By George Knapp
A dramatic development in the saga surrounding rancher Cliven Bundy, the FBI has entered the case.
The 8 News NOW I-Team has learned that FBI agents have started an investigation into the events surrounding a potentially deadly showdown one month ago.
It is one thing for Cliven Bundy and his supporters to square off against an assortment of Bureau of Land Management employees. It is quite another when the FBI enters the picture, and that is exactly what has happened.
The I-Team has confirmed that FBI agents have launched a formal investigation into alleged death threats, intimidation and possible weapons violations that culminated with a dangerous showdown on April 12, and the first people to be interviewed by FBI agents are Metro Police, starting with Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillispie.
Federal employees suspended their roundup of Cliven Bundy’s cattle, following a confrontation outside the BLM compound near Bunkerville. At the urging of Metro Police, Bundy’s cattle were released, but BLM’s new director announced the matter wasn’t over and would be resolved, one way or another. We now know what that means.
Last week, the I-Team talked with Metro officers who intervened to protect the lives of federal employees from the 400 or so Bundy supporters and armed militia members. Officers told the I-Team they feared for their lives that day because of the assembled firepower, and because many in the crowd had pointed weapons at officers, taunted them, told them they should be ready to die.
Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who was left in charge of the Metro contingent by Sheriff Doug Gillespie, told the I-Team that such alleged behavior would be the subject of a criminal investigation.
“The federal authorities are conducting an investigation and I am pretty confident it is going to go into the future,” Lombardo said.
“(Would there be consequences for somebody there on video tape, on a news camera pointing a gun at a Metro officer, pointing a gun at a federal ranger?) Yes, there is definitely going to be consequences, definitely. That is unacceptable behavior. If we let it go, it would continue into the future,” Lombardo said.
The I-Team has learned that Lombardo was interviewed by FBI agents earlier this week. The first person to be questioned by the FBI team was Lombardo’s boss, Sheriff Gillespie.
The sheriff confirmed to 8 News NOW that he was asked about what he saw the day of the showdown, whether guns were pointed at metro officers. He declined to say what he said to the agents.
FBI agents also spoke to an entire squad of Metro officers, who were on the scene to act as a buffer between the crowd and the BLM. Bundy supporters have insisted in emails and calls to 8 News NOW that no one in the crowd pointed weapons at BLM or Metro, but officers told the I-Team that is exactly what they saw, that many with guns set up behind women and children.
“It is not a rumor. When we first got out there and made a left to divide I-15, that is all you saw. You saw kids and women and horses in the backdrop and then men with guns, laying on the ground, in the back of pickup trucks. We’re going, ‘wow, this would never happen in Las Vegas,’ But it was there. That is not a rumor. It is reality and I saw it with my own eyes,” Metro Police Sgt. Tom Jenkins said.
Sgt. Jenkins has been interviewed by the FBI. A second squad is expected to be interviewed by week’s end. The bureau does not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation but the I-Team has confirmed from multiple sources that a criminal investigation is underway.
It is illegal to point loaded weapons at federal agents, and most people know what would happen, if a suspect pointed a gun at a Metro officer in the Las Vegas valley.
Bundy supporters have been adamant in saying no weapons were aimed at the feds or police, that the BLM rangers were the ones pointing guns.
From the sound of things, they will be given the chance to prove those allegations because the FBI is coming their way.
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Contributed by George Knapp of 8 News Now