove himself to the hospital and was expected to be OK, McMahill said.

The investigation also looked into the three guns the Millers had with them when their shooting spree began: a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm handgun; a Ruger .38 caliber revolver; and a Winchester 12 gauge pump shotgun with a pistol grip.

The Ruger was purchased by Amanda Miller in Indiana, although it’s unclear how they obtained the other guns. Neither handgun was registered, as required in Clark County, and none of the guns were reported stolen.

Jerad Miller, a convicted felon in two states, could not purchase guns, he often complained on social media websites.

McMahill said the investigation is not done. More witnesses need to be interviewed and more evidence must be reviewed, he said.

“This continues to be a massive, ongoing investigation,” McMahill said.

Asked whether the Millers’ friends — at least one said the couple spoke specifically about killing officers — were being investigated for failing to report them, Gillespie said he hoped people would notify police in the future.

“You hear of the See Something, Say Something campaign,” Gillespie said. “This would be that type of a case that we would ask, into the future, to look at.”

Detectives already receive more calls than people realize, he said, adding that Metro and the community are better at parsing the information than in the days after 9/11.

“This is an indication where there’s room for improvement,” he said.

As for any connection to Bundy, McMahill said police aren’t linking the Millers’ shooting spree to the outspoken rancher.

“There’s a lot of people that were attracted to the Bundy ranch, for a variety of reasons. That was a significant event in our history here,” he said, including many that identified as militia, white supremacists or sovereign citizens.

“But as you well know, in the hundreds of people that were at the Bundy ranch, these were the only two that went from ideology to action.”

Review-Journal writers Colton Lochhead and Francis McCabe contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com. Follow @blasky on Twitter.

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