Anti-government obsession preceded deadly Las Vegas attack

The New York TimesJune 9, 2014 

— Before 6 on Sunday morning, just hours before they killed two police officers and a civilian in a display of anti-government violence, Jerad and Amanda Miller left their two beloved cats with Kelley Fielder, the next-door neighbor with whom they had been staying. Amanda Miller, 22, promised to return later. Jerad Miller, 31, did not. He gave Fielder a tearful hug, and said, “I got to do what I got to do.”

“’The revolution has begun’ - that’s what he kept saying,” Fielder recalled Monday. “All Jerad wanted to do is talk about overthrowing the government. I thought he was talking smack.”

But rather than idle talk, Sunday marked a bloody end to what neighbors described as Jerad Miller’s obsession with overthrowing the government.

The couple set off on foot from their apartment building - she with a handgun in her purse, and he with at least one shotgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in a backpack, the police said. Just before noon, the couple entered a CiCi’s Pizza parlor, where Jerad Miller shot one officer in the head, then the couple opened fire on the other.

They draped one officer’s body in a swastika and a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag that has been adopted as a symbol of the Tea Party. On the other officer, they pinned a note warning of “the beginning of the revolution,” a phrase they also shouted in the restaurant, the police said.

They promptly crossed the street to a Wal-Mart, where Jerad Miller fired a single shot and continued shouting about revolution to terrified shoppers. One man at the checkout area who was carrying a handgun tried to stop Jerad Miller, but did not notice that Amanda Miller was working in concert with her husband; she shot the man dead. The couple proceeded to maraud through the store until the police trapped them at the back. There, Amanda Miller fatally shot her husband before shooting herself in the head.

Documents the police found in Fielder’s apartment, where the Millers had been staying for the last two weeks, indicated that they may have planned even greater destruction: A search warrant inventory said that the authorities had seized “numerous papers including detailed plans to take over a courthouse and execute public officials.”

On Saturday, the day before the shooting, Jerad Miller posted an ominous message on his Facebook page: “The dawn of a new day. May all of our coming sacrifices be worth it.”

Though the police said they believed the Millers acted alone - and that the officers they killed were targeted at random - the authorities are investigating the couple’s ties to other anti-government groups.

This year, in what may have amounted to an attempt to join a revolution, the couple had briefly joined the anti-government militia assembled at the Nevada ranch of Cliven Bundy, who became a symbol of opposition to the government this spring for his refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle on federal land.

The couple dressed in camouflage and carried coolers full of guns and ammunition, neighbors said, and Amanda Miller even left her job at Hobby Lobby. Bundy said Monday that militia members had told him about a couple on the ranch who “made radical comments” and had said the man admitted to being a felon and carried arms. Members were concerned, Bundy said, and he believes someone asked them to leave.

“We believe this is an isolated act,” said Kevin McMahill, an assistant sheriff with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. But, he added, “There is no doubt that the suspects have some apparent ideology that’s along the lines of militia and white supremacists.”

McMahill said that investigators believe the Millers set out on foot from their apartment building Sunday morning, carrying with them a rifle, multiple handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He did not know if the guns were purchased legally or by whom. Fielder said that she believed the guns were registered to Amanda Miller, and that the couple had said they were for self-defense.

It was around 11:20 a.m. Sunday when the pair reached the CiCi’s Pizza where Officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, were eating lunch. Jerad Miller shot Saldo in the back of the head at close range. Beck then tried to pull his weapon out, but Jerad Miller shot him in the throat. The couple fired several more rounds into Beck when he did not die immediately, McMahill said.

After taking the officers’ weapons and ammunition and covering their bodies in anti-government paraphernalia, the Millers crossed the street to the Wal-Mart. Jerad Miller fired a round and announced to those shopping in the crowded store: “Get out! This is a revolution. Police are on the way.”

Amid the pandemonium, Joseph Wilcox, 31, who had been in the checkout line, approached Jerad Miller brandishing a weapon, the police said. Amanda Miller pulled a pistol out of her purse and fatally shot him in the midsection, the police said.

“He died attempting to protect others,” Sheriff Douglas C. Gillespie said of Wilcox. “His death is completely senseless.”

Police officers soon entered the Wal-Mart and, after several exchanges of gunfire, surrounded the Millers in the back of the store. Amanda Miller had been shot, the police said, and Jerad Miller used items from the store to build a makeshift wall to give them cover. Before a SWAT team arrived, however, Amanda Miller fired several shots at her husband, killing him, then shot herself.

The couple had moved to Las Vegas in January, and their Facebook pages featured dewy-eyed photos of their wedding in September 2012. She was from Indiana, he from Indiana and Washington state. A string of arrests and at least one felony conviction followed him through both states.

In only a few months in the modest apartment building where they lived, they made little secret of their distaste for government and desire to foment revolution.

Their posts on Facebook sometimes threatened violence, and last month, Jerad Miller used the website to ask people send him “a rifle to help stand against tyranny.” Neighbors said Miller talked incessantly to anyone who would listen about the evils of welfare or President Barack Obama. He worked as a street performer, and would often dress as Batman or the Joker; Amanda Miller would sometimes accompany him dressed as the villain Harley Quinn.

McMahill said that the police believe the Millers may have moved in with Fielder in recent weeks because their own apartment had become unsanitary.

Fielder said she never believed the Millers would actually act on any of their talk of revolution. She said Miller’s parents called her on Monday morning, trying to confirm that it was indeed their daughter who had been involved.

“They were horrified,” Fielder said. “I feel hurt and disgusted. I have to live with this on my shoulders now. I should have called the cops, but I didn’t know they were going to do this.”

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