Rancher Cliven Bundy, free after almost two years in a Nevada jail, said Wednesday he wants to meet with the Clark County sheriff about what to do on the land where there was a 2014 standoff with federal authorities over his cattle.
Bundy spent much of his time Wednesday criticizing Sheriff Joe Lombardo, but also said he would call the sheriff to “come and protect me” if federal authorities moved to round up his cattle again.
He also said he was undecided about legal action against authorities.
“Now I either have to forgive these people, or I have to hold them accountable,” he told supporters and reporters outside the sheriff’s office. “I’m not sure. I’m considering my options.”
Bundy said he wanted to speak with the sheriff on Wednesday but met with an assistant instead. Bundy said he was told the sheriff, who also oversees the Las Vegas Police Department, was too busy to meet him.
He had been free to leave jail since November, but chose to stay incarcerated during his trial. On Monday, a judge dismissed the case.
Bundy and several others — including his sons, Ryan and Ammon Bundy — were indicted in 2016 by a federal grand jury after the showdown two years earlier against federal land managers on the open range where Bundy’s cattle grazed.
Cliven Bundy would not pay grazing fees, arguing the land belongs to the state and not the US government. The government says he owes more than $1 million in fines.
“I am going to protect my rights,” he said Wednesday. Bundy, using a microphone attached to a bullhorn, then said he was also protecting the rights of other citizens
“The public land belongs to the people of Clark County.”
The 71-year-old rancher said the sheriff had a duty to protect his “life, liberty and property,” not to side with Washington, which Bundy called a “foreign government.” He alluded to calling the sheriff a liar in recent days and also said, “We could use a new sheriff,” when asked whether he would run for office.
The Las Vegas Police Department released a statement on Twitter:
“The #LVMPD and @Sheriff_LVMPD respect the federal court’s decision in the Cliven Bundy case. Mr. Bundy has his own beliefs and has the right to express his opinion. The LVMPD will continue to follow the law and has no further comment on this case,” it said.
Lombardo was an assistant sheriff during the standoff and was elected sheriff that fall.
In December, US District Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial in the case against the Bundys and self-styled Montana militia leader Ryan Payne, CNN affiliate KLAS reported. Navarro said then a fair trial was impossible because prosecutors failed to hand over evidence that could have helped the defense, KLAS reported.
Navarro dismissed the case against the Bundys and Payne in a hearing on Monday, according to court papers and a lawyer for the Bundys.
The standoff — Bundy said: “It wasn’t a standoff. It was a protest” — began in April 2014 after federal agents tried to round up Bundy’s cattle on land near Bunkerville. The Bundy ranch is about 100 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The federal Bureau of Land Management and local authorities backed down in the face off, halted the roundup and returned about 300 head to avoid any violence.
Authorities later accused Bundy of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, assault on a federal law officer by use of a deadly and dangerous weapon, interference with commerce by extortion and obstruction of justice.
In 2016, Ryan and Ammon Bundy were among those who took part in a 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon after gathering outside for a demonstration to support two ranchers who were convicted of arson, and in defiance of federal land policies.
One man was killed during an attempted traffic stop weeks into the occupation of a vacant building on the refuge. Police said he was reaching for a gun after emerging from an SUV; prosecutors said the shooting was justified. The standoff ended after the last holdouts surrendered to authorities.
Before the final surrender, federal agents arrested the elder Bundy in the 2014 case; he did not take part in the 2016 standoff.
In October, the younger Bundys and others were found not guilty of firearms charges and conspiracy to impede federal workers in the wildlife refuge standoff.