Two Las Vegas police officers, both fathers, sat down to lunch at a pizza restaurant on Sunday morning when Jerad Miller walked in, looked around and went back outside where his wife, Amanda, joined him and entered the eatery.
They walked past the two officers, Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, and Jerad Miller yelled, “This is a revolution!” Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill told reporters at a Monday news conference. Miller then pulled out a handgun and shot officer Saldo once in the back of the head, killing him, the start of a bloody rampage that would leave five people dead, including the shooters.
From that first shot in a strip mall pizzeria, the couple went on to kill the second officer, firing at least five times before killing Alyn Beck with an apparent throat shot. Beck never had a chance to fire.
Jerad Miller, 31, then covered the officers with a Gadsden flag -- a yellow banner with a coiled snake above the words “Don’t Tread on Me” -- and placed a note with a swastika symbol on one officer’s body, according to police officials speaking at the news conference.
The ambush was apparently random in that the Millers had not decided on a victim and police said the couple seemed to have acted alone. But the attack was believed to have been deliberate, McMahill said. “I can tell you there’s no doubt that the suspects have some apparent ideology along the lines of militia and white supremacist,” McMahill said. The couple had swastikas, but those symbols were in keeping with their view that law enforcement was “an oppressor,” he added.
The couple had also visited the standoff between the federal Bureau of Land Management and cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, an incident that became a lightning rod for armed libertarians.
Jerad Miller had faced criminal charges in the state of Washington and Indiana before he and his wife, Amanda, moved to Las Vegas in January. They both worked as costumed performers and had their pictures taken with tourists. Amanda Miller also held down a job at a nearby Hobby Lobby.
Officials said they were still searching for a motive for the attack, but based on surveillance videos, they have assembled a timeline of attack. From the pizza restaurant, the couple grabbed their backpacks and walked to the nearby Wal-Mart, entering through the front door. Jerad Miller fired one shot into the air and told everyone to get out and that the revolution had arrived. Amanda placed the backpacks into a shopping cart.
Joseph Robert Wilcox, 31, of Las Vegas, carried a concealed weapon as he shopped. He moved to confront Jerad, but apparently didn’t realize that Amanda was with the gunman. As Wilcox confronted Jerad, Amanda fired into his ribs and he collapsed, dead, police said.
The couple gathered items from around the store and essentially built a fort of products around themselves. From that position they exchanged fire with police officials and exchanged some words, police said.
Wounded, Amanda took a handgun and fired several rounds into Jerad’s head before taking her own life with a gunshot to her head. Officers handcuffed both; Amanda was still breathing but died soon after.
Neighbors at the Oak Tree Apartments where the couple lived were trying to figure out how the couple from the Midwest had come to such an end.
“At first he was OK, then the Bundy ranch thing happened and things changed,” said Larry Burnette, a neighbor of the couple. “Him and his wife went out there carrying guns. I tried to tell them not to go, but they were so against the police. They wanted the cops to go away and leave the Bundys alone.”
Kelley Fielder, who also lived in the downtown apartment complex, said the Millers moved in with her about three weeks before the rampage “because they said they wanted the government to find their apartment intact.”
She said the Millers stayed until Sunday morning, when they said they had to leave immediately.
Fielder, 42, said she met the couple when she moved into the apartment complex in April. “They were my next-door neighbors,” she said, adding that she took to Amanda Miller, whom she called a “beautiful young girl from the countryside. Her grandmother owned horses.”
She said Jerad Miller was hateful, especially toward people with liberal politics.
“He was angry at the government. He was hellaciously mad at Obama and anyone who was on food stamps. She was a good girl who would do anything to make her man happy. But he was not a nice person. No, not at all.”
She said she considered kicking them out, but that she liked Amanda: “What am I going to do? They were friends of mine.”
During the standoff at the Bundy ranch, the trio drove to Bunkerville for three days, Fielder said. “I slept in the front of their trucks and they slept in the back. After a few days, I said I had to go home. I had my own drama in my own life.”
She said the couple dropped her off in Las Vegas and went back to the ranch, but they returned to the apartment complex a few days later.
“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. He told me he was on-call as a militiaman there.”
Cliven Bundy said Monday that he did not know the shooters.
When contacted by the Times, Bundy said that neither he nor his family asked the Miller couple to leave the militia camp outside his ranch, as has been reported in the media. He did not rule out that someone in the militia encampment near the ranch asked the couple to leave.
“There were some rumors that there were people causing problems,” he said. “It seems they were radicals and maybe the guy was a felon. I don’t know if it was the militia, but somebody did zero in on them. But it wasn’t my family. We’re just to the point where we think we can confirm they were here.”
On his Facebook page, Jerad Miller’s final message stated simply: “The dawn of a new day. May all of our coming sacrifices be worth it.”
Days earlier, he had written with revolutionary fervor about the need to fight for “liberty and truth” in the face of a “tyrants wrath,” and his Facebook page was littered with right-wing libertarian stances: He opposed gun control; drug control; the police; the government’s handling of the attack in Benghazi, Libya; climate-change science; background checks for buying guns; Obamacare; the IRS; “illegal immigrants”; genetically modified foods; and mortgages.
He said he could not believe how the people around him could be so blind to what was happening to the country, and posted one image stating that “gun control made the Holocaust possible.”
“I know this, my wife knows this,” he wrote in another post, adding of his marriage: “They don’t like the fact that we simply will not submit to fascist rule. We don’t have much, but we are willing to sacrifice everything.......for you, for your freedoms.”
Amanda Miller’s Facebook page, however, was much more down-to-earth; her public posts featured cute photos of cats and bubbled with optimistic dispatches about having another beautiful day in Las Vegas with her husband. On her YouTube account, however, she liked radical self-defense videos with titles like “Bundy Ranch Is Historical Start To A New Revolution” and “When is it OK to Shoot a Cop?”
Her final public posting on Facebook was a photo of her and her husband together, dressed up as the Joker and Harley Quinn.
Glionna reported from Las Vegas; Muskal from Los Angeles
Times staff writeers Matt Pearce and Ruben Vives in Los Angeles contributed to this story