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Before Vegas Shooting, Couple Traveled To Bundy Ranch Stand-Off


From the studios of NPR West, in Culver City, California, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Arun Rath. Last weekend, the news was focused on Las Vegas where a husband and wife went on a shooting spree, murdering two police officers and a shopper at a local Walmart. By days end, five people were dead, including the shooters. We've since learned a lot about the suspects' anti-government and anti-law enforcement views. Investigators have also been focusing on time the couple spent at a recent armed standoff at the cattle ranch east of Las Vegas, owned by Cliven Bundy.

NPR's Kirk Siegler is just back from Nevada where he spent the week reporting on the shootings and also traveled to the Bundy ranch. And, Kirk, first of all, what is the connection between the shooters and the events that had been unfolding out at the Bundy ranch?

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Well, Arun, from what we know from law enforcement, it's really pretty loose. We do know that Jerad and Amanda Miller traveled out to that armed standoff. And Jerad had written on his Facebook page that he felt like people there were under siege by the federal government.

You know, when I was there last week, Cliven Bundy told me that he had never met the Millers before, which is pretty believable because there were, you know - there were hundreds of people at that protest in the armed standoff. And when the militia members found out that Jerad Miller was a convicted felon, they apparently asked him to leave. And they even even offered the couple money to leave. And from what we know, and from what Cliven Bundy told me, it appears that they did at some point.

RATH: Well, tell us more about your trip to the Bundy ranch 'cause you actually went out there, it was where the standoff took place, and talked to the man himself.

SIEGLER: Right. Well, I had been warned that, you know, I might be stopped on my way out there by an armed guard on the road that leads into the Bundy place. But there was no one there. You know, it's pretty quiet. There's not a lot going on. And it's really, really hot.

When I drove down the dusty lane into Bundy's place, you know, there he was. In some corners, he's still considered this icon of the far-right anti-government movement. Well, there he was, you know, hosing down the dust from his sidewalk leading into his place. He smiled, gave me a wave. One of the first things we talked about was the Millers. And he was quick to condemn their actions. You know, during our interview, Arun, he rambled some. But, you know, he always brought the conversation back to the themes of the Sagebrush Rebellion - the federal government is an unwelcome, over-regulating presence and that his fight. It's a lot more than just about cows or the money the federal government says he owes.


CLIVEN BUNDY: What's at stake here? Freedom, and liberty and statehood. That's what's at stake here.

RATH: Valuing freedom and liberty is pretty universal. What is Cliven Bundy so mad about?

SIEGLER: Well, I think we need to say, you know, he was widely discredited, especially after he was caught making racist remarks recently.

RATH: Right.

SIEGLER: But, you know, as you say, the roots of his anger towards the federal government - I think it's safe to say that goes back decades. And they're frankly shared by quite a few people in that part of the country, you know, who feel like the Bureau of Land Management has steadily been trying to run cattle ranchers out of business, largely due to environmental protections.

You know, it's interesting. I found out while I was out there that there's a real sentiment that, you know, as Las Vegas grew over the years, the habitat for the endangered desert tortoise, that shrunk. And the local ranchers out near Bundy's place are quick to tell you that they feel like they've borne the brunt of all the environmental restrictions as a result of that. And, you know, you can definitely see that Cliven Bundy still has a lot of support there. You know, just by driving the roads around his ranch you see handmade signs that say things like, welcome to Nevada land, and, give us back our land. And the one that stands out to me is, BLM get out. That one really stands out because the Bureau of Land Management, for all intents and purposes, really has left the area. They've pulled out. They're pretty much - there's no one patrolling the vast, public lands in that area. There's no land managers doing daily business since the standoff. You know, no firefighters, either, at the ready. So it's a big issue that's still very much unfolding out there.

RATH: Interesting stuff. That's NPR's Kirk Siegler. Kirk, thank you.

SIEGLER: Glad to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.