The Bundy show returned to Las Vegas Friday, as members of the embattled Bunkerville ranch family and their supporters gathered at police headquarters to file crime reports against federal agents and others involved in last month’s failed cattle roundup in northeastern Clark County.
About two dozen people submitted what Metro calls voluntary statements alleging crimes ranging from assaults and threats with deadly weapons to impersonating a police officer.
“We expect the sheriff to investigate the crimes,” said Ammon Bundy, who was shot with a stun gun but was not arrested during an angry clash with Bureau of Land Management rangers on April 9.
Bundy’s aunt, Margaret Houston, was thrown to the ground during the same confrontation, so she was there too on Friday to lodge a formal complaint with Metro.
As the group gathered outside the department’s main office on Martin Luther King Boulevard near U.S. Highway 95 at about 10 a.m., those there to file complaints were badly outnumbered by reporters and photographers there to watch them do it.
By the time Ammon Bundy walked to the front of the building to deliver a prepared statement, he was running out of places on his belt and his shirt collar to hang all the clip-on microphones from the media.
He talked about how federal authorities descended on their peaceful valley “in ‘Red Dawn’ fashion,” prompting the family to make dozens of 911 calls seeking protection from Metro. “Our cries of distress were met with silence,” Ammon Bundy said.
Noticeably absent Friday was Cliven Bundy, the family patriarch whose battle with the BLM began more than 20 years ago when he stopped paying to graze his livestock on a wide swath of public land about 80 miles northeast of the Las Vegas.
Federal authorities say Bundy now owes $1.1 million in unpaid fees and penalties, so with multiple court orders in hand they moved to impound his cattle on federal property on April 5. A week later, the BLM hastily canceled the roundup and backed down after the Bundys and their supporters, many of them armed, marched on the corrals where the seized cattle were being kept.
The standoff brought Cliven Bundy worldwide attention and acclaim from small-government conservatives, but he was reduced to a national punchline two weeks later, when he delivered a pair of racist rants during his daily press conferences near his ranch.
Several of those who filed complaints Friday accuse federal agents involved the roundup of impersonating police officers. Bundy and company do not recognize the federal government’s authority over them and believe public land belongs only to the people of the state and local jurisdictions where it is found.
It’s a legal argument that has been roundly rejected by judges and legal scholars. As University of Nevada, Reno, geography professor Paul Starrs put it, the law is clear: “When Nevada obtained statehood, it gave up its public land.”
“His version of history just isn’t true,” Starrs said of Cliven Bundy. “Just because you say it doesn’t make it so.”
Friday’s action at Metro drew a one sentence response from the BLM, courtesy of spokesman Jeff Krauss: “We welcome Mr. Bundy’s new interest in the American legal system.”
In their own written statement Friday afternoon, Metro officials said the 22 voluntary statements they received would be reviewed by the agency and a response would be crafted in consultation with the county and federal prosecutors.
Just don’t expected Metro officers to start hauling in BLM rangers for questioning.
“It is not our practice to take crime reports on law enforcement agencies conducting a law enforcement function,” says the statement from Metro. “In this case, the Bureau of Land Management is a recognized federal law enforcement agency.”
Ammon Bundy said a lot of people have cause to file a complaint, not just those who were roughed up like him and his aunt. “It’s everyone who had guns pointed at them, everyone who was threatened.”
So does that mean the federal agents who had guns pointed at them by pro-Bundy militia members can file complaints of their own? “Absolutely,” he said. “They have every right to do that with the county sheriff here.”
Mohave County, Ariz., resident Sean Harron showed up to press charges against the BLM in a T-shirt he had made that read “I fought at ‘The Battle of Bunkerville.’” He said he didn’t know the Bundys before he saw a YouTube video of the April 9 clash with BLM officers and decided to drive up to Bunkerville to see what was going on. “That was enough to get me off the couch.”
Once he got there, he said he had “snipers” trained on him by federal agents at least six times even though he wasn’t brandishing a weapon of his own. After he put it all down in a police report, he waved his copy of the form in the air and let out a cheer for the cameras.
There was no trouble at Friday’s event, though Bundy supporters and news crews briefly clogged the front entrance of the building, startling some customer service clerks and bystanders there to conduct other business.
A handful of Metro officers, a few of them smiling at the spectacle, stood at a distance and watched as the crime reports rolled in from cattle country. Aside from their cameras and clipboards, the Bundys and their friends appeared to be unarmed.
Contact Henry Brean at email@example.com or 702-383-0350. Find him on Twitter: @RefriedBrean.