They were happily married and unhappily American.
Six months ago, Jerad and Amanda Miller left home in Indiana on a cross-country road trip with their two cats to start a new life in Las Vegas. Amanda, 22, had a part-time job at Hobby Lobby; Jerad, 31, dressed up as comic book heroes like Thor and Captain America for tips from tourists.
“I found my freak,” Amanda said lovingly of her lanky husband, whom she had married in a September 2012 ceremony beside an Indiana cornfield. On Facebook, she posted doting messages: “You are the best. I said ‘Until Death Do Us Part,’ and I mean it.” A photo on her Facebook page featured the couple dressed as comic book characters the Joker and Harley Quinn.
Jerad and Amanda Miller’s young marriage ended Sunday in a barrage of gunfire after the couple, shouting messages of antigovernment revolution, fatally shot two police officers in an eastern Las Vegas pizzeria and, minutes later, killed a man in a nearby Wal-Mart who tried to stop their rampage.
As officers closed in, the pair barricaded themselves in the back of the store. Amanda Miller turned her gun on her husband and shot him several times, police said, before putting the gun to her own head and pulling the trigger.
By the time a SWAT team found their crumpled bodies, Amanda Miller was taking her final breaths.
The bizarre events Sunday in this unglamorous part of town — known more for its box retail outlets than glitzy casinos — plunged the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department into sorrow and anxiety as investigators tried to discover why two uniformed officers sharing a quiet lunch had been singled out as targets.
The day marked a culmination of sorts for Jerad Miller, who had apparently been fantasizing about a libertarian armed revolution for more than a year, and a worse one for Amanda Miller’s parents, who had begged their daughter not to marry the man obsessed with government conspiracies.
“She was my sunshine and now she’s gone,” said her father, Todd Woodruff, 48, of Lafayette, Ind., his hand shaking as he held a cigarette. “And I just don’t think that I’ll be able to get over it.”
Amanda Woodruff met her future husband in her hometown of Lafayette, at the flea market where Miller worked, her father said. Miller, who had long hair and a flat drawl, was nine years older than Woodruff. He was a convicted drug dealer and car thief who got into political fights with his family on Facebook and struggled to meet his various parole conditions.
Woodruff was a good student who played violin for the orchestra at Jefferson High School, her father said.
On May 2, 2011, the couple made their relationship Facebook official.
Only a few weeks later, Amanda Woodruff went on a tirade on the social media site: “To the people in the world ... your lucky i can’t kill you now but remember one day one day i will get you because one day all hell will break lose and i’ll be standing in the middle of it with a shot gun in one hand and a pistol in the other.”
The reason for the outburst wasn’t clear. But it seemed her new beau was similarly inclined. Post after post on his Facebook page expressed disgust for American consumer culture and called for an armed revolution to protect the cause of personal liberty from the Republicans and Democrats in power.
He resented his marijuana arrests and often wondered why there needed to be a government at all, at one point earnestly comparing the judge in one of his cases to a Nazi.
A Seattle Seahawks fan, Jerad Miller fantasized about what would happen if famous football players such as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning announced they wouldn’t play in the Super Bowl in protest of government agencies such as Homeland Security and the National Security Agency.
“How many people do you think would wake up? Surely there would be riots, all hell might break lose lol,” Miller wrote.
Todd Woodruff wasn’t impressed. “He was into all this ‘patriot nation’ and conspiracy theory stuff, and the next thing I know her phone was getting shut off and she was getting isolated from us,” he said. “The whole world was against him and he was just, he was just nuts. He got kicked out of his family’s house; they wouldn’t talk to him. It was just that far out.”
Amanda Miller seemed aware of how uncomfortable her husband made some people. “I love this man with every inch of me and I know that some people don’t like him or approve of our relationship and that’s ok,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “It’s our love and I know it’s weird and I know it’s different but that is what makes it so special.”
On Jan. 1, the couple set out for Las Vegas with their cats, Leonardo and Oreo. She had been able to get a transfer from her Hobby Lobby job in Lafayette to a branch in Vegas.
