Friday, June 13, 2014 | 7:45 p.m.
Jerad Miller’s costume of choice on the Fremont Street Experience was Batman, the comic book character known as a crime-fighting vigilante.
But after Miller returned from Bundy Ranch in early March, a place he was reportedly booted from because of his extreme views, he stopped being Batman. He later turned up in photos as Batman's arch-nemesis, the murderous Joker.
"So he went from being the Batman, the Dark Knight, a hero, to doing the Joker, who is a villain," said Gerald Lechner (pronounced Lesh-ner), owner of Double Infinity Entertainment.
Double Infinity rents out high-end costumes to street performers working for tips in Las Vegas. Lechner says he charges a small per-day fee, $10, hoping to make a living through high-volume rentals rather than high rental fees.
"I believe in doing fair business and I want people to make money because I don't want to have a lot of turnover," said Lechner, an Austrian native who has lived in Las Vegas three years.
Lechner advertises on Craig's List but doesn't remember how Jerad Miller found him; Miller indicated in his rental application he had no outstanding warrants or felony convictions.
Lechner trains renters on how to "become" their characters and engage the public. He said Jerad Miller played the Batman well.
"He looked the part, like a badass Dark Knight and really sold it to the kids," Lechner said. "I guess he was doing really well at it. A lot of people tipped him. He got quite a few fives ($5) as tips because he was good."
On a good night, a performer makes up to $17 an hour, added Lechner, who dresses as Wolverine or Thor when he goes out.
He lives two miles northeast of the CiCi's Pizza buffet where Jerad Miller and his wife, Amanda, began their deadly rampage last Sunday. They shot to death Metro Police officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck, and later citizen Joseph Wilcox in a Wal-Mart on Nellis Boulevard.
Jerad Miller was shot to death by police; his wife shot and killed herself.
Lechner rented the Batman costume to Jerad, but Amanda Miller had her own costume for Harley Quinn — Lechner said he only rents the costumes of heroes, not villains.
Having met the couple three or four times, initially in late February/early March, he described them as deferential and respectful.
"They seemed so polite, just like — almost kind of vintage, raw, proper," Lechner said. "Sometimes it's the quiet ones that go crazy. I just saw (Amanda Miller) as so demure and really polite."
Lechner said Jerad Miller told him he was going to a place called Bundy Ranch, the home of rancher Cliven Bundy. In early March, the ranch 70 miles northeast of Las Vegas was the site of a standoff in early March between Bureau of Land Management rangers and a loose-knit group of militia, sovereign citizens and others who were armed. The BLM came to take Bundy's cattle, claiming he owed the federal government $1 million in grazing fees and fines.
Miller told Lechner about it, conveying "a little bit of disdain for authority. But it did not seem to be fully ill-directed … He said there was an authentic need of the rights of the last farm standing to be defended."
That sense is similar to that of Metro Police detectives who contacted Miller in February about threatening remarks Miller had made regarding the Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles. Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill said last week detectives described their interaction with Miller as "normal” and didn’t find him or his wife to be “a potential threat.”
Something changed when Miller returned from Bundy Ranch. Lechner detected a pride in his voice.
"Like, 'just because we defended the rights of these people … I guess we're officially terrorists, like it's cool to be labeled that,'" Lechner recalled.
Miller only wore the Batman costume a few more times, complaining he sweated too much in it. Then he disappeared. After the deadly attack, Lechner saw him in the news wearing the Joker get-up.
Was he surprised what the two did?
“Ninety-nine percent surprised about (Amanda Miller); 90 percent surprised about (Jerad Miller),” Lechner said. “It seemed like they would be there to defend somebody’s and/or their own rights, (but) not go on a haphazard attack … just awful.”