By JEFF GERMAN
FBI agents have opened a criminal investigation into the April 12 confrontation between Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy and his armed supporters and law enforcement authorities, Sheriff Doug Gillespie confirmed Thursday.
“Everyone anticipated that this would occur,” said Gillespie, who said he was interviewed by FBI agents on April 28. “I’ve said all along there has to be accountability for what took place on April 12.”
FBI spokeswoman Bridget Pappas could not immediately be reached for comment.
But Gillespie said the FBI is investigating alleged threats and assaults on law enforcement officers who were at the scene of the confrontation.
He said agents expected to interview every law enforcement officer who was present during the April 12 standoff. That includes agents with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and a slew of Las Vegas police officers who were there to keep the peace.
Among those interviewed within the past week was Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who was in charge of police officers during the disturbance.
The FBI investigation, Gillespie said, is in its early stages.
“It’s definitely early in the investigation,” he said.
The standoff occurred as the BLM, backed by federal court orders, had been seizing Bundy’s cattle over his failure to pay the agency an estimated $1 million in grazing fees for two decades. Armed members of militia groups flocked to Bundy’s aid creating a fierce debate that attracted national attention.
With rifles pointing toward each side and tensions reaching a critical level, federal land officials backed off and agreed to give back the cattle to Bundy.
The BLM said it decided to halt the roundup, fearing for the safety of its agents and the public.
Bundy became a hero to conservatives across the country as the debate raged over the cattle round-up until he made what was perceived as racist remarks to a New York Times reporter and then to local reporters.
Before his inflammatory remarks, Nevada’s two U.S. senators were on opposite sides of the political debate. Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid called Bundy’s armed supporters domestic terrorists and GOP Sen. Dean Heller said they were patriots.
SOURCE: Las Vegas Review-Journal
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