“If you step over that line, there are consequences to those actions,” Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said. “And I believe they stepped over that line. No doubt about it. They need to be held accountable for it.”
U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say they agree with Gillespie’s position that rancher Cliven Bundy should be held accountable for his role in an April standoff with the BLM. Spokeswoman Celia Boddington, in a statement said the agency continues to pursue the matter.
“There is an ongoing investigation and we are working diligently to ensure that those who broke the law are held accountable,” she said, declining to elaborate.
The BLM claims Bundy owes over $1 million in fees and penalties for trespassing on federal property without a permit over 20 years. Bundy, whose ancestors settled in the area in the late 1800s, refuses to acknowledge federal authority on public lands.
A federal judge in Las Vegas first ordered Bundy to remove “trespass cattle” from land the BLM declared a refuge for the endangered desert tortoise in 1998. However the BLM only obtained court orders just last year allowing the roundup.
Gillespie blamed the BLM for escalating the conflict adding Bundy isn’t a hardened criminal, but a rancher who stopped paying his fees and that was not worth risking violence.
“I came back from that saying, ‘This is not the time to do this,’ ” said Gillespie. “They said, ‘We do this all the time. We know what we’re doing. We hear what you’re saying, but we’re moving forward.'”
Boddington disputed Gillespie’s contention the agency mishandled the roundup.
“It is unfortunate that the sheriff is now attempting to rewrite the details of what occurred, including his claims that the BLM did not share accurate information,” she said. “The sheriff encouraged the operation and promised to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us as we enforced two recent federal court orders.”
“Sadly, he backed out of his commitment shortly before the operation, and after months of joint planning, leaving the BLM and the National Park Service to handle the crowd control that the sheriff previously committed to handling,” Boddington added.
The BLM backed down during the showdown with Bundy and his supporters, citing safety concerns, released nearly 400 head of cattle collected from Bundy during the weeklong standoff.
Tensions escalated after a video showed one of Bundy’s sons being struck with a Taser.
“I think if anybody would look at how they handled the protesting with the use of Tasers and police dogs, anyone who had been in policing would question those tactics,” said Gillespie. “And I believe that led to the heightened interest and escalating the situation.”
Prior to the stand-off Gillespie was named by the National Sheriffs’ Association’s winner of the prestigious Ferris E. Lucas Award for Sheriff of the Year 2014. Senator Harry Reid presented Gillespie with a Congressional Proclamation for being selected at Reid’s office in the Lloyd George Federal Building.
The award was presented to Gillespie June 22nd during the opening part of the 2014 NSA Annual Conference in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Reid made himself a target after calling standoff supporters “domestic terrorists.”
“Those people who hold themselves out to be patriots are not. They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists,” Reid said. “I repeat: What went on up there was domestic terrorism.”
Reid also said Gillespie is continuing to work with the federal government on putting together a task force to deal with the Bundy family.
As former Libertarian vice presidential nominee Wayne Allen Root writes about the Bundy-BLM standoff, “I live in Las Vegas. I live and breathe Nevada politics. Something is very wrong. Something smells rotten in the Nevada desert. And Senator Harry Reid’s fingerprints are all over it.”
So far no charges have been brought against Bundy, his family or supporters.
However the BLM is being sued by a watchdog group that wants to review its decision-making and records about the standoff. The lawsuit by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is asking a federal court to order the BLM to turn over public records that may show agency employees were put at risk during the standoff.
The suit alleges the BLM isn’t responding to Freedom of Information Act requests for documents about the April 12th decision to abandon the roundup.
“They left themselves without a good option other than combing through thousands of acres for stray cows,” said Executive Director Jeff Ruch.
It also alleges the BLM refuses to provide an annual accounting of threats and attacks against agency employees. It also seeks records of criminal referrals the BLM has sought; any advisories or warnings to agency employees before and after the standoff; any directives or advisories for handling “similar incidents of armed resistance to lawful orders;” and all “decision documents” about the roundup and removal of the cattle.