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July 23, 2014

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Shooters identified in slaying of Metro Police officers, bystander

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Jerad Miller and Amanda Miller shot and killed two Metro Police officers at a pizza restaurant in Las Vegas and killed another person at a nearby Wal-Mart on Sunday, June 8, 2014.

Updated Monday, June 9, 2014 | 11:41 a.m.

Metro Officers Slain: 6/8/14

Metro Police are seen outside a Wal-Mart on Nellis Boulevard between Charleston Boulevard and Stewart Avenue, where two people allegedly fired shots after shooting two officers at a nearby CiCi's Pizza. The suspects then killed themselves. Launch slideshow »

BREAKING: 5 Dead, Including 2 Officers In Vegas

Metro officers shot at CiCi's Pizza

Follow the latest developments in this story: Police describe bloodbath created by ‘neo-Nazi’ couple in Sunday attacks

Hours after a man and woman killed two police officers at an east Las Vegas pizza restaurant and then gunned down another victim at a nearby Wal-Mart before killing themselves, a picture of the shooters began to emerge.

Residents at an apartment complex where it appeared the two lived together said they had a reputation for spouting racist, anti-government views, bragging about their gun collection and boasting that they’d spent time at Cliven Bundy’s ranch during a recent standoff there between armed militia members and federal government agents.

The Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier newspaper identified the couple this morning as Jerad and Amanda Miller.

According to one police official and a witness, one of the shooters shouted, “This is a revolution” and “We're freedom fighters.”

The duo also told people they planned to commit a mass shooting, said Brandon Monroe, a resident of the complex.

"They were handing out white-power propaganda and were talking about doing the next Columbine," Monroe said.

Amanda Miller, 22, and Jerad Miller, 31, did more than talk about committing violence.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie called the events that left five dead — Metro Officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31; a bystander; and the two assailants — “an unprecedented day here at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department as well as in the Las Vegas community.”

The Clark County Coroner's Office on Monday identified the bystander killed at Wal-Mart as Joseph Robert Wilcox, 31, of Las Vegas.

On Monday morning, officials in Lafayette, Ind., said Amanda and Jerad Miller had spent time there before coming to Las Vegas.

"We were contacted in the early morning hours by Clark County, (Nev.), coroner's office asking us to follow up with possible relatives here," Lafayette Police Chief Pat Flannelly said. "We have information they were here for a time. ... They have ties to the area."

That information was echoed by a neighbor of the couple in Las Vegas.

The events began shortly before 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the CiCi’s Pizza at 309 N. Nellis Boulevard, where the Millers ambushed Beck and Soldo, who were eating lunch.

After shooting the officers and taking their firearms and ammunition, the Millers made their way across Stewart Avenue to the Wal-Mart at 201 N. Nellis.

There, they shot and killed Wilcox inside the front door of the store.

Police arrived to the busy store as customers began fleeing through the exits. After exchanging gunfire with police, the female suspect shot the male suspect and then killed herself in an apparent suicide pact, according to Gillespie.

"What precipitated this event, we do not know," a subdued Gillespie said. "My officers were simply having lunch when the shooting started."

Investigators’ search for the shooters’ identities took them to the Oak Tree Apartments at 110 Bruce St., within a mile east of the Fremont Street Experience.

Police had the perimeter of the apartment complex and the surrounding streets cordoned to traffic and pedestrians. At 7:30 p.m., law enforcement started knocking on tenants’ doors and asked them to leave the building. Some were put on a bus and taken to a local motel. Others waited in the surrounding area in hopes of re-entering their home before sunrise.

Sara Andrea, a resident of the complex, said the Millers were known to walk around town dressed as the Batman comic book characters The Joker and Harley Quinn. A photo on Amanda Miller’s Facebook page shows the two in costume.

"No one associated (with them), but everyone knew these people," Andrea said.

Residents who spoke about the Millers all mentioned the couple's relationship with Bundy.

Oak Tree resident Sue Hale said the two told her they were in Bunkerville during the standoff, which occurred in April after federal authorities began conducting a roundup of Bundy’s cattle. Bundy had defied the government by grazing the cattle on public land without a permit.

"Yap, yap, yap. They were always running their mouths," Hale said.

Around 9:30 p.m., locals reported hearing an explosion near the complex. By 11 p.m. a convoy of SWAT vehicles were seen leaving the apartment complex.

Catherine Riley lives less than a block away from the apartments. She said she and her husband heard the blast while settling into bed to watch a movie.

"We felt a shake and it sounded like a bomb went off," she said.

Hale, who was sitting at a bus stop at 11:30 p.m. with two of her neighbors at the Oak Tree Apartments, said she heard the blast as well.

Law enforcement on the scene declined to comment, saying they were told to wait until a news conference, originally scheduled for 10 a.m. today but was delayed until later in the day.

The drama at the Oak Tree Apartments capped a series of events that witnesses described as almost surreal.

It began with the Millers ambushing Beck and Soldo, one of whom was able to fire back. It was unclear whether either of the Millers was hit. Larry Hadfield, a Metro spokesman, said one of the suspects yelled, "This is a revolution” during the incident.

The assailants took the officers' guns and ammunition and ran inside the Wal-Mart on Nellis Boulevard between Charleston Boulevard and Stewart Avenue. Responding officers followed the suspects into the store, Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill said.

