EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Amazing footage captures Bundy's militia standoff with BLM & Police
Story and video by Michael Flynn
Alex Ellis and Shane Brown contributed to this report
A conflict between a local family of ranchers and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management looked as if it might end in bloodshed Saturday as ranchers, allied with hundreds of armed supporters and members of a self-described citizen militia called The Oathkeepers, met in a dried wash bed 100 feet below Interstate 15 outside of Bunkerville Nev.
An armed standoff ensued as the protesters faced off against police from various federal, state and local agencies barricaded below the I-15 southbound lane in an attempt to block the protesters from reclaiming several hundred cattle, which the BLM seized from Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher with family ties to Southern Utah in a decades-long dispute over grazing fees on a BLM owned tract of land near Bunkerville The standoff eventually ended after the BLM agreed to immediately vacate the area and return the cattle to the Bundy family.
Earlier that day, Cliven Bundy had demanded that all federal lands across Clark County, Nev., including national parks, be opened permanently to the public; that all fee booths be destroyed; and that rangers with the National Park Service disarm and deliver their weapons to the protesters. Bundy made his demands sometime around 11 a.m. MST on Saturday, giving Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie only one hour to comply with all of his demands.
An hour later, Bundy instructed the hundreds of protesters gathered near his grazing land in Bunkerville to immediately descend upon a federal holding pen just west of I-15, where the cattle were being kept until federal officials could arrange for transport to auction them off. Bundy also told his followers to block access to I-15 while the ranchers attempted to gain access to the cattle by crossing under the interstate through a dried wash bed beneath the highway.
When protesters arrived, they were met by several dozen Las Vegas Metro police officers who were called in to assist the BLM, National Park Rangers and the Nevada State Highway Patrol in securing the cattle. While the protesters failed to completely shut down the interstate, the spectacle of hundreds of protesters, many on horseback, severely disrupted traffic along I-15 throughout the afternoon.
The standoff took place when the protesters, led by Ammon Bundy, Cliven's son, attempted to overtake the barrier fence placed beneath the I-15 northbound lane. As the crowd of protesters, which included several children, advanced toward the barricade, police repeatedly commanded over loudspeaker that the protesters disperse, warning them that they were authorized to use force to protect the cattle.
As the protesters neared the barricade, a loud siren began to groan as police intensified their demands that the protesters back away to avoid potential harm. Eventually, Chief Deputy Tom Roberts of the Las Vegas Metro Police met with Ammon Bundy at the barricade, where Roberts communicated to Bundy that the BLM had agreed to release the cattle and to immediately vacate the area in order to avoid violence.
Several hours later, approximately 500 cattle were released to the Bundy family. Ammon Bundy said the BLM has agreed to allow his family to continue grazing in the disputed area. BLM officials could not be reached for comment at the time of this report, and it is unclear whether sanctions or criminal charges will be filed against members of the Bundy family or the other protesters.