I-Team: Police say Bundy ranch protesters not off the hook - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Police say Bundy ranch protesters not off the hook

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Sgt. Tom Jenkins Sgt. Tom Jenkins
Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo

LAS VEGAS -- Metro Police officers who were on the front lines of a recent showdown near the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville say they feared for their lives.

At least some of the militia members who pointed weapons at police officers during the confrontation may have wanted a violent outcome and tried to incite one.

In exclusive interviews with the 8 News NOW I-Team, officers who were on the scene shared their thoughts and fears, and they say it is not over.

"These guys with rifles, keep them calm," was Clark County Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo's request to one of Bundy's sons the day of the confrontation.

Lombardo's top priority was to prevent a spark that might set off a bloody firefight.

"There was a possibility of somebody just having an accidental discharge causing a blood bath, because the individuals that were showing up, the militia quote unquote, were armed to the teeth," Lombardo said.

On one side, armed federal rangers and agents, on the other, a huge crowd of angry militia members and in the middle, 30 Metro officers, exposed and vulnerable, aware that if the shooting began, some of them would die.

"You are standing there going, 'I just hope it doesn't hurt when it comes. That it's quick,' and it was real for us. It was real," Sgt. Tom Jenkins said.

"(You thought you might die?) Yeah." Sgt. Jenkins said.

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie has been negotiating behind the scenes with rancher Cliven Bundy for a couple of years. On the morning of the big showdown, he and Joe Lombardo drove to Bunkerville to let Bundy know that a deal had been reached with Bureau of Land Management to suspend the roundup of Bundy's cattle.

Bundy, who has grown accustomed to media attention over the past few months, said he would only talk to Gillespie on stage in front of his crowd. Once there, he ordered the sheriff to go out and disarm every fed he could find.

"And report back in an hour. Disarm everyone working at a federal park," Bundy told the sheriff.

"I mean, the hair was up on the back of my neck. There was the so-called militia surrounding the stage. There was a lot of firepower out there and it made me nervous. anything could happen," Lombardo said.

Gillspie and Lombardo say they offered to provide Bundy with legal counsel---free. He turned it down and later urged the crowd to go after his cattle.

"Mr. Bundy, in my personal opinion, incited the crowd," Lombardo said.

Some of them didn't need much to get riled. Their hostility toward government was on full display. A few equate the BLM with Nazis.

"That bunch, the SS squad or something to do with Hitler, shouldn't have guns there aimed at the people," one man at the showdown said.

They were equally hostile to journalists covering the story. Pistol-packing militia men have blocked 8 News NOW's access to public roads. Some poured lighter fluid around our news vehicle while others got physical.

A few Oath keepers said they were told the White House had ordered a drone missile strike on the Bundy camp. In an atmosphere this hostile and paranoid, guns pointed at police became the norm.

"At some point, you have to draw a line in the sand. I guess this is it," one militia member said.

"They're armed, they have an agenda, and they're committed to whatever they believe in, no backing down. One or two of them would never have done what they did--point weapons at us--but when you have 300-400 and they can be anonymous in a crowd, you get caught up in that," Sgt. Jenkins said.

Lombardo confirms that Metro developed a lot of intelligence about militia members who were present. Those who aimed their guns at officers will be dealt with.

"Yes, there will be consequences, definitely. That is unacceptable behavior. If we let it go, it will continue into the future," Lombardo said.

Law enforcement sources told us that federal officials are preparing to move against Cliven Bundy, but they might wait months until things die down before making their move.

Metro Police could take separate action in response to the provocations they experienced in Bunkerville and may be working to identify particular suspects.

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