LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jailed Nevada cattlemen Cliven Bundy has filed a lawsuit accusing Democratic congressional candidate Ruben Kihuen of defaming him in a campaign mailer that Bundy says blames him for the ambush deaths of two Las Vegas police officers in 2014.
Bundy’s attorney, Bret Whipple, said Friday the implication that Bundy caused anti-government extremists Jared and Amanda Miller to kill the officers is “false and maliciously defamatory.”
Kihuen campaign chief Dave Chase stood by the mailer and branded the civil lawsuit filed Thursday a last-minute political maneuver by Bundy on behalf of Kihuen’s opponent, incumbent Republican Congressman Cresent Hardy.
Chase called it a fact that Bundy “led an illegal armed standoff at Bunkerville, and when it was over two of his supporters assassinated two Las Vegas … police officers.”
The mailer, which ties Bundy to Hardy, says the Bundy standoff “led to the deaths of two Las Vegas police officers.”
Hardy campaign chief Ross Hemminger said it would be “completely absurd” to tie the congressman to the lawsuit.
Hemminger, in turn, accused Kihuen of having ties to another area politician who is under investigation by the FBI.
Bundy is jailed pending trial after pleading not guilty to federal conspiracy, obstruction, weapon, threat and assault charges in the April 2014 armed standoff with federal agents during a disputed cattle roundup near Bundy’s ranch outside Bunkerville, about 80 miles outside Las Vegas.
Authorities have said the Millers were kicked out of a nearby encampment before the Bundy standoff took place.
The married couple shot and killed Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo about eight weeks later, during the officers’ lunch break at a pizza shop.
Joseph Wilcox was killed minutes later as he tried to draw his gun to confront the armed couple entering a Wal-Mart, where the Millers engaged in a shootout with police and then killed themselves.
Whipple said Bundy never met the Millers.
Chase noted that Jerad Miller was interviewed by a television news crew near the Bundy ranch. The campaign spokesman also pointed to internet postings showing Miller talking with Bundy family members, and to comments attributed to a Southern Poverty Law Center official calling it possible that the Bundy standoff influenced the police shooting weeks later.
The lawsuit, filed in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, calls the mailer libelous because it “insinuates” that Bundy “orchestrated and promoted” the shootings by the Millers.