There, they exchanged gunfire with police inside the store before Amanda Miller shot Jerad Miller and then killed herself. McMahill described the assailants' lives ending in an "apparent suicide pact."

A tearful Jerad Miller, in a YouTube video, tells his wife goodbye but does not otherwise discuss Sunday’s events. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, verified the authenticity of the video.

“I’m going to miss your smile and your laugh, and the way you can always bring a smile to my face eventually, no matter how crabby of a mood I’m in because of the New World Order and (expletive),” Jerad said in the video.

Sheree Burns, 48, said she left church early, lured by the all-you-can-eat pizza for $5.55 at CiCi’s. She said she was seated just behind the two officers, who already were eating.

A man came up to one of the officers — a balding man — and shot him in the head, Burns said. Instinctively, Burns ducked under her table but peeked up to see who she thought was a woman shoot the other officer in the head.

Burns said she saw the male assailant — whom she described as tall with scruff on his face — hovering over the balding officer and remove his handgun from his holster. The two assailants then left CiCi’s, en route to the Wal-Mart, Burns learned after talking to police.

“I’ll never leave church early again,” Burns said.

Outside CiCi's, a small memorial with flowers and prayer candles was set up Monday morning for the slain officers.

McMahill said there were "literally a thousand" witnesses to the midday events at the busy shopping center.

"It is a very complex, very dynamic crime scene," he said.

Inside the Wal-Mart, Mayra Calvillo, 19, was working near the front of the store when she heard someone yell, “Get out of Wal-Mart!” Calvillo said she turned around and saw a man with a handgun raised in the air. The man, whom Calvillo described as white and dressed in a navy blue shirt, jean shorts and a hat, fired at least one round.

Calvillo said she started to run, then realized she needed to help direct the customers safely out of the store.

Others described a pandemonium-filled scene.

Jesus Bustamante, 26, said he was in the electronics section of the store when he heard a muzzled sound and people screaming, “It’s a shooting! It’s a shooting!”

Bustamante said he wasn’t sure whether to run out or take cover in the store, but he saw a Metro officer run past him saying, “Get the (expletive) out of here!”

Bustamante said the crowd trying to get out of the store was typical for a busy Wal-Mart: elderly, children, parents.

A mother at the scene who asked not to be identified said she was in a dressing room with her 7-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, who were looking for outfits for a relative's graduation. The mother said she heard two gunshots followed by pandemonium breaking out inside the store.

Her first thought: How do we get out alive?

She said she immediately grabbed her children and sprinted out a backdoor near the changing room.

Once outside the store, she said she saw police officers swarming near the CiCi's and heard bystanders screaming that two officers had been shot.

Monday morning, Wal-Mart remained closed and the entrance to the parking lot was blocked off with police tape and shopping carts.

About 50 to 75 cars were left abandoned in the parking lot by people who fled the store the day before.

Sue Wyatt of Las Vegas returned to retrieve her car so she could go to work. She was in the store when the shooting started.

She said she heard someone shout, “We’re freedom fighters” and the sound of gunfire as she hid in the store’s photo lab area with other customers. She said it felt like they were there for hours, but it was probably only about 30 minutes.

Wyatt said she was thankful no more people were killed or injured. “Quite frankly, it could have been a massacre,” she said.

Alex Estrada, who was at an IHOP nearby, said Sunday that he saw a crowd of about 30 to 40 people run out the backdoor of Wal-Mart around 11:30, and people on the streets and at nearby businesses were talking about the incident.

Still dazed from the midday events, Burns stood outside Applebee's a few blocks away awaiting a ride home. When her friend arrived, Burns wept into her arms.

"I saw it all," Burns said.

Residents of the area had mixed feelings about where they lived. A few employees at a nearby restaurant said it didn't surprise them. A schoolteacher who has lived here 13 years said, "It can happen anywhere."

Calvillo, who has worked for 11 months at the Wal-Mart, expressed similar sentiments.

“I’m still in shock. I feel like it hasn’t hit me yet. I’m scared. I don’t feel safe anymore,” she said.

Nell Jones and her daughter, JaNell, have lived here for two years. They are getting out in August.

Almost nightly, Nell said, Metro helicopters — "ghetto birds" — pass overhead, presumably on a suspect’s tail.

"It's all these gang-bangers," Nell said angrily.

Metro has doubled up its officers on patrol while officers gather more information about the shooting. Officers also are wearing badges shrouded with black ribbons in honor of their deceased colleagues.

The media wasn't initially allowed into the entrance of University Medical Center Trauma, where some victims of the shooting had been rushed in. Metro put police tape around the entrance, just north of Charleston Boulevard, and a large Command Center utility vehicle from the North Las Vegas Police Department was parked nearby, its telescopic antenna jutting into the air.

The police tape came down around 5:30 p.m.

Capt. William Scott, who oversees Bolden Area Command, which is just north of U.S. Highway 95 and abuts the command area where the shootings took place, said tough times would be coming as officers ponder the senseless act.

"We'll talk a lot about this," he said of himself and his officers. "We will always have each other's backs."

As for the two fallen officers, Metro said Beck had been employed with the department since August 2001 and had been assigned to the patrol division of the Northeast Area Command. A wife and three children survive Beck.

Metro said Soldo had been with the department since April 2006 and also was with the patrol division of the Northeast Area Command. Soldo is survived by his wife and a baby.

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