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Four stories that had statewide impact in 2014

A shooting rampage that left two Las Vegas police officers, a good Samaritan and the two attackers dead, a standoff between the feds and a Southern Nevada rancher, the legalization of gay marriage in the Silver State, and a political storm that left Republicans in charge of the Legislature and all state offices topped the news in 2014.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reporters were asked to pick the biggest stories on their beats. Here is their top 4:

COP KILLINGS

A shooting rampage in Las Vegas left five dead in June, including two Metro officers, a man who tried to intervene, and both shooters.

Metro officers Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, were executed June 8 while eating lunch at CiCi’s Pizza, 309 N. Nellis Blvd. Married couple Jerad and Amanda Miller were the attackers.

The Millers ran from the pizza parlor and into the Wal-Mart across the street where they were confronted by Joseph Wilcox.

Wilcox, 31, pulled out a pistol and moved toward Jerad Miller, 31, but was shot and killed by Amanda Miller, 22, as he approached.

Jerad Miller was killed by police and Amanda Miller took her own life inside the Wal-Mart.

CLIVEN BUNDY

A long-simmering dispute between federal range managers and Clark County rancher Cliven Bundy mushroomed into international news when the Bureau of Land Management moved to round up his cattle in early April.

The action began with BLM’s closure of some 600,000 acres of federal land where Bundy has been running his cattle illegally for 20 years without a permit or paying any grazing fees.

As a crew of contract cowboys began collecting the scattered animals, a defiant Bundy compared the federal government to cattle rustlers and welcomed armed militia members to rally at his side.

The standoff nearly ended in a shootout April 12 when Bundy supporters, some of them armed, marched on the BLM’s holding pens and were met by a line of law enforcement officers.

Federal authorities quickly backed down, canceling the roundup, allowing the cows to be released and briefly turning Bundy into a conservative folk hero.

His support promptly vanished two weeks later when the rancher used his own daily press conferences outside Bunkerville to voice a string of racist rants.

By year’s end, Bundy had been widely denounced and mocked by everyone from President Barack Obama to Mad magazine, but his cattle remained free to roam.

GAY MARRIAGE

On Oct. 7, in one of the biggest, most dramatic social upheavals in Nevada history, the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was found unconstitutional, ushering in a wave of euphoria and a rush to marriage bureaus by same-sex couples.

Although same-sex marriage opponents are challenging the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling, thousands of couples have tied the knot.

In a unanimous decision from a three-judge panel, the court said Nevada’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage imposed “profound legal, financial, social and psychic harms” on many of its citizens.

Nevada was one of many states in which same-sex marriage bans fell in 2014 as federal courts mostly found the prohibitions unconstitutional.

Gay marriages in Nevada continue even as the 9th Circuit Court has been asked to reconsider its ruling. Such a decision is highly unlikely, legal experts say.

Ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide the issue, but it declined to take up the controversy this term.

NEVADA TURNS RED

In an election shocker, the Republican Party dominated the Nov. 4 voting in Nevada and nationwide, leaving Democrats in defeat and plotting a comeback in 2016, when the White House will be at stake.

In the Silver State, Republicans retained the governor’s office and gained majority control of both the Nevada Senate and Assembly for the first time since 1929 when the GOP last ran both the executive and legislative branches of government.

In 2014, Republicans also won all the top state constitutional offices, including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, controller and treasurer.

Buoyed by popular Gov. Brian Sandoval, who won re-election with more than 70 percent of the vote, Republicans swept the balloting thanks to greater voter turnout than Democrats, who were disappointed in the Nevada slate of candidates and by President Barack Obama, whose job approval ratings plunged.

Although Democrats enjoy greater voter registration than Republicans by about 63,000 voters statewide, the GOP dominated the low-turnout election. Less than 46 percent of registered Nevada voters cast ballots, the lowest general election turnout since 1978.

As a result, some state candidates won election on Sandoval’s coattails while Republican congressional candidate Cresent Hardy, an assemblyman, scored an upset over freshman U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in the sprawling 4th Congressional District that stretches from northern Clark County across all or part of six rural counties.

In the Nevada Legislature, the GOP picked up one seat to flip the Senate to Republican control, 11 seats to 10. And in the Assembly, the GOP scored a net gain of 10 seats to take control, with 25 seats to 17 for Democrats.

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