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LAS VEGAS (AP) — A southern Nevada rancher whose backers faced down federal agents to end a cattle roundup in April said Friday he's seen no proof that it was his cow that got through a hole in a fence and caused a freeway crash that a Las Vegas schoolteacher blames for her injuries.
Rancher Cliven Bundy said he never went to the scene of the April 14 crash on Interstate 15, and he never saw the carcass of the cow killed when it was struck by Danielle Marie Beck's car.
A photo doesn't show the animal had a Bundy earmark or brand, he said.
"It could be anybody's cow," Bundy said by telephone from his home outside the Virgin River town of Bunkerville. "One, they have to identify the cow. And two, I'm not liable for the fence."
Nevada Department of Transportation regional chief Mary Martini acknowledged the state owns and maintain freeway fences. But she said ranchers have a responsibility to control their own animals.
Beck's attorney, Bob Apple, didn't immediately respond to messages. He's seeking at least $20,000 in damages and medical expenses for Beck from Bundy in a civil-negligence lawsuit filed Sunday in Nevada state court.
Bundy said the driver is ultimately responsible for "anything in front of the car."
"I understand you don't expect something like that, especially on a freeway," he said of the cow. "But what if that had been a person or a stalled car?"
Bundy said he misspoke when he told a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter on Wednesday that the wayward cow was his. He said he was describing another animal that was hit by a vehicle earlier this month.
The crash involving Beck and her car, driven by her friend, Matthew Paul Zanatta, occurred two days after an April 12 standoff involving armed Bundy supporters and armed federal agents.
The tense showdown prompted the suspension of a roundup that the federal Bureau of Land Management had launched to remove several hundred Bundy cows that officials say have grazed illegally on public land for 20 years. The federal agency maintains that Bundy owes more than $1 million in fees and penalties.
Bundy, a states' rights advocate and descendant of Mormon settlers, refuses to acknowledge federal authority on public lands.
Bundy has represented himself in previous local, state and federal legal proceedings. He didn't say if he would do so again. He said he hadn't been served with the Beck lawsuit.
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