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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By John M. Glionna and Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times

LAS VEGAS — Neighbors of the young couple believed responsible for gunning down two police officers, killing a Walmart shopper, then shooting themselves to death, said the pair owned a variety of guns and talked of being disillusioned with government and police.

A neighbor at the Oak Tree Apartments, where the couple lived, said they recently moved to Las Vegas from a small town in Indiana. When they learned of the standoff between the federal Bureau of Land Management and cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, an incident that became a lightning rod for armed libertarians, the couple traveled to the site, the neighbor said.

“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.”

“The couple were only gone a day or so,” according to Burnette, who said the visit seemed to cement their views. “By then they had really turned against the government.”

A senior federal law enforcement official in Washington said that the Las Vegas shooters told at least one neighbor in their apartment complex that they had been to the Cliven Bundy ranch area to show their support but that the Bundy family “kicked them off or kicked them away” and that they were not allowed to join the protests.

“We’re still running all that down,” the source said. “If true, that’s an avenue we want to know about.”

Bundy said Monday that he did not know the shooters.

“I certainly did not know them by name, but I haven’t seen the pictures yet, to be able to identify them,” he said. “At this point, I don’t know who they are.

“I don’t know of any conflicts,” Bundy said. “I never ran anyone off my ranch, and neither did my family. I don’t know how long they stayed here, if they ever came, but we never run ’em off.”

Bundy said he has not been contacted by either the FBI or Las Vegas Metropolitan police, but said he would cooperate with authorities.

The federal law enforcement source, speaking anonymously because the investigation is still underway, added that the FBI and Las Vegas Metro police have executed two search warrants for the couple’s home and vehicle and were still sorting through any evidence found there. The official did not know whether the couple was married, but added that “the lady did all the shooting.”

Police on Monday were continuing their investigation into the shooting that began when two officers were shot eating lunch at a local pizza shop. Police say the couple entered CiCi’s Pizza restaurant and killed officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, who are both husbands and fathers.

The law-enforcement source said the woman approached the first officer from behind after he had stepped up to get a refill on his soda at the restaurant and shot him in the back of the head. The second officer fired off a shot in return, the source said, but the woman shot and killed him too.

The couple then went to the Walmart where shots were reported five minutes later and a person was gunned down just inside the front door. The couple exchanged gunfire with police before killing themselves, police said. The female suspect shot the male suspect before killing herself.

One of the shooters yelled, “The revolution is about to start,” according to a witness at the store.

“It’s a tragic day,” Sheriff Doug Gillespie said. “But we still have a community to police, and we still have a community to protect. We will be out there doing it with our heads held high, but with an emptiness in our hearts.”

Police have not released the identity of the shooters.

The Oak Tree Apartments are in a busy, rundown part of town, about two miles east of the downtown area. It houses mainly transients but there are some longtime dwellers like Burnette, who said he has lived there for 22 years.

“They were from some little hick town in Indiana whose name I forget,” Burnette told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

The woman “was an nice young kid. I would never guess she would do anything like this,” he said. He described her as about 22 and the man as about 31. They had a lot of guns in their apartment, including a 12-gauge shotgun and 9mm handguns.

The woman, who was originally blond, then went dark-haired, worked in a toy store, Burnette said.

He said he didn’t know what the man did, but the couple would often dress up in costumes and go to have their pictures taken with tourists for money. The couple said they were planning on going back to Indiana, Burnette said.

AFP Photo/Ethan Miller

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.