Mesquite residents: No checkpoints since BLM left, but militia presence is “creepy” and “unsettling"

Three Mesquite residents say they have not seen any checkpoints in town as described by Rep. Steven Horsford but find the militia forces protecting rancher Cliven Bundy "creepy" and "unsettling."

One of them, Tony Barron, said he agrees with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the militia types camped out near Bunkerville are “domestic terrorists” and that there were de facto checkpoints at the height of the standoff last month, which he said “had the feel of a wartime operation.”

"My wife and I were driving past the Holiday Inn Express just minutes before the feds evacuated all their folks from there several weeks ago now,” Tony Barron, a four-year Mesquite resident, said via email. “A man who appeared to be a soldier in (camouflage) fatigues and carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle motioned me to stop and asked where I was going. I said to the Wal-Mart just down the street and he motioned me along.”

Barron added that he “and many of my friends have seen lots of folks, usually wearing (fatigues), in the grocery and other stores wearing pistols openly on their belts, something I had never seen once in my previous 4 1/2 years here.”

As for current checkpoints, Barron said, “I have no knowledge, directly or indirectly, beyond Horsford's statement, of checkpoints except for the one on Bundy's driveway.”

"We have found no check points on public roadways," Sheriff Doug Gillespie told me. "The only one we have found was at the Bundy home. "

Those, Bundy's wife, Carol, told the local paper are there to "filter" the large number of media and others visiting the ranch. She said other talk of checkpoints has been "blown out of proportion."

Another resident, Michele Burkett, said she visited the Gold Butte area near Bundy’s ranch over the weekend and said there were militia forces at various points on the road there. “No one took a step to come into the road,” said Burkett, who has lived in Mesquite for eight years and did not like seeing the “Militia is here to stay” headline in the paper. “But it was creepy.”

Burkett told me that a friend of hers refuses to go into the scenic Gold Butte area now: "She told me, ‘It’s a risk. I’m not going.'”

Burkett said her friends in the small community “are very concerned” with the presence of armed people near Bunkerville who often come into Mesquite to shop for food and supplies.

“Mesquite tries to keep a low profile,” Burkett said. “Guns and golf courses don’t go together very well.”

Another resident, Tom Cluff, told me that he has “seen the armed men at Wal Mart and at Smith’s.”

“They were just there with sidearms there,” said Cluff, a five-year resident. “They were all heavily armed. I guess that’s legal but unsettling.”

Burkett said she is “less inclined to feel safe there (Gold Butte) now.” She also said that a deputy sheriff told her that militia types might not have stopped her because she was driving a regular car. But anyone with a truck that could “go after the cows, they might be stopped,” she said he told her.

Barron said no one he knows is happy about the militia presence. "Everyone I have heard express an opinion has been either nonplussed, outraged, angry, tense and/or scared by the armed mob and their actions," he said. "The most common, indeed nearly universal, sentiment I heard expressed after Bundy's mob forced BLM to withdraw was that people felt sick to their stomach, as did I."

Barron, who said he hikes often at Gold Butte, told me he has been “apprehensive” to go out to the area, which has, as Burkett also told me, a hut with flags hoisted high above the ground.

“They are still flying the American flag below the Nevada flag and both below the Clark County flag,” Barron said, perhaps evidence that they believe, as Bundy does, in the supremacy of the local sheriff, a key precept of the Posse Comitatus movement.

As for the milita sticking around, all three residents shared Burkett's sentiment: "The whole community is not sure they want that. We'd like to tell them to go home."