CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA A local sheriff is getting involved in a dispute playing out thousands of miles away. Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers was in Nevada this weekend giving a speech near the ranch where Cliven Bundy lives.
Bundy is involved in a standoff with federal authorities. They seized his cattle because they say the animals were illegally grazing on federal land. They gave the cattle back after protests grabbed national headlines.
Rogers is an outspoken critic of federal government overreach. He says he took an interest in the Nevada case because it has the potential to affect those in Elkhart County as well.
During the trip, Rogers spoke personally with Bundy. He had hoped to get the sheriff in Clark County, Nevada involved as a mediator between Bundy, protesters, and federal officials.
“As I look out over this crowd,” Rogers said during a speech in Nevada, “I see people exhibiting their 2nd Amendment rights and exhibiting their 1st Amendment rights – protesting peaceably and telling us what you think. I see no domestic terrorists here, or I wouldn't be here.”
Click the video above to view the full speech.
Rogers gave the speech on personal time, not in an official capacity. He used vacation days for the trip and did not use any county money.
His trip and subsequent statements about the protest in Nevada have sparked an online controversy here in Indiana.
Several individuals have commented on NewsCenter 16's Facebook page both supporting and opposing Rogers' stance.
"Mind your business Rogers," commented Ryan Stotler.
Jan Banicki posted, "A sheriff is to enforce the laws of this country. Not question them. When he goes to a different jurisdiction and stands against his own government then he is not fit to hold office here. An elected official cannot decide what laws they support and which they do not."
But others disagree with the naysayers, like Jesus Paz Gutierrez, who posted online "Brad Rogers, Elkhart best. We need more like him."
Rogers has been outspoken about federal encroachment since a confrontation with the FDA and Dept. of Justice in 2011. At the time, Rogers said federal agents were "unreasonably" inspecting an Amish Milk farmer who distributed raw milk. Rogers threatened to arrest any feds that returned to the farmer's property without a warrant.
The sheriff was unable to do an on-camera interview but responded to several of NewsCenter 16's questions via e-mail.
When asked about whether he disagreed with those who accuse him of over-stepping his authority, the sheriff replied: "I've overstepped nothing. I did not violate any law or policy or use any taxpayer money for the trip. I did not presume or state that I had authority in Nevada. I have a right to travel out of state. The type of situation that is occurring in Nevada, can and will occur in Indiana sometime; not necessarily about ranching or the BLM, but in other ways of Federal overreach."
The fact that Rogers wore his uniform to address the protesters also raised some questions on Facebook.
"Because I chose to do so," said Rogers, "I own the uniform. I'm always a Sheriff, whether on vacation or not. I did not break any policy or law, here or in Nevada."
In his address the sheriff noted the fact that the protesters were exercising their first and second amendment rights. However, Rogers said he didn't know if taking up arms in protest was "necessary."
When asked whether he will continue to make outward signs of support if he is re-elected as sheriff, Rogers said it was likely.
"I pick my battles and I won't "die on every hill" that is presented to me. But, I took an oath of office to defend and support the Constitution and intend to do so. That means I protect and serve the people of Elkhart County from criminals and sometimes from an overreaching government. The knowledge I gained in Nevada will assist me in protecting Elkhart County citizens in the future on government overreach."