Her parents begged her not to go, but she wouldn’t listen.
“She said there was something out there,” Todd Woodruff said. “Some movement she wanted to be a part of.”
Three months later, the couple surfaced at the ranch of Cliven Bundy, a rancher north of Las Vegas locked in conflict with federal agents who sought to remove his cattle from public grazing lands. Militiamen and volunteers from throughout the country had driven in to support him, and the Millers were among them.
“I feel sorry for any federal agents that want to come in here and try to push us around, or anything like that,” Jerad Miller told one TV reporter. “I really don’t want violence toward them, but if they’re going to come bring violence to us — well, if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.”
A neighbor in their Las Vegas apartment building, Kelley Fielder, traveled to the ranch with them and said the couple stayed for several days.
“He got kicked off because he was a felon,” Fielder said. “Jerad was really upset. They said he was a felon and couldn’t own guns.”
Three weeks ago, the couple moved in with Fielder. Amanda had lost her job at Hobby Lobby, the FBI later told her father, because the Bundy sojourn had caused her to miss so much work.
Jerad Miller began to write about the need to fight for “liberty and truth” in the face of a “tyrants wrath.” Amanda watched radical self-defense videos online with titles including “Bundy Ranch Is Historical Start to a New Revolution” and “When Is It OK to Shoot a Cop?”
Early Sunday morning, Jerad Miller pulled out some swastikas and an Army insignia. “I’m going to put one of those on every cop we kill,” he told Fielder. “I’m thinking, ‘Right,’” she recalled. “They’re not going to do that.’”
She added: “I should have called the cops. I feel I have the deaths of five people on my shoulders. The signs were there.”
A day of death
No one knows why the Millers chose CiCi’s Pizza. Perhaps they had spotted officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31 — both of them husbands and fathers of young children — eating lunch at a booth inside.
According to police, Jerad Miller walked into the pizzeria first, then went back outside and reentered with his wife.
As the couple passed the officers in the booth, Jerad Miller pulled out a handgun and shot Soldo in the back of the head, killing him instantly, police said; at some point during the initial outburst of firing, Beck took a bullet to the throat.
That’s when Amanda Miller took a gun out of her purse, and the pair repeatedly shot Beck.
They dragged the officers onto the floor, where Jerad Miller covered them with a Gadsden flag — a yellow banner with a coiled snake above the words “Don’t Tread on Me” — and placed a manifesto with a swastika symbol on one body, police said.
The flag, which dates from the American Revolution, has been adopted by a string of ultra-conservative and libertarian groups. The swastika, officials said, was apparently not an expression of white supremacy but was intended to compare the police to Nazis.
The couple walked to a nearby Wal-Mart, where Jerad Miller told shoppers to run because the police were coming, and fired a shot in the air. “The revolution is about to start,” one shopper heard him shout. Amanda Miller placed the backpacks the couple had been carrying into a shopping cart, police said. Then one shopper attempted an ill-fated act of bravery.
Joseph Robert Wilcox, 31, of Las Vegas pulled out a concealed weapon and confronted Jerad Miller, apparently unaware that Miller had a companion. Amanda Miller fired into Wilcox’s ribs and he collapsed, fatally wounded, police said.
The couple moved to the back of the store and made their final stand, shooting at police officers who tried to communicate with them. After Amanda Miller shot her husband and herself, police sent her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The pair had several pistols, a shotgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. The political overtones of their rampage prompted a swift investigation into whether the couple had any help.
For some reason, the Millers gave a neighbor a “box of documents they had in a chest,” one federal law enforcement official said, and investigators were poring over the documents Monday for fresh clues.
But investigators had apparently seen enough to rule out any other suspects, the official said: “It’s just these two wacko idiots.”
Glionna reported from Las Vegas and Pearce from Los Angeles. Chicago Tribune reporter Matthew Walberg reported from Lafayette, Ind. Times staff writers Ruben Vives in Los Angeles, Maria L. La Ganga in Walla Walla, Wash., Tina Susman in New York and Richard A. Serrano in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.