Sheriff, feds: Nevada rancher Bundy must be held accountable for standoff
RENO — Bureau of Land Management officials say they agree with a Nevada sheriff's position that rancher Cliven Bundy must be held accountable for his role in an April standoff between his supporters and the federal agency.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said Bundy crossed the line when he allowed states' rights supporters, including self-proclaimed militia members, onto his property to aim guns at police.
“If you step over that line, there are consequences to those actions,” Gillespie told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “And I believe they stepped over that line. No doubt about it. They need to be held accountable for it.”
Bureau spokeswoman Celia Boddington, in a statement released on Saturday to The Associated Press, said the agency continues to pursue the matter “aggressively through the legal system.”
“There is an ongoing investigation, and we are working diligently to ensure that those who broke the law are held accountable,” she said.
The Bureau of Land Management says Bundy owes over $1 million in fees and penalties for trespassing on federal property without a permit over 20 years. Bundy, who says his ancestors have operated a ranch in the area since the late 1800s, refuses to acknowledge federal authority on public lands.
Boddington disputed Gillespie's contention that the agency mishandled the roundup of Bundy's cattle 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The bureau backed down during the showdown with Bundy and his armed supporters, citing safety concerns, and released about 380 cattle collected during a weeklong operation.
Gillespie blamed the bureau for escalating the conflict and ignoring his advice to delay the roundup after he had a confrontational meeting with Bundy's children a few weeks before it began.
“I came back from that saying, ‘This is not the time to do this,' ” the sheriff told the Review-Journal. “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.' ”
Tensions escalated early in the roundup when a video showed one of Bundy's sons being stunned with a Taser. The video drew militia members and others to Bundy's ranch.
Boddington said the bureau planned and conducted the roundup in “full coordination” with Gillespie and his office.
“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.