Nation roundup for June 10


Las Vegas killers anti-government

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A husband and wife who went on a deadly shooting rampage in Las Vegas harbored anti-government beliefs and left a swastika and a “Don’t tread on me” flag on the body of one of the two police officers they killed, authorities said Monday.

Jerad and Amanda Miller had been kicked off a Nevada ranch where anti-government protesters faced down federal agents earlier this year because they were “very radical,” according to the son of rancher Cliven Bundy.

Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill said the Millers had ideology shared by “militia and white supremacists,” including the belief that law enforcement was the “oppressor.”

Police believe the shootings were an isolated act, not part of a broader conspiracy to target law enforcement, McMahill said.

Ammon Bundy, one of Cliven Bundy’s sons, said by telephone that the Millers were at his father’s ranch for a few days this spring before they were asked to leave by militia members for unspecified “conduct” problems. He called the couple “very radical” and said they “did not align themselves” with the beliefs of other protesters, who thwarted a roundup of Cliven Bundy’s cattle by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which wants to collect more than $1 million in grazing fees and penalties.

While thousands of people have been to the site over the last couple of months, “Not very many people were asked to leave. I think they may have been the only ones,” Ammon Bundy said.

On Sunday, the two Las Vegas police officers were having lunch at a pizza buffet in an aging strip mall about 5 miles northeast of the Las Vegas Strip when the Millers fatally shot them. The attack at a CiCi’s Pizza killed officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, both of whom were husbands and fathers.

Blackwater trial will finally begin

WASHINGTON (AP) — After years of delays, four former guards from the security firm Blackwater Worldwide are facing trial in the killings of 14 Iraqi civilians and the wounding of 18 others in bloodshed that inflamed anti-American sentiment around the globe.

Whether the shootings were self-defense or an unprovoked attack, the carnage of Sept. 16, 2007, was seen by critics of the George W. Bush administration as an illustration of a war gone horribly wrong.

A trial in the nearly 7-year-old case is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Wednesday, barring last-minute legal developments. Prosecutors plan to call dozens of Iraqis to testify in what the Justice Department says is likely to be the largest group of foreign witnesses ever to travel to the U.S. to participate in a criminal trial.

The violence at the Nisoor Square traffic circle in downtown Baghdad was the darkest episode of contractor violence during the war in Iraq, becoming one more diplomatic disaster in a war that had many. Iraqi officials, who wanted the guards tried in a local court, were outraged.

In the trial, defense lawyers will focus on the guards’ state of mind in a city that was a battleground.

Car bombs and insurgents were daily perils for the Blackwater teams. As part of its work with the State Department, Blackwater had a team of 15 intelligence analysts who produced daily threat updates, colored maps of a city riddled with bomb blasts.

Suspect in fatal crash hadn’t slept

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A truck driver accused of triggering a highway crash that injured Tracy Morgan and killed another comedian hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours before the accident, authorities said Monday as Morgan recovered in a hospital.

Wal-Mart truck driver Kevin Roper was originally expected to make an initial appearance in state court Monday, but a court official said the Jonesboro, Georgia, resident is scheduled in court on Wednesday. It wasn’t clear Monday if Roper had retained an attorney. He remained free after posting $50,000 bond.

Authorities said the 35-year-old Roper apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead early Saturday in Cranbury Township and swerved at the last minute to avoid a crash. Instead, his big rig smashed into the back of Morgan’s chauffeured Mercedes limo bus, killing comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, authorities said.

The 45-year-old Morgan, a former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” cast member, remained in critical but stable condition Monday. Morgan’s spokesman, Lewis Kay, said he was “more responsive” after having surgery for a broken leg but faces an “arduous” recovery.

Kay said Morgan suffered a broken femur, a broken nose and several broken ribs and is expected to remain hospitalized for several weeks. He said Morgan’s family is “tremendously overwhelmed and appreciative of the outpouring of love and support from his fans.”

Roper has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. Under New Jersey law, to prove both crimes the state has to demonstrate the defendant operated the vehicle recklessly when the injuries or death were caused.

According to the criminal complaint, Roper was operating the truck “without having slept for a period in excess of 24 hours resulting in a motor vehicle accident.” It doesn’t specify the basis for that assertion.

Tyrone Gale, who was driving the limo bus, told ABC News that he was disoriented after the vehicle flipped over and could hear Morgan yelling for help.

“I climbed around and heard Tracy screaming for help,” Gale said. “I climbed up on the body of the limo bus … but I couldn’t reach them.”

Wal-Mart President Bill Simon said in a statement that the company “will take full responsibility” if authorities determine its truck caused the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board is working with state police to look at any issues in the crash related to commercial trucking and limousine safety.

Federal regulations permit truck drivers to work up to 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel. The other time is usually devoted to loading and unloading and paperwork. They must have a minimum of 10 hours off between work shifts to sleep. Drivers can work a maximum of 60 or 70 hours per week, depending upon the type of company they work for.

Safety advocates said they hope the accident in New Jersey will help their case.

“This isn’t an aberrant or unusual thing that just sort of happened for no reason,” said Henry Jasny, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “This is part of a systemic problem of having tired people driving at night and driving large trucks.”

But Dave Osiecki, vice president of the American Trucking Association, said no regulations can prevent a driver from making “bad choices.”

Morgan, a New York City native, was returning from a standup performance at Dover Downs Hotel &Casino in Delaware when the crash occurred. In all, six vehicles were involved in the pileup, but no one from the other cars was injured.

McNair, 62, of Peekskill, New York, was a close friend and mentor to Morgan, Morgan’s ex-wife, Sabina Morgan, told the New York Daily News. “He was one of the first comedians that took Tracy under his wing,” she said.

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