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Law enforcement agencies fight over who’s to blame for Bundy ranch standoff

Published time: July 07, 2014 16:20
Rancher Cliven Bundy (Reuters/Mike Blake)

Rancher Cliven Bundy (Reuters/Mike Blake)

The local sheriff and federal officials alike both agree that Cliven Bundy, the Nevada cattle rancher who made headlines earlier this year for a standoff near his Clark County home, should face charges over the incident.

On Thursday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said Bundy should be held accountable for encouraging supporters to take up arms and fortify his property earlier this year when the United States Bureau of Land Management attempted to confiscate dozens of head of cattle belonging to the rancher. This week, BLM officials said they happen to agree with Gillespie’s stance.

Speaking to the Associated Press, BLM spokeswoman Celia Boddington said in a statement released Saturday that her agency is continuing 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," Boddington said.

The BLM’s statement comes just days after Gillespie told the Review-Journal editorial board that the Bundys committed “serious errors” by interfering in the lawful confiscation of the cattle.

According to the sheriff, Bundy never should have allowed supporters to show up at his farm outside of Las Vegas and take up arms against local and federal police there to assist in the confiscation operation that quickly escalated into a full-fledged standoff.

“If you step over that line, there are consequences to those actions. And I believe they stepped over that line. No doubt about it,” Gillespie said. “They need to be held accountable for it.”

Supporters drove in some instances hundreds of miles to show up at Bundy’s ranch in March and stand guard as the BLM attempted to take cattle that the feds claim have been illegally trespassing on land that the rancher has refused to pay grazing taxes on. According to US authorities, Bundy owes over $1 million in back taxes as a result of unpaid fees dating back to the 1990s.

The rancher may soon face repercussions not over that outstanding grazing bill, but for his role in the headline making-standoff outside the Bundy Ranch.

Nevertheless, Gillespie said that the BLM’s tactics should be investigated as well. After the newspaper caught up with the law enforcement official, journalists there reported that “Gillespie said the BLM deserves blame for escalating the situation, ignoring his advice, dismissing his warnings and even lying about their operation.”

Gillespie “asked BLM officials to have town hall meetings regarding the roundup, but those never happened,” Mike Blasky wrote for the paper. “And although officials told him they had a place to move Bundy’s cattle, Gillespie later discovered that wasn’t true.”

“There was no place to take them to,” the sheriff told the Review-Journal’s editorial board

And although the BLM may indeed by considering charges against Bundy, Boddington told the AP that the sheriff’s remarks don’t necessarily represent the truth.

"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," Boddington told the newswire. "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," she said.

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